Wants versus Needs

When we started this project four years ago, we envisioned our Thanks for Nothing Month as a period of reflection – a time to think about each and every item we are consuming.  And, of course, it does work.  Sort of like walking up a steep hill, all the time reminding yourself how good the exercise is for you.

For some reason the experience keeps reminding me of that old routine by George Carlin when he talks about “stuff.”  You go on a trip and only take some of your stuff.  Then you go on a day trip and take even less stuff – only the stuff you really, really need, and so on.

Conscious consumption has brought on thoughts of things I need, rather than things I have or want.  What are the things I am very aware of consuming when I limit consumption.  Here is a brief list...
  1. Firewood.  Seems that in the middle of January, when the outside temperatures hit minus 5 degrees, I seem to need some heat.  This is an actual honest to goodness need.  Not a “want” pretending to be a need.  
  2. Water.  We don't need a bunch of this – but the goats and llamas and dogs and cats seem to get very irritated if we don't keep fetching and carrying water to them.  They just can't seem to get in the spirit of Thanks for Nothing Month (especially the cats).
  3. Blankets.  I feel like this is a borderline item, but there is nothing quite so nourishing as to get below a pile of blankets on a warm, soft bed as the world freezes solid outside.
I think everything else really falls into the “want” category, although if I didn't have them, I would probably be able to summon enough rationalizations to push them up a notch to “need.”  I speak of course of...
  1. Food.  I could probably stand to go a fair time without it, but wouldn't want to.  This month, however, I find that we are eating less and less.  Perhaps it is because we have worked our way down through all the “goodies” and are well into bags of frozen chicken broth and rice.  Still good and all that, but just fine in moderation.
  2. Light.  I could be flip and simply say that when the sun goes down, just climb under the blankets.  But a bit of light in the evening is cheerful.  But it is amazing how little light you actually need.  We have been discussing personal light rather than abundant light. No need to light the whole room (or house) when you can simply light the place you are looking at.  
  3. Coffee.  I thought about putting this under the “need” list.  It seems to motivate me more than heat to get up in the middle of the night and fill the wood stove (so that hot water is waiting for me when I climb out from under the blankets).
  4. Clean hair.  I always figured that if I was captured by terrorists (or the CIA), all they would need to do is not let me wash my hair and then touch it.  I would chatter away like Joe Biden.  
So that's about it when it is pared down to the basics.  So why do I have all this other stuff around the house?  Under which list does the Chia Pet go?


THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH DIARIES                    January 6, 2012

62.9 F  indoors             37.2 F  outdoors

Sunny the entire day



If my health was 100% I’d give myself a “10” today.  Ryan Evans is traveling from Cincinnati today and bringing his new girlfriend, Rachel and one of our favorite folks, Chad, the glass blower, for an overnight visit – let the euchre game begin…



Jay’s Famous Gluten-free Waffles

Home made blueberry/raspberry syrup


Tortilla pizzas



Stir-fried Rice

Yesterday started out with a loud pop from the computer power bar strip, and a small cloud of smoke, but a big electrical smell in the air.  Fortunately I was in a better place then the previous day or I would have had a complete meltdown.  Jay’s first response was, “Have you backed up everything?”  My response, “A month ago.”

There’s nothing like a fire scare to cause the beginning of a big clean.  The entire desk unit was moved and Jay swept and dusted and took everything apart to reveal enough dust to plant a small crop of potatoes.  It’s a good thing I had dusted the day before.

When he put everything back together he discovered there was no virus protection on my computer…so it turns out the whole fiasco was a gift after all.

Kati arrived really early for lunch (carrying a refreshing red cabbage salad).  We shared two big hugs, and a bit of a visit before Lace and Gretchen arrived.  Lace was laden down with her slow cooker full of her newly named “Garbanzo Supreme” Indian casserole, and some big candles from the thrift store.  Gretchen brought a gallon of her organic apple cider.  We were ready for a feast and a long visit.

Jay ate lunch with us – we’re trying to train him on the finer arts of older women – politics, culture, and a lot about human rights.  No matter what the topic he has something to share so I guess our “educatin” will have to be a little broader.

After a truly amazing lunch Jay went off for a little rest – women have that affect on lots of men, and we spent three hours chewing on a variety of topics. 

Gretchen brought some emails she’d printed out which brought us to the topic of the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  It has become our tradition, if you could call it that, to attend a lovely commemoration evening in Columbus (quite a hike, especially in bad weather).  Since we live in an area that would tar and feather us for believing that women ought to have control over their bodies we have to take our inspiration where we can find it.  I feel so lucky to have found these radical amazing women in a place where it seems impossible to connect with “thinking” folks.

The annual Roe vs. Wade night brought up a bit of a problem since I announced that I cannot drive.  It was immediately decided that Gretchen would pick me up, but then there was the other issue of paying for the ticket.  Kati immediately decided she would take me as her guest.  All of this felt incredibly awkward and I tried hard to explain that maybe I was breaking the rules of THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH since Nans and I had not discussed what happens if someone wants to pay for something.  Kati insisted, and I thought, “Who am I to decide for Kati what she can do with her money?” so everything was arranged.

At the end of our time together, Gretchen said, “It’s fun to shop and buy things.”  I had to think about that for a moment because I know that we’re taught in our culture that shopping is an event, and having something new makes us feel good.  I used to believe those things as well.

But then I realized as I mulled Gretchen’s statement over in my head that I don’t want to “feel good” because I buy things.  My goal is to re-use what I have and to not automatically think that everything is at my disposal – I can buy whatever I need or want, but why should I?  My goal is to learn how to live with less so that I am happy with the things that surround me, with the life that presents itself. 

I don’t think I explained myself well, but then that was the first time I’d really truly thought about the cultural message of “shop to be happy”.  This will come up again and I want to be ready with a more thought out intelligent response.

We ended the lunch by rummaging through tons (I do not exaggerate) of material scraps Gretchen brought back from Cincinnati.  Lace took some for the Girl Scouts and Kati took some, well because like the rest of us, she loves material.  I took a small amount of a lovely soft orange-colored material (I already have “tons” from Gretchen’s previous trips to her cousin’s Cincinnati-based upholstery shop) to re-cover the patio chairs on the porch.

When Catlyn returned from class after dark she was full of news about an electrical spike at the college that was reported to wipe out electricity for some folks for at least a week.  I didn’t see anything about it online this morning so I will have to believe the gossip.  Her news, which made me feel relieved that the problem wasn’t in our electrical system after all (and the dirtiest section of the living room is not pristine clean),  served as a reminder that news can come from a variety of sources, not just from the radio or TV.