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Compulsive Buying Making You Feel Isolated?

Knowing That You’re Not Alone Can Make A Big Difference

Do you feel alone, isolated, ashamed, or gulity about your shopping problem. So many of us do, which makes it so much harder to tackle.

Knowing that you’re not alone can make a big difference. Although you might have a hard time finding people who can relate to your struggles, there are quite a few resources to turn to, so reports Jill Chivers.

Recently featured on the Australian television show “A Current Affair,” Jill talked about what inspired her to begin talking openly with hundreds of people around the world about her addiction.

Jill remembers all too well what it felt like to believe that she was alone in her fight against compulsive buying, so she began “My Year Without Clothes Shopping” to let her viewers know that there are actually many people in their same position.

You can watch Jill on “A Current Affair” in the video below. In addition to reassuring  listeners that they aren’t alone, she also talks about the rising popularity of online shopping which can easily trigger compulsive buying.

In addition to Jill’s wonderful video, we’ve also included some other useful resources, put together by Debbie Roes of Recovering Shopaholic: Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life:

These Shoes and Baggage Fit Most Shopaholics

Touched, tickled, and terribly impressed, I left last Wednesday’s performance of Cheryl Stern’s Shoes and Baggage feeling buoyed and hopeful that compulsive buying may yet really come out of the closet, and this time for good!

As this funny, poignant, and thoughtful one-woman musical odyssey opens, the audience is bombarded with a plethora of advertising images, sale signs and the like, flicking on and off a large screen in rapid-fire succession.

To see a 34 second promo video of the show that begins with these images Click Here 

From the show’s website: Shoes and Baggage is about the insatiable urge to purchase and possess beautiful things and the deeper feelings that propel this behavior. Actress Cheryl Stern takes us on a wild, hilarious, and heartbreaking ride, hunting and spending as she digs deep to understand her own obsession with shopping.

Over the course of the 75-minute performance, we see Cheryl portraying over two dozen characters including a Broadway actress, a shopaholic friend, a coach whose client is the host on the Home Shopping Network, and herself at a Debtors Anonymous meeting. Cheryl’s personal share at DA describes her actual overshopping and overspending story; “I have overspent my entire adult life because I believed I would somehow be saved by my big break someday. Drowning in debt, hemorrhaging money I don’t have… and so I’m here.” Each of these personalities, in her own way, illuminates the “secret yet relatable world of retail enslavement.”

Sandy's Gold Sneakers Were Never Comfortable and they went to an appreciate audience member.

My friend, Sandy’s gold sneakers were never comfortable. They went home with an appreciative audience member.

In a bold, brazen move to release herself from these chains, at the end of the show, she strips off her expensive silk blouse and pants, revealing her curvy, imperfect and beautiful body. Released from her psychological prison, confident and captivating, she dances across the stage, clad only in a sleeveless Capezio leotard.

During the post-show event, Cheryl invited audience members to bring an item that wasn’t working for them.  Audience members voted whether to return, sell, donate, swap, repurpose or keep the item!

Here’s Laurie, Cheryl’s publicist,  wearing a dress I bought  two years ago and   never wore. Yes, it even happens to me from time to time!  The audience suggested I try to return it.

Cheryl hopes to take her her shoes, her baggage, and her show on the road, if funding permits. Her courageous, sometimes zany portrayal will help countless others who suffer with this “smiled-upon” addiction, countless others who can never get enough of what they don’t really need. Cheryl easily convinces us there’s better company than Louis Vuitton, more to chase than the next big sale, and a true friend than the pitch person at HSN.

Cheryl and I have been in touch several times since the show and are actively collaborating to move our shared agenda forward!  We’re both painfully aware that something has to be done to stem the increasingly strong tide that is drowning compulsive buyers worldwide.


The emotional baggage that a compulsive buyer carries is heavy and cumbersome.  But effective, available resources that can help lighten your load are available. It’s never too late to begin. For a comprehensive list of resources, click here.

Why Scrap Fasion?

Last Thursday, I spent the afternoon at the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York City and left feeling more inspired than ever to help people explore mindful consumption. In no way does anyone need to scrap fashion for lack of funds.

Let me explain.

Debra Rapoport, one of the advanced fashionistas I’d written about in “How Can Advanced Style Be a Retreat from Compulsive Buying” (July, 10, 2016) (Click Here), has done workshops at the Club and  invited me to attend a luncheon and fashion show there. Serving girls from 6th-12th grades, all of whom come from one of the poorest parts of the city,  the Club brings a world of opportunity to girls who most need it.

There are programs in science and technology; the girls gain meaningful employment experience. They train to become entrepreneurs, they build supportive peer groups  and learn to navigate the

complexities of life in the city.  The fashion show was one of a variety of opportunities in the arts, humanities and media that the Club offers to encourage the girls to tap into their creative passions.

The Club’s stated mission “ to break the cycle of local poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leaders” was fully in evidence at the fashion show, skillfully produced and executed proudly by the girls themselves.  Their sewing and material arts classes were the incubators within which, working with nothing but scrap materials, they fashioned well-constructed, whimsical,  cutting edge garments, worthy of any runway, without spending a dime.

Filled with joy, power, and possibility, the atmosphere was electric.  It reminded me of the thrill of using men’s neckties and other scrap fabric to make wearable art with one hundred and forty teenagers in South Africa last December.  If you missed what I wrote about my experience, “Tie-Ing Together Two Continents: Part I and Part II”, Click Here.
What could be a better illustration than this joyous event that mindful consumption in no way means scrapping fashion, whether you have the budget to afford designer clothes, live comfortably, albeit frugally, or you have to watch every penny and need to use scraps to fashion new garments?

complexities of life in the city.  The fashion show was one of a variety of opportunities in the arts, humanities and media that the Club offers to encourage the girls to tap into their creative passions. Here are two short video clips from the show:

Can’t find enough compulsive buying recovery resources? Open this treasure chest!

Have you ever run a Google search to see what compulsive buying self-help resources are out there, but come up with next to nothing? Shopping addiction is definitely a lesser-known, infrequently-discussed, and rarely-diagnosed disease, so finding information about and strategies to battle it can be a real struggle. Fortunately, Debbie Roes has gathered a great many resources, services, guides, and tips for anyone on, or just beginning, the road to recovery. Everything she discusses in this blog post will be invaluable to someone recovering from a shopping addiction. We’ve highlighted some of the most useful resources:

Advice and Information About Clothes Shopping and Wardrobe Management

So many compulsive buyers find that their Achilles heel is clothes or other fashion products, which is why these sections of what Debbie calls her “cheat sheet” are so useful. Even if clothes shopping is not your particular downfall, you can still use several of these strategies to suit your own overshopping tendences.. For example, tip number one in the “Specific Tips for Clothing and Related Items” section is “aim for quality over quantity,” which applies not only to clothes, but also to most other purchases. (If you want to read a bit more about how to develop an eye for excellence, read two of our recent blog posts, “Could reinvention solve your shopping addiction?” and “Time to change the way you approach personal style.”) Similarly, tips “Do a ‘closet audit’ before you shop,” “Determine your ideal frequency of wear,” “Consider having an item limit and/or using a ‘one in, one out’ strategy,” and many others will be pertinent to all compulsive buyers, not just those who overspend on clothing.

The “Other Useful Resources” Section

A bulleted list of tips and strategies to battle shopping addiction will always be useful, but enacting these new habits can be very difficult without someone or something to hold you accountable. At the end of this cheat sheet, Debbie lists several programs that may be just the reinforcement you need as you take on this new lifestyle, moving from mindless buying to mindful being. On our website, and in several broadcasts, we’ve introduced you to passionate and inspiring Jill Chivers, from My Year Without Clothes Shopping. Her own story is the subject of a short documentary, which can be found on her website.  Also included in this list of programs and resources is the very informative podcast “I Can’t Stop Spending,” as well as our very own Stopping Overshopping Text Messaging Program.

Explaining Why People Turn Into Compulsive Buyers

In order to completely recover from compulsive buying disorder, you need to get to the root of the problem and explore why you started spending in the first place and what is maintaining it in the present. At the very beginning of her material, Debbie lists the eleven overarching reasons from my book which explain why most people begin to buy compulsively. Once you’ve read through this list, one or more of these reasons will resonate with you. Knowledge is power and becoming conscious of how, when, where, and why your shopping problem began will enable you be on the lookout for these rationales coming up again and again.  And if you’ve begun to do the targeted work that programs such as the one in my book, To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop, you will find your way out of the problem.

These are just three of the sections in Debbie’s comprehensive resource list; reading all of it will provide you with more effective ammunition in your fight. You can read it in full here, and make sure you also check out her additional resources page for even more books and recovery programs. Whether you’re just beginning to tackle the addiction or you’ve been recovered for years, this complete list of services and tips will help keep you on track.

Afraid of missing out on a purchase? Be savvy to the advertising techniques that get you to spend

Imagine yourself walking into a store, any store: The products are likely displayed in a beautiful array, near the front windows; there are sales people scattered around to help you with anything you need; and there are bright advertisements hanging from the ceilings, pasted on the walls, on stands near the checkout, that scream, “Sale!” “Limited time only!” and “Only a few left in stock!” Are these bright notices just space-fillers to capture your attention, or do they have a more crafty purpose?

I recently read an article in Shopify that discussed all the tactics a company will use to trigger a shopping binge in a customer. Though the intended audience of this piece was business and marketing people, I thought there was a lot we could learn from what people in the industry had to say so we could become more wise and savvy to realizing these advertising tricks.

When you see those signs hanging in a store—the “Sale!” “Limited time only!” and “Only a few left in stock!” ones—the company is playing off of a shopper’s fear of missing out. Create the illusion that the product is scarce and a person is more likely to purchase it. The same thing operates on the internet, where companies will have count-down tickers that can be very persuasive in getting you to add that item to your shopping cart. After all, if a person goes home or logs off to “think about it,” he or she runs the risk of coming back to find it already being taken, right?

Not necessarily. Though the writers of this article urge companies to use these scarcity illusion tactics responsibility, we know all too well that many—if not most—companies will actually utilize these tricks on a daily basis.

Don’t get caught in the trap; make sure you know what to look for. Here are the ads and sales that should immediately make you suspicious:

  • Limited time offers
  • Limited quantity
  • Limited quantity/limited price
  • Flash sales
  • Product page countdown timers
  • Timed shopping offers
  • Copywriting tactics, such as “Going fast!”

If you want additional help, or feel like you really need someone to talk you down from a potential buying binge, consider our very affordable personalized text messaging program. You get targeted texts every day and can also access the program 24/7 for immediate help. It’s another line of defense, as you’ll receive texts that are informational, directive, benefit-oriented, motivational, and inspiration, all the while training you to become a more mindful shopper.

If you would like to read this article in full, you can do so here, and remember: Being a savvy shopper is the first step to being a healthy shopper. Be suspicious, and don’t let the fear of missing out cloud your shopping judgement.

Clothes shopping your downfall? Time to change the way you approach personal style!

When it comes to overspending, clothes are the downfall for many. We see an ensemble in a store window that we think we don’t already have in our closets, or justify our spending sprees because what we purchased was on sale or bought second-hand.

I’m Veronica Grace Taleon, Program Manager at Stopping Overshopping, and I wanted to share some interesting information with our community. An article in Darling Magazine took a new approach to the issue of filling our closets with unneeded materials. Rebecca Jacobs, who once claimed to have an unhealthy relationship with shopping, now helps women fight the urge to splurge as a “style coach and teacher.” Her philosophy is that our issues with overspending go so much deeper than seeing an item, coveting the item, and then purchasing the item.

Reforming our bad spending habits is important, but if we want to silence the temptation to buy something whenever we see it, we must reinvent the way we approach our own styles. In her article, Rebecca Jacobs gives three main tips:

If you go clothes shopping, think about how you want to feel in that piece of clothing. When you’re thinking about how you want to feel in your own skin and how you want to be perceived by others, focusing on an emotion that will last—such as self-assurance—will help ensure that the piece stays in your wardrobe longer than one season.

Next, you need to raise the bar on your standards, or what Rebecca Jacobs calls “our style zone of genius.” This does not mean that we need to spend an arm and a leg on only the top, trendiest pieces, but we do need to find a few favorite brands. Look in your wardrobe now and note the pieces that you love. What brand do they come from? Are they a certain color or style that you think is particularly flattering? This fashion research will help you find the pieces that suit you best. The next time you go shopping, keep these particular pieces in mind; you’ll ensure that you’re spending your money on something you know you’ll love, and you’ll be able to further define your style.

Finally, we need to love what we already have. If you followed the previous two steps, this will become easier as time goes on because by then you’ll have constructed a wardrobe filled with pieces you chose mindfully, that you feel confident in. Your closet may feel smaller than it did before, but don’t worry about running out of options; there are always to “expand” your closet without buying anything new. For instance, you can spend an hour one weekend afternoon sorting through what you already have, mixing and matching tops with bottoms and skirts you didn’t think about pairing up before.

So if you’re confronted with the urge to splurge, or are overwhelmed with the thought of throwing all bad shopping habits out the window, consider tackling the challenge with Rebecca Jacobs’ approach first. Don’t think about how each purchase will improve your wardrobe; think about how it will improve your style. Will it help you project the image you want it to? Are you settling for something you may not be happy with? And finally, have you considered creating “new” ensembles from the pieces you already love in your closet?

Could reinvention solve your shopping addiction?

Could reinvention solve your shopping addiction? A recent article on BBC took a very interesting perspective on the fashion industry and overconsumption.

This is the first time I’d ever read about fashion companies—even really big names, like H&M and Zara—that were trying to find a model where they could promote sustainability by creating blends of recycled clothing. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I really support this idea. There’s something about it in the post I wrote “Can Advanced Style Be a Retreat From Compulsive Buying.” Additionally, during my recent trip to South Africa where I was a counselor at Camp Sizanani, I led a program that taught kids how to repurpose old materials—such ties, shoelaces, and other fabrics—into wearable art.

This message of recycling what we already have is particularly pertinent to those trying to recover from shopping addictions. What we already have, at least as far as material possessions go, is usually way more than enough. Continuing to buy compulsively harms us and the environment, and since you can never get enough of what you don’t really need, it’s an endlessly frustrating and ineffective solution.

Trends fly in and out; many of us feel it’s justified and appropriate to update our wardrobes every season. Americans add 11 million tons of textile materials to landfills each year. While the BBC article doesn’t specify the population that it’s referring to, it does offer the following statistic: Wastefulness results in about 60 percent of all clothing being consigned to landfills. It’s a very good sign and quite commendable that the fashion industry is investing in research and innovations for textile recycling, as well as trying to create a “circular economy” that eliminates all waste by turning our leftovers into something new. In fact, last year, about 20 percent of H&M’s clothing was made of sustainably sourced materials, and one company, Dutch Awareness, envisions producing 100 percent recycled clothing blend in the near future. Furthermore, some companies even have a policy that encourages people to bring in their old clothing to be recycled by offering discounts on future purchases.

Jill Chivers recently wrote a blog post about the impact of “fast fashion” and has shared a video that I found particularly interesting. You can watch it below.

To read the article in full, click here, and the next time you go to the mall or get online to shop, ask yourself the tried and true six reminder card questions, and now add a seventh: Will this very likely end its days in a landfill or is it likely to have another few lives? See if your favorite brands are working to support sustainability. If necessity is the mother of invention, consciousness is the mother of reinvention…and might just resolve your shopping addiction.

Tying Together Two More Continents: But This Time As A Psychologist

I’m leaving today for Australia, where I’ll be giving three daylong workshops for Australian psychologists, in the theory and treatment of compulsive buying disorder. Since 2003, when I first launched my website, there has been a good deal of interest in compulsive buying in Australia and I was delighted and grateful to be invited by the Australian Psychological Society Institute to do workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

When I left Australia last January, having been there with my husband for vacation and to meet relatives whom I’d never met and only learned of a few years before, I decided that I’d like to go back to Australia to work. Two of these recently discovered relatives happen to be psychologists, Ron Taft, age 96, who was a professor and researcher and studied the adjustment, accommodation, and assimilation of immigrants coming to Australia, and his son, Marcus, a researcher and professor of psychology who studies reading comprehension.

Ron got a master’s degree from Columbia in 1940, where he met the American side of our family. He returned to Australia in 1941. Six years later, he matriculated as a Ph.D. student at Berkeley, where two of his teachers were Erik Erickson and Abraham Maslow, and Timonthy Leary was one of his classmates.

Ron and Marcus are the only mental health professionals of any kind in my family and I was very drawn to go back to Australia and try to make up for lost time. I’m also eager to reconnect with two wonderful colleagues, Michelle Laving and Jill Chivers, both of whom I met for the first time last year and who will each be attending one of the workshops. Michelle Laving is bringing the Stopping Overshopping text messaging program to Australia and it will launch there next week.

What I’m most eager to learn is:

What’s fueling the considerable interest in Australia in compulsive buying?

What kind of treatment and treatment adjuncts are currently available?

What help can we offer at Stopping Overshopping, LLC?

No doubt I”ll bring back new ideas and understandings to share with our community of compulsive buyers, the people who love them, and all the professionals who want to help them.

Stay tuned!

Tie-ing Together Two Continents: My Holiday Experience Gift Part II

Two weeks ago, I returned from an incredibly heart-warming and productive nine days at Camp Sizanani, a camp for HIV/AIDS affected teenagers from the greater Johannesburg area.
My role at camp was to be an arts and crafts counselor and in the post I wrote before I left, I described that I was bringing materials for an art project that I was going to teach which I called Tie-ing Together Two Continents.

Using ties, shoelaces and other supplies that had been donated by my neighbors, the counselors and campers made colorful, inventive, original wearable art, all while singing and dancing!

To watch a short video of the counselors doing the project during their training, click here.

There’s so much that I want to share about my experience and how it continues to unfold.

One of the first places I did that was on the radio on January 5th, when I was a guest on Psych Up Live. I was interviewed by Suzanne Phillips about compulsive buying in general, what I learned about consumption from being at Camp Sizanani, and about my personal shopping challenges while in South Africa. You can listen to the free replay here.

Tie-ing Together Two Continents: My Holiday Experience Gift

Tomorrow I’m flying to Johannesburg where I’ll be one of two American counselors at Camp Sizanani,* a camp for HIV-AIDS affected teens who come from Soweto, a large township rich in the history of the struggle against apartheid.  Poor housing and infrastructure, overcrowding, and high unemployment are still the norm.  In addition to regular camp activities; sports, theatre, storytelling, dance, poetry, and arts and crafts, HIV/AIDS prevention education and life skills are integral components of the program.

I’m bringing two large duffel bags, filled with an impressive assortment of fabric remnants, shoelaces, zippers, seam bindings and dozens and dozens of richly patterned men’s neckties. All will be used for an arts and crafts project I’ll be doing with the kids, that consists of finger crocheting chains from the shoelaces, seam binding, or other material, then taking the ties apart, cutting or ripping the deconstructed ties and the fabric remnants into strips, and finally, tying these strips onto the chains.

These refashioned materials will re-emerge as necklaces, bracelets and whatever other objects spontaneously arise in the course of this creative art play. I learned how to make these from Debra Rapaport, one of the advanced fashionistas I wrote about in a blog post a few months ago (

Through my apartment building’s listserve, I sent an email to my neighbors, told them where I’m going, what I’m doing there, and described the kinds of supplies I could use; ten of them responded with generous donations. Some left shopping bags with the doorman or in front of my door; others invited me to come to their apartments to pick up and, in some cases, pick out, the hauls.

Some of the items still had price tags, others showed the wear and tear of being well-loved. The panoply of labels and styles suggested that these gathered riches had been purchased on a number of continents over a number of decades.

A few of my neighbors shared personal narratives about their contributions.  These stories of stuff ranged from hearing about one neighbor’s half finished sewing projects, long ago abandoned, yet never discarded, to hearing from another, who wrote that her husband died six weeks ago and had a lot of neckties for me.

When I went to her apartment to pick them up, I learned that her husband, Jack Greenberg, a noted civil rights lawyer who once represented Martin Luther King, spent a good deal of time in South Africa. Beginning in 1978, he traveled the country, introducing the concept of civil rights legislation to members of the South African Bar and to South African law students. At Columbia University Law School, in 1989, he taught a seminar on post-apartheid Constitution, which was attended by a number of the South African lawyers who later drafted the historic document.

How incredibly fitting to be bringing ties to South Africa, worn by someone who has positively affected the lives of each of these campers. I’ve put these ties in a separate bag so that each camper can include a piece as a tangible reminder of devastatingly hard won freedom.

My neighbors have been delighted to learn that their materials are going to live out their days, not in landfills, but in the hearts and minds, and on the bodies of these campers and their loved ones. Jack’s widow said he’d have been touched to learn how his literal and figurative ties would be revived.

May your run up to the holidays be relaxing and peaceful.

Warm regards,

April Lane Benson, Ph.D.

*Sizanani means “helping each other” in Zulu