The Fear of Needing

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I’ve written quite a bit recently about making the choice to live simpler and eradicating unnecessary distractions. Just to reinforce, the choice isn’t meant to be restrictive – quite the contrary. The choice to deal with less is meant to be empowering. Proving you can do without all of the unnecessary items and unneeded “noise”.

While I’ve been dumping off my fair share of items in the past few months, one fear that I’ve consistently run into is the fear of “needing”.

What if I need that particular item?

Will I miss having it around?

What about that one time…?

The questions will run through your mind as you try to eradicate items from your life. We’ve grown accustom to having extra “things” around so the thought of ditching them can be quite scary. Is this normal? I think so.

Two of the main reasons that we buy particular items are to fill a void and to obtain a feeling of importance. When buying a new item either online or in-stores, you undoubtedly feel a bit giddy, especially if that something is a special item. So, with those reasons in mind, it’s natural to feel nervous about letting those items go.

Do You Need It?

The real purpose of marketing – the reason for its entire existence – is to make you feel like you need a product. Marketing is meant to make a product or company seem attractive to its intended audience, and if these feelings of attachment to items are any indication, it works quite well.

It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t simply reach into your pocket to find directions to virtually any place on a map. Or, when a simple few taps and clicks couldn’t begin playing any song you want to hear. New examples of modern conveniences are absolutely everywhere. But, it’s important to realize that, at one point, you got by just fine without them.

I remember printing off MapQuest directions from my computer prior to taking a long drive, and I remember arriving just fine every time. I also remember burning CDs (seems like ancient history) and having to carefully choose the songs to fit under the CD limit. When MP3s came out with the capability to put a hundred or so songs on a single disc, it blew my mind. Now, I can fit thousands of songs onto a device that’s no bigger than a pack of gum.

Do these devices and advances make life easier? Hell yes. But, are they absolutely necessary? Probably not.

Just like everyone else, I’m a sucker for product advertisements demonstrating cool new features. Some I find unbelievable while others are just plain entertaining. Most times, I’m left with the feeling that I’m somehow inferior without that particular device. At that time, it’s important to remind myself of the real, tangible things that matter: my fiancee, my family and friends, two furry friends that couldn’t be more excited to see me everyday, etc – not items that need recharging at the end of the night.

But What If…

I recently made the decision to sell an extra laptop I had lying around simply because I thought two laptops was a bit much when one could do the job perfectly. It’s hard (and somewhat embarrassing) to describe the thoughts and feelings that went through my head when I sold it off.

Fear? Regret?

I remember almost revoking the decision and holding onto the extra computer “for emergencies”. Then, I began to think I was pretty damn crazy.

How many “emergencies” have come up in the past five years that would require another laptop? I couldn’t think of one.

But, this would require me to cart my current laptop to and from work rather than having one there permanently. Terrible excuse at best.

What if my current computer crashed? That’s what I have Apple Care for.

In the end, I tried to continually think of excuses, but the issue boiled down to the fear of letting an item go. More often than not, the connections that we build with items in our lives are exceptionally strong. The clothes you buy and love become part of you. The car you have, the electronics you own, the accessories you hoard – they often times become too important. The emotional attachment is too strong. When we go to break ties, it takes us out of our comfort zone. Getting rid of cable? Impossible – what about the show you love that comes on Monday nights? Ditching WI-FI at home? Seems unfathomable.

These excuses continually cloud our judgement and make items seem more important than they really are. But, at the end of the day, they’re just that – excuses. Giving up items can be exceptionally hard – particularly if you’ve had them for a long time. However, making the choice to dump them can be very liberating and empowering.

Living With Purpose

This is one of a string of posts I’ve written about living minimally. As usual, I tend to write about ideas and thoughts that are going through my head at the current moment. Minimalism has been at the top of my mind. However, I want to reinforce that they purpose of these posts is not to encourage you to live with nothing. Quite the contrary. I still love my MacBook Pro Retina even though it’s far more powerful than I’ll ever need. I recently bought a Kindle (after selling one off a few months back) because I just enjoy reading on e-readers much more than regular books. The point is not to deny yourself modern luxuries. That’s completely moronic.

Instead, the point is to focus on the experience rather than the items and products. I ditched my GPS/HR/iPod combo because it was making running far more complicated than it needed to be. I switched from an iPad to a basic Kindle because I wanted the device for reading – not checking emails and surfing the web. I dumped clothes not because I didn’t like them but because it seemed unnecessary to have so many.

Eliminating clutter has provided more room for focus and enjoyment of the things, relationships, and time that I do have. It’s not about self-depravation as much as it is about turning your attention to the experience rather than the accumulation of items. Items don’t make the experience – the people, places, and adventures do. Strip away unnecessary “things”, and you’ll have more time for the adventures that matter.

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