Desire to buy: How to stay mindful in a shopping culture

January, the month of new beginnings and high goals, is coming to a close. Have you started the year with a resolution to buy less, buy more mindfully or not buy at all? How do you stick to your resolutions while the sales are on to tempt you?

 

Be rational about it

Often, the advice for being more mindful about your wardrobe purchases is to ask yourself some timely questions before buying anything new, like:

Sound advice. But how far does rational reflection take you once desire has kicked in?

 

Awareness is not enough

In a recent episode of the sustainable fashion podcast Magnifeco, designer and fashion theorist Otto von Busch talked of the difficulty in bringing about a sustainable fashion. As he says on the podcast: awareness is not enough.

Drawing a parallell to food, von Busch points out that even when we are aware that sugar is bad for us, the craving for the snickers bar is still real, and in fact extremely hard to hold back.

He suggests the same emotional responses are present in how we relate to fashion. For, in a visual culture, continually re-inventing ourselves through fashion and social media is a way to feel acknowledged and loved. And we all want that.

How do we then deal with an unsustainable cultural desire for fashion?

Von Busch suggests we need to build other social reward mechanisms. We need to train building our self-worth in other ways than through the feedback loop of social media likes.

 

Emotional needs

It is a fact that a lot of marketing tries to get straight at your deepest emotional needs. The Maslow theory, with the well-known hierarchy of human needs, is much used in marketing. That is why, for instance, cars are often marketed for their safety, rather than for their luxury interiors or design. It appeals to your need for safety and security, the second most basic human need, according to the Maslow theory.

Fashion, I imagine, is often marketed to trigger your need for belonging, love and esteem. And in the case of fast-fashion, to the urgency of keeping up.

 

FOMO

Social media escalates that sense of urgency. FOMO, the fear of missing out, feeds on you continuously checking in on social media to see what others are doing. Apparently, you can’t help but compare yourself to others, according to this article siting a study from 2016.

Do we all need to unhook from social media?

There is a lot to be said for avoiding temptation. What you don’t know can’t hurt you. On the other hand you probably neither can, nor want to, completely shield yourself from the influence of the world around you.

 

Feeling cool - sexy - worthy - loved - good enough

If von Busch is right, the desire to shop is not just about the clothes, or the other stuff, you buy. It is an expression of your humanness. We are all social beings and we all want – need – to feel good enough.

The weird thing is how that translates into buying things.

Thought experiment 1: Your feeling good list

Take a moment to list twenty things that make you feel good and give you joy.

Are there things on your list that do not involve buying stuff? No? Then keep going.

Your list is a gentle reminder that there are other, more fulfilling things for you to do besides shopping. Armed with it, hopefully you will build resilience against that familiar pull to buy new things in response to an emotional need.

Thought experiment 2: Pop the lifestyle bubble

I heard a speaker at a conference once, say that no-one sells products anymore. It is all about selling a service and a lifestyle.

Well, what if you pop that lifestyle bubble before the purchase?

Imagine you want to buy something, like really want to buy it now. What if you stop for a moment and consider two related, but very different questions:

  1. What does the thing represent to you?
  2. What is the actual object you will take home with you, once you have paid?

Okay, here are two things on my wish list: a pair of trekking trousers from Fjällreven and a wax-canvas shoulder bag from Ruralkind.

Each of these things represent a whole lot more to me than the actual object itself. I look at the trekking trousers, for instance, and I see this healthy, wholesome, energy-filled life with authentic close-to-nature experiences and happy family adventures.

But, it is just a pair of trekking trousers.

With or without them, I will still be same old me, no more miraculously happy or outdoorsy than I am now. Okay, fine. But actually, I still need a pair of trousers for outdoor activities.

Yet, the British-made wax-canvas bag: it is just a shoulder bag.

Aah, well. I don’t really need another shoulder bag. What I need is the feeling of being cool, creative and interesting, living a hands-on, craftsmanship-type lifestyle. Another bag, however well-made and beautiful, won’t really fix that.

Of course, I can still buy the bag. (Or I could in theory if I had that kind of money.) But then at least I would know why I was buying it and why it probably wouldn’t change my life.

Bursting the lifestyle bubble before the purchase, makes it easier to see your real reasons for wanting to buy that thing.

 

Acknowledging our humanity

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is okay to buy new things. It is also okay to make mistakes. We all buy things for the wrong reasons sometimes. At least I do.

Feeling content with what you have is difficult. Not because something is wrong with you, but because you are human and have human needs, both material and emotional. If we want to address an unsustainable shopping culture, perhaps the first step is to acknowledge our humanity?

A knitting odyssey: The big knit of 2016

I cast on the Imago pullover at the beginning of last year, fresh with excitement and a bag full of sheepy, un-dyed Norwegian wool.

From there, I have knitted on it, considered it, unravelled it, re-knitted it, cut into it, stitched it together, huffed and puffed and plodded on. It has been on my knitting mind.

I did finish it, a little less than a year on, but not before tackling a number of knitterly trolls along the way.

The knitterly defeats

Ignoring the pattern instructions for knitting the pieces flat, I instead joined 200+ stitches in the round for the bottom hem. Then I unintentionally knitted a few centimeters worth of a möbius band. Twice.

Approaching a finished jumper, I began to fear it would be too snug around the hips. After a soak and blocking, my fears were confirmed: too tight. Now, if I had followed the instructions for knitting each piece flat, I could have addressed the sizing issue earlier on. But I hadn’t.

I snipped off the whole bottom part of the jumper, unravelled and re-knitted it in a size larger. I joined the bottom part to the top, and… No. Now the jumper was too long and it crunched up in unflattering wrinkles just below my stomach. Nope, no good. (Oh, if only I had read these ravelry notes before I started.)

Again, I snipped off the bottom part and unravelled. This time I cast on the number of stitches for the larger size, but left out the diagonal shapes of the original stitch pattern. That way it was easier to evaluate the length as I was going. I also avoided the whole issue of the diagonal stitch pattern behaving differently than the reverse stockinette.

Phew.

Somewhere along the way I embraced the slow. What a relief. I decided I would keep coming back to it till I was happy. I mean, I’m a knitter! Slow is part of the game.

Unravelling wisdom

It’s not that I enjoy making mistakes, who does? But with all the mistakes of the Imago pullover, at least I no longer fear unravelling. Plus, I’m now fairly comfortable with cutting into knits and re-assembling them without having to unravel a whole project.

It’s all about how you go about it. Yes, a lot of hours went into creating the stitches I pulled out (twice), but what good are all those hours if I’m not happy with the result? Unravelling is not necessarily a set-back. It is moving on, getting over it, and trying again.

There is a lesson of life in that. As my wise Mamma said one day, while we were talking about something completely different: it is easy to mistake ‘progress’ as meaning only moving ‘upwards’, up the hierarchy, but really progress is just as much moving onwards, moving forwards.

 

Norwegian wool

The yarn was one of my first hands-on experiences with local, known-origin wool. It is an un-dyed, 3-ply, woollen spun yarn from Lofoten Wool, from sheep grazing the rugged coastal landscape of Northern Norway. The yarn is sturdy, airy and springy, a little rough to knit up, but fairly soft after a wash. A warm, rustic, no-nonsense yarn that I imagine will wear well with time.

Its springy quality means it holds its shape really well, but it also means it doesn’t really drape. Perhaps that is why it so easily folds into creases? So, while I really like the yarn, it may not have been the best choice for this pattern.

As a perfectionist by heart, I can’t say the jumper is perfect. But that is alright. It is probably the slowest and most considered addition to my wardrobe ever. And I like it the better for it.

Welcoming the New Year: 15 questions to get you set for 2017

As the year comes to a close, I like to stop for a moment and reflect. After all the busy merriment of Christmas, the approaching New Year represents a clean space of new beginnings.

I tend to feel overwhelmed and out of balance after Christmas. The best antidote, I find, is to realign myself to what truly matters to me. You may feel the same. Reflecting over what actually felt good to you in the past year is a fruitful place to start, instead of jumping straight into grand schemes and lofty New Year’s resolutions.

Try these questions to help you see what truly mattered to you in 2016 and get you ready and excited for 2017. You can write them out, mull them over or talk them through with a friend. Don’t overthink, though. You want to listen out for that tiny whisper of unexpected honest feeling.

  1. 10 things I did in 2016 that I am proud of, from the tiny to the big, are …
  2. The biggest thing that happened was …
  3. The unexpected thing was …
  4. Something that challenged me was …
  5. The things that made me feel good were …
  6. What I needn’t have worried about was …
  7. The people I loved spending time with were …
  8. My favourite creative pursuit was …
  9. The best place was …
  10. I felt most at peace when …
  11. I was inspired by …
  12. The habit I want to cultivate in 2017 is …
  13. What I want to let go of is …
  14. For 2017 I wish for …
  15. The intention I want to set for 2017 is …

I hope 2017 will bring you peace and joy!