“The older I get, the more I become like my mother,” I used to say.  Now I say, “The older I get, the more I get like my clients!” I don’t know if it’s the Stockholm syndrome or the nature of the work that I do that allows me to see things from the client’s point of view, but I begin to see the charm of the items that entrance or bewitch my clients. There have been times when I myself have gotten caught up in an online sale for days, trying to ascertain the most perfect, charming, functional handbag out of the 500 that were on sale at the Vera Bradley website.  As a diversion, like a timeout for the brain I see the value or browsing these shopping websites, but when I begin to feel the pressure of making a decision and securing the sale, then I know it’s a problem.  When I see a closet full of them in someone else’s house, then I know they have a problem, too.

The problem with shopping is that some people use it as a hobby.  Shopping can give you a feeling of accomplishment—go, hunt, gather, bring home—now you’re productive! However, the hunt is often for things we don’t need and then it becomes an issue.  Rumor has it that there’s a second house in Pound Ridge filled with stuff that couldn’t fit in the first house this woman lives in.  In my experience, I have seen people use spare bedrooms as storage for what can’t fit in their closets.  That’s a lot of stuff.

As you know, Americans like to shop and bring home stuff to decorate their homes, fill their closets and have toys with which to play. Speaking professionally, the number one issue is that people have too much stuff!  There’s generally a half dozen reasons why this is so and once people understand that, then they can start to work their way clear.  If, however, the person is recovering from a trauma or loss, physically or emotionally, then it’s going to be harder than for the rest of us.  Also, if you have reached a certain point in your life where you no longer have the patience or energy to deal with the piles, jammed closets and stuffed drawers, then you may want to get some help.

So back to the Vera Bradley online sale. Given that I am a Vera fan, I will dutifully scroll through the sales that pop up in my email. Most of the time, I clearly do not have a need for a new bag, but I enjoy looking at the shapes and patterns, and find it a pleasant way in the evening to unwind mindlessly.  I can recite the names of patterns that have been retired years ago, because I’m such a fan.  And at times, I’m even a little nostalgic for the patterns that got away because every year, old patterns are retired and no longer for sale. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but that’s me.  However, I do think I’ve turned the corner on my need to have a new Vera Bradley bag at the change of seasons. Two weeks ago, I was perusing the website a couple of nights running, and had thrown a hand bag in my shopping cart on which I was pretty keen.  On the third and final night of the sale, I said “OK, it’s time to pull the trigger and buy this thing!”  Then I had a revelation.  I realized that I did not actually have to own this lovely bag in order to appreciate it.  That was amazing to me.  I was unconsciously purchasing this bag just because I thought it was charming, and buying it was an acknowledgement of that.  I decided that this time, I could love Vera from afar and that I did not actually have to have it in my possession.  That appreciation was enough and that I already had enough Vera Bradley for now.  That was a big a-ha for me.

I wonder how many of you have been caught up in the moment with something that dazzled you but lost its charm the day after. When shopping, especially online shopping—keep in mind that you probably don’t need anything and you may just have a yen for a momentary thrill. Remember: you can appreciate without actually owning everything that you admire.