Stash Less Challenge #4 – No shopping

The ongoing Stash Less Challenge on the Craft Sessions blog has inspired me to rethink my approach to crafting. The challenge invites us, as makers, to be mindful of how and why we accumulate the materials – fabric, yarn, fibre, books and supplies – that feed our crafting.


#4: Stop shopping

The challenge is to stop shopping. Or rather, as Felicia of the Craft Sessions explains, it means no window shopping. No popping in to your favourite shop just to have a look, no looking in on a sale, no browsing through the latest lookbooks or new releases, no drooling over items you want to get some day. It means only buying for specific needs or projects you have on the go now.

At first I thought not shopping, as in no thoughtless purchases, should be fairly easy. Mentally, at least, I’ve already started down that path. For me the Stash Less Challenge has evolved into an ethical wardrobe pledge, exploring whether I can in fact make and mend enough to avoid those thoughtless last-minute purchases. Resisting the temptation to buy things instantly and instead waiting till I actually have the time, space or need for them, is something I’m already continually practicing.

But shopping sits deep in us. Why is it so hard to stop shopping? What is that temptation for the new and beautiful about?

Shopping as a cultural default

Shopping and buying are not necessarily the same things. While buying is trading goods for money, shopping is an activity and mentality deeply ingrained in our society.

Shopping involves a longing for things we don’t have. Shopping means looking around for the best available option. Shopping means constantly comparing – comparing items against each other, but also our own bodies, life-styles and surroundings with those presented to us through the imagery of advertising and product displays.

And yet the lure of the new quickly wears off. There is often no lasting satisfaction in what we buy because at the end of the day we are still just our own imperfect selves living our regular lives.

The self is empty, wrote psychologist Philip Cushman in 1990: we are continually seeking to fill up that emptiness through consuming goods and experiences. He describes the post world-war II era as one where individual’s enjoyment and fulfilment became the single most valued aspect of life. At the same time the American economy became one dependent on the continual production and consumption of nonessential goods.

Economist Robert Reich’s documentary Inequality for All backs up this claim: 2/3 of the US economy is driven by consumer spending. (You can watch it here.)

That is the dark side of shopping. It is a paradox: shopping feeds our economy but ruins our planet through over-consumption. It appeals to our emotional needs but leaves no lasting satisfaction.

Shifting from shopping to purposefully buying

You may find, like me, you actually spend more time shopping than you think. Whether or not you in fact buy that much is a slightly different question.

I thought I was hardly shopping at all, but if I include the time I spend absentmindedly browsing for things I’d like some day – well, there lies a gold mine of time and energy which could be spent elsewhere.

In not shopping there is potential to shift from dreaming to doing, from the lure and anticipation of some day to getting real about where you are now. If that is a challenge you want to take on, stop shopping and celebrate the perfectly imperfect instead. That’s where you are now.

Don’t let a shopping mentality distract you from your core purpose: having enough and enjoying what you have. But remember, the aim isn’t necessarily to stop buying. It is about being mindful of how you shop and why. It is a question of how you spend your time and what you spend your money on. And, in a way, who you choose to give your money to.


Previous posts in the Stash Less Challenge series: