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I Don’t Want Any More Cardboard Boxes: How I Accidentally Cured My Desire to Shop Online

Photo by Kindel Media Prexels

Picture it, a balmy unseasonably warm October Texas day. There I was standing in my garage stacking boxes and thinking about how far I’d come in making my house a home. This lighting project was just another in a long line of them. All the preparation and anticipation was there, like usual, but so was something else. As 15 separate boxes landed on my doorstep, I suddenly realized what that something was: “I am over this sh—.”

Reflecting on 2022, I now realize I was always headed toward shopping fatigue. It was catching up with me quicker due to the pandemic. Like many people over the past three years, I turned to Amazon and other retailers to assuage my feelings: boredom, existential dread, horror, or numbness. I could feel something else after poking around on Amazon and ordering up something. Anticipation. Amazon and I had taken our relationship to the next level over the past two years. Whatever I needed, it could supply. Amazon was determined not to let me down.

New kitchen tongs? Amazon. Some TikTok cleaner everyone was talking about? Amazon. BBQ sauce, note pads, Blu-ray player, foundation brush, travel accessories, tampons, furniture, books. You name it, I bought it. from. Amazon.

Just as the last lighting fixture box arrived, I noticed just how many orders I placed with Amazon by October last year. And, dear reader, it shocked me: 54 separate orders. I clutched my pearls and closed my computer.

I knew I’d been heavy on the Amazon, but I had no idea I’d made that many. There are 52 weeks in a year. How could I have ordered enough stuff to get a package every week?

There were clues I’d become a little too dependent on the retailer. I remember several instances of forgetting what I’d ordered. I’d receive something, unpack it, and then put it away and forget about it. Sure, I felt the anticipation of watching for the packages, but once they arrived, that feeling dissipated.

I returned to the site and reviewed my purchases to see what exactly I bought. It was mostly housewares. Nothing sexy, just a lot of stuff that needed to replace old stuff, but I was still shook. After a bit more investigating, I found my yearly purchases had doubled year over year, with 2022 being a banner year of the most I’d ever spent. I refused to calculate how much all these orders totaled. *shivers*

I decided then and there I was done. So I made a couple of decisions. In 2023, I would stop shopping on Amazon for things I could easily purchase in person, and I would take a year off from costly home improvements, which would keep more of my money in my pocket. Then I thought, perhaps commitment to a full year was a setup for failure. Six months seemed more appropriate—to start.

But I needed a plan. I had to stop scrolling the app out of boredom and I would resist the gadgets, cleaners, and doodads I came across on TikTok. I would also limit myself to one purchase a month. If there was something I needed that could not be obtained easily, locally. I would drop items in my cart through the month and then revisit it all on the last day of the month, to deter impulse buys.

My second step would be shopping in person more often. I hate going to multiple stores, and it’s so easy to shop online. But after realizing I was ordering my body lotion and hair products online rather simply buying it at the store, I had to get real. Getting makeup, face, or other hair products on Amazon is already risky. And honestly, I’m tired of breaking down boxes.

Finally, I would resist the urge to do another costly update to the house. I tried—and failed—to implement this resolution in early 2022 after deciding to repair the fireplace, and that ended up costing more than the initial estimate. And then the huge dead ash trees—from the 2021 Texas freeze—looming over my house had to come down last summer. Then feeling the need to bring myself some holiday cheer, I decided to replace all the terrible light fixtures in the house. Which finally led me to my breaking point. This year—for real this time—I will just say no to all significant upgrades. I will return to sweat equity. If it’s not necessary maintenance or an aesthetic repair that costs more than a can of paint, it can wait.

I immediately put my plan in motion last November. We’ve made it to February, and things are still going strong. I’ve been mindful about the few Amazon purchases I’ve made, and I’ve extended my thoughtfulness to other online merchants. My bank account certainly thanks me for it, and I hope to get it back to 2016 levels of dependence on Amazon—12 or less orders a year.

We’ll see where I am in April, but I hope to continue these good habits well past my deadline.

I want you—and me to remember—that saving money or reducing spending isn’t a punishment. Capitalism has a way of forcing you into consuming even when you don’t intend to.