i want that

There's an HGTV show called I Want That! aimed to create consumer desires for the lates in kitchens, baths, home decor and gadgets. I've never seen the show but have no doubt that it would leave me saying, "I Want That!"

Michelle told me today that I am a very wanting person, which is different from being a very needy person although I'm sure at times I fit into that category as well. When I asked her to explain what she meant she pointed to the fact that I easily created an amazon wishlist, that you see in the sidebar, full of things I want. If she were asked to do the same it would be difficult for her because most of the things she wants are high priced items like a TV for the bedroom or a PlayStation 3. And that she isn't even sure she wants those items enough to buy them. But for me, it was easy to think of relatively inexpensive things that I want, that I would buy myself, that I would ask for.

The differences between us don't surprise me, in this case. We value money and objects differently. Michelle thinks in the long-term, big picture. She thinks of saving for something she truly wants, something that will last and offer hours, days, years of enjoyment or entertainment. I think about what can I get right now. This kind of thinking with money and with shopping has definitely had a negative impact. I know that I have a tendency to fill my life with things because being surrounded by stuff makes me feel better. It's how I grew up: cluttered. I love and hate the clutter, the stuff, the wanting.

I would like to say there aren't many things that I need, that what I consider necessary fills a small list. I'm not sure that's true. In Living it Up James Twitchell writes, "If you want to understand material culture at the beginning of the 21st century, you must understand the overwhelming importance of unnecessary material." (2) What I think of as necessary others would say is a luxury. I know that's a class issue: luxury, need, wanting. I define need in ways different than Michelle who's lived in Africa--without toilet paper. When I step back at look at what I say and do and want and need, I can see how immersed I am in a consumer culture. How I buy into trends, especially tech gadgets and things that have absolutely no real function. I understand how I'm marketed to, how I rationalize and justify my wanting and my spending habits. Understanding the process is one thing: being able to affect change is another.