A great question was posed on my live webinar earlier this week and the participants were pretty surprised by my answer. One of my readers, Ferly asked, “How do you navigate through a home decor store? I get overwhelmed.” She wanted to know how to shop for home decor without wasting time or money.
People were shocked when I said that I can get in and out of HomeGoods or my local thrift store in under 20 minutes.
Participants were saying they can spend 2-4 hours at one store. During that time they make several laps, second guess their tastes, marvel at the awesomeness, etc.
Before the webinar started, I quickly explained that I have a routine that helps me shop quickly and deliberately. I also know that all the “awesomeness” in the store isn’t for me. In fact, most of it isn’t right for me. I know what I like and don’t like and move on quickly.
But I felt this question deserved a little more attention, so here is the long answer on how I shop home decor stores without overwhelm (and how I do it in under 20 minutes).
Before I Learned to Shop Right
I used to aimlessly wander decor and furniture stores unsure of what exactly I was looking for, but knowing I wanted to find something. It was always my mission to find something to buy…I mean, I made all the effort to wander the store for hours…there had to be something.
But, over time all those forced purchases left me feeling empty and I almost always ended up bringing home something I didn’t love.
Then, I stopped shopping for my home altogether.
In September of 2012, I did a Home Spending Hiatus. I started it to help save money to put toward flooring for our basement remodel. But, the result was more powerful than I could have ever imagined. A break from home shopping broke some bad habits I had developed.
I was an emotional shopper, especially when sad or stressed. If I made the effort to leave my kids behind and spend my time browsing a store, I felt I had to find something to buy to justify that time. I bought way too many things I thought could fill a void or that I could make work, but in the end, the void remained and I couldn’t make it work.
My Home Buying Break Taught Me These 3 Important Lessons
- It is wasted money to buy things that don’t fit my style, because they don’t have lasting staying power in my home.
- It is wasted time to take extra rounds pacing the aisles and debating over purchases. It doesn’t make something that fits my style magically appear.
- It is okay to walk out of a store without buying anything!
My Home Shopping Routines that Save Time and Money
After my spending hiatus I allowed myself to shop again, but with an entirely new approach. Here is my two-pronged approach to shopping:
1. Wandering Without Buying
Every now and then, I like to wander for hours. But, my rule if I wander is I don’t buy anything. I enjoy “window shopping” and gather inspiration. If I see something I like, I take a picture on my phone to add it to my “list”, which I refer back to when I am looking for something specific in the future. When getting used to the wander-only approach, it can be helpful to leave all your money at home :)
It is also extremely helpful to find an easier exit. I know how to exit every store without buying anything. This sounds strange, but it is very important mentally and emotionally (especially, if like me, you used to feel obligated to buy something). Big box stores are designed to funnel you through checkout counters on your way out. Furniture stores are far less intimidating, with the cash wrap usually on the back or side of the store. It is worth looking for an easier way out of a store when you aren’t buying anything. Can you go out the entrance door? Is there a blank aisle that allows you to bypass the checkouts?
2. How to Shop Deliberately When You Are Ready to Spend
- I only go shopping to spend money when I am looking for something specific. I need to be able to make a list of what I am looking for.
- I have a path for each store. I walk through a store the same way every time. My path skips the departments I am not interested in. I know what to expect around every corner. I know if I follow my path I won’t miss anything. I know there is no need to “make a second” lap, just in case.
- If I do not find what I am looking for, I leave the store without buying anything. See my tips above about finding an easy exit.
- I use my decorating style as a filter when browsing. I can quickly assess everything I see and determine if it fits my style. I am pretty ruthless and only give myself a minute to make a decision.
- I do not look at the price tag until after I have decided I want an item. And, only if you have decided I want an item. Seeing a sale or cheap price should not change your desire to have an item. A great price doesn’t make you love it more or make it fit your style. I find it best to not even look at the price, unless I know I want the piece. (Then, of course, I have to see if the price for a piece I love is within my budget.)
- If I am unsure, I leave it. If and only if I can’t get it out of my mind do I allow myself to go back and get it. That was the story of my nightstand lamps. I found a pair I loved, and left another great pair behind. When I got home I could not help but thinking about the ones I left behind. Within two days, I went back for the other pair and returned the first pair.
- I edit my cart. Before checking out I edit my cart and always try to remove at least one thing before checkout unless everything in my cart was on my list! This quick step helps me rethink impulse buys or to mentally add up my purchases before checkout and take things away to match my budget.
With my shopping process, I save money and time. I do not spend money on things I don’t love, just because I feel a sense of obligation to buy. I save time, by streamlining my routine and only going when I am looking for items specifically. I also can go shopping more frequently to keep an eye on ever-changing stock at thrift stores and stores like HomeGoods.
As you can probably imagine, I have a pretty good online shopping regimen as well. In fact, I do a lot of browsing online and pre-shopping before setting foot in a store. I will share more details about that soon.
So how long does it typically take you to shop a home store? Do you think any of these tips could help streamline your process?