05 February 2016

Know your weaknesses

Source: tumblr

As I started simplifying my life and engage in various experiments, I have tried to learn from my mistakes and noticed some patterns about myself. Over time, I also noticed how knowing about these weaknesses helped getting better by avoiding them.

Let's take an example: impulse purchases. Thanks to Archana, I have read this article about emotional shopping. Katie lists four types of impulse purchases:

  1. 1. Pure impulse buying is a novelty or escape purchase which breaks normal buying patterns. 
  2. 2. Reminder impulse buying occurs when a shopper sees an item or recalls an advertisement or other information and remembers that the stock at home is low or exhausted. 
  3. 3. Suggestion impulse buying is triggered when a shopper sees a product for the first time and visualises a need for it. 
  4. 4. Planned impulse buying takes place when a shopper makes specific purchasing decisions on the basis of price specials, coupon offers, and so forth.

She also mentions to figure out which type of impulse buying we tend to fall most often for in order to be wary in the future. That's what I mean with "know your weaknesses".

A concrete example explained: my weakness

For example,  I believe my tendency goes toward the number 3. I find it to be an unwanted side effect of the work I've been doing over these past years to carve out my definition of what an "adequate" item is. Basically, I have learned to identify items which could best suit my daily needs, lifestyle constraints, budget and ethical considerations.

The problem with this is that I have become weak to suggestion impulse buying: when I browse a store and see an adequate item (may it be clothing, accessory, home decor, kitchen tool, books and other cultural items...), I feel the urge to buy it. Why? Because now that I know my "adequacy", I know I'd make a good use of this particular item, and I don't know whether I'll find another adequate item of the same type when I'll need it in the future. I want to seize the opportunity.

Knowing this weakness is a first step to counter-balancing it. To take this same example above, now I know that I am weak to suggestion impulse buying, I should avoid browsing a store without a specific goal and list in mind, as it is discovering a new adequate item that will make me want to buy it. So, unsubscribing to newsletters, limiting online browsing and visiting stores should help.

Figure out your weaknesses

Impulse purchases is an example, but there are many other types of weaknesses you can find out about. Here are some leads:
  • What emotional state were you in last time you shopped more than you should have? Were you frustrated? Sad? Preparing for a date? To impress a family member or friend you hadn't seen in a while? etc.
  • What criteria makes you fall for a particular item? Perhaps you can look into purchase mistakes to figure out a weakness. Is it color? Fabric? A particular brand? Is it shopping with friends? Being too shy to say no to the sales attendant?
  • After what kind of purchase or situation do you tend to feel bad about yourself? Shopping itself isn't the problem, the reasons behind it can reveal a weakness. If you feel bad after a purchase, maybe it is because you purchased it for bad reasons (in your opinion at least, otherwise you wouldn't feel bad)

As an illustration, I know that one of my main weaknesses is color. It sounds trivial but I made a lot of impulse buys and purchase mistakes out of this. Whether it is for clothing and accessories, home decor, stationery... When I really like the color of an item, I tend to overlook other flaws and end up with a top which cut really doesn't fit my body, for example.

This is something I have found out some years ago, and I have been able to learn from it. I sometimes fall for the color trap still, but at least these aren't purchase mistakes anymore, I make sure those impulse buys are adequate, and that I can have a good use of it.

Weaknesses don't disappear

Just like following a path of simplicity doesn't make desires disappear (at least, not unless you engage in years of inner work, I'd guess there are some monks free of desire out there), knowing about your weaknesses don't make them magically disappear.

For example, I love this taupe/sand color for spring, especially on a fabric like suede. I remember impulse-buying a pair of heeled shoes and a large matching bag in these colors at the Minelli shoe store at least seven years ago. The bag ended up being too large, and not safe enough (there wasn't any zip and it was so big people could steal from it easily, plus it was too bulky for my short frame). The shoes ended up being one size too big, but they were the only ones left on sale.

I still wore these two items together for a few years as I hate feeling like I wasted money, but ultimately, both items were donated in 2011 when I first edited my wardrobe. Why am I giving you this example? Because I just purchased a bag, and a pair of oxfords, in exactly that color, in suede just like the Minelli items seven years ago.

Personal picture

Only time will tell how long I will keep these new items, but so far they are more than satisfactory. The color weakness still lead to impulse purchase, but at least they are adequate this time (so far).

I guess the point here is: don't be too hard on yourself. Remember knowing about weaknesses doesn't make them disappear. But learn from them, get better at avoiding them. This is also a part of the simplicity journey. What are your weaknesses, how have you been dealing with them so far?


  1. I don't know if it's so much a weakness but I'd like to avoid making the same mistakes when I shop for shoes again this year. The loafers and oxfords I was sure would be part of my wardrobe don't provide enough arch support/stability. The shoes I do love--my ballet flats and my Ecco boots, are worn so often they're getting ragged and tired. So as I look into restocking/rebuying, I wonder how I can merge the desire for "menswear inspired" but poorly constructed womens' fashion versions (another topic for another day!) with dependable but less-flashy comfort branded shoes.

    Also I feel like I'm getting too old for uncomfortable, pinching shoes.

    1. Oh I went through similar frustration. My first loafers were from Jcrew. The sole was paper thin and flat. They made the old fashioned loafers look dainty and fashionable and even pretty. I sold them eventually.

      My current loafers and oxfords are by menswear brands who make high quality shoes - with small womens line. I realized that the dedicated shoe maker brands use the same high standards as their mens shoes when compared to the fashion brands that make pretty womens shoes for the ignorant customers who will buy the trendy.

      NDC Made by Hand, Officine Creative, Church's, Frye, etc are my go to brands.

      They are very expensive and I got mine second hand. They have lasted me for years and give great support.

    2. Can I join the shoes rant? Haha actually shoes are the department of my wardrobe I've had to replace the most often, especially since 2011 as I now own less than 10 pairs all seasons included. Quality does feel lacking in many women's stores and fashion brands, I guess it is because they estimate that customers want to change shoes every year. And ti's the same for many men's brands as far as Monsieur is concerned. But I guess this does come into knowing your weaknesses - if you know a certain brand makes cute shoes that don't stand the trial of time, then walk away!

      I agree with you Kristina that it's hard to find a good balance between personal taste, comfort and quality.It's about finding the brands that work for you and sticking to them I guess!

  2. Kali,

    Thank you for this. You challenge me to explore deeper.

    I think my weakness is procuring backups. I wear blue dresses everyday. And I definitely have more than enough. But if I see one that is extremely well made and affordable, I tend to stock up. I dont beat myself about it anymore because I do use it. But I fall in the category of planned impulse purchaser.

    1. The backup trap is a very widespread one! I tend to fall into it as well, when I find something I don't really need but is adequate, I tend to think I can stock up for when the old one will be worn out. Good luck in your own exploration of weaknesses, I agree with you that there is no need to beat yourself up about it once it's done. I guess it's about taking the lesson in for next time :)

  3. Well I might (I am) guilty of the backup Shopping for some item: orange jumper and tee shirts and cigarette black woll trousers.
    I have many in my closet as
    - orange is my favourite colour and so hard to find in a good quality and true orange colour (not that ugly 70's more russet hue one, albeit I do like russet). Especially when now all is either black, grey, taupe, navy or other uninteresting coulour (to me).And I do like cashmere.
    - black cigarette trousers, mostly wool trousers. In a world where jeans and slims are the common things for women (and men ugh), finding something elegant but not too classic, that fit my petite frame and is of good quality it not an easy task. So yes I stock. Always dreaming to find The One, which would replace my defunct perfect black wool cigarette trousers.
    But I also stopped to buy and keep clothes only because they did fit me somehow, but not really, and the colour was not good for me. So all in all, this is a kind of balance, not really weakness. But hey I'm human so weakness is me anyway! I also stopped to buy too much shoes as I know now what I prefer as fit and quality. And speaking of Church's, I may say that I have been very surprised, in a negative way, by quality of recent shoes. My cobbler, who used to work for Hermes, explained me how a shoe is constructed and well, let's say the Church's I have do not really meet great quality standard, if you really know how shoes are. So I don't think I will ever buy them again full price or not the recent one (since the brand has beenbought, it seems quality is going downside, but prices up...).
    I am not at all in minimalism or simplicity, I am just myself with common sense and independancy of any kind of trend or book/blog writer.
    Nevertheless, I find reading your blog quite "refreashing" may I say so I keep coming and read and, sometimes, commenting.

  4. I appreciate your personal example; at the same time, the categories #2 and #4 are not impulse buying; you cannot have a "planned impulse", it's an oxymoron. Buying because you're low on something may be unwise (you are tying up money on something you don't need presently), but it is not spontaneous. OOTH, the purchase can be a wise use of resources if you know, for example, the towels that you have been longing to relegate to cleanup rags can now be replaced at a very good price. It is, as my mother said, a matter of distinguishing need from want.

    Stockpiling is not impulse buying either, it is usually driven by fear of scarcity.

    My personal error is in thinking I "could use a change" and buying something in a colour or cut that works with little else I have. Pretty much beat that but in certain moods, still feel the tug.

  5. I'm nowadays so aware of my needs and what makes an item of clothing "adequate" for me, that I almost never impulse buy clothes, shoes, bags or any actually useful things that need to fulfill specific criteria. But this leaves open a loophole for things that are not meant to be useful, like vintage hats, lace collars, silk flowers, jewelry etc... If they are pretty, no more is demanded of them. It's not a question of money, since I buy them cheaply second-hand, but having already several silk flowers which see the light of day maybe 3-4 times a year, there is no actual sense buying more of the same. But sometimes I just get so greedy seeing such pretty pretty things.