Retail Therapy and Conscious Consumption

Hello again! It’s been a while, but I’ll hopefully be back to blogging at least semi-regularly on this new blog :) I thought I could start off by posting some thoughts I’ve had recently about retail therapy and conscious consumption.

Retail Therapy

I’ve come to realize over this past stressful year that I am definitely an emotional spender that shops when stressed. I’m not even going to lie, I’ve been doing a lot of shopping since late summer that’s pretty much been directly linked to how stressed I’ve been, and I’m not proud of it. I’ve gotten better over the years about not buying things that I know I’ll never reach for, but what I’ve been doing instead is just buying a whole bunch of stuff that’s been on my wishlist all at once.

Thankfully, my wishlist is only so long, and I got to a point where I replaced the bulk of my emotional spending with decluttering my life. But then Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals came around, and it was really difficult to resist. Once again, I found myself buying a bunch of stuff on my wishlist at once, justifying it by telling myself that it was because I was mainly buying from smaller brands that didn’t have sales often. This was true, but now I’m putting myself on a no-buy ban for beauty products for, at the very minimum, 3 months.

Obviously, retail therapy is not healthy. I’m trying my best to be less of an emotional spender, but it’s always going to be a work in progress. Hopefully, my efforts to be a more conscious consumer will also help with this.

So… much… stuff…

So… much… stuff…

Conscious Consumption

A few months ago, I watched The True Cost, a documentary about the negative effects of fast fashion and the garment industry. It was a pretty life-changing film for me to watch - while I’ve stopped buying fast fashion for a while already and have always been somewhat mindful of doing what I can for the environment, watching this film made me realize that there were still so many steps I could take to be a more conscious consumer.


What caught my attention the most in this film was that my piles of donations that I always sent off into oblivion were not really doing any good. From watching The True Cost, I learned that only 10% of clothing donations are sold, and any clothing donations that are deemed not worthy to sell at places like Goodwill are just sent to developing countries like Haiti. The film shows heaps and heaps of discarded clothing everywhere in Haiti. Not only do these clothes lay waste in these piles and landfills, they also are affecting the livelihood of the people there, killing the local industry for garments.

This made me re-evaluate how I approach decluttering my clothes (and beauty products too!).

  1. I first try to pass on anything that my friends or family may want.

  2. If no one wants them, then make sure to sell what I can first, since if people are willing to spend money on it, I know they’re going to put it to use, and thus that item won’t be going to waste.

  3. If I can’t sell it, I try to find more responsible ways to donate, whether it be a charity that I know will make good use of the product, or an organization that can responsibly recycle the clothing.

I’m actually planning on writing a post on organizations/apps/websites that I think are great places to unload clothing/beauty items that you don’t want or need anymore, so stay tuned for that!

Thrifting & Vintage

Probably the best thing that’s come out of my efforts to be a more conscious consumer is that I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with thrifting. Honestly, I’m not sure what took me so long to get into it, as I’ve always loved a good treasure hunt. It may have been the stigma of secondhand clothes that I grew up with, but regardless, I’m glad I love it now. It’s such a fun way to discover some unique and/or quality pieces :)

Since the fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters, thrifting and shopping vintage are probably a couple of the best ways to be a more conscious consumer (outside of just not buying anything at all, of course), because you’re buying and reusing items that already exist. Plus, as I’ve gotten more into thrifting, I’ve noticed that older items are generally of higher quality and made of better materials. I’ve found so many pieces at thrift or vintage stores that are 100% silk, wool, cotton, or linen, in amazing condition, at a very reasonable price point. In comparison, I would see similar items sold in stores for similar or higher prices, but the items would often be 100% polyester, or at best, a blend of synthetic and natural materials. And anything newly made that’s 100% silk, wool, etc. would be way too expensive and out of my price range.

Buying from Ethical and Sustainable Brands

This is one thing I’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t think I had the means to, since products from ethical and sustainable brands are usually more expensive. Recently though, I’ve been trying to shift my mindset. These pricier items are generally of higher quality as well, and rather than always buying a cheaper version of the more expensive thing I want, I’ve been going straight for the more expensive item. In the long run, it costs less and reduces waste, because rather than buying the cheaper item that you’d have to replace, you have a well made item that will last you for a long time. For example, I never believed in investing in a quality basic tee. But then I realized that all of my cheap basic tees would wear out really quickly, and I really noticed a massive difference once I started investing in better basic tees.

Watching The True Cost also opened my eyes to the horrible working conditions, almost nonexistent wages, and environmentally detrimental practices at fast fashion and other unethical companies. It’s really motivated me to do my research and buy more from companies that treat their workers well, pay their workers fairly, and use fabrics that cause less harm to the environment. Some examples of great brands I’ve recently discovered include Everlane, Christy Dawn, and Kotn. (Leave your favorites in the comments!)

Everlane: mainstream ethical brand known for its radical transparency, recently pledged to remove all new plastic out of its supply chain by 2021.

Christy Dawn: pays workers living wages and uses deadstock fabric. Makes the dreamiest prairie vibe dresses. Showcases who makes each dress.


Kotn: quality basics at an affordable price point, made from Egyptian cotton bought directly from the farmers, hires local workers and pays them living wages


Of course, I know being able to even buy just occasionally from brands like these is a privilege. It’s expensive to buy ethically and sustainably, and it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone can do so. I can’t afford to only buy from these types of brands, so I’ll still buy from mainstream brands like Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle. However, to lessen my impact, I try my best to only buy items that I know I will get a lot of wear out of, and I pay attention to the fabrics of these items that I’m purchasing.

In the end, I think that as long as you’re educating yourself and taking steps, however small, to be a more mindful consumer, you’re doing great :)

Do any of you have emotional spending problems? Are you trying to become a more conscious consumer? Please share any of your thoughts in the comments!

lifestyle, beauty, fashionCathy Liu