Simplify, Simplify: 10 Things We Don't Actually Need

The other day I caught this TV show called My Fair Wedding about a Hollywood wedding planner who sweeps in to save middle-class brides from their cheap weddings. As I watched him lecture a bride about how she shouldn’t settle for a less-than perfect dress, how it’s “bad etiquette” not to serve the most expensive drinks to guests, and how she needed to ditch her homemade centerpieces for the “right” floral arrangements at $500 a pop, I got to thinking about how, in our consumer-driven culture, we are easily convinced that we NEED things we don’t actually need

Rarely is this more obvious than at Christmastime, when even the most idealistic of us cave in to the relentless desire to buy, buy, buy.  I finished up my holiday shopping yesterday, and at every single store I was asked by the cahier if I wanted to get a store credit card and save ten percent.  Every time I said no, the guy or girl behind the checkout counter looked a little horrified.  “You don’t want to save ten percent?” they would ask with their eyebrows raised.

By the end of the day, I’d spent hundreds of dollars on people I love and care for very much, who are probably simultaneously spending lots of money one me and Dan because they love and care for us very much...and yet I’m pretty sure that all of us are feeling a little panicky about our bank accounts right about now.

How did this happen? Who told us that all of this was necessary?

From wedding planners, to retailers, to economists, to Oprah—the voices telling us to spend more money are getting louder and louder, despite the bad economy.

Given enough time, I can convince myself that I NEED all kinds of things I don’t actually need—upgraded exercise equipment (for my health), a boatload of new books (for research), games for our Wii console, (to justify the initial purchase of the Wii console), a new kitchen (for entertaining guests), and Starbucks-brand chocolate truffles, (for my sanity). I know that none of this stuff will actually make me happy...or skinny, or smart, or sane...but I still feel like I NEED it.

Knowing that I don’t is both freeing and scary.

With this in mind, here’s a list of ten things we think we need, but probably don’t. (Honestly, I own many of these things myself.) What else can you think of, and what are you doing to simplify your life this holiday season?

  1. Over 100 TV stations...or any TV stations for that matter, I suppose
  2. Wardrobes that keep up with ever-changing trends
  3. Three bedroom, two bathroom houses with living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, and dens
  4. A new cell phone every twelve to twenty-four months
  5. Things from Wal-Mart
  6. Weddings that put young couples (or their parents) into debt
  7. Snacks
  8. Gym memberships (which would become even less necessary with the removal of snacks!)
  9. Moisturizers and beauty products that promise to make us look like 16-year-old models
  10. Wrapping paper (okay, so I've had a rough week with some oddly shaped packages

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