As an introduction to this new questioning angle, I have decided to try and analyze what have been the motivations for wanting to buy something new, regardless of what type of item was on my purchase list.
Matching New Needs
I have noticed though, that in my case it sometimes goes beyond needs - reassured by the justified "new need" I have tended to overbuy in the past - like all the stuff I bought when I was in Japan and that ended up so expensive to ship back to France. In that case, what I find to be most efficient is to sit down and make a list of the items I really need, to help stop at that.
The Change of Seasons
I think in that case, buying new things is a way to celebrate the upcoming new season (especially in Autumn for me, as it is my favourite moment of the year). Most of these purchases may be avoided by enjoying more non-material aspects of a new season - taking pictures of the changing nature during a walk, cooking seasonal products...
Compensating an Insatisfaction
I think it is a very common practice in our current society that teaches us material items bring happiness. In reality, I have noticed the spirit lifting only lasts for a very short while. Now, when I feel a little down for some reason, I tend to treat myself with pleasant activities instead of items: a glass of fine wine with a book or game, going out for a walk, meeting with friends, offering myself a good restaurant or hammam treat...
Wanting to Initiate Change
This situation is tricky, because it is natural to want to mark a change with something, and in a way, buying material items to symbolize change also catalyzes it and can create the dynamic of change. However, it can also be a lure, as in thinking "I have bought this and that so I have changed" and not changing the real elements of our lives. A bit like decluttering for the sake of decluttering, but without changing one's mindset and buying everything back in the following weeks.
What I did for this one is, when I am in a questioning phase and want to make a change, I allow myself one symbolic purchase, but then make some actual changes in my life before buying anything else. For example, when I decided to start running again last year, I purchased a generic set of running gear as a symbol of my resolve, but decided to wait until the running habit was firmly implemented before buying any more running gear.
Wanting to Create Memories
I don't think there is anything wrong with buying souvenirs, and I'm happy with my purchases, but there is more than objects to remember good moments - pictures, keeping in touch with people and creating fond memories together. Another thing I've learned to do is to keep "to buy" things under my sleeve and, instead of buying them alone, use the occation of a friend's visit to go and buy it together.
Because I Entered the Shop
The problem is, doing that once a year when I visited Paris was one thing, doing it every week-end because I live 10mn away from le Marais is quite another. I have managed to curb this tendency as I found other activities to do in the week-end (visiting museums, reading books, writing short stories, playing the violin, meeting with friends...)
Craving for Novelty
Since I am in Paris, the size of my appartment doesn't allow for furniture moving, nor for much new decoration, so I noticed I started to compensate with clothing. I think it is a point I really need to work on, because the need for novetly in itself is probably never going to disappear, but if I buy new stuff every time I crave for a routine change, I will keep accumulating stuff on the long term and that's what I've been working on avoiding these past two years.
I have started to find some solutions to this need of regular change in my surroundings. For example in my appartment, I decided to buy more "consumables" to alter the decoration temporarily, like beautiful candles, or a bunch of fresh flowers. I need to work on a balance - I am a moderate person and I believe that overbuying isn't good, but total deprivation isn't good either.
In the end, I think it is all about having a healthy relation to purchasing habits and budget, avoiding artificial restraint and consumerist splurges alike, and restore consumption to what it is supposed to be: using money as a tool to buy objects which serve a purpose. Defining that balance will probably be one of my main focus for 2014. What about you? What are your motivations for shopping? Are you satisfied with your current purchase habits or are there some things you'd like to improve?