Thursday, October 07, 2010

I want vs. I need

As my year of no shopping begins to draw to a close I have really been contemplating needs versus wants.  The past six months of my life have been nothing but stripping me from my wants and putting me into my basic needs.  Things that I thought were needs, were really just wants dressed up as needs, but when the layers were removed... all I had was a bunch of things that in the end weren't that important in the first place.  My story of this transformation goes back further than just the flood.  The flood was a catalyst to losing a lot of crutches I was holding on to too tightly.  I did not need to get all my debt paid off as soon as possible.  I wanted to pay off all my debt as soon as possible, I instead needed money to cover the expenses of moving, holding my things in storage, and covering my food costs.*  I did not need to live in a charming house in Sylvan Park, I wanted to live in a great neighborhood in my perfectly painted room, but I needed a place to live that was touched by the flood waters.  I did not need to blog to show off how cute I was dressing and how I was holding it all together despite dire circumstances, I wanted to (by the way I wasn't holding it all together)... but I needed to feel loved, cared for, and supported by my friends, family and complete strangers.  I didn't need a job that payed exceptionally well, I wanted one... but instead I need to make enough money to pay off my bills and even if I didn't, I saw the provision of my friends and family pour in, when my measly income barely met my most basic of needs.

The phrase "I need" is often used while shopping and in fashion.  A few examples are:

"I need a good pair of skinny jeans."
"I need to lose this little poochie tummy."
"I need a dress for my birthday party."
"I need some new pairs of tights, all of mine are drab."

All of these phrases have come out of my mouth at least once this week, if not more.  If you go back and read on my blog, you will find these phrases sprinkled throughout.  I am so guilty of using the phrase I need over and over again when these phrases are more properly expressed by saying "I want."

"I want a pair of J. Brand Skinny Jeans because everyone talks about how amazing they are, but I'll probably settle for a pair of the Gap Jeggings."
"I want to have a flat stomach, but I should first start off with getting back to my regular work out routine."
"I want an awesome dress for my birthday party, but I can make an awesome dress for my birthday party."
"I want some new pairs of tights, because all of mine are drab and I want more color on my gams."

With the phrase "I want..." we can be more honest about our fashion choices, instead of making them out to be this mythical decision.  One thing that my friend Krystin pointed out in a blog post about me the other day (which totes made me cry like a baby... I was also watching Glee while reading it which also made me cry like a baby), was an experience I have had all too often.  Standing in front of your closet, frustrated, upset, close to tears and you scream, "I have nothing to wear!"

When you are given the chance to take a step back and look at your closet for what it really is, you see so many possibilities instead of seeing so many limitations.  Can you believe that there is stuff in my closet that I still want to wear after a year of wearing so much of the same thing?  Even today as I'm typing this, I'm wearing the same blue shirt dress that I have worn so many times this year because I love it.  Even though during the month of not having a place to live, I wore this dress at least six times. 

I wonder if instead of buying clothing simply based out of frustration with the clothing we already have or buying things for the thrill, or the novelty, or to cure boredom, or to celebrate... if we really assessed and took time with our purchases and what we wore... how much less of a headache we would have getting dressed in the morning.  Believe it or not, I still love the clothes in my closet.  I love the pieces that I have worn once a week.  I love the pieces that fit a little funny but I still make them work. 

And the things is, I'm not a super human with crazy will power.  I am the woman who has been so lazy, that everyday this week I have gone home and sat on my couch instead of washing my dishes, putting away my clothes, taking out my trash, cleaning my whole house, exercising , and ate $5 pizza instead of making myself dinner.  When it comes to willpower... mine is not that spectacular.  Where I exceed in not buying clothing, I fail in so many other ways.  And ya know... I'm really really okay with that. 

When I stop and look at everything that has happened... I am so thankful that my most basic needs have been met, some exceedingly.  My heart starts beating so fast, and I get a knot in my throat just thinking of the raw, honest conversations I have had with friends and family not just about what I'm going through.  No, its not just been me having a hard time... but with everyone in my life.  I am so thankful to be able to be a shoulder to cry on, instead of hiding behind a sales receipt.  I have been able to express emotions in a healthy thoughtful manner instead of suppressing them with pretty pretty pants.  I have also been able to walk beside friends and family through muck.

I have been putting off blogging these past few days because, like I've said, I have been sooo unmotivated.  I still am.  I'm hopeful though.

So ladies (and men too)... we don't need new clothing.  We want new clothing.  And its okay to want... you just should want things for the right reasons.  Shopping shouldn't be there to fill a void.  It is such a privilege for us to be able to afford the luxury of having more than two shirts and one pair of shoes.  A purchase should not be regretted, but should be wallowed in goodness and joy... and because you wanted to.

Flannel shirt: Roxy
Pencil skirt: hand me down, Banana Republic
Gold lion belt: thrifted
Shoes: Dillard's clearance

*Speaking of budgets very quickly.  Ironically, it wasn't the fact that I had paid off a large chunk of one of my credit cards before the flood and before I lost my job... a simple $500 emergency fund is what kept me sane.  Knowing that I had that seriously kept me from absolutely losing my marbles.  Seriously, best piece of advice I could ever get or give... save money and do not touch it unless you ya know... NEED to.


  1. amen sister. I love how honest you are. And gray and plaid? bliss.

  2. This entry was A+.

  3. Wow, such an amazing post Alyson. Thanks for sharing part of your journey and these wonderful and honest bits of wisdom.

  4. What a delightful post. Thank you for your honesty. I too am trying to stop all this unnecessary shopping that I have been doing lately. Thank you for your take on it.

    Great unexpected outfit.

  5. Love your blog! I hope you will visit or follow mine:)

  6. perfectly written and so very true. I am still struggling with want vs need but its concept that a lot of people have difficultly with. Work in progress is my name. Great post

  7. Great post Alyson! I am also not good with the need vs want but I'm working on it. Thanks for being such a great inspiration!

  8. I love this post so much. I often try to remind myself of this but I am def not perfect and constantly give in to the pitfalls of "want vs need"... I think when I feel one of those moments come on I will come back here and reread this to remind myself. :)

  9. I only have like 5 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of shoes, and a dozen shirts. I got rid of most of my wardrobe before moving to Chattanooga from Portland. I need new clothes, but I don't want them. Maybe we could have a fashion show give away, where men and women who are not fashionistas or models, can sport people's, designer's, model's donated outfits, and then take them home. It would be a great way to clothe starving artists with left over or rarely used outfits.

    "Recycle Your Fashion Show"

    What do you think?

    I think that there are so many cool kids who are "money challanged" like myself, and so many "fashionistas" with blogs and extensive wardrobes, in Chattanooga, that we could have a great show.

    Let me know.

  10. your hair's beautiful

  11. Belt twins!

    Really cute outfit!



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