Principle 1: Needs vs. Wants
Make a sharp distinction between true needs and mere wants, because there are consequences for excessive indulgence of wants.
If you’re just getting started with simplicity, this is the easiest principle to understand.
Simplicity implies distancing yourself from the consumerism and materialism of the modern industrialized and technological world, a world where making money and accumulating possessions is equated with “the good life.”
All of us experience firsthand the sad effects of…blind submission to pure consumerism: in the first place, a crass materialism, and at the same time, a radical dissatisfaction, because one quickly learns…that the more one possesses the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled.
A wise friend succinctly paraphrased the quote above: “Consumerism leaves the consumer empty.”
The principle of Needs vs. Wants applies not only to the choices we make as consumers (how to spend our money) but to the choices we make regarding the use of our other personal resources:
- how to spend our time
- how to spend (and expend) our energy
- what to pay attention to
- how to arrange our living space
- how to use our gifts
Questions for reflection:
Am I considering a purchase right now? Is the item I’m thinking of buying a need or a want?
One of the consequences of consumerism is a paradoxical sense of emptiness. What are other consequences of excessively indulging our wants?
List the things in which you currently invest your resources of time, money, energy, and living space. Which are needs? Which are wants? Which are extravagances or selfish indulgences?
Can you bring yourself to eliminate—right now—anything on the list that is an extravagance or selfish indulgence? Can you eliminate any wants?
 Pope John Paul II, On Social Concern (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis), December 30, 1987, no. 28