Two weeks ago, on Amazon Prime Day, approximately 2.2 million shoppers were buying a record-breaking total of $10.4 billion worth of goods. And it’s no surprise that during COVID, when everyone has been trying to socially distance, the platform had some of its most revenue-generating quarters yet according to public reports.
There’s something magical about ordering on Amazon, right? You want it; you click it; you get it.
It is instant gratification on steroids. You only leave the confines of your couch to pick up what is magically awaiting you at your doorstep, hours or days after you've ordered it online.
But, what’s not magical is the unkept promises piling up in your home. Products that you thought you needed, but you never end up using. Products that you used briefly, but quickly grow bored with.
I wonder if people published numbers on how much use they got out of the items they had purchased on a whim. I wonder what we would see. After all, I’m no stranger to the thrill of buying.
I used to purchase two to four items from Amazon almost every week from 2015 to 2018. My work desk would almost always have boxes on top of it.
But, I have been a lot better these past two years. Since May 2020 to now, more than 160 days have passed and I bought only two things online - a package of shipping envelopes and an education course. Most of my regular purchases are just gas and food. Everything else I need, I’ve devised more thought IRL ways to get it.
So, how do you break free from the seduction of instant shopping gratification?
Don’t buy something on the spur of the moment or when you’re distracted. Sometimes when there’s a deal going on, or you’re watching tv, or you’re browsing online, or you hang out with a friend, you’ll develop an itch to buy.
Practice sitting with that itch instead of giving into it.
When you want something, save it first to your wishlist. Check your wishlist once a week (or even once a month!). Oftentimes, you will find out that you don’t want the thing anymore.
And it’s probably because that desire was temporary or because you found a different way to solve your original problem. This strategy just worked miracles for me where I went from shopping a lot to barely at all.
Have you ever bought melatonin pills because you find it hard to sleep only to find that your insomnia never disappears? But, what if the best way to sleep for you is to just put your tech away at night?
Or have you ever purchased countless outfits to look better but only to find yourself wearing or using it once or twice or never? What if the best way to look good for you is to be happy with yourself?
Sometimes you buy things because you think you’ll need them, not because you really do.
The problem with buying is that it’s often just a temporary relief. It’s easier to buy a product produced for the masses that claims to solve all your problems than to reflect on yourself. Oftentimes, what you buy appears to be the solution but it really prevents you from solving the underlying problem.
Sit with that itch. Ask yourself why you want to buy the product and think of a couple of alternatives to get those benefits outside of buying. Instead of buying a product produced for the masses, create better solutions based on your real life.
What do you need if you want to become an artist?
The latest Wacom drawing tablet? A 100-color set of color pencils and markers with different size tips and a fancy artist’s drawing pad?
If you don’t draw yet, then buying all that is overkill. Start with the resources you already have, whether it’s a pencil and some scratch paper or an app on your phone. Try drawing once. When you actually start drawing, you’ll quickly discover if you enjoy it or are just scratching an itch. And if you enjoyed doing it, then it’s time to level up drawing daily. As you build your habit of actually drawing regularly, you’ll get a better idea of your needs and requirements to go to the next level. Then, you can buy the right things for you as opposed to all the trappings that advertisers influence you to get.
Even if you’re more seasoned, think about the area you want to grow in. Whether it’s drawing more realistically or improving your shadow technique, if the answer was just buying more products, then there would be a lot more people at the skill level you’re trying to reach.
So, what do you need when you want to become an artist? What you already have plus your commitment to practice.
I went backpacking with my friends on a vacation in Thailand. At the time, I was incredibly proud of myself for managing to fit in 30 clothes into a backpack, but was still worried whether that was enough. The reality? Within 10 days, I quickly realized that I was only wearing 30% of the clothes. Some of the clothes were too heavy for a warm-weather climate and others fit weirdly when you’re constantly on the move. I thought I'd like something, but I didn't really like it. You end up finding out that you still use less than you own, no matter how much or how little you actually own.
Take what you own and split it into two: what you use regularly and what you rarely use. Instead of cluttering up your closet and other daily spaces with things you rarely use, put them away in your storage. And, instead of being emotionally tied to your items in your storage, treat your storage like it’s your personal warehouse and factory.
Manage the inflow of your storage just like e-commerce businesses manage their inventory and supply chain. Don’t buy more than you have the space for. Instead, if you buy something, make sure you give up something in return. Otherwise, don’t buy it at all. By doing this, you’ll find yourself being more intentional about the things you buy and keep.
When you’re bored and want to shop, go to your storage and “buy” something from here instead. It’s much more instant and cheaper than any other shopping you can do. Sometimes you’ll re-discover why you liked something you bought a while back and start using it again. Other times, you’ll discover that there might be someone who would like the product better than you and you can gift it or re-sell it. Or, and this third option is my favorite, you can dismantle the products and re-make it into something(s) you actually like.
Your storage? It’s also your den of creativity.
The trick is to not treat the things you put away in storage as sacred. You don’t need to use the products that you bought the way the manufacturer told you it should be used. That promise was broken a long time ago when you stopped using the product.
There is no single use for any product. Any product can be made and remade, again and again with creative effort.
A dress is not just a dress. By cutting it in half, it can become a top and a skirt. By cutting it vertically, it can become a long cardigan. By cutting it into squares, you could use it as a washcloth or towel. If it had beading or lace on it, then those things can become bracelets, headbands, or earrings.
A laptop is not just a laptop. Hidden within it, are the raw materials for a tablet, a hotspot, a throw projector, and more.
If you’re strapped for ideas, you can google what uses other people have come up with for things. The keywords you want to use are: “how to upcycle [insert item]” or “how to reuse [insert item]” or “diy projects with [insert item]”.
P.S. If you’re having trouble with your Amazon shopping habit, then consider unsubscribing to Prime. It’s easier than you think even though Amazon buries it in their account settings. By refusing the instant magic illusion of shopping gratification, we can release ourselves from this habit-enforced desire to buy. We need more magic in our lives, not our tech.
P.P.S. If you’re interested in more posts like this, please subscribe! Also, please let me know what technology habit you find yourself stuck with. I’m happy to dive into that next!