Sometimes Mondays
No Actual Unraveling

Downright Pavlovian

For the last two years, I have been making an intentional and focused effort on reducing the amount of . . . stuff . . . I own.  Call it KonMari-ing or Döstädning or simple de-cluttering . . . I've been On It.

I've cleaned out my closets (multiple times).  I've reduced my personal library (by 30 banker's boxes of books).  I've cleared out my yarn stash (and I'm not done yet).  I've given away bedroom sets and kitchen supplies and linens and holiday décor and bric-a-brac.  

And I've tried to reduce the . . . stuff . . . at the source -- by curtailing what I bring IN to my house.  I've cut down on gift-exchanges.  I've reduced my shopping.  I've gotten much better at telling myself NO.  I recycle catalogs and magazines before I even bring them through the door.

There is so much less . . . stuff . . . in my house now than there was a couple of years ago.  But I still have more work to do!

And then, last week, I had a bit of an epiphany.  About shopping.  (Yes.  It's another True Confessions moment.)



So I've been a loyal Estée Lauder fan for pretty much my entire adult life.  (It's pricey -- but it works.  My skin is in great shape for a woman of my age-and-stage in life.  Just sayin.)  It all started back in the early 1980s.  When I was lured . . . by one of their free give-away deals.

You know how it works.  You spend $XX on a regular product, and they send you home with a bag of generously-sized sample products and a free-with-purchase make-up bag.  And, in Estée Lauder-land, they do this 4 times each year.  Because the products really do last a long time (a little dab'll do ya!), even a poor grad student's wife (back in the 80s) could indulge in special make-up and skin care products now and then.

The years unfolded.  I continued using the products.  I built relationships with the women at the Estée Lauder counter.  I got moved up to "preferred" status.  Now they even give me a call to let me know it's almost "free gift" time -- and I receive special passes to come in and get my "free gift" a few days before the promotion actually begins.

In other words . . . they treat me like I'm Special.

You know why?

Because I tend to buy at these promotions!  Even if I don't need anything immediately, I will pick something up to have on hand. . . and get the "free gift with purchase."  By this point, my make-up and skin care inventory is full-to-bursting.  I will use the . . . stuff . . . eventually.  But, for now, I definitely have an inventory on hand.

Yesterday I pulled out my entire inventory of EL products. This is stuff that I have on hand, but I'm not currently using. As you can see . . . plenty.

So when this quarter's promotional brochure (and "valuable coupon") showed up in my mailbox last week, I decided to skip it.
To just sit this one out.  
To simply not show up.
I'd just pop the brochure in the recycling bin on the way into the house.  
Because I don't need any products right now.

This is my current inventory of Advanced Night Repair. A great product, sure. But this amount will last me for years.

But you know what happened?


I didn't put it in the recycling bin.

I took it into the house.
And opened it.
And wrote the promotion dates on my calendar.
And pulled out the coupon-card to put in my wallet.
And started thinking about what I would buy.

And then I yelled at myself.
And put it in the recycle bin.

And pulled it again out the very next day.

And then it hit me. I have been completely conditioned (in the Pavlovian "classical conditioning" kind of way) to respond to "free gift" time by . . . buying.  Even when I don't need anything.  Even when I know that I don't need anything.

This is NUTS.
This has to STOP.

I finally did recycle the promotional brochure.  And the accompanying coupon.  And I erased the dates from my calendar.  (Because I do not NEED any Estée Lauder products right now.)  (I repeat:  I do not NEED any Estée Lauder products right now.)

This all made me realize how conditioned I am to buy . . . when I've been "trained" to buy.
At "free gift" time.
With "birthday bonuses."
Because they sent a generous coupon.
At the change of seasons.
For the holidays.
Before a vacation.
At fiber festivals.

But now I know.  I'm getting it in a whole new way.  (Thanks, Estée Lauder.)  
It's time.  
I'm going to break free of my shopping Pavolvian response!  

(Please tell me this happens to some of you, too.  When do you buy because you've been conditioned to buy?  And . . . how have you taken charge of your response?)


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Perfect!! I can't tell you how many "free" make-up bags I have...or rather used to have...I donated a bunch into one of my Goodwill Bags the other year (and kept a few for traveling). Years ago I was that way with Clinque...and then some other company, and yes EL too. And then, business trips where I would stay at a hotel with a spa...I'd get a massage and then "have to" buy something.

We do the same thing with catalogues, store brochures, etc. Most go into the recycling bin without coming into the house.

I'd say you are doing a great job this year of just saying "NO!!"


Oh, yes, and it is the best marketing ploy in the world. Give them something free and they will come. There is also something that makes me feel good about buying something new. Like I am worthy and worth it. I want to go to Maryland Sheep and Wool, but I don't need to go because I don't need anything. Yeah. I have the same problem here.


Ooh yes. I have started putting the JJill catalog in the bin without looking and unsubscribed from a number of email lists that remind me it is time to buy something. Those free gifts are so tempting!


It is so easy to fall for the discount coupon or the free gifts. Sadly (or not), I had to stop buying makeup because of allergy restrictions. It took me a long time to be OK with it, but now I am grateful. I still find myself falling for some discounts, but overall the desires have been reigned in.


They make it all look tempting and sound like a good deal....I've bought into things like that before, but not so much anymore. I always ask myself, "Am I buying this item because I want/need it or because of the free gift? "


Clearly, there is no such thing as a “free gift”. I admire your ability to cull things out. I am just starting...slowly. Thanks for the inspiration!


For me, it was the Monday update at The Loopy Ewe. I used to look forward to receiving the email, and somehow gradually began feeling that if it's Monday, I MUST buy yarn from TLE. Even if it's only a skein, it still adds up quickly to far too much yarn. I still get TLE emails, but I've discontinued all other yarn emails and newsletters, and told myself that I could only purchase yarn at TLE in person when I visit Ryan. That has worked for about six months, and since I'm planning a visit to Fort Collins this summer, I'm being careful not to slip up now.

But now I'm curious about Estée Lauder. I wish I had taken better care of m skin when I was younger, and am looking for a line that might help now. It sounds like I'll have to look into EL but practice restraint!


I used to like the giveaways when they had something that I wanted to try, or for travel sizes when I used to do more traveling. However, now I seldom travel, and especially since I have tried to only start using cruelty-free products, my purchasing has gone way down.

I'm still a sucker sometimes, but it's not as automatic as it used to be.


ALL THE TIME! Just as recently as yesterday...but I'm getting mucho better.
KUDOS to you for honoring your self-commitment.
I stopped wearing makeup years ago and that totally and easily cured any spending in THAT category!
Hang in there! Soon, you won't give it a thought.


I've been deleting every Title Nine, Eddie Bauer, etc. (the ones I still get) emails immediately and not looking at sale prices, percents, etc. And I'm also not listening to JoAnne every time she mentions the WEBS sale in April / May. I do not need any yarn. I've not really thrown much lately but am bringing very little in and when something comes in (Ninja blender that does get used) something goes out. (Coffee thermos pitcher from wedding shower...never used!) I envy your motivation. I'm going to hit the closets hard this spring. xo


I was always a Clinique user and they offer the same promotional program as Estee Lauder. I stopped using Clinique about 4 years ago, though, and switched to Rodan & Fields. I love it because it ships to my house and my skin is in better shape than it has been in a long time. They do sometimes offer free promotions but because it's online I tend to buy less. I do think Senegence conditioned me to BUY BUY BUY when out of stock colors of LipSense would become available. It's hard to NOT buy something from them every month but last month I didn't and it sure was nice to get that credit card statement and not have a big LipSense purchase on it. Because, really, I don't need anything and I still have plenty to sell to my customers! Good for you for getting a handle on this one.


I never got sucked into this particular thing, but we are still finding uses for all the makeup bags that my mother would get with every promotion!! She was definitely on the "special" list. Haha. The number of catalogs has dramatically decreased over the years, though because of grandchildren I've noticed a slight uptick. I'm very good at recycling without even looking. And I have an email filter that sends most of my promotional email directly to Trash (I also use to further tidy my in box and to easily unsubscribe from emails). This cleaning out thing is like any other kind of cleaning -- it needs constant, regular attention and never ends. Sometimes I feel like tackling it, and sometimes I'd rather knit or sew or go outside. ;)


Another me, too moment! Bobbi Brown doesn't do those giveaways as often (maybe twice a year?) but they are a powerful draw. I broke out of that cycle kind of by accident when I had to break the makeover appointment that always accompanies their events. That happened last summer and I haven't missed it. The one thing I'm still a sucker for is the Plucky Knitter updates. I manage to resist about 2 out of 3, but even 1 out of 3 sends me new yarn ... a little more often than I really "need" it :-)

Julia in KW

Oh yes! It is Clinique for me! I try to only go when I actually need something....and I sometimes drag out buying something til I see a bonus time coming. But I’ve been using Clinique since 1984/85, so I have enough little “notion” bags to last a lifetime...use them for everything...knitting notion bags, pencil case, marker case, used them as a carry all for my large purses, so it made changing purses easier...and still give away a bunch...but I am better these days, keeping the buying to when I actually need something (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! 😉)

Oh, my gosh, I could open my own Clinique counter! Those marketing people are smart.


Oh yes -- and lately I excuse it because I pass on the things I don't use to my "book group girls." Yes, I bribe high school girls to read by giving them makeup. And making them cookies. That's the other lure besides "free" - it's for a good cause ;-)


It was hard to give up the ever cuter and cuter cosmetic bags but now i just don’t look. If it’s in a magazine I quickly turn the page:-). Chloe

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