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While on a recent vacation with my mom, I discovered that she currently owns multiple pairs of my dream pants — those billowy non-denim pants that make getting dressed in the summer a breeze. And every day when I asked her where she got them, she told me T.J. Maxx.
I lost the will to shop at stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls when I first realized that I was an anxious person whose anxiety is triggered by large crowds, disarray, and any situation where there are infinite possibilities and I need to choose just one. (So in, like, seventh grade.)
As a result, it exhausts me to even think about shopping at these places. And also — on the more existential side of things — because I lose all sense of self in stores like that, where everything is on sale without discretion and thus should be bought, by me, immediately, because not picking it up off the rack is like leaving money on the table. I’m someone who moodboards my seasonal style, for Christ’s sake; a cohesive theme is that crucial to my sense of identity. If there are too many options, I lose sight of who I am and walk out with a wrap dress, or something equally not me. Besides, I have no patience whatsoever.
My mom, on the other hand, excels at shopping at these types of stores, and I believe this to be for two reasons. One: Unlike me, she is patient. And two: She treats shopping as an activity and not a chore. She makes a thing out of it — going to the mall or T.J. Maxx or the “Flemington Outlets” (as my mom calls them) in New Jersey is her main activity of the day, not a thing done in between other errands. It’s the main event.
This is how she accumulated so many good pants — pants that I’m jealous of because I want them myself, but also because of the hard work and skill that was required to obtain them.
These pants are best described as “breezy”: fitted at the waist, high-rise, printed, and in the burgundy, olive, maroon, or navy color family. They look incredible on her! And each pair usually maxes out at, like, $20.
I texted her to see how she does it, and the answer was very My Mom:
Hi Tiffany, so the first thing I do is I have to be in the mood to shop at a store like that. There's just so much stuff to go through, it tends to get a bit overwhelming at times. But that's exactly how you have to shop there, you just have to go through all the racks one by one and look for things and that's when I usually find the best buys.
I was hoping she would tell me something I didn’t know, because the fact that it really just comes down to patience and time — and not a well-thought-out strategy, or secret intel from a sales associate — means that there’s no shortcut for me.
Except they do have e-commerce, and you can filter the hell out of it.