mnmlist: you need less than you think

It’s amazing what our culture has done to us: we have been conditioned to believe that luxuries are a necessity, that we need things that most of the world doesn’t even dream of having.

Look around your home right now (or when you get home). What do you see that’s really a necessity? What could you do without?

You already know that most of the world lives with much less than what you see around you. They’d be happy with clean water, shelter, some food. Forget about Macs or big-screen TVs or plush couches or iPhones or closets overflowing with shoes and clothes.

But we also forget that only a few generations ago, our grandparents and great-grandparents also lived with much less, and were perfectly comfortable and happy. Most people had very little other than the necessities and perhaps a radio. Not that long ago, people lived without TVs, cars, microwaves, electric stoves, computers, video game consoles, air-conditioning, washers, dish washers and more. Not that long ago, shopping malls didn’t exist, and ordering from the Sears catalog was a luxury.

What we need is very little: a few changes of clothing at most, a pair of shoes, perhaps a few toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap), some food, a roof over our heads.


  • The television: if you got rid of this, not only would you free up hours of your time, you’d spend less (on cable or DVDs). You’d have room for reading, exercise, spending time with others.
  • All your clothes: could you wear just a few items? I do, and nobody seems to care.
  • Food: instead of eating out or buying convenience food, could you pick a dozen whole foods and make a weekly menu based on it? Think: beans & rice & veggies, or whole oats with nuts & berries, or salads with nuts & beans, or fruit & nuts.
  • Furniture: what is the absolute minimum you could get by with, and still live a happy life? What are your core activities (sleeping, reading, eating?), and what do you need for each?
  • Gadgets: Once upon a time, you lived without them. What would life be like if you went back to that lifestyle? Would you have more distraction-free time?
  • The computer: OK, sure, this seems to be a necessity these days. But is it? Sometimes I wonder if I could get by with 1-2 hours of computer time a day at my local library. I really think I could, but I haven’t taken that brave leap yet.
  • The car: Many people live happily without it. It is a resource hog, uses tons of your money (and the work that goes to earn that money), contributes to global warming, is dangerous. Could you give it up someday?
  • The washer/dryer: Could you hand-wash your clothes each day? It takes about 10-15 minutes.

There are other things in your home, I’m sure, that you could reconsider. Let’s keep our minds open.