I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I really need. Not want, not aspire to have, but what I need — the things without which I can’t do what I do. Gretchen Rubin covered this pretty completely, comparing the exercise to thinking of yourself as a toddler. It’s something I’ve been working on in my head, informally. But I think it requires the goal treatment now, because I’m finding that things don’t go so well if my needs aren’t addressed.
For instance, I needed new shoes. I was having all sorts of knee and ankle pains because my old shoes were worn out. But I put off buying new shoes because the kind I wanted were expensive and the cheaper ones uncomfortable. Finally, I bought new shoes, and poof! No more pain.
That’s a need.
I’ve been wanting a pair of red flats for a couple of years now, but haven’t found a comfortable pair for a reasonable price. I did order a pair of flats when I bought my sneakers, but I bought beige because they go with almost everything, and since I so rarely get to wear flats, I felt that buying anything other than a multitasker was an indulgence.
But what I’m exploring goes deeper than material things. I’m talking daily routine: I need 7 hours of sleep a night. I need 1800 calories a day. I need a nightly shower. I don’t function well without those things.
I want to sleep in, eat cupcakes for breakfast, read books that don’t have cardboard pages. But I can function perfectly well without those things. (Better, in fact, if I don’t get the first two.)
Or consider this: I want coffee. I love coffee. I like how it tastes, how it makes me feel. But when I drink coffee, I get too amped up. I don’t sleep well that night. Which makes me need more the next day. And starts a vicious cycle: Any time I start drinking coffee, I end up drinking 3 pots a day. But I need a boost in the morning to get me going. (Just nothing after noon, or I still won’t sleep.) Green tea also gives me that boost, but it’s a milder one. I can cut myself off at 3 cups a day (max!) with no ill effects. If I overindulge, the fallout is much milder, and it’s far easier to bring myself back to center. So I may want coffee, but I don’t need it. I need tea.
That’s what I’m looking at this year. Partly as part of my simplifying and belt-tightening, but also to determine my basics: What do I need, at a minimum, to do my thing?