As a pre-teen, growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, my friends and I would walk to our small downtown after school. We would ride our bikes, grab a slice of pizza, and go to various stores to look around. I can’t remember many of the details of the shops we would frequent, but there is one that’s stayed with me – a children’s clothing store. Specifically, the baby area of the children’s clothing store. My friend and I would go in, look at the baby clothes and actually pick out clothes for our future, still-imaginary children. (I know.) I am embarrassed to admit this and the fact that I thought the annoyed looks of the sales clerks and the “ohmygodyouareecrazy” looks on our male friends’ faces had nothing to do with us.
I thought of this one day while shopping at Anthropologie. I am here to say I love Anthropologie, love how I feel when I shop there, and try to find reasons to leave with the striped tulle skirt hanging in the corner by the wooly mammoth blazer. (Maybe I can wear them together?). But here’s the thing – I couldn’t imagine a place I would wear these pieces. Not even separately.
I didn’t use to have this problem, this lack of imagination. I could imagine any situation that would justify a purchase or something that would make an experience better.
That adorable Indian-inspired tunic cover-up? I would look so cute in that on a tropical beach, totally something to slip on after sunning myself all afternoon and walking back to our resort. Except that never happened. The beach or the resort. And the tunic just didn’t have the same feel when wearing it at the local community pool, carrying floats and bag large enough to fit a day’s worth of snacks and beach towels for a family.
Those gorgeous chunky rhinestone earrings? Those would look great with my dark jeans and a night out to dinner. Except when I wore them for ten minutes, all I could think about was how I was permanently damaging my ear lobes to sag down to my chin. Trip to the bathroom and into the handbag they went, still sitting there, I think.
I could go on. The purchases inspired by the imagined settings, of where I would be, who I would be with, and how I would feel when it was actually used/worn.
It is what retailers’ count on when they style the pictures in their catalog spreads, spray the store down with their signature fragrance, employees’ donning combinations you would never think of to put together…”I could look as cute as they do! When I am doing yoga on the outdoor deck of my cabin rental in the woods.”
You see, when we are purchasing things, we aren’t really wanting ‘the thing’. We are wanting the feeling we imagine it will give us when we use it. We are paying for our life imagined in advance.
Let me be clear, I am not for avoiding all purchases that we imagine will improve our lives. There is evidence that shows that when we feel more confident, we perform better at our jobs, at interviews, at athletic activities. Need those yoga pants because you don’t have a pair that fits you anymore? Get ’em. Need a suit for that job interview? Heck yes. But your tenth pair of yoga pants? The pair of boots that you know you need, you just need to make room for them in your closet?
It finally hit me one day that one of the reasons I haven’t worn the Indian-inspred bathing suit cover up is that we haven’t been to the place where I imagined I would wear it. And one of the reasons we haven’t been is we didn’t have the disposable income to make that trip.
Maybe if I evaluated before I purchased – what do I currently have? Is there anything that would work for what I am imagining this item hanging up in the store would fill? And if not, do I want to spend my hard-earned money on an imagined feeling? It was then I began to check in with myself – will this purchase really affect how I feel about myself? And the times I did purchase something, I would try to pay attention: is this experience better because of what I am wearing/drinking/using? If not, then I would take with me moving forward, listening to my heart on whether turning over my time (which is what money is to an extent) would be worth the purchase.
What about you? Have you imagined how a purchase would make you feel? Have you bought something you know would just make your eyes pop during an evening out and they have yet to leave your closet/jewelry box/dresser drawer?