Need Versus Want: A Lesson Learned

I remember when I was moving into the little blue house over four years ago, and I ordered this massive white (you know I hate stainless steel!) side-by-side refrigerator. I didn’t need it, I just wanted it. Need versus want.

I recall the men trying to get it through those 1934 doors. And one said: “I don’t know why you people who live in these old houses have to buy these big refrigerators that we have to take the doors off of to get inside.”

At the time, I thought he was rude. But now, over four years later, what he said makes perfect sense.

Why was I bringing a hulking huge refrigerator into a small house for one person? 

Want. Versus need. 

In this apartment, I live with a smallish refrigerator that doesn’t have an automatic ice maker or water in the door like the one I bought. It has the freezer on top like the old days. And I find it is all that I need. 


What was I thinking?

I’ve learned a lot about want versus need. Lessons that now make perfect sense. 

I don’t need a couch and two recliners, like I had when I moved into the little blue house. Now I have a couch with a chaise on one end to elevate my ankle. And two indoor/outdoor wicker chairs across from it. 

How many places does one person need to sit comfortably? Uh, that would be one. Unless you can figure out how to sit in two places at one time.

I’ve learned that I can use dressers as tables to store things in. Tables that are surface only do not serve dual purposes. 

I no longer have the pretty French doors I had in Texas, not to mention the beautiful pavilion and waterfall. Now I have the old patio sliding doors that occasionally drive me crazy, but are perfectly usable. 

I hope to figure out a way to have some sort of water feature in back, but have been stumped with the lack of outdoor electricity. It would have to be solar. And that would make more sense anyway. Because it would use the rays of the sun instead of energy consumption.

All that I had in Texas was wonderful and I loved it. But I don’t need it. 

When I left Texas, I was amazed at all that I had amassed. All those idle trips to Marshalls because I was bored. And I just had to have a few more dishes. They were so pretty!

Yet, I ended up selling so much stuff when I moved. I didn’t need most of it. I had just wanted it. 

I have learned that you can live without a stove and be perfectly happy with a convection oven. I can’t boil spaghetti. But how often did I boil spaghetti anyway? 

I have learned that with the European style washer/dryer, you will probably never get towels dry no matter how long you run it. So it is just better to take them out and hang them over chairs. 

It is best to hang clothing instead of drying because it extends the life of your clothes anyway. 

There are so many out there that struggle just to have a roof over their head and food in their mouths and the mouths of their children. 

I am quite rich compared to them.

I look at things differently now. Even if I had the money and the room, I still would not be looking at the huge side-by-side refrigerators with the built-in ice maker and water in the door. That concept seems a bit ridiculous now. 

I would not buy dishes in Marshalls because I was bored and needed a distraction from a marriage on its last legs.

If I get to sit under a pavilion, it would probably be at a park. Same with the big waterfall, though I’d take that in a minute if it was offered to me, just for the wonderful sound alone.

I have learned the lesson of “making do.” 

If you want all the frills, go for it. But having it did not make me happy. It might have made things a tad easier, but the more complicated something is, the more things that can (and will) go wrong with it.

I am content with my two plastic ice trays. My simple refrigerator. 

Gone are the days when I have warm fluffy towels to fold and put away. But are instead a little bit stiff. (I just may have to figure out a clothes line on the patio if they will allow it.) But it’s not the end of the world.

I am in a better place both emotionally and mentally. 

Try not to confuse want with need. It is okay, perfectly okay, to get something just because you want it. 

But it’s also very fulfilling to make do. To use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. A depression-era based mindset.

I think as we try to simplify our lives, that will become a mantra. Things will lose their sparkle. And finally we will grow weary of buying more.

 

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90 Comments

  1. I'm definitely not beyond "wanting" things, but I am much more discriminating than I used to be. I'm more likely to put something back, than to make the purchase. These last few weeks, I've been purging like crazy. I don't want my house filled with meaningless stuff. I actually got rid of half my clothes. Half!

  2. Post on "fleek"! I actually talk to myself now at the stores. I pick up the item I like, walk around and ask myself…"do you really need this, or do you want it"? It usually gets put back HA!~ But there was a time it did not.

  3. Lovely and perfectly timed post for me (and I just found your blog **fate-I think)I am working diligently to reduce reduce reduce! I agree that simple seems to equal peace and happy!

  4. So very true, Brenda! I've downsized so much and I'm doing just fine! 🙂 I have always "wanted" dishes, stemware, baking pans, etc. I certainly don't need more now. I rarely buy new clothes but when I do, something has to go out when something new comes in. I think it's important to discover happiness inside ourselves rather than in "things".

    xo
    Pat

    1. When I was young, I liked buying new clothes. But now I could care less. I never even look at clothes in stores. I just don't want more things clogging my limited closet space!

  5. Good morning Brenda. Loved your post. Something I try to keep in mind every time I buy something I want is to get rid of something I don't want. It works. By the way, you could try a little pump in a bucket of water to make a simple water feature that sounds great. Have a lovely day.

  6. I agree that it is wise to keep a good perspective on what you need v/s what you want. However, don't forget you need less because it's just you living there. For me, I could not live without an icemaker and more seating because I have 3-4 people living in my home. So I guess it's all relative to your lifestyle.

  7. Thank you for that post!! I needed that!! The more I get the more I want and I'm never satisfied and content! We CAN be content in our situations if we choose to be and I want to do that! Thanks again…

  8. I try to live by the most basic Mantra, " Live simply, so that others may simply live". Brenda,as usual, you have touched upon a subject with many variations. This "want vs need" mentality applies not only to the so called "materialistic" aspect of our lives, but to the basic consumption level as well: food, water, gas,etc. How much do we really need to get by, without wasting what might be someone else's. We as Americans waste an inordinate amount of "everything". As a single mother, who has struggled most of her life just to get the little food and the small roof other my head, I see that the less I have and the more I give away to those even worse off than I, the better I am, both emotionally and financially. Both my son and I are better off knowing that we are treading lightly on this wonderful planet, and that respect for others, including those others within the animal kingdom, is something worth far more precious than anything we could every "purchase" out of a big box mart. Have a wonderful day!

    1. I agree with you. Which is why I have to have 3 errands before I will drive anywhere. I try not to waste water. Having a lawn (which I don't have) seems to waste lots of water. And I try not to waste food. I eat leftovers till they're gone if I can stand it!

  9. I love this post.
    I am very close to your age and have come to the same conclusion.
    I had a inexpensive birdbath fountain outside the front door
    In the summertime i could hear it while sitting in my favorite spot in the living room
    A very calming, peaceful sound
    We will be in a rv in the summers now, so I too would love a solar fountain

  10. I had a discussion yesterday with a friend about this very topic. We are in Naples right now, an area where you are bombarded with wealth at every turn. Rolls and Maseratis, multi–million dollar waterfront homes, etc. My friend was saying no one 'needs' a Rolls Royce, and of course he was right. But I argued no one 'needs' a Ford either. I told him in proportion to what we have and what the Rolls owner has, we probably spend a larger portion of our money on 'things'. Everything is relative, and as long as we keep our priorities straight it's all good.

    Having said that, living in an RV the last few weeks has definitely shown me I can easily get by with much less than I have. I brought a total of four pots and pans and so far I haven't missed having more cookware. I've always known I could get used to almost anything that was thrown at me. I am fairly adaptable and resourceful, and I like to think I know what's important in life…

    chocolate 😉

    1. What we buy when we're depressed are usually "impulse buys." We don't think them through very well and then don't really want them once we have them, I've found.

  11. Brenda, your point was so beautifully made. You did not chastise anyone who is enjoying going for the "wants" but you did remind us of the many advantages of living simply.

    I needed to hear this just now. We moved from a very large house in Louisiana and have purchased a house half that size in Wyoming. So much "stuff" is still in storage in Louisiana. It is time to let go of the stuff and just keep the memories.

    Again, thanks

    1. I think it is wonderful to experience "having it all." When I first married my third husband, the doctor, I got to pick out a huge turn of the century house with a garage apartment and pool. I thought I'd won the lottery. We ended up moving within two years. But I got to experience that feeling. That's all I needed.

  12. Knowing the difference between needs and wants is something I repeat over and over when I go anywhere and have to open my wallet. My house is not huge, nor as small as yours, but I do realize that I have quite a bit of 'stuff' stored away in the basement, closets and cabinets. And I know I really don't need anything else.

    I'm wondering with the stiff towels. Could you hang them over the chairs until almost dry and then put them in your machine with a dryer sheet for the last few minutes? To make them softer?

    Jane x

    1. Well, I really only have four towels that I use to dry off from showering. One of my readers suggested them to me. They came from Penneys and they dry very quickly. They are a little thinner, and they don't get stiff. The others are for cleaning up messes, etc. So it's okay if they're a bit stiff.

  13. Your post was beautiful and inspiring. Thank you so much! By the way, I finished the first book on the challenge list, and it was exceptional. I love real books, too but can't see them as well as my kindle with adjustable size letters.

    1. I just finished, about thirty minutes ago, a book one of you suggested I read: 600 Hours With Edward. About a man who has Aspergers and is very regimented. Much like me. I'm glad someone mentioned it.

  14. I am so grateful for you sharing your heart, your thoughts, your dreams, your blessings. As I get older and realize the importance of the "little" things, relationships, not possessions are most important. Bless you in your circumstances.

  15. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This too, has become my mantra. I moved from one of those homes that had it all, where you didn't need to bump into anybody unless you actually wanted to see them. I left that behind and moved into my own cozy lithe house! I often think back to my very first home (tiny too) that was left behind about 35 years ago. I loved that house and would still be there if my husbsnd's job hadn't forced us to move out of province.

    Oh well. I've got my lovely little home that needs a lot of work (think 1950 kitchen and bathroom) but it screams 'home' to me. I need a new fridge and had already decided that I had no need for the monster fridge left behind. My new kitchen will be small, but functional. Snd having ankle/feet issues, what could possibly be better than a small functional kitchen? ?

    I'm firmly revamping my lifestyle to get rid of excess and clutter so that I'm surrounded by only that which is useful or brings me joy. And lest anyone think I'm a fan of Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up", I did start yo read it but thought she was overboard and possibly OCD. I mean, how many children fill their play time with cleaning and organizing their siblings room and possessions (not to mention trying to do it to the parents too!).

    My eldest daughter has moved to living simply about 10 years ago and I'm following in her footsteps and proud that she's set such a good example for me. Our joy should not come from things but rather from spending time involved in events that enrich our souls.

    Here's to a wonderful week for you, Brenda! May Abi and Charlie keep you busy and amused!

    Jan

    1. I think you will truly enjoy your little space. I didn't read that book. I think it is unreasonable to think that children would be organized. Let them be children while they can be.

  16. Totally agree with you. Neither me nor my husband are very materialistic and I guess that's a good thing when you don't have the money to be in the first place! 😉 Fancy appliances don't impress me…like you said, it's just more that can break. We just have a basic white refrigerator like you described – no automatic ice maker (there was one in the fridge that was here when we moved in and it was always getting clogged and then it broke – no way were we going to put to have it fixed) nor water dispenser on the outside. Our washer and dryer are bare bones, too. I remember when we were buying them about 10 years ago and of course, the appliance guy tried upselling. I told him, "All I want is a washing machine that can wash my clothes and a dryer that can dry them." No extras. I line dry my cotton shirts on a small 3-armed clothesline in the basement in the winter.

  17. My husband started using this phrase a few years ago, right after we moved and downsized. I told him that at our age we don't need anything, so it's all want. So yes, wise wirds and making a decision if you want to haul more stuff in. The only way to do it right, get rid of STUFF for everything you bring into your house.

  18. I think we all get stuck in the want versus need trap. We think we want so much more than we need. You are not alone. I sometimes think of how we are born with nothing. We come into this world with nothing and not needing much more than love, food and clean diapers. If we are fortunate enough we will live long enough to only need love, food and clean diapers. Yet we spend a lifetime accumulating stuff that we really don't need. We miss so much of what the world has to offer because we spend so much time chasing after what is unimportant. C'est la vie!

    Big Texas Hugs,
    Susan and Bentley

  19. Brenda, what a true post and so well written. You reflect a simple way of life that brings you happiness! And what is more important than that? Rooms filled with antiques and the latest of everything ! And what does that do but make one search for more material things!, they don't buy real contentment or happiness!
    Keep inspiring us, Brenda! Lynn

  20. Hi Brenda, I love this post. I remember my dad always saying, "Don't let your wants get bigger then your needs" Such a great lesson to learn as a child. Now, even when I can have a want, I pass on it a lot of the time and after a while, realize I didn't need it anyway. When things break down, we fix it. Repurpose when we can and find it all great fun and much more rewarding. True happiness can't be bought!
    Hope you are able to put up that clothes line however. Have a great week!

  21. Brenda, I love this post – you are so incredibly poetic in your writing and you are so right also!! I did the same thing when my marriage was unhappy – I would drive an hour to Marshalls just to get out of the house. A little retail therapy helped me deal with the rotten situation at home, somehow. I'm so glad to be in my happy place now and my no spend month is teaching me that I don't really NEED things, although I may want them.

  22. Amazon has a portable umbrella style clothesline. Household Essentials 3-Arm Portable Umbrella-Style Clothes Dryer. Excellent post…full of truth…

  23. Very well said. I try to live my life by a "want or a need" repeating through my head. I think that is why it takes me so long when it comes to make a purchase. I research the product I am in need of, shop for the best price, even if it takes months. I have a friend that gets frustrated with me and tells me just to pull the trigger. Ha ha! Not me….I have to make sure it's the right thing at the right time. My husband used to say "in our next house"… Finally one day I told him "this is your next house and your last house". I don't need a huge home to impress people. We have been in our home 26 years next month and have put blood, sweat and tears into it. We bought what we could afford at the time and have made it what we want. Why would I ever walk away from it? To impress someone, no way! He laughs now and is very happy here. Our home has been paid for for over 10 years which helps when jobs come and go. He knew when we had the pool put in four years ago we weren't moving. Life is so much sweeter when you aren't trying to keep up with the Jones's. I am happy you have found peace. Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. You have security. As much as one can get in a living situation. Be content with the knowledge that it is yours and there is no mortgage staring you in the face each month. Most people don't have that.

  24. I wish I had bought more carefully and much less when I was learning what I liked. Now I want to purge to keep the things that I love and live with that.

  25. Want vs Need. My every day companion. Sometimes I get excited about something – especially a good thrift store find and almost – almost – forget to ask myself Want or Need. That usually tells me to put it back. So yes, I know what you mean.

    1. I learned an important lesson quite recently: I had wanted a Pottery Barn galvanized three-tiered stand forever. Finally, when I had a gift certificate, I bought it. It is now in the closet. It is just too big for this small space. Wow, I could have gotten something more usable like pillow slips…

    1. Like anyone, I sometimes see something in a store and I think: Oh my, that would be nice to have. And if I purchase it and bring it home, often as not it will end up in the closet because it doesn't fit in.

  26. Brenda, this post is really so very true! I have come to want a simpler life and I'm getting there. Getting rid of so many 'things' and just enjoying what I have so much more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Great quotes also.

    Linda

    1. I remember when all I could think about was what I wanted. And then when I got that, I started thinking about what else I wanted. Makes me weary now to think of it.

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