I Have Everything I Need

At times, I find, it can be beneficial to use the promise of a purchase to prod oneself forward.

I tend to do this with upgrades to the tools I use: I tell myself that once I hit a certain milestone, achieve a certain ambitious goal, that I’ll swap out my old microphone with that fancy-pants, higher-tier one I’ve been eyeballing, or I’ll invest in a new chef’s knife once I’ve mastered a collection of new recipes and proven to myself that a more pro-grade utensil won’t be wasted on me.

I find that setting such goals and putting some distance between my present desire to buy some whizzbang new whatever, and the potential act of purchasing it, gives me the mental space to consider whether it would actually justify the price paid for it: the hours of my life, the attention and energy I’ve expended to earn the money I might exchange for this theoretical acquisition.

I also find, though, that it can be valuable to periodically do the opposite: rather than using my latent desire to consume as a productivity-prod, I attempt to derail that drive completely—at least for a time.

I typically think of these chunks of time as my “I Have Everything I Need” vacations, because my policy during these periods is to just say, out loud, when I find myself thinking about how nice it would be to have X, Y, or Z, “I have everything I need.”

One trick I’ve figured out along the way is that such periods are easiest to implement—for me, at least—after having solved some kind of problem with a (usually quite small) acquisition or upgrade so I can kick off a two-monthlong I Have Everything I Need vacation with a tiny victory: installing blackout curtains in the bedroom, finding the perfect, tiny little lamp to fill that shadowy void in the corner of my living room that bugs me every single day; something along those lines.

Fixing a persistent issue that adds friction to my day injects me with a burst of “job well done”-style enthusiasm, and I can usually ride that wave for a good, long while without running into the usual “Oh but now I want this other thing” barriers, because of how nice it feels to just enjoy life as it already is, that tiny upgrade illuminating and magnifying all the wonderful things about my existing setup.

That step won’t be necessary for everyone, and it’s absolutely possible to opt for a purchase-free period without it; in many cases that’s actually more ideal.

But I find such a tweak typically sparks newfound appreciation for what I’ve already got, making that segue effortless. My living room now has proper lighting and the space feels new and spiffy, and all the things that were already there, likewise, now exhibit the glimmer of novelty.

Some important caveats:

Consumables like groceries don’t fit within this schema. It’s a method of fending off the type of persistent procurement-longings that regularly result in our buying things we don’t particularly want or need, but which have been sold to us in clever and pernicious ways.

Food, in contrast, is something that we generally require to survive.

It also doesn’t work as well in the midst of a lifestyle upheaval.

I decided to set up a home base here in the US two months ago, for instance, and if I had attempted this reframing approach right after moving into an empty flat in Milwaukee, without a bed to sleep on or a desk to work at, I could have technically survived in such a space but it would have made little sense to do so when I could have gotten so much more out of my new home by making some intentional investments (after that simple batch of infrastructure was in place, though, it was relatively easy convincing myself to take some time off from buying stuff).

Most of us, much of the time, are already in pretty good situations when it comes to our possession-based infrastructure. We could stop buying stuff for a while and be perfectly fine with what’s already there, despite what almost every voice and message in our social and economic environments are telling us.

Do we have everything we could possibly want?

Almost certainly not: the nature of our economy is (currently) predicated (to the point of dependence) on keeping us consuming, so it’s unlikely that any of us will ever feel absolutely sated in that regard.

So it’s not a personal failing to feel that desire, it’s an understandable inclination.

But there are things we can do to moderate those inclinations if we choose to do so, and honing an arsenal of habits or tricks that help diminish their near-compulsive power makes such moderation a whole lot easier to implement and maintain.

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