Want or Need?

This past week before the kids went back to school, I did the “Annual Purge”. We go through all their clothes, hand down the sizes, and go through all the bins. It is quite a production. With three girls still living at home, there are a lot of clothes and shoes to go through, hand down, and donate. We do this before we go school clothes shopping, so we know what they need and what they want.

We have so much. Sometimes kids have a hard time deciphering between want and need. Many times adults have the same struggle. We buy things we think we need, but we really just want. It is amazing when we start to clean out drawers, closets, and shelves how much we have.

I know several families who have so many things that they can’t even park in their garage. Why do we think we need to keep buying when we don’t even have the room to store what we already have? Do you have so much stuff that you have to park outside of your garage? Is your garage just a place to store all those things you just couldn’t live without?

Don’t get me wrong, I love to indulge and I love to pamper myself and my family…but when we grow up believing, and therefore teaching our kids, that we should have anything and everything…we then acquire a sense of entitlement…that is when our wants appear to be needs. Do you want or need?

When my 21 year old daughter was in her teens she was displaying a sense of entitlement. I shipped her off to China with my mom for a 9 day vacation, aka “reality check”. She had to eat food that was not to her liking, she saw poverty beyond anything she had witnessed, and she saw people bathing in the same water that they were using to eliminate themselves. She really got a dose of reality. She came home truly appreciating living in Scottsdale, Arizona. She had a new-found appreciation for the difference between wants and needs.

My second daughter is now 15 and my mom and I are planning her “vacation” for next year…maybe they will head to Mozambique or some other poverty-stricken country. I think we all need to take a step back and appreciate what we have and really think about what we want versus what we need. Maybe we need to give more, instead of collecting things. Maybe we need to volunteer more and help others who are living right in our own backyard; those who can’t buy want they need, let alone what they want.

Take Action: This week and moving forward, let’s really consider what it is we need. Do we really need that such-and-such; or could we use that money to help someone who is in fact struggling? Let’s teach our children the difference. Let’s purge our closets, shelves, and clean up those garages…some people would die to have all those things we are storing. Plus…then you can park in your garage!

Because Together is Better,


  1. I am SO totally into the more you need is less! We do the same with purging of cloths and donating items. The phrase I’ve used to help my kids understand the difference between needs and wants is telling them that needs are not negotiable, wants are. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love this post! It really hits the spot!

  2. Deanna, I so love the idea of ‘ vacation’ to let your daughters learn about the world. And to teach them to see how wealthy they truly are. Bravo!

  3. I totally agree with you Deanna! I just move to a new place, nice house and all old stuff I did throw away, now everything is clean again. Strange how many things we have we do not really need.

  4. I shipped my daughter off to Greece when she was 13…like your daughter in China, it was an eye opening experience and I don’t think she ever looked at what she thought she was entitled to the same way…ever. I also used to do the back to school purge and clear everything out. I found it particularly useful with my youngest stepson because too much stuff left him in a complete state of overwhelm. His room often looked as if a tornado had vomitted. So, together, he and I cleared his clutter (oh my! clutter???? YIKES!) and I left him with 7 shirts, 7 pairs of pants, underwear, socks, 3 pairs of shoes, and that was pretty much it. His last year in high school I told everyone he maintained the cleanest room in the house. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Peggy, thank you for sharing your story! I agree that it is easy to become overwhelmed when we have too much “stuff”. You are a good mom! -Deanna

  5. Oh my!!!! You must have been eavesdropping upon my conversation with my adult daughter today as I shared how we must learn the difference between “wants” and “needs.” It is so easy to get the two confused in our society of “things.”

    It begins with changing our perspective. I love this post as it reminds us that as we ask ourselves two simple questions we can help ourselves in many ways.

    Thank your for addressing a great topic. By the way, “I need purging, wanna visit!” Smile!!!!

  6. Thanks for a lovely post on an important topic… it’s so easy to lose perspective and confuse the two. Since settling the “big pieces” from our recent long distance move, we have a permanent “donations for the thrift store” box in a corner. Lightening the load feels wonderful.

  7. This is so bang on, Deanna. At least once a year we go through clothes and everything else and donate what we no longer need. A year ago I had planned to move to Australia and let go of a lot of things I’d collected over the years. And although i didn’t go, I’ve never missed a single item from any of the multitude of boxes i donated!

  8. Sometimes, we misprioritize between wants and needs. Thanks for your insight.

  9. Replacing your needs with wants in your life you happy and less depedent on material things for happiness.

  10. Great story! I love how you send your children on trips to more impoverished areas to make them appreciate everything they have! This reminds me I need to go through my stuff and get rid of alot of it.

  11. I totally agree, Need will always be first. The want will come after you have all the needs. Thank you for reminding about this topic

  12. I love the want/need distinction. Try telling that to my daughter. Lol. She thinks makeup is a need

    • Veronica, I have four daughters, and believe me, it is something we talk about daily. Maybe it is time to send your daughter to China! ๐Ÿ™‚ -Deanna

  13. Great advice – less truly is more when you come right down to it!

  14. i love the idea of less–it is such a freeing feeling!

  15. I think that it’s great that kids learn about the difference between wants and needs at a early age.

  16. Diane Morrison says:

    I just did that for both boys and Emily and clean their rooms and started the school year off with a clean slate! Everything I took out of their rooms I put in boxes and bags books and clothes and I am donating them to the Younglife program here in town great post, De!

Leave a Reply to Peggy Nolan Cancel reply