The truth about why we shop

Is it because we are duped into it by a bunch of advertising? Because we are laydeez with credit cardz? Or maybe we need inspiration

The truth about why we shop

Dotty about shopping. Laura Eades & Elba Lloyd 2014

I have spent the last week in malls. Searching for my soul in a mall.

I’ve found a pack of erotic bookmarks, a sticker book, a belt, a jacket, birthday presents for my daughter, and free cubes of cheese on cocktail sticks in a Bobby Brown makeup store. But no soul as yet.

A life of leisure. Sort of

I’m scatty, searching for focus and trying to create routines and systems.

Firstly and fundamentally, trying to get my baby into a bit of a daytime sleep routine – Yesss! Thank YOU little baby!! (So grateful that most days she’s up for it.)

When her sleep isn’t working, I put her in the sling. Walking, and… shopping.

I browse, trying to recognise myself

Some shopping is perfectionist: you have an exact image in mind.

And some is freeform, procrastinatory perusing, trying to spot an attitude that you think you could throw on for the occasion. The occasion being your life.

Looking for ideas and inspiration

A couple of years ago, when I was in one of these searching-for-routine phases, I used to go to a lot of charity (second-hand) shops.

I could easily end up reincarnating myself as whoever suited whichever outfit fitted me, rather than making active choices about ‘my look’. When the senior staff-member called me a ‘chimera’ I realised I was confusing everyone else as well as myself with all my costumes, fun though it was going to work in a fascinator and bronze pleather wonderwoman jacket.

‘Investing’ in ‘signature’ ‘pieces’

I’m not much of a shopper, or a magazine reader either, so when I talk about having ‘a look’, or ‘a wardrobe’, I’m really just borrowing a foreign jargon to fuel a very nebulous fantasy of having a really reliable strong core self.

I do a lot of equipping, trying to make a streamlined kit. My shoes broke, so after I got fed up with everyone saying I looked cold in flipflops I had to buy some. But there’s more at work than sheer practicality. My shoes must fit my purpose. My every purpose, every weather, every role.

Shit. So what should I be spending my time on? Who do I want to become? What lifestyle do I want and how can I realise it? In these moments of attempted coherence in my self-design, in the background I’m usually overwhelmed by decision-making about my life purpose.

On one hand, it’s a myth

Trying to look like the person you want to become. Browsing for personas. It doesn’t reflect highly on the integrity of one’s own personality, does it?

And this idea that you can just have an inspirational taster of the life you want: one designer teacup perched on all your IKEA furniture. As if by osmosis the laminated chipboard will fall into line with your crockery… well that’s the dream we’re being sold, and usually the mug breaks before the sideboard.

Or, more realistically, the aspirational mug lives alongside the teambuilding millenial challenge one, and the one with the map of Pembrokeshire on it. And that is personality. Bit of design, bit of experience, bit of chance. I’m not Bowie. I don’t get to choose who I’m going to be tomorrow. We’re made of a load of jumble assembled into ‘a look’.

On the other, it’s a catalyst

Transform yourself from the outside in. You may mock. Well, since I bought new shoes, I got confident, and started getting shit done. It gave me faith. Stature. Stride.

Getting dressed is one of the first things you do in a day so liking what you put on is a good way to get going.

And you could shop to get yourself going – new sports kit, for example?

And the ‘kit’ idea – well, I suppose it’s the idea that if you’re streamlining your detailed, home systems, then you’re not devoting your limited decision-making energy to what food to buy/what to wear/what after-school activity to do with your child, because it’s automated by routine (and by you having created the ultimate capsule wardrobe. Wait. Did I just write ‘capsule wardrobe?’ What the heck is that, trousers for garlic tablets?).

Mostly, it’s achievable

Anyone can make a purchase. It’s such a finishable action. Ping! You get a hit. I get to make a small change. A tiny change in my life, in a situation (with a newborn) where I have relatively little control. It’s not real, but it might be the start of something that is.

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