The One Question That’ll Stop Yourself from Impulse Buying Anything

published Mar 10, 2023
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People are often surprised to hear that I, a professional organizer and proud declutterer for practically my whole life, have struggled with impulse shopping. The way I justified my buying habits was that I got rid of a lot of things regularly, so it was OK to bring in more. Right? Well, yes and no. 

My fellow organizers and I like to teach the “one in, one out” rule to our clients, where if you want to add something to your home, then the deal is you must get rid of one thing first. Where I would go wrong with buying more (even though I was constantly decluttering) is that it was done without intention. I would buy just to buy, because something was cute or it was a good sale, or because I had a crummy (or even a great) day and felt like I deserved a treat. This resulted in coming home with things, or them showing up at my door, that I didn’t need, want, or have the space to store.

Previously, whenever I was contemplating buying anything, I started asking myself: Do I really like this item (in other words, does it spark joy) or is it just OK? Will I use or wear this item? Will it go with my home’s aesthetic or the rest of my wardrobe? Is this item good-quality and will it last me?

These questions helped get me to stop and think before adding anything to my cart, whether physically or virtually. But I recently added a new question to ask myself that has changed it all and completely eradicated my impulse shopping habit: Do I have, or can I make, the space for this item?

I remember the exact moment when I first asked myself this question. I was living in a small apartment and was mostly settled in, but found myself roaming the aisles of HomeGoods and came across a piece of wall art. I liked it, it went with my beach-themed decor, and it was a good price, so I tossed it in the cart. I kept browsing and suddenly stopped when I came to the realization that every wall was already filled with art, photos, or shelving so I didn’t actually have a place to hang this. I would either have to follow the “one in, one out” rule or choose not to buy it because I, simply, didn’t have the space as it currently stood.

That changed the game. Anytime I wanted to buy a new article of clothing, I made sure I had a hanger or spot in the drawers for it. If I didn’t but still wanted the item, I had to donate something to make space for it. If I wanted a new water bottle, I had to clear a spot on the organizer I have for them. It doesn’t matter what it is — I make sure that I either have a blank space already or I can easily make room for it.

It might seem like a lot of extra work goes into the decision-making process when it’s so much easier — and dopamine-inducing — to buy whatever I want and then figure it out later. But in the last few years that I’ve been practicing this, my home is so much more peaceful and organized and, as a nice side effect, my spending is more in control. I don’t regret the things I buy anymore because I know it was purchased with intention and I have less to tidy up because I don’t own more than I need or want. Not to mention, just like any other good habit we aim to form, it becomes effortless the more often you practice it.