Shopping for Sanity.

Does anyone else hate clothes shopping?

I know that this is a very "anti-girl" type of thing to ask, but I have an absolute love/hate relationship with shopping for clothes. Groceries? That's a completely different story. It's all love with groceries, baby.

When I enter a clothing store, I feel like my brain goes numb. I literally get that feeling in my brain like I haven't eaten for 25 hours.

Flakey. Short-circuited. Spaced out.

Complicating matters even more, I don't have a huge shopping budget, so in order to get the most for my money, I shop at the bargain brand-name stores like Marshall's, Loehmann's, etc. It reminds me of being a poor 14 year old shopping for school clothes at The Salvation Army ("Sally Ann's") clothing store.

In other words, complete chaos and mayhem.

My brain typically deals with things in a fairly organized fashion. I have been known to organize my Skittles prior to eating them. First by color, and then by the order with which they fall on the color wheel. I know it seems like a lot of thinking just to eat some candy, but it soothes my soul.

I sometimes count the syllables of the words that I have just spoke, and I enjoy when my sentence ends on an even number of syllables.

I organize almonds into pairs of two as I eat them so that they don't have to die alone.

Clearly, I have some organizational issues in my brain that may or may not require professional help. The one thing that I am reasonably sure of is that I like things to be presented to me in a certain way, and when they're not, I become overwhelmed.

I don't know if you've ever shopped at a bargain brand-name store, but there is assuredly very little organization to the whole scheme.  You mindlessly flip through racks until you come across what you're looking for.  This makes me...

Flakey. Short-circuited. Spaced out.

In the past, this has led to many impulse purchases. I end up with 148 shirts in my closet, but no matching pants. Or, conversely, 94 pair of pants but no tops. The worst is when I have an adorable pair of shoes that don't go with anything in my closet.

Over the years, I have come up with a clear-cut solution to being shopping-challenged.

I don't buy anything unless I have a complete outfit. If I can't create a complete outfit inside the chaos and mayhem of the store, or if I can't repurpose another item that I already own to match it with an item I'm purchasing, then I leave it at the store.

There is never a time when I purchase a shirt with the intention of buying a pair of pants "later" to match. The problem for me is that "later" never arrives. The pants are hung in my closet. With the tags still on. And they never see the light of day again until I donate them to Goodwill.

Then I cry, because I wasted my hard-earned money on a pair of pants whose sole purpose in life was to take up space in my closet for 2 years.

So, because my brain requires constant organization, here are my top 5 tips for sane clothes shopping...

1) Keep a running list in your planner, iPhone, etc. of items that you need. I have been known to rip pictures of Nicole Ritchie, Katie Holmes, and Jessica Biel from magazines and stick them inside my planner so that I know what I'm looking for at the store. Being prepared in this way saves me from buying things that I don't want, as well as making many unnecessary trips to stores--saving gas, money, and precious time.

2) Only buy complete outfits. Pretend that you're dressing a mannequin. Start from the top and work down...shirt, pants, shoes, then accessorize!

3) Don't forget to accessorize. I even go so far as to hang the appropriate necklace and/or bracelet in my closet with the outfit that I just bought. It saves time and thinking later.

4) Enter the store with a specific budget in mind. I actually go to the ATM and take out the appropriate amount of cash before I go to the store. If I run out of money, the trip is over! This keeps me from over-spending, and encourages me to make my limited funds go as far as possible.

5) Stick to the plan. Don't deviate. Deviation is futile. Your brain will explode. Oh...wait.  Maybe that's just me.

Yesterday, I had a very successful shopping trip. I followed "the plan", had a budget of $200, and made it out of the store with 6 new work outfits plus one running outfit. All brand name, all cute, and all accessorized.

Everything fit. That was a plus as well, and it kind of felt magical, since that never happens. Ever.

Yesterday, shopping was fun.

Even the 'trying on' part, which I generally hate with a passion.

Go forth and shop...with purpose.

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