Getting Over The Want


I’m putting up some popular post from my archives this week.

Today: getting over the want. This was one of two posts on the subject of getting over the want of more and better things. You can find Part 2 here. This is such an important concept and habit to make once you’ve decluttered your home. Why did it get that way and how will you keep yourself from going to Target for butter and leaving with a half dozen outfits for fall?

The bad news: all that work you put into getting rid of things in your home can be for naught. If you don’t halt the invasion of unnecessary items you’ll be back to stuffed closets and cluttered surfaces in no time.

The good news: you can beat this.

There are many ways to combat stuff. Right now I’m looking at the basics: why do we want it and how can we tame the want.

Because, make no mistake, I have a sparse closet but when I see the well dressed women of my ‘hood I notice what they’re wearing. I see the beautiful hand bags and boots and the perfect jeans. And I think about how I would feel in very expensive denim.

So how do you escape the want vortex? How do you resist the call and false promises of new and more?

Step One: don’t let it in the door.

If you’re struggling with getting past the want, don’t invite it round for a cuppa and a scone.

For city dwellers like me, we see 5000 advertising images a day. That’s up from 2000 daily images 30 years ago.

We cut our cable almost a year ago (and don’t miss it!) but we still see some commercials when we stream a television show from a network website. My brother’s children have mostly grown up without television and I notice a huge impact on their wants. One year my niece didn’t know what to ask for for Christmas. I’m interested to see how this plays out as they grow older. Will they want less because they only watch television shows with commercials at grandma’s house?

Here are a few ways to stop the ads and reduce the want:

  • Unsubscribe from all retail email newsletters and notices. Guess what? When I don’t get the email for 40% off at the GAP for one day only, I don’t buy stuff I don’t need. It took a few weeks to cull my inbox of retailers but I’m happy to report it worked. I also enjoy getting a lot less email.
  • Reduce your television consumption: I love me some good TV shows but remember, it’s an add machine. We would rather pay and just buy what we want commercial free. It’s not just about the cost of the cable bill – what’s it costing you in purchases made because you saw the ad 76 times?
  • Read books, not magazines: if you have a ritual of reading InStyle from cover to cover once a month, if it’s a little break just for you, enjoy it. But then recycle the magazine and pick up that book you’ve been meaning to finish for five weeks. I enjoy reading People at the doctor’s office but I let them pay for the subscription. Magazines are half ads and for me, the style and fashion do nothing to inspire me and everything to make me feel that my wardrobe and body are inadequate. Ditto for home decor magazines. When I am in the market for a new couch I will pick up Elle Home at the library for inspiration. Until then, they fuel the want for a new kitchen. And that’s wasted energy.

If you’re going to live the rich life with less you need to make some new habits. Like any new habit it will take a while to adopt. Start by developing an awareness of how much advertising you are consuming – tv, magazines, email – and reduce from there.

Challengers? Is anyone living the minimal-ish life but a voracious television watcher or magazine reader? Does anyone believe you can view ads solely for entertainment or enjoyment and not be swayed to buy more?

Photo credit: Campanero Rumbero

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  • We switched from cable to streaming Netflix a little over a year ago. Last birthday & Christmas, when people asked my 3-year-old son what he wanted, he just said “toys”. He even told Santa he wanted “toys”. I think it annoyed some people, bu it made me very proud. This year, he’s taking cues from a book of his, and has said he wants “party hats & balloons”. It’s awesome to be raising children who aren’t conditioned by media to always want.

    • We have Netflix too. We went to a theatre show for kids last week that had characters from tv shows. My son only knew three of the eight characters. Hope to keep him in the dark a bit.
      Although, over here there aren’t any commercials on BBC kids programming. Of course, all of the programs have their own merchandise lines, etc.

    • Cute! I think I first heard about the want, need, wear, read on SimpleMom. Genius. I’ll be using it for when my son is older. My husband and I haven’t done traditional gift giving for a few years. Last year we gifted each other and Henry with a trip to Edinburgh for Christmas. We’ll be home this year (too pregnant to travel) but I haven’t thought about gifts yet. I have thought about Christmas tress, gluten free baking, board games and maybe a little cocktail party for our friends that are staying on the island over the holidays.

      • Last year I felt overwhelmed by my Christmas gift list for 20-30 friends and family. I emailed them all to suggest we forgo Christmas gift giving. I think they, too, were relieved. We still get together at Christmas and enjoy each others company over drinks or a meal, but no Christmas shopping and no additonal clutter we didn’t really want or need. Christmas is so much more enjoyble. It’s good for the bank balance too. Now I concentrate on finding a nice gift for each loved one to celebrate their birthday, it’s much more special and enjoyable than ploughing through a gift list for 20 or 30 people at once.

  • I think that we cannot completely shut ads out of our (and our kids’) lives. I believe more in teaching the kids how to deal with ads. (… my 8-year-old recently had a long conversation with my friend about the pros and cons of marketing…my friend is a brand manager at a huge multi with nearly 20years of marketing experience! :) )

    • “I think that we cannot completely shut ads out of our (and our kids’) lives. ”
      Yes, even if we could, that wouldn’t really address the heart of the issue — our feelings of self worth and the perceived power of things in our lives.

  • I find adverts annoying, so I tend to change channel or mute the TV.
    I never watched many adverts as a child as we mostly watched stuff on the BBC (in the days when four channels were plenty!) and I was not allowed to watch cartoons so I didn’t then want the associated merchandise!
    I remember playing with Lego and other more traditional toys, or getting a bike…best ever present was a let rabbit.

    Anyway, I tend to find that adverts don’t make me want something, but actually playing with it (like a Kindle which I now own one of) might make me want one!

  • We just got a call from our friends who asked if they could join us on our annual family Christmas Trip. They’d been on it with us before we or they had any children. They are both part of very blended families with both sets of both parents being divorced, remarried, (and one several times over) so each year they have 4 or more Christmas celebrations that they are expected to attend and three children that have gotten very greedy and unappreciative. They decided enough was enough, and getting out of town was the best way for them to change up the routine. We are excited to help give them the gift of a fun experience instead of more things they don’t need and probably don’t really even want.
    I’ve always been a very practical person and have been known to give lots of Pajamas as gifts. I know that they aren’t a big hit with the kids, but the parents always appreciate it and I know they are getting used and that makes it worth the strange looks to me.

  • We rent our TV seasons from the library, or stream them occasionally, but I think my biggest downfall is Pinterest. I am often fine with my home, my wardrobe, etc, and then I will see something that makes me want improvement…

  • Your comment about reading books instead of magazines really struck a chord with me. I have always loved magazines, but I have been feeling lately like my home, my appearance, my routines, even my kids are in need of improvement – and it is making me a little depressed! I really think it’s due to the constant magazine reading.

  • “And I think about how I would feel in very expensive denim.” I think that this statement really goes to the heart of the issue. On some level, the advertising industry isn’t really trying to sell “things,” they’re trying to sell the erroneous idea that one can buy a feeling.

  • I too have cut out the catalogs but they sneak back in starting in Sept. for Christmas. I get them from the mailbox and recycle before my kids see them. As far as clothes go if I think I need something new I go to my closet and try to come up with a new combination from what I have and if I still need something I head straight to my local consignment shop. It’s sort of like having a Starbuck’s habit that you need to break. When you are out and about a coffee from Starbuck’s sounds great but making it at home will save you $2-$% depending on your choice of brew and size. It’s called will power that ever evolving character trait.

    • Sometimes I find it more efficient to identify exactly what it is I need clothing-wise and buy it. If I look in places like consignment stores or discount retailers where it’s likely to be hit or miss, I sometimes end up with an item I didn’t actually need, or a compromise that doesn’t quite fit the bill (and still leaves a gap in my wardrobe). I may spend more money initially to get exactly what I need, but in the end I come out ahead in terms of time spent looking, accumulated things, and money.

  • This is so true. Ads are there to persuade us that we need something. It does this by fostering a sense of inadequacy. Unfortunately, even non-ad media like movies and magazine articles feed into this, as well. In addition to reducing our exposure to mass media, we might also need to deal with some heart issues.

  • I had a college professor who taught me to view commercials as marketing execs’ theories of what is currently popular in large parts of the population. Whenever I view ads, I can’t help but think about the thinking that went into their creation. That being said, I know I am affected by the familiarity you start to get with a brand you see often enough to begin to feel comfortable and homey with it.

  • Wow I just saw the picture you posted!! That’s Brussels isn’t it? Is that where you live at the moment? It’s amazing I could recognize that one!!!
    And by the way, totally agree, it’s insanely difficult to escape the want vortex!!!

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