Deciding What Is Important: Needs vs. Wants and Striking a Balance

photo credit: Banalities

At the BlogWorld Conference I met Annabel Candy. Actually it was at an after-conference party hosted by the very gracious Darren of @problogger fame. Thank you, Darren! Your hospitality and kindness are deeply appreciated. Annabel has a successful blog, Get in the Hot Spot, about helping to make work and life better mesh with what you envision for yourself. She even has a book about Successful Blogging!

Today I was catching up on things in my Reader and came across her post about how she and her husband pretty much got rid of everything they owned, packed up their three young children and moved from New Zealand to Costa Rica for 18 months. Talk about getting rid of material possessions. Take some time to read it and you, too, will soon ask yourself if all this ‘stuff’ is necessary.

I’ve been looking at my house for several months now wondering how I’m going to fit all of this into a tiny house in the Bay Area. BabyGirl has even asked if she gets to take certain things. I’ve actually struggled with this because ‘stuff’ is often the outward sign of success. And how do I get rid of this stuff without getting rid of what identifies me and my family as successful people?

Is it the stuff that makes us successful? Because we can show people these things and say ‘look at my new Louboutins!’? For many people that’s what it is. Conspicuous consumption. Telling others that you are important because of the car you drive, the handbag you carry, the shoes you wear, the things you have. But is that true?

Of couse not. I have a growing list of things I want to do someday. And being able to decide what is important will actually get me there faster than if I’m focused on trying to impress others or justify buying things because I deserve them. Needs vs. Wants. Yet I’m conflicted because I like a lot of this stuff. And some of this junk, er, stuff, is sentimental. And I can attach sentiment to all kinds of things. Which explains why my garage is full of what most people would probably call crap and sell for 50 cents at a yard sale.

But this is where it gets a bit weird. Sure, I need shoes. Do I need a pair of Louboutin shoes? Of course not. But, at the same time does it mean I should only spend $5 or buy my shoes from the local Goodwill? I don’t think it means that either.

There has to be some middle ground. A place where I don’t feel like I need to keep justifying why I bought that particular item. The need vs. want dichotomy gets a lot of play from finance experts seeking to explain how to live a frugal lifestyle. No, I don’t need cable. No, I don’t need an iPhone. But do I need to live your way oh financial expert or risk financial ruin? I don’t think so.

Annabel mentions that selling most of their possessions left her feeling free. Not just free because she does’t have stuff. But free because she realized as she ventured through an amazing experience with her family that it really wasn’t the stuff that made her or her family happy anyway.

As we get further into the holiday season keep this in mind: creating experiences is truly what living is about. Things are nice but at the end of the day isn’t it really the experience or the memories of the people, the place, the sight, sounds, and smells that matter? The holidays can easily become overwhelming and out of control trying to get ‘the hot’ items or worrying about missing the next great deal. The stress can suck the fun out of this joyous occasion. Truly, it’s really not worth it.

Do what feels right. And do it with love not only for those who mean the most to you but for you as well.

There are a lot of wants and they’re not always compatible with one another. Take the time to sort them out. Find balance between those things you want and those that are true necessities. It is possible to live with less and truly have more!

Have you ever thought about this idea of living with less so you can have more? It’s been swirling around my head for quite some time. I’d love your thoughts and insight.