Confessions of a Shopaholic & How to break the patterns

Hi! I’m Gemma, and I’m a Shopaholic.

That’s a rather serious statement, you might think. But I’m starting to see the reality of it. I can make excuses for why I love to buy new clothes like the fact that I work in fashion, studied fashion, blog about fashion and therefore just love fashion and love changing up my looks ALL the time. But as I have been trying to follow a capsule wardrobe over the last 4 years (yup, that’s how long it’s been since I began my capsule wardrobe journey – I checked) I have both succeeded sometimes but then also drastically failed. I could never quite stick to the ‘buy nothing for the next 3 months’ rule and even though I would create a collection of pieces (about 30-40) that I liked and all went well together, there would always be something new that I added in because I just wanted or needed to have it. THIS would be the piece that completed my wardrobe. THIS would be the piece that made me feel like the person I want to be. THIS, of course, is total bullsh!t

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Jeans, boots, top @depop | Blazer , bag – charity shops | earrings – my nana’s

I made the switch from fast fashion to second hand fashion in 2018. I vowed that I would buy nothing ‘new’ for a whole year. Did I succeed? Well, yes, pretty much. I did end up buying about 5 or 6 brand new pieces on the high street, but all in all, I managed to avoid the temptation of buying from fast fashion stores.

However, this didn’t mean I stopped shopping. I just replaced new with second hand. I thought not buying new items would make me refine my shopping a bit more. And I think it did initially. But once I discovered that I could find pretty much ANYTHING I wanted second hand (apps like depop make it so easy to search for the latest trending items) I was on a roll again, seeing things I wanted on Instagram or blogs, and hunting them down to make them mine. I must admit the thrill of shopping second hand is nearly more fun the new because it’s almost too easy to find what you want in places like ASOS, Topshop etc because they have so much choice and every available trend. Finding specific items second hand is like a hunt – with more reward. See, now I sound like a proper addict!

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I don’t necessarily think that if you love shopping you’re a shopping addict. I think it’s when you can make a connection to your mental health, that’s when things start looking a bit different. I would literally think a piece of clothing would make me feel a certain way, or people would perceive me a certain way, and although this is all true (there is a huge amount of psychology behind what we wear affecting the wearer and how others see us), it’s when I made buying decisions based on this that I see an issue.

I remember when I was younger (maybe a teenager / late teens) I would scroll through sites like Boohoo and Missguided, looking at all their more risque plunge neck tops and bodycon dresses and think ‘My boyfriend will like this, I’ll get it’, not ‘I like this, I’ll get it’. I know now that dressing for yourself is the most important thing, but I do still have thoughts like this, where I feel myself dressing for other people. Maybe this is a totally different topic, but it definitely adds to the problem.

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The only way to break an addiction is to go cold turkey. Remove the cues that  make you want to engage in your bad habits, and make it as difficult as possible to engage in said activities. I recently listened to Atomic Habits by James Clear on Audible and although this was to build a few better habits, the same formula can be applied to remove bad habits, because that’s all an addiction is, a very bad habit. There are a few steps to his teachings, but it goes a little something like this:

  1. Recognise the habit. i.e. shopping.

  2. Recognise the cue: What makes you want to engage in this habit? Is it feeling bad about yourself? A bad day at work? Boredom? Feeling like you have nothing to wear? Seeing someone wear something nice on Instagram? A subscription email from your favourite brand?

  3. Action: The action is when you receive the cue i.e. seeing a dress on Instagram, and taking action i.e going on a hunt for the same or similar dress. This is the part we want to change.

  4. Make the action harder to preform. Have a habit of scrolling through shopping apps? Uninstall them from your phone, and block the websites from your computer. Unsubscribe from subscription emails that make you inclined to shop. Do you get an itch to shop when you see people wearing nice new things on Instagram? Un-follow the accounts that make you want to shop, and follow some accounts that focus on re-wearing old pieces, which you probably already have in your wardrobe. When a habit becomes more difficult, you stop wanting to do it.

  5. Build some new habits. If, like me, you have a habit of buying new things so you can create new looks in your wardrobe, get in the habit of collecting new style ideas with items you already own. There are so many good options for inspiration on Pinterest, and Pinterest also probably won’t link you straight to the items to buy them either. Another good shopping habit is to create a wishlist for pieces you think you might like to add to your wardrobe. This way when you feel like you want to shop, instead of buying on impulse, you can look at your wishlist and see what pieces you have been wanting for a while. Rememeber to keep checking back to see if you still want these items, and if not, delete them. Try not to buy anything until it has been in your wishlist for more than 30 days.

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My plan for the rest of 2019 is to stop shopping altogether.

I’ve said this a few times before, but when you realise you’re still buying even when you’re not sure you’ll be able to cover all your necessary expenses for the month, it’s time to stop! My plan is to give myself a 3 month ban, that will then extend to 6 month, bringing me up to the end of the year. 3 months doesn’t seem as daunting for now, and it may be easier to stick to. If I make the 3 months, I can reward myself with my extra money (from not shopping) with a pamper day, a day out with friends or my boyfriend, something significant, but certainly not anything to do with clothes!!  At the end of the 6 months, well maybe I’ll allow myself a treat, like a nice pair of Everlane shoes. It will be Christmas after all.

Wish me luck!!

If you’d like to join me on this journey let me know in the comments. It would be ssooo helpful to have someone going through the same thing as me. We can be a little community support group for each other 🙂 Join me over on Youtube too, because I’m planning a closet clear-out as my first step of the process, and I’m going to rebuild my capsule wardrobe for Summer. See you over there.



  1. Sofia Hiragii
    June 9, 2019 / 4:09 pm

    I am definitely joining you!!!! I so need this encouragement!! And thank you for such an honest post, I feel like that and I feel embarrassed about it. It feels very much like other addictions… xx

    • mcleangemma
      June 9, 2019 / 8:34 pm

      It’s nothing to be embarrassed about at all..!! But I’m so glad you’re joining me.. we can encourage each other.xx

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