Tips for “mindful” shopping

February 15, 2016

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My mom is an English teacher, and every so often, a certain new catch phrase or word du jour rubs her the wrong way. I don’t blame her. New “it” words are used so often, they lose their, dare I say, gravitas, and become filler for peoples’ weak vocabularies. When I was in high school in Saskatchewan, everyone said, “that’s so clutch.” In university, everyone started saying “literally”, like, literally all the time. Nowadays, (and I’m certainly guilty of this), everyone is mindful.

You have to eat mindfully, be mindful of your thoughts, live a mindful life, etc., etc. It comes as no surprise to me that she is tired of hearing about how mindful everyone is these days. Well Mom, I’m sorry, but it’s pretty useful for me right now. It is, for me, another way to say conscientious or thoughtful. But I promise, I’ll try to be mindful of how I speak and use all of these synonyms. See what I did there? Sneaky.


Mindful shopping is simply the act of only buying what you really need. It’s the opposite of impulse buying, and it’s an important activity to try to master because it’ll not only save your wallet, but it’s more responsible. Most of the things we impulse buy end up in the donation bin or the trash. When you don’t consider what you’re buying, where it was made, by whom and at what cost, you tend to buy trendy crap.

This post is about planning ahead. It’s about looking at your current wardrobe, planning out your outfit needs and carrying around a shopping list with you at all times. That way, if you come across something that catches your eye, you can be reminded of what you really need, not just want.


Earlier this winter, I made two thrift store shopping trips, one to Value Village and one to the Salvation Army’s Thrift Store. When I walked into Value Village, I had a few items in mind: a long, over-sized camel coat; a grey turtleneck sweater; a pair of brown leather booties and a big, comfy cashmere sweater. Yes, all neutrals and yes, all comfortable. I hate to brag, but I found exactly what I wanted. It doesn’t always happen, but once in a while when I shop thrift with a few things in mind, I find them.

Sustainable shopping tip #1: only shop with a list in mind and avoid impulse buys.

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Why these particular items? I have often written about the troubles of living in a four-season country. Most Canadians will agree when I say that you need at least, AT LEAST five different types of outerwear for every type of weather.

  1. For anything ten below Celsius | a hooded, knee-length parka, think insulation
  2. For cold days when you have to look professional | a long wool coat, think camel or black
  3. For cold, rainy days | a waterproof coat with insulation
  4. For rainy days | a waterproof trench coat or rubber rain coat
  5. For brisk spring/fall days | a waist-length jacket, think shearling coat or a Barbour-style jacket
  6. For brisk spring/fall days when you have to look fancy | a waist-length wool jacket
  7. For cooler summer nights | a cute cropped jacket, think this genius multi-utility jacket by Seamly

As for sweaters, they’re all I want to wear come wintertime. The leather booties were a great find. I wore them all fall with almost every outfit I could. They’re brown, so they go with anything. That’s the beauty of neutrals. Second, they’re real leather, so if they get scuffed up too much, I can easily polish them up. Even if they rip near the sole, I can get that glued. Buy natural materials, they last longer and are usually repairable.

Sustainable shopping tip #2: buy natural fibres when possible

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Not only are they usually more comfortable on the skin (itchy wool aside), but natural fibres are strong and long-lasting. Natural fibre and synthetic fibre combos are good too, especially when you need some stretch. They also don’t necessarily require dry cleaning, a simple hand washing will do. Side note, more clothing can be washed by hand than you think, ignore those dry cleaning labels when you can and just Google cleaning tips as per the fabric’s instructions.

Sustainable shopping tip #3: Plan ahead

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Whenever I’ve spent over budget, it was during an impromptu shopping trip. You don’t really need anything right now, so plan your list. Review your wardrobe, browse outfit inspiration shots and do some online research if you plan on shopping brick and mortar. Compare products, quality, country of origin, read reviews and make the most sustainable purchase for you.

Try to avoid shopping unexpectedly and don’t leave buying something till the last minute. If you’re rushed, you won’t have time to search for a locally made or more sustainable product. Hurried purchases that satisfy that “need now” feeling are most often fulfilled by making a fast-fashion choice. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to avoid that temptation, that immediate satisfaction, but think of it this way:

the entire fast fashion industry (brands, retailers, marketers, fashion media), it’s all made to make you want to buy something now and again and again. This industry wants you to spend your heard-earned money on their products, because they want more money, that’s it. Not because they want you to be happy. They push new trends on you so that your latest purchases are soon “out of fashion” and you feel compelled to buy more. They manufacture cheaply, exploiting people and planet, so that your clothing soon falls apart and again, you have to buy more. Please ask yourself, “what is the point?” “do I really want to keep this up?” “how long does my buying satisfaction last before I’m onto the next item?” “what is my shopping habit doing to people and planet?” “can I do something differently?”

The answer is yes. My three tips above are just a start, but the more you learn about the issues with the fast fashion industry, the more (I hope) you’ll want to explore an alternative.

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