Challenged at Ikea

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I took a trip to Ikea yesterday and had an unpleasant retail experience. I don't usually mention specific store names on this blog, because my aim is not to either advertise or bag particular stores. But Ikea is known so widely that the word itself is a shortcut for a particular kind of shopping experience. And I'm not really bagging the store, because it's quite open about its policies regarding staff availability and so on. Most people know the deal when they walk in the door, and the prices are compensation for the lack of individual customer service.

So I'm not even going to describe my experience in any detail, which was as much about the layout of the unfamiliar mall that this Ikea is located in as it was about the store. I will say that surprisingly, and luckily, there were plenty of staff around (probably because it was Christmas) when I needed help.

The main thing I wanted to relate and confess is that I lost my cool. Big time.

I've been writing my book on Inspired Shopping for over a year now. While I feel every emotion under the sun when I'm at the stores, and give myself permission to do this, I realise now that the experiences themselves don't give rise to negative emotions that often. I've become so good at pacing myself and using my intuition when I go to both new and familiar shopping centres, that my shopping experiences are usually quite positive. Well, this one wasn't!

What I discovered about myself in the process was disturbing. When things go wrong, I tend to get upset, in this case with the shopping centre, the store managers and so on. No, I don't shout or stamp my feet, but my impatience is obvious to any staff member I come into contact with. What I've realised from this experience is that my anger can stop me from thinking rationally and finding a way out of my dilemma. In a sense it blinds me. I want the world to change to suit me, to be accommodating. But I need to fall back on my own resources when I come up against a problem, and use my brain to solve it.

This doesn't mean repressing my anger -- I can acknowledge it to myself and then ask myself what I can do to get through my dilemma. This may sound obvious to some, but it's quite a challenge to me. It makes me think of transactional analysis, which holds that we all have within us the subject positions of child, adult and parent. When things go wrong at the shops I move to the position of the child and start treating the shop assistants as parents who have to comfort me and make things okay again. Instead, I need to adopt an adult position, soothing myself and asking for practical help, if need be, without also asking for emotional support.

I'm in a quandary now, because in a way I have to hope that I'll go through this experience again so I can test myself and this time manage the emotions better. But, like everyone else at this time of year, I want shopping to be smooth sailing, so I hope any further 'growth' experiences happen after Christmas!

I wonder if any readers grapple with their child self when they're shopping -- I'd love to hear from you!
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Some thoughts on compacting, materialism and retail therapy

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When I first started researching my book I began to read about what is often called 'affluenza' -- a kind of frenzied materialism that has a corrosive effect on society. That there were three books (I've read two of them) with this word in the title is indicative of how it has taken off as an idea. But I found with both the books I read I had differences with the authors.

Both books, one by Australian cultural commentator Clive Hamilton and one by English writer Oliver James, bemoan materialism and society's obsession with shopping. This is perfectly understandable. Australians now collectively owe $41 billion on their credit cards. I don't know what the US figure is but I bet it dwarfs that one. The spiritual malaise that such a figure suggests attracts the ire of both authors. Sharon Zukin, a US sociologist, describes this malaise well, suggesting that shopping is what people do to find value -- in the deepest sense -- in today's world. And from an environmental and social perspective, unbridled materialism is disastrous. Think of the greenhouse gases dirty Chinese coal produces providing energy to manufacture all those cheap goods, not to mention the obscene number of Chinese miners who die each year extracting it. There's no doubt that shopping sustainably and going green are both environmentally and socially responsible.

Compacting is one way of countering Western nations' obsession with shopping. Compacters buy no new items apart from those in a few specific categories (eg food, hygiene products, underwear). They buy or borrow secondhand items. I heard lifestyle commentator Maggie Alderson on Melbourne radio recently talking about how useful compacting had been for her in breaking her compulsive shopping habit -- she's no longer a compacter, but is now more disciplined about what she buys. Again, I think this practice is great as a way of breaking long-held consumer habits and forcing people to be more resourceful about how they meet their material needs.

But my problem with this whole anti-materialism thing is that in some instances it may avoid or evade one central fact: that shopping is fun. Of course, there are many qualifications to that statement. I'm talking specifically about leisure shopping, and even that may not be fun if you're strapped for cash, shopping with children, or a compulsive shopper. My point is that we need to address the fun aspects of shopping if we want to change our own shopping habits, let alone other people's.

Both the writers of the books on affluenza I referred to are men. A majority of men don't enjoy leisure shopping and can't see the point of it. When it comes to shopping they tend to get in and get out and engage as little as possible. Although younger men do enjoy leisure shopping, it's women who make up the bulk of those who see shopping as recreation, in Australia anyway. Also -- and this is a huge generalisation -- men often don't have an appreciation of the aesthetics of fashion to the extent that women do. Aesthetic appreciation and the search for novelty are both important reasons why women in particular love to shop.

In my book, then, I'm trying to address those people who have no intention of giving up leisure shopping. I want to show them that they can shop more mindfully, and that they don't have to seek retail therapy blindly. I believe that as people become more conscious shoppers, many of them, budgets permitting, will start to make more considered choices about what they buy and where they buy it from. But I'm not going to deny the delights of shopping. I want to open the field -- to let people know that they have a great deal of choice, in the wider sense, about how they approach and deal with their material needs and desires. My book includes advice about waiting, about practising frugality and budgeting, and about staying away from the shops at certain times; but it's all given in the context of encouraging people to use their intuitive sense -- a sense that goes beyond emotions -- to make shopping decisions.
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The best bargain yet?

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I had an incredible Inspired Shopping experience on Sunday, bagging a dress for $20 that was originally $155 -- without really trying! Let me explain.

I'd idly thought about buying something new to wear on Christmas Day. As well as the usual family get-together for lunch, this year my sister was hosting the huge Christmas bash my extended family (on my mum's side) holds annually, which includes aunties and uncles, cousins, and the cousin's kids. But I wasn't going to look for anything special to wear -- I had a few things in reserve. Still, I had been fairly disciplined about buying new clothes for a while, so I left the possibility open.

I was certainly not planning a big shopping expedition on Sunday. However, a friend and I decided to go for a walk along a popular beach not far from Melbourne's city centre, in the afternoon. Whenever I go to this beach I make a point of visiting a small clothes and accessories shop in the main shopping street. It's one of those little places (the word 'boutique' doesn't sound right for this place, it's too hip) that's great fun to to just browse in, but they also have amazing bargains -- smaller shops often do, because they don't have factory outlets they can consign their unsold goods to. Anyway, this is the kind of store I'm happy to browse in without buying anything, and I enjoy its low-key, quirky atmosphere.

As usual, the shop had a rack of cut-price clothes out the front -- all for $20. And there, among the T-shirts and garish colours, was a grey waisted dress with a gathered neck and long sleeves, marked down from $155.

Now, despite the fact that my friend was urging me to try it on, and it was an incredible bargain, I wasn't going to try it on automatically. I tested my intuition first. Over the years I've developed what I call an 'intuition alarm' -- this tells me when I need to buy something and when I need to leave it be. I 'relinquished' the item (imagining I didn't want it and putting it back on the rack) and my intuition alarm went off. So of course I had to try it on. When I put the dress on, I immediately felt like a young girl on Christmas Day preparing to receive a huge present. It was a party dress, and I loved it. After buying it I deposited it in my car and then went for my refreshing walk along the beach, enjoying chatting with my friend and watching the windsurfers (it was a windy day) and the people out walking their dogs.

This unexpected find illustrates a number of Inspired Shopping principles. In this case, my main aim was a walk along the beach, and I really felt the urge to do this. Looking in at the shop was just something I did because I was in the area, but again it felt right to do. Because I wasn't desperately hunting for something to wear I was open to possibilities. I also knew that I might not buy anything from the store, and in this case, I wouldn't have felt particularly deprived.

As I practise the Inspired Shopping process more and more, it just keeps getting easier and more fun!
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Fear of missing out

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On Saturday I went to a secondhand book sale at a municipal library. I came away with six books for a total of only $5.

I've been to booksales at this library before -- they hold them every two months or so. Now I don't know about you, but I get a terrible fear of missing out whenever I attend sales at the time when they begin. I'm terrified that with so many other people wanting cheap goods I'll come away having missed out on the best bargains. At the same time I feel quite combative -- my competitive streak comes out something shocking! (I'm sure it's got something to do with the fact that I come from a large family.) I've tried to train myself to calm down a bit, and I think it's working. I tell myself that if I follow my energy, I'll go to the parts of the store or space I need to go to find what's right for me.

This was really tested on Saturday. A few of us waited outside the front of the library for the librarian to come and open the door. She did, at a few minutes past the time of opening. In an orderly fashion we trooped downstairs to the basement where the sale was being held. But the back door had already been opened so there were people at the sale already! My first reaction was one of dismay. Then I told myself to calm down and just see what was around. After all, everyone has different taste in books. True, there were what appeared to be a couple of secondhand book dealers there, but most of us were just bookworms looking for a cheap read.

So I browsed without panic, although just as it did last time, the tiny basement soon became crammed with people. And as I said at the beginning, I scored six books, among them Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence (I need some of that) and Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Another successful Inspired Shopping expedition!
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The freedom of not buying

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There was something else about my Inspired Shopping trip yesterday that I felt it was worth sharing.

I went to my local shopping centre knowing that two big department stores, one of which is a bit of a favourite of mine, were having pre-Christmas sales. It was a while since I'd bought any new clothes, and I am something of a fashion victim -- no, not one of those people who spends hundreds on clothes every week, but someone who (I've finally realised) needs to feel vaguely fashionable, vaguely well-put-together, most times I walk out the front door.

So I determined to go to these department stores and check out the clothes, to see if anything 'grabbed me'. When I got to my favourite one, I had to admit I felt less than excited. I had a quick scoot around, but nothing jumped out -- and that was fine. It was not my day to buy clothes -- I didn't really feel like trying anything on anyway. It was something of a relief to admit I wasn't going to miss out on anything if I didn't take advantage of these two sales. I bought what I needed to buy at the shopping centre, and left knowing that when it was time to buy a new pair of pants, skirt or top, I'd be back!
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Inspired Shopping at Christmas

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Yesterday I went on an Inspired Shopping jaunt, not expecting too much. I did have a list -- a small Christmas present for my mum, a small present for my sister Eleanor (I've bought their main presents but felt something more was needed), and my own Kris Kringle, to be given to me by another sister, Simone. I went to Chadstone, a large shopping mall that I live close to.

Despite my list, I was open to other possibilities. As an inspired shopper I keep what I call a priority list of all my shopping wants and needs -- it works like a set of affirmations. So I knew if I found something on the priority list, apart from my immediate shopping list, I'd be open to buying it.

I was tired, and decided to use my visit as a kind of Inspired Shopping experiment. In my book I advise people to check into how they're feeling before they head for a spot of leisure shopping. I felt I needed to go despite my fatigue, but I was aware that I probably wouldn't have the most efficient and fun shopping experience of my life.

In the end it all worked out really well. I kept on finding small 'presents' for myself, and felt guilty about this. But the funny thing was, the 'presents' ended up coming to $30, which was exactly the amount my sister was going to spend on me for the family Kris Kringle! I had really given up on having this present worked out, because I had decided I would source a shopping trolley for about $30 and tell my sister where she could buy it for me -- and I couldn't for the life of me find a suitable shopping trolley, let alone one at the price I wanted.

In the end I found myself with 3 bargains -- a great, colour book on Zen meditation for $10; a double CD of Leonard Cohen hits for $10; and a double Miles Davis CD for $10. I'd succeeded in finding my Kris Kringle without really trying. And in the process, I'd found a great supplementary present for my mother, at the same place I found the two CD bargains: a new edition of Vivaldi's Four Seasons with an attractive cover. Lastly, I narrowed the present I'm buying my friend to two or three possibilities.

What was wonderful about this was that I hadn't tried too hard. If I go out thinking that I've got to have a great Inspired Shopping experience, it's more difficult for the process to work. Instead I let go, allowing myself to be fatigued and knowing that I might well arrive home with nothing. I also came to a conclusion about my tiredness: I wasn't feeling irritated, despite the fact that the place was full of frenzied Christmas shoppers -- if I'd been feeling both tired and irritated, I might have cut the visit short.

I still have to buy a small present for my sister, as well as decide on a present for my friend -- as an inspired shopper, I try not to put pressure on myself to get everything done in the one trip. Another successful bout of Inspired Shopping, and I learned something about myself at the same time!
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Welcome to Inspired Shopping!

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Photo: flickr
Inspired Shopping can take much of the drudgery out of your shopping experiences. It can lead to more successful, happier shopping, and save you time and money. 

On this blog you’ll learn about the basis of Inspired Shopping – how to stay present in the shopping process and use your own inner resources, whatever your budget, to buy the things you want and need, and that are right for you.

Inspired Shopping is not meant to encourage readers to be greedy and focus too much on material goods. On the contrary, it can help you make the most of your money, which will leave you with more to build a secure future for yourself and your family, or support causes you might be interested in. And Inspired Shopping is efficient shopping, which can free up more time for spending on other kinds of outings or pursuing a new hobby.

What is Inspired Shopping?

Inspired Shopping harnesses a marvellous tool that you already have, but may currently only use occasionally, and probably accidentally, to buy the things that will enrich your life – your intuition. It enables you to tap into this wonderful resource every time you go shopping, so that the goods you buy are those you truly want and need, and so that your shopping experiences help you grow as a person.

Intuition is a deep inner knowing, a sense of internal guidance that steers us towards doing things that are the best for us on every level. It can seem like a kind of magic, but it’s very much grounded in the present and our everyday feelings and experiences. Because shopping is about finding the things that are right for us, this ‘sixth sense’ can be always at the ready when we’re at the shops.

In Developing Intuition, personal growth teacher Shakti Gawain insists that ‘if we have too many things we don’t truly need or want, our lives become overly complicated’. When you become an inspired shopper the material goods you buy will be in harmony with who you are and your life journey; they will truly enhance your lifestyle, and in some cases will even enhance your self-development!

Buying this way will inevitably save you money (unless you’re seriously phobic about spending, in which case it might free you to spend a little more). But saving money is a wonderful byproduct of the process.

Another great effect of Inspired Shopping is that you stay in touch with who you are and your personal journey while you shop. Inspired Shopping is about seeing shopping as an adventure and allowing yourself to stay present and feel your emotions while buying the goods that are right for you. You’ll discover that ‘tuning in’ rather than ‘tuning out’ can be a marvellous way to allow your intuition to lead you to exciting and unexpected shopping finds, and you’ll become a smarter, calmer, more aware shopper.

My book, Inspired Shopping, shows readers how to use their intuition for great results in a range of shopping situations, including returning goods, buying big-ticket items, shopping on the internet, shopping with children, friends and partners, and supermarket shopping. While it can help you regardless of income, it's especially useful to those on a strict budget.

I believe that Inspired Shopping can help you reduce your carbon footprint by buying less as well as slow down. But I'm not trying to tell people to stop leisure shopping -- just suggesting that they make a few positive changes so that they get more out of it, and take less of the world's resources in the process.

I hope you enjoy reading and learning about Inspired Shopping.
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