Retail Therapy: Does It Add More Clutter than Its Worth?

Kris HargroveLifestyle

retail therapy clutter

Retail therapy is often thought of as a way for people to reward themselves or to fill a void. Mostly when people are feeling low, sad, or depressed, a quick trip to their favorite store or online fills a void temporarily. Shopping gives us back some of the control we feel has been lost when things seem to be going wrong in our life.

While retail therapy can make you feel good for a few moments, it doesn’t last long. It actually could cause more clutter in your home that you will need to go through later on, which takes away your time and money. The point is to be able to walk into your home and feel good about your living space. Buying more stuff to fill it with won’t help you accomplish that goal.

If you are someone who ventures to retail therapy to make yourself feel good, there is no shame in doing that. But there are healthier ways to get that “feel good” feeling too. Let’s shift the mindset from spending and cluttering to fulfilling and healthier all around.

What is Retail Therapy?

Retail therapy is a term used to describe going shopping for things you don’t necessarily need. Maybe you’ve had a bad day or week and you feel like a new purchase could cheer you right up. Some studies do show that retail therapy helps people’s mental health temporarily.

What you don’t foresee is that this new purchase isn’t usually a meaningful purchase. You might find it taking up space in your home, closet, or your life in general. This could cause the opposite feeling of wanting to declutter your home to regain control over your space. It’s a catch!

Retail therapy is also known as emotional spending. When you let your emotions steer your financial decisions, this is when trouble can arise.

6 Ways to Avoid Retail Therapy

Retail therapy is okay in moderation. But if you need to avoid it altogether to help you save money and stop clutter from entering your home, follow the six tips listed here to guide you.

Create a Budget

Starting with a budget and keeping to it can help detour you from any extra retail therapy spending. If you are diligent about your monthly income and expenses, this can keep you from getting into financial trouble by spending when you are feeling down.

If you need help curbing your spending, consider adding in a small amount each month so that you don’t feel restricted. Making your retail therapy part of the budget makes it easier to plan for. The trick here is to not overspend. Be firm with yourself and stay within your budget. 

Track Your Spending

Holding yourself accountable for your spending is a great way to avoid buying things you don’t need. If you sway from the budget you created, your tracking can help show you where the extra spending is going. This will help you notice if you are overspending on some retail therapy.


The number one way people are coaxed into buying more and more is when they are subscribed to a company’s email/texts or have the brand’s app downloaded on their phone. These methods will constantly remind you of the brand or business and will keep you updated with any specials and sales they have coming up.

They have a really good way of showing you that you absolutely need whatever they are selling. Instead, you can unsubscribe or delete the app from your phone so that you are not constantly being reminded about things you can buy that will likely cause more clutter in your home.

Get an Accountability Support Person

Get support and accountability from a support person like a friend or family member who can keep you on track to avoiding retail therapy. They could check in with you each day to see how you are feeling and how much you have spent for the day.

In order for this to work, you have to be completely open and honest with them about your spending. Don’t try to hide it; that defeats the purpose and it instills guilt and shame. We don’t want that, either!

Make Small Purchases Instead

Remembering the budget you put in place for yourself, make small purchases instead to satisfy you. For example, instead of spending $100 per month on more stuff, allow a $20 spending limit instead. This is helpful in shifting your mindset.

Small purchases can be enough to give you those “feel good” moments. But it can also detour you from buying because it’s not a big budget and you might not find something worth spending that on. It’s all about your perspective.

Implement the 48-hour Rule

Using the 48-hour rule can be extremely effective to avoid retail therapy purchases. If you see something that you want to buy, write down the item and price on a notepad. Then in 48 hours, revisit that notepad and consider if it is still something you want to purchase.

This usually helps you see that this purchase is not as important as it might have seemed 48 hours ago. You have time to consider how this new purchase will bring value to your home and to your life. Don’t buy it just for it to become clutter.

Retail Therapy is Not Always the Answer

There are more ways to get those endorphins pumping than buying more clutter for your home. Mindshift to asking yourself, “What can I do that I know would feel good?” For example: walking, working out, hot bath with candles, massage, day out with friends, pedicure, etc. 

Identify foundations of self-care or focus on those actions that lead to more long-term happiness. Your happiness is important and so is your sanity. Take care of yourself and your needs; the rest will fall into place. The answer isn’t going out to buy more stuff. The answer is you! We can do this together.