Confessions of an Online Shopaholic

Seriously, Sam? is a column that looks at the lighter side of suburban life.  This month, Sam reflects on her online shopping habit.

I recently pulled up to my house to find a stack of boxes on my porch, one of which was over 5 feet tall. If you are anything like me, a daily pile of Amazon (and beyond) boxes is the norm; but to have, literally, no memory of ordering anything that might require a five-foot box? Well, it might indicate a bit of a problem. In my never-ending quest for self-improvement, I decided to try an experiment. I would keep a diary about online shopping. Kind-of a “feelings journal” for cyber retail.

10/2/19 – 8:38am

Dear Journal,

I am a digital shopaholic. If I am admitting it, do I have to stop? I know it can be a time sink. And that I started to do it more when I stopped working – acquiring stuff to fill the void, blah, blah, blah. But I did give up my career right when Amazon Prime first made it possible to get Q-tips delivered in just two days. And making sure we don’t run out of Q-tips makes me feel like I am doing well at my current job, the one that I generally suck at, running my house.

10/2/19 – 8:52am

Dear Journal,

Full disclosure, I just ordered a hat for my daughter’s Halloween costume. In my quest for this hat, I realized something: I am just as happy shopping for others as I am for myself. I don’t know if this makes me a better person or if it means I have a bigger problem? My friend needed a new side table. I spent hours scouring Wayfair, Allmodern, RH, PB, CB2 (and more) sending links all along the way. My son grew out of his sneakers. I giddily loaded my cart with every pair that looked cool, read every review, and then let him pick his top 3 for an in-home shoe store experience. And it was fun. I don’t want to give this up!

10/2/19 – 9:17am

Dear Journal,

My buzz is wearing off from the Halloween hat purchase. Maybe my addiction isn’t driven by materialism, but the thrill of the hunt. Yes! This makes sense. Like in college, how I unwound by sifting through the piles at “Sals” (a.k.a. The Salvation Army Store) for treasures like used Levis and western shirts (necessary complements to my Ceasar haircut, combat boots and vamp lipstick.) Or how, in my 20s, an ideal Saturday was spent in the racks of the Back Room at Loehmann’s. Some might have viewed the slash in the label as an indication that these were designer rejects but, to me, it was the trophy that proved I worked hard for my finds! Maybe I am off point. That was real shopping. Where you see people and, possibly, get a little exercise. These days, I do very little of that. Why bother when I can order four pairs of booties while lying on my sofa watching The Real Housewives? Ugh. Maybe I really do have a problem.

10/2/19 – 9:25am

Dear Journal,

I know I was just here but, quickly, another benefit of online shopping? Zero sales pressure. I can reject without shame, because the only person I have to face is the UPS guy. And, for all he knows, I just like to send and receive things from my friend Zappos. So, I do think that online is “better for me” than real shopping because, in theory, I acquire less. That’s something, right?

10/2/19 – 10:30am

Dear Journal,

My calendar said “WRITE” and, since I write better when I’m organized, I decided to clean up my unread emails first. A quick accounting of the 38 messages I received in the last 12 hours:

· 3 news updates (NYT, The Skimm, the Patch)

· 2 notes from real people (play date logistics)

· 33 ads from retailers

I am happy to report that I officially unsubscribed from four of these enablers. But, then I got distracted by the “5 Must-Have Holiday Outfits!” on Shopbop. Still, isn’t it a sign of restraint that I only bought one jumpsuit?

10/3/19 10:02am

Dear Journal,

I am feeling down. My daughter’s hat arrived. As soon as I opened the box, I was irritated that I had all this packaging to clean up just for a stupid hat that she probably won’t even wear because she will inevitably change her mind about what she wants to be for Halloween. And then…I spent 45 minutes on Amazon looking for new hand towels. I’m broken.

10/3/19 1:30pm

Dear Journal,

The hand towels were rock bottom. I finally came clean to my therapist. She pointed out that online shopping acts on dopamine receptors – like a drug. Then I realized that it is particularly addictive for me because I get not one, not two, but three dopamine rushes with the same purchase:

Rush #1: The Scroll

The power of endless possibilities. My daughter can stop at page 2 of 29 and say “I’m done. I picked what I want.” I get itchy just thinking about leaving pages 3-29 un-clicked-through. You have to look at it all before you make a decision. Can I be the kind of woman who wears sneakers and culottes? Add to cart and see.

Rush #2: The Edit

Sometimes I get tantric and leave my cart full for days. When I finally go back to the cart, I decisively pare it down, do one more spin around the site, click “Check Out.” Use my fingerprint for ApplePay. Feel my whole body relax. My mom says that I have no frustration tolerance, but I think it’s pretty impressive to delay the gratification of placing my order for multiple days. Actually, double tantric.

Rush #3: The Packages

My door is stacked high with boxes. Heart-pounding I retreat to my closet for a little “me time,” otherwise known as feverishly removing each item from the plastic and trying it on. Am I transformed? If not, return. I ask you: as long as I return what doesn’t work, what is really so bad about a past-time that produces a multiple retail orgasm?

10/6/19 – 9:30pm

Dear Journal,

Right, so, after my jumpsuit arrived, I ordered some shoe options to wear with it. I just had this image of me, all ‘70s groovy, in the perfect platform sandals. And I don’t own any. I also don’t own the perfect jacket for the jumpsuit, so I ordered a few possibilities. Ugh. The shoes were all hideously uncomfortable and the jackets, which I got in two sizes because I am not as skinny as I used to be, were awful. The smaller size hugged my back fat and threatened to split if I moved my arms too quickly, and the bigger size draped on me like a 1930s gangster. So, I have to return everything. The good news, half of my credit card statement will be refunded!

Confessions of a shopaholic

10/8/19 – 11:02am

Dear Journal,

Just had therapy and, as I was talking about my slip up with the shoes and jackets, I had a breakthrough! I am shopping to feel better about myself!! Every time I buy, I am envisioning a new, improved, me. I simply need to divert this energy into finding fulfillment from things of real substance: meditation, writing, volunteering. I will not shop until I actually NEED something. I’m off to write.

10/8/19 -1:20pm

Dear Journal,

I wrote a scene for my novel! Just wanted to share the great news!!!

10/8/19 – 1:50pm

Dear Journal,

There was a friends and family sale on Carbon38, so I ordered two pairs of cozy sweats and three shirts. I really need something that won’t cling to my belly fat while I write. So, this was important…For writing.

10/9/19 – 8:43am

Dear Journal,

I went to Michael’s yesterday with my daughter who needed something for a school project. Guess what? It’s almost Christmas! Since I do all of the decorating and gift purchasing in my household, I am going to have to log many hours online shopping. And I’ll probably be too busy to write about it. So, I think this is goodbye for now. Fingers crossed I’ll kick my habit after the holiday glut. If not, I’ll see you in January!

About Samantha Woodruff

Samantha Woodruff holds a BA from Wesleyan University and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. She spent most of her career at Viacom’s MTV Networks, where she oversaw Strategy, Business Development and Consumer Research for Nickelodeon and a host of other brands. After becoming a mom and moving to the suburbs of Manhattan, Sam left corporate America and made being a mom to her 8 and 10 year old kids her full-time job. In her free moments, Sam teaches yoga and takes classes at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence. She is working on her first novel and writing essays that take a lighter look at the life of a former type-A executive turned suburban mom. Her work has been featured in Read650 and she contributes a column, Seriously, Sam? to Suburbs 101.

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