Despite a life long affinity for clothing, I've only recently started to enjoy the act of shopping. For most of my life I found shopping to be stressful, and would avoid it all costs. Even though I lived a few blocks from the local mall, I'd rather online shop than go into a store and be forced to deal with pushy sales associates and anxiety-inducing crowds. However, after one too many times of spending money on an item I had only seen on my laptop screen, only to find that it didn't fit at all, I decided to face the chore for real.
My three biggest issues with shopping are 1) buying things I don't need, 2) getting pressured by the sales associates, 3) and getting stressed out by crowds. With some strategic thinking, I was able to conquer each of these issues one by one.
First up, coming away with bags of unnecessary stuff. Of course, everyone is guilty of walking into a store with the plan to just get a job interview ready dress, only to blackout, and find themselves the proud owners of a neon crop top. But mindless spending adds up, and only leaves you with an empty bank account and a closet full of pieces you'll never wear.
The best piece of advice I can give is to not shop when you're bored or stressed. Work's got you down? Tough luck. Watch an episode of Parks and Rec. Unless you have unlimited funds (or insane willpower), shopping should be a task, not a hobby. Only go shopping when you actually do need something. Even if you only have a vague idea of what that "something" is (you know you need office-appropriate sundresses, but aren't sure what style you want), just having an outline will stop you from making purchases you'll later regret.
But let's say some printed blouse or pastel maxi skirt that you definitely don't need catches your eye, and you need — no, seriously, need — to have it. Try it on, but then wait 48 hours. If two days have passed and you're still obsessed, go back to the store or buy it online.
My second issue, getting pressured by sales associates, proved to be less easy to get over. They all seem so nice! And they tell me how good these pants I hate look! How can I not buy them? The best thing to do is not even talk to them. Of course, don't be rude, but don't get sucked into their game of shopping flirtation.
Remember that sales associates are there for two reasons: To make money and to help you. But guess which one they probably care more about? Rather than asking questions like, "Do you think this looks good on me?" or "Can I pull this off?" only ask very specific questions. They can let you know if a piece comes in a different color, if it's actually dry clean only, or if it will shrink in the wash. When it comes to getting a second opinion, text a picture to a friend. Don't go to the person who is getting commission off you.
Issue number three proved to be the trickiest of all. How do you possibly avoid crowds? Well, the fact is that you'll never be able to eradicate all crowds. I know, I know. People are the worst. The best thing to do is go on a weekday, right when stores open. Of course, that's not always possible, especially if you work. You can also go right before the store closes (just be sure to give yourself enough time to, you know, actually shop). You should also plan ahead, and go shopping when inventory first hits for a season. You won't have to fight the crowds for shorts and tank tops when the weather outside still requires you wear a coat.
Just remember that shopping is supposed to be one of the more fun errands. Plus, if you do ever get too overwhelmed, you can always take five with an Auntie Anne's pretzel in the food court.