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The Difference Between Wants and Needs in Organizing

04/25/18 | Dana LaRieal Morales

Understanding wants versus needs is an important step on your journey to getting and staying organized. You see, I notice that people often interchange these words, but they shouldn't. Each has a distinctive purpose and meaning.  So let me break this down.

Definition of a Need

When you think of a need, it constitutes something that you absolutely MUST have, because there will be detrimental consequences if you don't have or do it. It's that thing that you don't really have much of a choice in whether you do it or not. I need to pick my daughter up no later than 5:30, because if I don't I will get a hefty fine. Yes I have a choice, but after so many tardy's the school has to take additional action. Another example is that I need to take my medicine. I don't necessarily want to take it, but if I want to reduce the chances of getting sick I need to take it. One final example, is the need to go to work, because if I don't go, I don't make money and ultimately I may lose my job. I think you get the point, so now lets talk about wants.

Definition of a Want

Wants are the most common thing you encounter on a daily basis. Most of what we do and have is because we want it, not because we need it. There is a clear distinction of will you die without it or will you be alright. Will you or someone else face irreparable harm if you don't have, do or get it? In most cases, the answer is no. Think about all the clothes and shoes in your closet and be honest with yourself. Most of those items are wants and not needs. How do I know? Well, back in the day (I know you've heard these stories), your ancestors had one pair of church shoes and one pair of daily shoes and in some cases, they were one in the same. There wasn't a lot of clothing in a woman's wardrobe back in the day. Seriously, the ladies when traveling would carry one small suitcase or one small trunk. If we had to pack up your clothes today just how many suitcases and trunks would you need to travel across the country? Hey, don't give me that look, I'm just the messenger.

The Reality of Want Versus Need

Now that you have a clear understanding between needs and wants, you know that most of what you have in your space, life, soul and business can be characterized as either a want or a need. I would almost guarantee that you are living with more wants than needs right now. I will say I have no problem with that EXCEPT, I am all about purposeful spending and getting to your 20%, so if you haven't done that, it's time. It's time to truly evaluate what you have and deal with it in an appropriate fashion. Start by asking yourself do you need XYZ. Do you need five pairs of black flats? Do you need fifteen pairs of jeans? What about the mountain of backdated magazines in the corner, are you going to really read them?

Identifying Needs vs Wants | The Happiness BucketPurposeful Spending

 Another place where need vs. want comes into play is when you go shopping. After you have gone through the five phases of the organizational roadmap. You will find yourself asking the question, is this a need or a want before you purchase anything. You will be in the realm of purposeful spending, which is when you only shop or buy with a purpose in mind.

To the chagrin of those around me, I have been in the purposeful spending realm for a while. I very rarely go to the mall to just browse or stroll. I typically only go when I have a distinctive need, I purchase it and then leave.

Training Your Children

Many parents struggle with teaching need vs. want to their children because most children want everything they see. One way that I help to address this issue is that we primarily only buy our daughter things on her birthday and at Christmas, and even then it isn't as much as you would think. We are very mindful of what she truly needs versus what she wants. We don't neglect or deprive our daughter of necessities, but we do set boundaries for her. We let her know if you don't really play with it anymore, you probably don't really need it. this is a lesson in progress, but it is something you shouldn't shy away from.

Personal Antidote

My husband and I sat a goal to save money this year. To really focus on some bigger goals we had for our family and all of them required money. Well, last year after the marriage retreat we decided that we wanted to attend the next year because we had a good time and needed that time away as a couple. Well, as the year progressed we realized we really needed to be saving money. We had to weigh the desire to go on the marriage retreat, because the decision to go came down to daycare, time and money.

 In looking at our goals the one thing that kept sticking out was the cost of travelling for the retreat. All in all, we would probably spend close to $400 to attend. We had to weigh this expense against the fact that we had a big family trip we had already committed to going to and we had a surprise expense of having to replace our air conditioner (Need). Now in contemplating this decision, do we have the money to go, technically yes. Do we need to conserve our expenditures knowing the goals we have, yes. Do we want to go yes, but putting it all in perspective do we need to go...NO. It is a hard decision to make but you have to be honest with yourself and figure out what is most important. Well, the argument can be said that we NEED to sow into our relationship...and yes we do...but guess what, our church has marriage classes every Tuesday night. If we NEED it that bad we can find someone to keep our daughter each Tuesday night or at least one Tuesday a month and make a date out of the class and dinner.

The funny thing with this story is that we made the decision to not go on the trip and then it was gifted to us, so we were actually able to go. You see how things work out in the end. Make the right decisions and I promise you, you will be happier for it. Even if we hadn't been gifted the trip, we would have been happy with our decision, because it was what we knew we needed to do to meet the goals we had set for ourselves.

You see when you put things into perspective and provide yourself a roadmap you will see how that dictates and guides your actions. It helps you identify areas where you can make a change in your life and you know the purpose for those changes and decisions.

It does take a little time to get the hang of asking yourself the question, but once you achieve that you will be able to really soar in your organizational journey.