General ramblings

Need Vs Want

I rarely venture into large towns these days. There is just no need. I can find most of things I want amongst the charity shops of my local town.
However, last week, I found myself walking up Winchester High St, gazing in the shop windows full of clothes, and homewares, and even the start of some Christmas displays, and I was surprised to find that the ‘stuff’ had lost it’s appeal. If I’m being 100% truthful, the lure of Fat Face woollies and White Stuff skirts was still pretty strong even a year ago, but now it’s pretty much gone. Going back a couple of years, I definitely would still have felt a slight sense of some kind of loss, of deprivation, that I was denying myself these treasures. But now, not so much.
And that in itself was quite a realisation. And a chance to reflect on just how far I have come on my journey towards more conscious consumption.

And then my eye was drawn to a window display that made me do a double take.
In the window of the Cath Kidston shop, alongside the floral bags, and the homewares, emblazoned on the window, was the hashtag #INEEDITBECAUSE.
Even without doing any research into the advertising campaign, I got it.
I understood the message that the advertisers were putting out there:
You need this bag, or that bag, or even the other bag. Yes, you may already have that other bag, but you NEED this bag.
Because it will make you feel better; it will look good; your life will be complete when you have this bag (or the other bag, or that other pair of shoes).
It’s kind of saying that it’s ok to buy another bag. It’s giving you permission. Even if you already have one that’s really similar. Even if you can’t really afford it.
It’s ok to buy another bag.
Because you need it.

Actually you don’t.
No one needs a new bag.
We need food, and water, and shelter. Human interaction, friends, love and laughter. Resilience, and strength. Courage and compassion and kindess. Good times, and good people around us.
None of that can be found in a bag.

No one needs a new bag. I am sure that we could all make do with something we already had.
Lots of people might want a new bag. And that’s a very different thing.
It took me longer than it should it should have done during My Make Do and Mend Year, to realise that the majority of my needs, were actually wants.
And do you know what? That’s ok.
It’s ok to want new stuff. I would go as far as to say that it seems to be part of the human condition to constantly be wanting new things.
But I have found that once I acknowledge that it’s a want, and not a need, I am able to make a more conscious decision about how much I want it.
Do I want it enough to not really care about where it is made, what it is made from, who has made it, and what will happen to it after I grow bored with it?
And most of the time, I don’t.

I think it’s really interesting to stop for a moment and consider how different the impact of #INEEDITBECAUSE might be, if just one word was changed: #IWANTITBECAUSE.
It suddenly has a whole different context.
We are somehow led to believe that wanting things is wrong. Maybe it stems from that whole toddler “I WANT” thing, I don’t know.
But if you need it, well that’s entirely different. Of course you can have it if you need it….

It’s ok to want stuff.
What I have learned (and it’s taken a while) is that it’s ok to want stuff, but you need to consciously want it, and then make a deliberate decision to buy it.
We need to stop and think about what we are buying: whether it’s a want or a need. And if it’s a want, then maybe we just wait a day or two, and maybe that want, that desire for a quick hit of retail therapy will lessen. And maybe sometimes we won’t buy it. Because we choose not to.
We choose to have less ‘stuff’, and more money in our pockets.
And we have made a conscious choice about who we give our money to. About the world we are creating when we spend our money (or not).
That can only be a good thing.



(Visited 610 times, 1 visits today)


  • Reply LOVINGLY MADE LTD December 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    As always, a great read and so insightful to our needs and wants. One of the questions I try to ask myself is exactly what you’ve said: do I need it or do I want it?
    It’s a really important question for us all…x

    • Reply Jen December 17, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks Trixie!

  • Reply Susie - secondhandsusie.blogsp October 17, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I so needed to read that!! I’ve only bought second hand clothes this year and a couple of fairtrade bits, apart from last week when I had a wobble when I saw a bag advertised in a magazine, and it wanted and then bought it (it’s a beautiful yellow, Jane Foster lion bag), it’s making me happy, but at the same time it goes against everything I usually believe in. Sigh.

    • Reply Jen November 5, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Don’t beat yourself up Susie. It makes you happy, and you’ve recognised the whole ‘want’ thing. Lucy Siegle reckons that you should only buy something if you will wear it 30 times. It sounds like you will get at least 30 ‘wears’ out of your bag!

  • Reply Workshopshed October 17, 2015 at 9:53 am

    I don’t frequent charity shops that often other than to delivering a pile of books. I buy my books from online second hand dealers for pretty much the cost of the postage. Libraries rarely have the things I read.

    • Reply Jen November 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      Hey Andy
      Do you have any recommendations for second hand book dealers. I try to avoid Amazon, although their marketplace can be good for 2ndhand books, and sometimes struggle to find what I want elsewhere secondhand.

  • Reply Mel October 15, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Hi Jen, YES! I agree… has taken me to get to nearly 41 to share your sentiments..but I am glad to be on the way to the same place. Although I still always check out (but never buy!) the White Stuff sale online….! My little girl is nearly 4 and when we passed my favourite high street charity shop this week, we went into together and I was so chuffed to find a little red dress in her size (so was she) and so her party attire is all ready for this weekend! She calls it our dress shop. I hope it sticks, I want a something different for her and for her to invest in life that does distinguish between want and need and to gain fulfilment from what really matters in the short time we have to make a difference.
    Ps. Thanks for posting ideas for 1min birthday games and the fab cake! This came into my inbox just in time to save me from the ‘help….the birthday has arrived and what on earth are we going to do’ moment! I am sure your boys had a fab time!
    Pps keep inspiring with your updates on makedoandmend….I always look forward to reading them x

    • Reply Jen November 5, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Mel
      Thanks so much for your very lovely comments! Sounds like you are giving your daughter the best possible start on a path to conscious consumption as she gets older.
      Hope your birthday party went well!

    Leave a Reply