It’s only after we’ve lost everything
that we’re free to do anything.
— Chuck Palahniuk
(via Tyler Durden in Fight Club)
You’re climbing a mountain but you aren’t well equipped. You’re wearing thin clothing, you don’t know anything about the environment, and you get lost. The temperature drops, it starts pouring rain, and you’re trembling from the cold. Desperate, you finally find a small lodge where you step inside and warm your freezing body with a blanket. That blanket is an item that you truly need.
In our everyday lives, though, vast inventories of goods are available for sale just a short walk or drive away. On offer are the latest electrical appliances, stylish good and accessories, gorgeous high-fashion apparel, and everything else we would ever want. A single warm blanket is enough when you’re stranded on a mountain, and yet back at home you would probably want a second blanket in a nice color and then a third, higher-quality blanket with a more luxurious texture.
You can avoid buying more things simply by first asking yourself if it’s something you actually need. The Buddhist monk Ryunosuke Koike says he puts his hand against his chest when he’s not sure about an item, and it will feel uncomfortable if the item is merely something he wants. This discomfort is a symptom of dissatisfaction, of the mistaken belief that there’s something missing from his life even though he already has everything he needs.
Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living