I realized something the other day.  I wish I could say I realized by watching others, but no…first-hand, it came up and slapped me in the face on an early, peaceful Saturday morning.  I had just dropped my daughter off at gymnastics, the rest of the family was just starting to stretch in their beds and I was by myself walking into that giant red and white bullseye store to pick up just a few necessities on my “list”.  Since our Suburban Smackdown a few years back, where we spent six months NOT buying anything new (except bare necessities), I have done a fairly good job of sticking to my list and only going to the stores when I really had no other choice.  But something made me slip.  This particular Saturday, all by myself with no hurried agenda for the day ahead, I walked in and thought, “It’s so empty in here and so quiet. Oh, there’s a Starbucks! I should treat myself to a nice warm coffee while I grab the few things I need.  After all, I have no kids in tow.”  And that’s when it started.  The “experience” of holding a warm cup of coffee while browsing peacefully and letting my mind wander away from my list of necessities to “oh, well, let me just check out their lamps, and their sheets, and oh yeah, exercise clothes and wow…they have swimsuits in already…let’s just see if they have any cover-ups that catch my eye.”

Suddenly, like waking up from a nightmare, it hit me!  BAM!  I was caught in the shopping sensory chokehold!  This cleverly designed “experience” that Starbucks has spent millions to create merged with the “experience” Target has spent millions to create and now we, the consumers, are stuck in this experience which is quite similar to quicksand.  Once one foot goes in it’s nearly impossible to get out!  And it’s not just the red and green stores; walk into any mall and they’ll be playing your favorite songs while you drool walking by the enticing aroma of soft pretzels, popcorn and coffee.  They have managed to arouse all of our five senses and overwhelm us with this pleasurable experience.  The aroma of fresh brewed coffee, the deliciousness of your first few sips, the warm mug in your hand, rows and rows of visually stimulating, well-marketed home goods and your favorite tunes playing ever so subtly on the overhead speakers.  They hit all five senses!  Who wouldn’t want to just relax, sip and shop?

Once I realized what was happening to me, I snapped out of it, re-opened my “list” on my phone, put only what I needed in my cart and headed to the check-out counter.  I felt so victorious!  I had zero buyer’s remorse.  I added no clutter to my home which is now constantly being purged since the beginning of our Suburban Smackdown.  I was now aware of the chokehold.  

But this really made me think.  I wasn’t having a horrible time while wandering the aisles in Target with my favorite dark roast coffee.  Why would I deprive myself of such a relaxing time?  Fortunately, deep down I knew I didn’t want to be shopping.  I was simply craving an experience that morning.  Something relaxing, yet arousing to the senses.  Some quiet time, without demands.  I didn’t really want any of those things I was drooling over in the store.  I forgot about them by the time I got home.  What I realized that day is that we, the consumers, need to be ever aware of what it is we really “want”.  For me, after giving this situation some long, deep thought, I would have felt more energized and satisfied by taking a walk on the trails with a friend, perusing the local farmer’s market with my family or heading over to the local yoga and kombucha Saturday sessions with a group of girlfriends.  And now, since awareness is key, I’m always paying more mind to my list and less to my gullible senses when I’ve no choice but to run in and grab a few things.     

In addition, I’ve made a decision. 

 I need less of this:

and more of this:

If you, too, have a love/hate relationship with stores, you might be curious to hear how we felt on day one of pledging against them for six months.  Check out this post.

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