Stress in the Pandemic: Making Everyone Impulsive Shoppers

stressed man

The period of minimalism is over. For a few years, decluttering was the trend. People from all over the world watched Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo visit American homes and help them turn their lives around by simply tidying up. The method is known as KonMari, wherein a person gathers all their belongings and keeps only those that “spark joy.” This became so popular that thrift stores across the United States saw a surge of donations from those who decluttered their homes.

But, the desire to live lightly and only own stuff that continues to bring happiness came to an end when the pandemic happened.

Impulse-Buying Pandemic

The pandemic brought a lot of stress to the global population. The experience in the past year was so bad that many experts believe that people from around the world are experiencing mass trauma. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) even claimed that the mass trauma from COVID-19 was so much worse than the aftermath of World War II. The public health agency warns that its impact will be felt for years to come.

Different people have their own ways to cope with stress, and many find comfort from shopping.

Since the pandemic began, spending on impulse purchases has been up. This, of course, is not surprising despite the economic recession and lockdowns that have been happening for the past year. The phenomenon called “retail therapy” has been around for a long time, and it certainly was in action for many people during the pandemic. The mix of stress, isolation, and boredom made a lot of people spend money.

In one poll, 72 percent of all respondents said they had purchased something on impulse to lift their mood during the pandemic.
Shopping provides a temporary escape and a distraction from the current situation. Moreover, buying stuff has the capability to trigger the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine. Its effect is similar to consuming comfort food and alcoholic beverages. But, the problem with dopamine is that it wears off and, once it does, you will crave for it again.

Shopping as a coping mechanism during the pandemic, therefore, can be a bad and expensive habit. It also creates a lot of clutter.

couple buying online

A Clutter Problem

Previous studies have shown that people spend up to $5,000 annually on products that they purchase on impulse. A lot of these items, unfortunately, go unused. Many people have about $7,000 worth of stuff at home that they never use and, therefore, only become clutter.

Hoarding, or the difficulty parting with possessions, is also connected to compulsive buying. People who hoard believe that the item will, later on, become useful or gain value at some point. They might also refuse to let go of things that hold a sentimental value to them.

The desire to buy impulsively and the difficulty to discard stuff are creating a mess at home. In addition, families are spending more time at home to work and study. That tends to cause disarray as things get utilized. Households with very young kids tend to see more clutter around. However, even those who do not have children will still feel like they have to clean their homes more often.

What to Do

There is no one way to get rid of clutter that has accumulated during the pandemic. You can declutter. You can also move stuff you do not use to a custom storage building to get them out of the house. However, your possessions will only keep piling up if you do not address the root of the problem.

Try to reevaluate whether the purchase made you feel happy. After the thrill of placing an order and receiving the item, does it, to borrow from Kondo, “spark joy?” You will find that a lot of the time, it does not. Knowing this may make you think twice before you buy next time.

You also should not deprive yourself at all. Give yourself a budget for discretionary spending, and do your best not to overspend. Use the fund to pay for stuff that will make you feel excited.

Moreover, if the root cause of impulse purchases is pandemic stress, it is better to find other activities that will relax you and take your mind off the current situation. Better yet, talk to a therapist about it.

The pandemic has led to high levels of stress, and some people try to manage the negative emotion by shopping. The bad habit is causing overspending and clutter. To address excessive shopping, you need to first address pandemic stress.

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