“Wha wha whaaaa wha whaaa wha whaa” On a recent trip to the store I had an epiphany:  just like Charlie Brown, this is all my daughter hears from me as I schlep down the aisles behind her AAAgain trying to impart on her my brilliant nuggets of wisdom with utopian hopes of eternally ceasing her deliberate and exceedingly tactical onslaught of “mommy look at this, mommy can I have this, mommy I want this, mommy I need this, mommy this would be great for my birthday, mommy this is SQUIRREL!”.   To her there is no disparity between to need and or not to need (Ay, there’s the rub) thus proving it nonsensical and futile on my part to persist in waxing soliloquously on the ponderances of the nobler in mind.

So when does the reality of the consequences of wanting all things all the time kick in?  or does it?  How can some people so casually deny themselves while others luxuriate in the euphoria that comes from a great deal or the ability to rescue an item from certain demise?  Where is the happy medium between austere minimalism and heavy content and how do we get there?

First and foremost we must understand the difference between need and want.  In a nutshell, a need is anything that keeps you alive – air, water, food, shelter (and gummy worms according to my daughter) – a want is anything beyond that.  Knowing this, when faced with the opportunity to acquire something, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does my life depend on it?
  2. Would my health or safety be at risk without it?
  3. Is this item critical to my work or employment?
  4. Is this item essential to my financial security and wellbeing?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then the item is a need.

If you answer no, the item is a want so ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I have the space to have a place for it?
  2. Is this an item that does not already exist in my home?
  3. Can I afford it?
  4. Am I able to put this item to immediate use?

If you answer yes to all of these questions, then carry on my wayward son. There’ll be peace when you are done.

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Questions adapted from: Steketee, G., & Frost, R.O. (2007). Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring. New York: Oxford University Press.