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. Pure impulse buying is a novelty or escape purchase which breaks normal buying patterns.
- 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. Suggestion impulse buying is triggered when a shopper sees a product for the first time and visualises a need for it.
- 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 weaknessFor 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 weaknessesImpulse 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 disappearJust 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.
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?