“If they don’t have what you need, want what they have.”
This phrase became our motto in Belize. It was how we learned to live a life with less stuff, but more satisfaction. At first it didn’t sound right, but now I believe it.
I had the urge to write this post after reading Meredith Resnick’s great article, “Money complicated things, so spoil them.”
More is not better, often you need less to appreciate what you have. I’m not suggesting depriving your kids of the basics, I’m talking about the over-indulgence and the entitlement attitude of many in the developed world today. The two Russian girls that Meredith Resnick wrote about in her article felt overwhelmed and couldn’t fathom the need for so much stuff.
The only thing my three sons begged for when we returned to the U.S., was a glass of fresh milk. That’s how one year of powdered milk and our new motto, “If they don’t have what you need, want what they have, changed our kids. A big step in the right direction after “gimme, gimme, gimme,” and begging for a brand new truck, the year before we left. Their priorities, and ours, had changed.
The first time I strolled down the cereal aisle of my local U.S. supermarket, after a year in Belize, my head started spinning, and my knees felt weak. “Need help finding something?” a sales person asked. I looked at him and said, “There are too many choices. I don’t know which one to pick.” I could tell what he was thinking and stood there like a statue, way too long compared to the average shopper. The poor kid shrugged and left.
It’s a beautiful feeling when you, and your kids learn the difference between wants and needs.
Ballerina Girl says
This hits home with our family, too…
The first time my kids went back into a grocery store after being away from the US for a year, they said…
“wow, look at how much yogurt they have!” hahaha
This is one of the reasons I like living where there is less…even though in my city in Brazil they can have anything they want, they know it is not quite worth it!
Great post, thanks!
Meredith Resnick says
I am honored that you included my Psychology Today post on money in your post – and so glad that the topic sparked something in you. Thank you, Sonia. See you very soon!
Great post! There is so much pressure on kids these days and we just give them more and more until they start believing the ads and think that they really would be happier with more.
There is not so much pressure over here, much less consumerism, and much much less choice. Whenever I go back to the UK, I stand there with my mouth open because of the sheer (unnecessary) choice of everything!
I spent 3 months in the states and I must say that I have never been so overwhelmed with choice before in my life. As you say – one simply doesn’t know what to chose.
I am currently preparing myself for a move from the UK to Norway and I know that the choices will be far less in Norway!
Cairo Typ0 says
We too are always somewhat shocked by the choices and sizes of everything when we go home. We learned to want far fewer consumer goods since moving abroad. Don’t get me wrong, i still love shopping, but our priorities seem to have shifted.
Its so true, and my kids have learned that the simple pleasures are often the best. Even though they live where they can have anything, they have learned that they don’t NEED it. And thats a wonderful lesson.
That is such a great motto! I agree very much with it. It is always so easy to compare yourself with those who have more and forget that people with much less do quite well. It’s not about the stuff but about the people in your life 🙂
I live in Canada and there abundance everywhere. I feel the same way you did in the U.S grocery store every time I enter the market. I am learning to live simply but with abundance all around it is difficult to have self-control. Thank you for your post, it hit home.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I love the Bob Marley tunes. I have always been a fan. In Saskatoon I have a friend Oral from Belize, the Bob Marley tunes reminded me that I need to contact him and say hi.
The whole goal of advertising is to make you “need” what they want to sell you.
But I don’t need a car that goes “zoom zoom.” I realize that my 1991 Volvo Wagon is doing just fine. And I don’t need an iPod.
And I don’t need everything on the store shelves. I know what’s in the store; I just “tune out” what I don’t need — and don’t even go down some/most aisles. I just get what I want and make as quick an exit as I can. (Meat is on one “outside” wall; milk and cheese are on another outside wall; fruit and veggies are on the third outside wall.”)
When my daughter was in boarding academy, she brought home a girl from the Ukraine. When we went to Wal-Mart, it was the first time she had been to a supermarket in the U.S. She could not believe it. At home she said shopping was an all day experience. You had to go to a different small shop for each item you wanted. She couldn’t believe that just on family lived in our house. Most Americans don’t really know how most of the world lives.
An Arkies Musings
Lady Glamis says
That’s an awesome message, thank you! My daughter is getting into the gimme stage, and it’s driving me nuts. She has so many toys and so many things handed to her. I’m trying to figure out how to start slimming down on all the stuff WE have as a family. Even I own too much. Kids learn from our examples, and it’s a tough change here in the US where there really is just too much stuff to choose from.
Ballerina GirlYes, I guess we all feel that way when we have less, and actually, I prefer having fewer choices.
MeredithOthers can relate. I knew they would. great article.
LadyFiMaybe I should move to Sweden with my kids. I hope Sweden stays that way. What do you think?
CarolineSo you’ll be like LadyFi in Sweden. I wonder how your kids will feel in the beginning.
Cairo Typ0I agree with you. it’s a shift in priorities.
BrendaThat’s the lesson they learned in Paraguay before moving to the US. What a gift.
RobinGlad you like Bob Marley. me too.
Say “Hi” to Oral from me.
Rob-bearBears aren’t very needy. They hibernate half the year don’t they?
RichiesSounds like the Ukraine is Belize. Did she change?
Lady GlamisI went through many years of the gimme stage too. It gets more expensive with teenagers.
Oh, I enjoyed this! When are you up for another walk?
Choice is a North American addiction. Single parent with a chronically ill child, my kids and I live below the poverty line always. Nonetheless, the choices cannot be removed from their line of vision. My sons see what’s available to others better off and wonder why so few of life’s “available” choices can be theirs, including colleges for my gifted son, and certain health benefits for the one with disability. There are too many choices for some, but not enough choices for others.
Mad Bush Farm says
Brilliant post! I really enjoyed this one (as I do all of your posts that is). This one for me is a matter of buy only what we can afford so if it’s plain label cereal so be it. My girls don’t complain they say thank you and eat it anyway. Money isn’t everything. I used to have the best of both worlds until my divorce that is. Now we make do with what we have and I gained a wonderful new life as well.
I had never thought of choice being an addiction, as Ananji put it. But it is a goo d point. Within the overall consumer mentality, the demand for more and more choice becomes part of the comprehensive consumerist problem.
We’ve come a long way from Henry Ford who said, “You can have a car in any colour you want, as long as it’s black.”
P.S.: Yes, bears hibernate half a year. But we have to consume a whole lot before hand, if we’re going to survive hibernation. Nonetheless, we tend to limit our choices of what to consume. We’re pretty simple that way.
Just Wicked from Shaken Not Blended says
I think you gave your children a great gift by teaching them to appreciate what they have and I’m looking forward to your book.
Great post and great philosophy!
One of the best reasons to take children to another country is to help them discover the difference between wants and needs. In the process, the parents do the same!
There was a children’s book called the Berenstein Bears get the Gimmees.
We used this little story every time one of our little ones lost their minds.
And I am with you. The cereal aisle has way too many neon sugary choices. Way too many….
I may have to try Belize for a month or so
Beckie Saar Leone says
I am so glad to see your motto, it is so similar to mine.
“Honey, what ya’ don’t got, don’t miss!”That motto has been one of the greatest gifts anyone ever gave me. When I was in my 30’s and working as a Nuclear Med Tech in a hospital, I would start my day talking to my patient about wanting another child. As the patients came and went, on would go my conversation.
I was aware of the absurdity of it and laughed about it, but my desire to have a second child was great and this went on for years.
Finally, one day, an old Georgia country woman looked at me with wizened eyes and gave me that gift. I have regretted all these years later that I did not remember her name.
And a note about giving our children more than they need, I had every intention of limiting my daughters possessions to quality and few. I lost control early, things just seemed to come out of the walls. It turned out OK, though, she is now a minimalist. She did not learn that from me!