Living With Less: Understanding Our Wants and Needs

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Living With Less: Understanding Our Wants and Needs

One of my favourite mantras lately has been to “Live With Less.” Actually applying it to my life however, is not always easy. Our minds are constantly being stimulated and the marketing world makes us think we need much, much more than we really do. Telling us that having more “stuff” makes us more happy….but does it really?

It wasn’t until I began teaching Fashion Takes Action’s youth program, My Clothes My World, that I started to analyze this question. In the classroom, we conduct an activity focussed on identifying our wants versus needs. We have discussions around what is necessary in order to survive compared to what would be considered luxuries. We watch a video about happiness, which always creates a lot of conversation around its relation to how we purchase.

So, does more stuff really make us happier?

It’s evident, even in this simple 2 minute kid-friendly video, that less is more. When we can make conscious choices and purchase less, we build a stronger relationship and connection to the things we buy.

I have also found that with less stuff and clutter, it helps give space for a less chaotic mind as well.

Personally, using techniques to develop consciousness (such as meditation), I’ve improved my ability to slow down the mind, which has positively impacted all other areas of my life. For example, how I react in situations, how I handle relationships and also in how I shop. It has offered me the ability to make more aware and conscious decisions from a place of mindfulness and considering people and planet first.

By being more present, we open ourselves up to conscious thought that shifts us away from the state always feeling the need to have more, more and more.

I’ll share a story that recently helped me realize this.

In July I went to Walmart – if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a large big box retailer you can find in North America selling just about anything you need at super discounted prices. My grandpa needed to pick up a certain prescription from the pharmacy and when we walked by the clothing section, my eyes caught sight of the cutest grey sweater.

Now, I don’t normally shop at Walmart for clothes, but for some reason when I saw this sweater I really felt the desire to own it. Instantly, my mind was racing “Omg it would be perfect with that little black dress and those shoes and even those black jeans and those….” so much excitement thinking of all the perfect outfits this sweater would compliment. I felt a physical sensation rush through my body as my mind screamed ‘I NEED THAT’.

How to Live with Less- Understanding Our Wants and Needs

Then my consciousness stepped in and said, “Hey, wait a sec, where was this made and how much does it cost? What more could we find out about this purchase?” So I checked the price tag, and the $15 ‘Made in China’ sweater were the first visual aids that allowed more awareness to rush in.

Now instead of my initial ‘I need that’ response, my conscious was asking, “Who made it and how much were they paid? And do I really NEED this?” The answer was no. But the impulsive me said ‘yes you do!’ That feel good feeling of satisfaction after a purchase – that’s what my impulsive me was seeking. That’s ultimately what we as humans crave when we shop.

You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.” – Dallin H. Oaks

That Walmart moment taught me so much about wants and needs. Without even realizing it, we are unconsciously consuming to achieve these feel good states that are only temporary. When that feeling goes away, we usually move on to wanting or spending on something else.

What if we all made more conscious choices?

So in August I tried something new. I travelled to Italy for 22 days and decided I would pack extremely light. I had read a few articles about planning capsule wardrobes for trips, which intrigued me and convinced me so I decided to give it a try.

Cassandra Ciarallo visited Rome, Italy and witnessed the colosseum

Living With Less- Understanding Our Wants and Needs

I always over pack because I want to be prepared for every weather and event scenario that can possibly arise. I had never ever packed so lightly before.

It was exciting but also nerve-wracking to try something so new. I was so curious to have a taste of what this capsule wardrobe was all about and learn to live with such a small simple travel wardrobe.

So this is what I packed:

5 tops (4 tank tops and 1 tee)
2 pairs of pants
2 dresses
2 skirts
1 pair of shorts
1 long sleeve top
1 sweater
1 shawl
2 bathing suit cover ups
2 bathing suits
3 pairs of shoes
My accessories (my fav Chic Made Consciously gear of course 🙂

My experience was one that left me very intrigued to learn more.

I almost always wore two outfits each day whilst I was in Italy. One for the day and another for evenings as the warm temperatures meant I needed changing out of sweaty clothes.

Even then, for a three-week trip, I definitely packed enough clothes. Thinking back now, if the weather was cooler I could probably have packed even lighter. Analysing the usage of each item, there were about three items that I still only wore once!

The minimal-ish mindset to my travel wardrobe also applied to my travel shopping habits. This trip was the first time I travelled for as long as I did and only purchase myself ONE thing. That is quite the achievement because the circumstances were not in my favor: I travelled with my grandma to her hometown in Italy, and she loves to shop. We went from market to market. and each time my grandmother would look at my incredulously at the fact that I didn’t want to buy anything.

“But it’s only 10 euros, I’ll buy it for you,” she would say. I’m simultaneously surprised and proud of myself for not giving in.

So based on my recent minimalist travel adventure, here are my top tips and take-aways on travelling (and living) with less:

1. Less stuff = Peace of mind.

With less stuff I felt much more of clear mind. Why? Less space taken up thinking about what to wear or considering my daily outfits. As I am totally one that is consumed by what to wear, trying on multiple outfits until I feel comfortable. It never took me more than five minutes to get dressed for any time of day. It opened up space in my mind and reduced stress around what to wear or planning outfits so I could enjoy my travel experience more.

2. Less stuff = Being creative.

Not shopping encourages creativity: Accessorizing is key. I had my own accessories so used these to add spice to my outfit and you can do the same. Also, being able to wear one item in a variety of ways. For example, I had one dress that I wore as a tube dress, a skirt and accessorised with a belt.

3. Less stuff = More appreciation.

With less things, you value your items more. You learn to make a real connection with these items and and because of this, you also take better care of them.

Related Post: How to Become a Minimalist in 7 Simple Steps

Living with less means you appreciate your items more. Capsule wardrobe

4. Less stuff = Increased consciousness.

With your mind less cluttered from shopping and the ‘I want that’ thoughts, you have more time to live in the moment. You also become more self-aware and when you do find something you really like, you’re also more inclined to consciously think through your purchases and your self-talk changes. Instead of stating what you want, you ask yourself: Do I really need this new thing? Or do I really just want it?

Remember perfectionism isn’t the goal. It’s about evolving. I am learning more everyday about how we as consumers have an impact on the world around us. Learning to change our habits can bring more harmony and encourage a more sustainable life. By cutting down our excessive and compulsive behaviour and living with less brings incredibly rewarding effects to our well-being, relationships, finances as well as the environment.

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