6 Months Of Things I Stress-Bought Online In The Middle Of The Night

I can’t even blame this on a cartoon walrus.
Publish date:
July 28, 2014
shopping, stress, coping skills

Last Tuesday afternoon, my husband brought the mail in, and handed me a large white package emblazoned with the familiar red logo. “What did I order from Target?” I asked.

Opening it, I discovered three crop tops and a cardigan. I had a dim memory of having seen one of the tops before, so I checked my email and found that I had placed the order a week before, evidently in the middle of the night. If that weren’t odd enough, I also had the presence of mind (if not a fully conscious awareness of my actions) to find and apply a coupon code (!) to my order. Sleep-shopping Lesley is frugal, if nothing else.

While I’ve made exhaustion-fueled late-night online purchases in the past, before now, they’ve always happened when I was technically awake, just very tired, and once the package arrived I did vaguely remember ordering it (see 90% of my Etsy purchases over the past year, which happened at 1 a.m. when I was, for some reason, fighting the urge to sleep). Even as I have marveled at my strange judgment and uncharacteristically relaxed buying urges, I've found the whole thing pretty amusing, since it's a bit like receiving unexpected gifts from my shadow self -- gifts, admittedly, that I have to pay for.

This crop top buying spree is the first thing I don’t remember ordering at all. Or even shopping for.

When I mentioned this to people, I got a lot of Ambien walrus jokes. I have never taken Ambien or Lunesta or any sleep-inducing drugs. I can’t even blame this on a cartoon walrus. I bought stuff, apparently while only marginally conscious, and didn’t remember doing it. This is not the same thing as buying stuff and simply forgetting about it, like the package of beautiful cotton yarn I ordered from KnitPicks at the end of the winter and completely forgot existed until a few days ago, when I opened what I had assumed was an empty box sitting next to the closet in our guest room for three months. (Why did I put it in the guest room? Why didn’t I take it out of the box? WHAT IS IN MY MIND?)

Shopping is absolutely one of my responses to stress. Like a zillion other people, sometimes when I feel tense and anxious, I’ll buy a thing, and I’ll feel better, briefly. We even have a cute term for it: retail therapy.

But this most recent experience was a little bizarre, even by my standards. So, I decided to go back over my middle-of-the-night impulse purchases made in a brain-fog of overtired anxiety and see how much waste I have wrought in the past six months. (As an aside, I also learned that looking back over my Amazon history is like looking back over a catalog of Alison’s posts.)

Subscriptions to Romantic Country magazine, $19 and Flea Market Decor magazine, $18

Magazine subscriptions are my exhausted-and-stressed-out kryptonite. I am weak in their presence. I impulsively buy subscriptions out of a bizarre sense that I am not merely purchasing an object, but supporting an industry! And I will get not ONE thing in the mail but MANY! Over a long period of time!

My subscription binges happen roughly twice a year and are typically themed. I once subscribed to four different travel magazines in a single intense evening. At least in this instance, I stopped at two.

Also, Flea Market Decor? I know, I know, the title sounds like an abysmal collection of old junk that's been chalk-paint vomited on by a Shabbychicosaur, but it's actually FANTASTIC.

Remorse Factor: Low. I will always love print magazines, and I love superspecialized niche-y publications in particular.

Electric Spice/Coffee Grinder, $18

Every day, for months now, I see this gadget sitting on my kitchen counter, peering like a little cylindrical sentry from behind my rice cooker, and I think, “Why did I buy that?” I remember having a specific purpose in mind for this specific device. I just can’t remember what it was. And no, it wasn’t to grind coffee.

Remorse Factor: High, although it will probably drop when I finally remember what I bought it for.

William Morris Honeysuckle print business card case, $18

I’ve never owned a business card case, even though I have some very nice xoJane business cards -- I just jam them in my wallet and then forget they exist in pertinent moments.

My husband just got business cards for his new job, and when I saw him putting them in his tidy little card case, I remember thinking, “Huh, I should get a swanky old-timey card case and keep my business cards in THAT when I forget to give them to people.”

I guess this translated to me making an impulsive midnight purchase a day later.

Remorse Factor: Zero. It’s a really nice case!

Rotary Food Mill, $23

This, at least, I can trace to a specific sort of stress. In March I became obsessed with making my own gazpacho. In retrospect, this was probably because a decent tomato can’t be had for love or money in New England in March, and gazpacho represents a literal BOWL OF SUMMER in my brain. So after discussing this on Twitter at length one night, I bought a food mill, I guess to give myself a flutter of hope that winter would eventually end.

This totally backfired because, when it arrived, it depressed me more than ever, and sat on a shelf in my kitchen for months, hunched over my head like a menacing gargoyle with a big silver crank handle. HOW IT GLEAMED. GLEAMED WITH THE ICY MENACE OF A WINTER THAT WOULD NEVER END.

Remorse Factor: High at first, but virtually nonexistent now that I have access to lots of fresh produce. Turns out a food mill is a very useful kitchen appliance.

Color Wheel, $4

I have literally no idea why I bought this. I might have been thinking it would be useful when choosing colors for crochet projects, or that might just be me trying to retroactively justify something so utterly random.

Remorse Factor: Medium. No, I may never figure out a purpose for it, but I can’t be too upset, since it only cost me $4.

Handbook for the Recently Deceased iPhone case, $25

I can’t think of anything I need less than more phone cases. I must have a dozen that fit my current phone. All of them I bought extremely cheaply, and I swap them out on a regular basis.

The only conceivable rationale for buying this case is that I was so over the moon at finding a Handbook for the Recently Deceased case, all logical thinking went by the wayside. Even worse, I bought the “wallet” version, probably because my brain was yelling, “DUDE IT’S LIKE AN ACTUAL BOOK ALMOST,” even though I hate wallet cases because they’re a pain when you’re trying to take pictures, or just use your phone in general. And I HAVE a wallet already.

All of that said, it’s still pretty rad. I should give it to someone who will enjoy it.

Remorse Factor: High. It’s too much money for a case I’ll never actually use.

Torpedo Level, $8

When I was growing up, my dad had the most magical tool cabinet in the garage. In my tiny child brain, I genuinely believed that it held one of every tool ever made, like a commitment-phobic tool version of Noah’s Ark.

I’ve spent a lot of time as an adult trying to rebuild that cabinet of wonders in my own house. The problem is that I don’t have a tool cabinet, or a garage, or a basic sense of organization or an ability to put things where I can easily access them. During a recent project, I discovered I had a need for a level to do things correctly. I already own a three-foot level, but it is buried in the very back of a storage closet that I hate. I suppose I thought it would actually be easier to pay $8 for Amazon to overnight me a more compact and easy-to-store version than to dig out the one I already own.

Remorse Factor: Medium, but only for the embarrassment. I should have just dug out my existing level. That said, this babysize version is perfect for minor hanging-stuff-on-walls projects, which is mostly what I do.

Porny French Tarot Deck, $30

As well as actually being a fan of Tarot as a tool for meditation and reflection, years ago I used to collect Tarot decks just for fun. Because of this, I still have a significant collection of now out-of-print Tarot decks, many of them too odd to seriously use, and too awkward a format to even display effectively.

I stopped adding to this collection ages ago, because I lost interest in collecting decks I’d never have a practical use for. Still, that didn’t stop me from this late-night purchase of a deck solely employing images from early 1900s porn -- another of my historical interests.

Remorse Factor: High. I'm partly convinced this deck only exists to make people feel more comfortable buying vintage porn imagery, because it has an apparent higher purpose. Or maybe people are using it like a special Sex Tarot? Nevertheless, I am okay with buying my vintage porn in books, thank you.

Crimping Iron, $21


Remorse Factor: NOTHING.

Is middle-of-the-night possibly-unconscious stress shopping a thing you do? Is it a problem? I can’t feel too terrible about it. The total cost of my weird impulse purchases since February is $184, which is not a huge loss for me, especially considering how much I’ve come to enjoy some of those purchases.

Well. Technically $232. I’m keeping the crop tops.