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How to want less–and get more

I read this great post from Hippie in Disguise today. While I really liked her thoughts, something did strike me. Her first resolution for herself is, “Only buy things I actually need, not want.” While that’s a great sentiment, I personally choose not to live that way. After all, minimalism is about having what you need…and what you love. Yes, it’s wise not to run out and buy the latest trends because they’re the latest trends. However, I have decided that I’m not going to stand in my own way when it comes to having things I want.

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See, I worry that minimalism comes off as deprivation to a lot of people. But minimalism isn’t about not getting anything you want—it’s about wanting less. If there’s some item out there that will truly add value to your life, and you can afford it, and it fits into your value system, there isn’t any reason you shouldn’t have it.

On the flip side, as aforementioned, a great goal is to want less. I don’t mean just wanting numerically fewer material possessions, though decluttering and working toward a smaller number of items in your home are always good challenges. What I’m talking about is less wanting. Being able to walk through a store and not desire anything on the racks. Seeing your friends show off their latest purchases and not covet the shiny new things. Feeling completely satisfied with the life, and the items, that you’ve curated.

It’s all well and good to say “Hey, stop wanting stuff!”, but I’m just as human as you are, and I’m completely aware that it’s not as easy as that. So, how can we improve ourselves in pursuit of the goal of wanting less?

  1. Pay attention to what causes the ‘want’ impulse.

When do you find yourself wanting things? Does it only happen when you’re in a mall? Do you feel envious when upgraded versions of things you own are released? Do you find that sales or limited editions make you anxious to buy? When you feel yourself wanting something, note the situation. You might notice a pattern, which can help you form a plan to break the habit—say, buying your necessities at a standalone store instead of one in a mall, in order to avoid temptation.

  1. Ask yourself why.

Once you realize you want something, dig deep and figure out why you want this specific item. Are you bored? Is it because advertisements are telling you that you aren’t good enough without this thing? Even once you think you’ve targeted the reason, don’t stop at “Because he has it” or “Because it’s in style.” Why does being on-trend matter to you? Why is having what others have important to you? Once you have a little practice at this, you’ll be able to discern what things target your superficial urges and what items you want because they actually mean something to you.

  1. Practice gratitude.

When you find yourself looking at something you know you don’t need, take a moment to appreciate the things you have that fill whatever hole you think this new thing will fill. No, you don’t have an iPhone 6s, but your iPhone 4 works great and does what you need. Maybe you don’t have the latest style of jean, but yours are classic and make you feel confident every time you put them on. Think about how lucky you are! Taking a moment during the heat of desire to appreciate the things you’ve thoughtfully chosen to keep will save you from many the impulse buy.

  1. Walk away.

Don’t take a picture of the item. Don’t bring something home because you think you like it. Respect the life you’re creating for yourself, and refuse to let some shiny new thing take up space and disrupt your serene, curated environment and headspace. Know that if you still want it after a week or a month, it’ll be there waiting for you. You’ll be amazed at how often just sleeping on something will wipe the desire for the item right out of your brain.

And finally…

  1. If you love it, get it.

If you give yourself the time to think it over and you still want it, it’s probably worth the purchase (see: our cribbage board). Be discerning, and be confident in your decision, but don’t let the fact that you don’t need something be the only reason why you don’t get something that truly brings something to your life. If you do bring something new that you love home, take advantage of the opportunity to get rid of something you didn’t like as much. This gets you one step closer to being surrounded by the things you use and the things you love—and nothing more.

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While it’s inarguably a wise financial decision to buy only what you need, I personally am using minimalism as a tool to pursue a full, bountiful, joyful life, and advocating for all of you to do the same. In my opinion, you do yourself a disservice if you refuse to let things into your life that make you happy. Of course, like anything else in life, it’s a balancing act. But you officially have my permission to treat yo’self—responsibly, of course.

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One thought on “How to want less–and get more

  1. Great post! I really liked the part about gratitude, especially. When it comes to minimalism I don’t think there is a clear definition, which is why we see people living it differently — although I do think that in general minimalism is about applying a notion of “less is more” to an aspect of your life or your life as a whole. In some cases it purely about needs, in other cases its about “adding value,” in other cases it’s not even about stuff. That’s where I want to end up — minimalism isn’t even about things anymore. I think that ultimately I strive for an existence where no thing, no purchase would “spark joy” or give me a feeling of love. I don’t want to *want* any material things — I want people, connections and life experiences to fill me up with love and joy.

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