I’ll admit it. I have a new hobby: online shopping.

It’s not actually a new activity for me; I’ve been doing it for years. But only this past summer did I decide that it’s officially a hobby of mine.

I used to think hobbies needed to be educational, lofty or productive. Playing the piano, knitting or bird-watching, these were worthy hobbies. Cooking! That could be a hobby. Learning a foreign language, reading, or photography – all of those are honorable endeavors.

And I have plenty of those types of hobbies. (Writing a blog, perhaps?) But shopping online is not educational, nor is it brag-worthy. It’s fun, frivolous and more stereotypically female than I’d care to admit. It could be criticized as materialistic. Certainly, some people spend too much money and time shopping online. But that’s not my problem. I just like looking at, and sometimes buying, clothes online.

I didn’t know online shopping could be a hobby. I thought it was a slightly embarrassing activity that one would only do out of necessity. I would visit different sites furtively, like a late-night snacker who waits for everyone to go to bed before she eats her ice cream. Sometimes my husband would say, “Shopping online?” Caught in the act, I would nod my head yes with mild embarrassment.

But that was before I realized that this was nothing to be ashamed of. Now I set time aside every once in a while to see what I can find in cyberspace and enjoy it. It’s actually a form of self-care (right?).

Shopping May or May Not Lead to Purchasing

Online shopping is like a scavenger hunt. I scour different sites looking for sales, beautiful colors, smallish sizes, and the right price. I often put possible items in the shopping cart and then wait. I come back the next day or two and look at the stuff. Do I still want it? Often, it’s not as appealing as it was earlier and I hit delete.

However, sometimes online shopping does lead to purchasing. When I find the right thing, I order it, especially if it’s on sale. I may end up needing to return it, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. (I know the best UPS store to use for returns too.) And the more skilled I get at my hobby, the fewer returns I have. Practice makes perfect.

As I type this, I look at the clothes I’m wearing. I found my sweater and purse (everlane.com), jacket (ragandbone.com), and shoes (allbirds.com) online. I bought my jeans, belt and socks in person. The dress I wore to a wedding last week? You guessed it (neimanmarcus.com).

With this hobby, you might think my closet would be bursting with clothing. It’s not. I’m quick to take things I don’t wear to the Goodwill, Dress for Success or a thrift store. I imagine a woman at the Goodwill excitedly finding a nice blouse that used to belong to me. In a very small, indirect way, perhaps my hobby is helping people. Maybe it’s productive after all.

Some people go on shopping trips. I don’t even need to leave the house to pursue my hobby. Think of all the money I’m saving on hotels, gasoline and air fares because I’m not traveling! In theory, this could free up some funds to pursue my hobby further.

My new hobby is frivolous, for sure. But it’s fun. And it’s even more fun to no longer pretend that I disdain shopping. I don’t; I like it. In fact, I want to get better at it! And by owning this activity, I get closer to what we all want: self-acceptance.