There’s a great difference. If I don’t have waterproof shoes, I definitely need them, because rains are common in my neck of the woods. But that cute T-shirt, when I already have a bunch? Or that wonderful, amazing, cool gadget which I probably wouldn’t actually use all that much, but, ooh, shiny? Nope. Don’t really need them. I may want them, but I don’t need them, and probably won’t buy them.
We’re conditioned to want things. Advertising and the culture are using well known psychology tricks to make us want things, and those tricks work. On the other hand, the cultures many of us live in don’t normally encourage us to think whether we really need something. Quite the contrary: they do their best to convince us that, if we want something, we must have it now, this instant, or something terrible will happen. We won’t be cool. We won’t be able to organize ourselves (as if the majority of people truly need any organization tool other than their own brains, and perhaps a paper and a pen, which can be inexpensive). People won’t love us. Our lives will fall apart. Our children will cry, and, you know, it’s unacceptable to make a nine-year-old unhappy by not getting him iPhone 5, or whatever the latest model might be at the moment. The world as we know it will end. Wicked space aliens will kill or enslave us all, and make us eat spinach every day. Or something.
I remember visiting a nearby shopping mall after work, over 10 years ago. I had some business in one of the stores, but since the shopping mall was big and not close to my home, I thought I would walk around a bit and check it out.
I got tired within five minutes.
I kid you not.
It was overwhelming. All those colorful things, pretty to look at, but I couldn’t imagine myself actually wearing any of them. All those colorful things I had no use for. All those colorful things screaming for my attention, but offering me nothing of value. All those colorful things, being so tiresome. Look at me, look at me!, they screamed. But, but, I don’t need you, any of you, my brain replied, over and over again.
I did what I came there to do, and left.
Now, it’s not that I never buy things I don’t strictly need. What I do is stop and think. Do I really need it, or do I just want it? Do I truly need it for a specific purpose, or is my brain telling me Hey, listen, you buy this and you’ll find Jesus? If I need it and have the means (meaning cash, because I don’t use credit cards), I’ll buy it. If I don’t really need it, I’ll think about it. I won’t immediately buy it. I’ll think and wait. If I still want it after a while (maybe I will, maybe I won’t), and if it’s still available, I might buy it. Or, since I’m lazy, I might feel too lazy to bother with buying something I don’t really need (see, laziness can be good for you!).
What I won’t do is allow my brain to act as if it was recruited into some weird sect demanding of me to buy stuff. Because I already have most of the material stuff I need (and non-material, for that matter — there’s no need to sell me Jesus, really). Because I have no wish to clutter my living space; I’m trying to get rid of the unnecessary things, not to add to them.
So, that’s me. How about you? Do you go all ooh, shiny, and by tons of new stuff, or do you avoid spending your hard earned cash on something you don’t need, and might stop wanting after a very short time?