I went to the grocery store yesterday, and like many of you I had a short list of food and brought home a longer list of items, some I don’t need, I just wanted. How often do you purchase something just to have it? Do you really need that second cup of mocha decaf with nutmeg and whipped cream? How about that second pair of shoes or a fourth drill for your workshop? Maybe; it’s your choice.
We want for little when we have a healthy survival plate: Good health, shelter, food, clothing, comfort, family and friends, a safe living environment, money, a secure job, an honest and good car mechanic, a great grocery store, fabulous bar and grill, favorite restaurant, good wine and/or beer, good books and movies, live theatre, reasonably priced barber or hair dresser, dreams, aspirations, good values, and the world to explore… the list goes on.
In economical trying times, the needs need to play goalie to your wants and protect your goal of financial security and serenity. Look around your house, what’s there that’s actually a need? Compared to the nick nacks and collector’s item, I’d venture to say only 20 percent: furniture, rugs, lamps, television and entertainment console, and a few paintings or pictures on the wall. That Tiffany lamp is both a need and a want: lights a necessity. That throw on the sofa , a need and want on a crisp winter day/evening. But what about all those extras – not the family heirlooms, but the artsy items? My house is filled with personal treasures; they fill up my book cases, coffee and end tables, and I love them; I don’t need them though.
During my international travels I would bring back something that reminded me of my trip. What good do these item do for me exactly? Nothing. During my last trip to Indonesia in 2009 I made a pact: Do not buy anything you don’t need; no presents for anyone, no more fresh water pearls, no more Balinese art, masks or sarongs. I did it. Not buying unnecessary items didn’t take away from my trip, my friends didn’t really care, and my bank/credit card balance thrived. Yeah.
My friend Cindy is going to Scotland for two weeks and lamented that she’s only allowed carry-on luggage for the tour. “What can I take in only a carry-on?” When I went on a safari 15 years ago I took a large duffel bag – it might be a tad too big for the overhead – for the three weeks, while another member of the tour had to have Sherpas carry her four large suitcases. No one noticed that I wore only three different mix/match outfits, and I didn’t nothing that the other traveler wore 21!
Why do we need all this stuff? When did we become addicted to our clothes, shoes, foods, collectibles, or other wants? Do I need my hairdryer if I’m going camping or tramping in New Zealand? Are these needs bred into us when we’re young or do we find our tastes change and grow as we change and grow? Is it money?
I talked to “David” a few nights ago and he maligned his job, his boss and his stress. He makes a healthy six-figure income and yet, he’s miserable. He has too much work, his boss doesn’t listen to him, and his stress level is Mach 176; he needs and wants out. He wants a high-paying job that doesn’t take advantage of his hard-working values and expertise; he needs some down time during any given week; we all do. What he needs and wants right now are Siamese Twins. Where will he go to find it? His current job was going to be his “last.” He wanted to retire from the company – not so today.
Are you happy in your job? Does it meet all or most of your professional needs? Do you get rewards – small, medium and large – that you know you deserve. Are you recognized by your superiors? If you are a superior, do you recognize your team and do they in turn respect and honor you?
We want respect. We want to be listened to. We need respect. We need to be listened to. Sometimes the line is invisible, and yet, other times it’s as apparent as a buzzing mosquito around your head when you’re ready to fall asleep.
I’m reading an interesting book by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance, called Peace and Plenty, Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity. She’s written it mostly for women. Her stories are amazing retelling what she and other women have gone through to survive before, during and after either a financial gold mine or a financial mine collapse. I recommend it to anyone who’s going through any type of disarray in her life. (Men can read it too, even though it’s focused on historical and present women’s journeys.)
We need little. Ban Breathnach calls it “thrift.” I know you’ve seen, if not frequented, a Thrift Store for clothes, books, shoes or necessities of your wardrobe. I’m thrifty most of the time, I’m far from a fancy dresser, and yet…. New is good. Need is good. Want is acceptable…! Wants far exceed our GDP than needs; I imagine.
I love my peanut butter crackers, my peanuts, my raisins, my yogurt and yes, my wine. Can I live without them, yes. Do I want to, no. My grocery bill might have been $10 less yesterday, but the “comfort food” reward far exceeds the money. When I’m happy, I’m better at my work, nicer to my friends and to strangers – maybe – and my creativity soars. Live in a world of abundance, let go of lack.
Abundance equates meeting your basic needs and having fun; it’s all subjective.
Wants v needs. Sometimes it’s a fine, fine line. You make the choice.