Needs Vs. Wants

February 13, 2012

From the book Voluntary Simplicity, by Duane Elgin:

“For example, we need shelter in order to survive; we may want a huge house with many extra rooms that are seldom used.  We need basic medical care; we may want cosmetic plastic surgery to disguise the fact that we are getting older.  We need functional clothing; we may want frequent changes in clothing style to reflect the latest fashion.  We need a nutritious and well-balanced diet; we may want to eat at expensive restaurants.  We need transportation; we may want a new Mercedes.  Only when we are clear about what we need and what we want can we begin to pare away the excess and find a middle path between extremes.  Discovering this balance in everyday life is central to our learning, and no one else can find it for us.” (p. 100)

We’re facing a large “need versus want” situation in our kitchen.  Our stove is original to the house, which means it’s sticking out like a 25-year-old black-and-stainless-steel sore thumb in the middle of our bright, cheery, white-appliance room.  But it still works, so we’ve been using it.  It runs warm, however, so using it entails a lot of checking and double-checking baked goods, and sometimes entails completely starting over on a ruined “fill-in-the-blank.”  (Ask my daughter about the birthday cupcakes we were making for school.)  But it does work.  The front burner is very temperamental; I’d say it works 95% of the time if you pay attention and stop to plug it in just right.  It did stop working completely recently, until I discovered my husband using it, so apparently it’s working again, though not dependably.  (Do you see where I’m going with this?)  But the stove does, technically, work.  And every evening, as I’m wiping down the kitchen, I think about how after fifteen years of cleaning electric burner drip pans, I really want a smooth-top range—but aha!  There’s that word “want!”  Do we really need a new stove, if this one “technically” works?

Well, yes, I think I’m finally coming around to realize that we do, in fact, need a new stove.  The hassles of dealing with this one are beginning to overtake the functionality of it.  When my daughter is giving me hugs to try to make mommy happy because the cupcakes are ruined but need to be at school in the morning; when I’ve waited—and waited—for the water to boil, only to realize the burner isn’t even working; it’s starting to encroach on the smooth running of the household.  Having a not-decrepit looking piece of equipment sitting in my kitchen would definitely be a nice side benefit.  (When the realtor selling this house took photos of the kitchen, she carefully positioned herself so the kitchen island blocked all evidence of the stove.)  A smooth-top range?  Definitely a “want” over a “need,” but by researching prices carefully and thinking about ease of cleanup on a regular basis it seems like it could be a fairly practical want.  (I’m not seeking out a high-end chef’s oven for my seriously lacking culinary skills—I just want something that wipes down easily.)

Until we finally decide to commit to making a purchase, however, I will continue to use my “technically working” stove and hope for the best.  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”  I plan on making do for a while longer.

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