Can you give up your wants and live peacefully with needs?

Four months since I blogged.

I apologize for not being in touch. I was working on a huge project at home… a project of evaluating needs vs. wants, a project fuelled by my Yoga practice.

It started with a simple realization: I wasn’t really practicing the Yoga philosophy that I was reading, analyzing or meditating on.

Here, (as always) by Yoga practice, I don’t really mean the physical poses.

The basic aim of practicing Yoga is inner peace and attaining paramanada. Sometimes people misinterpret Yoga philosophy to mean that one has to give up all outward possessions to practice a yogic lifestyle. But the whole Yogic philosophy is that the source of our happiness is inwards. A person in his or her quest to attain happiness, keeps accumulating materialistic stuff, wanting more, and in the process, ends up feeling much more miserable. You could live in a palace or in a poor shack and be in the state of paramanada or you could be miserable in either setting. By giving up wants and sticking to essentials, one learns to purify the heart and learn this simple lesson in the Yoga philosophy. Let me clarify: by just giving up worldly possessions, you will not get inner peace till you renounce them mentally. The physical process is a means to an end. Once you have attained the end, you could be with all the worldly comforts or without them, you would remain unaffected.

Back to my realization: I am a great organizer; I regularly clear out junk, donate outgrown kids’ clothes and toys, and sell household items we no longer need. Every drawer, each and every nook and corner in our home is meticulously arranged, boxes labeled and stacked with extreme care and effort. I don’t say this with conceit but sharing one of my characteristics. My husband and I have been married for more than eleven years now. These eleven years have seen a fair share of donation boxes and sales on Craigslist. I’ve even been labelled “cruel” by my husband, which I take as a compliment 🙂

But the realization was: I still had way too many things than I really needed; no, we had way too many things than were essential. I am not talking about minimalist living here (maybe one day!) but living with things we really need. I was proud of my organized lifestyle but ashamed at how much we still had accumulated in the name of needs.

At the beginning of the year, I told my husband that we needed to sort and organize and do away with stuff we don’t really use. Ah, you should have seen his expression! Poor guy, he was flabbergasted!

I told him I wasn’t talking about regular clearing of junk and useless items, this was more than that – this was about looking at every nook and corner of our home through the framework of needs vs. wants, through the lens of Yoga. I said we should have a deadline and we, err… I decided on June. Six months. It started from evaluating my own needs and that is when I wrote: Do you evaluate your needs vs. wants?

And then the house came under my scrutiny. Our house reflects our Yoga lifestyle. Most of the traditional furniture has long been sold or replaced with pieces that are helpful for Yoga practice, so except for the kids’ room, there isn’t much furniture to begin with.

But something got my attention: our dining storage. It was a huge closet that neatly showed our drinking glasses, cups, fancy china through its clear glass and housed “important” things behind the thick opaque doors. My husband went teetotaller more than a year ago, and at that time, he had given away his collection of beer mugs, scotch and wine glasses to his friends. But we still had many glasses! We couldn’t remember the last time we had taken out the fancy glasses or china. I made space for practical ones in the everyday kitchen cabinet and the rest, went to someone who had a good use for them.

Next, we sold the dining storage at a decent price and voila, we had tons of breathing space in the dining. And we could finally enjoy and breathe the view of our backyard through the French doors in the dining area. A sleeker, smaller cabinet forgotten in my study (which incidentally flowed very well with the dining area) was brought out. It had nothing but electronic junk, like old cellphones, battery cases etc. piling inside. We finally got to it and sorted and cleared it out. It is now a practical closet for dining sheets and mats and napkins – the only practical things we really do need in the dining.

From one corner to the other, we made progress, as a family, as we evaluated what we couldn’t live without, what we really needed, what we really used, and what we just fancied. Proud to share that after a few weeks, everyone got the essence of the exercise. Giving you a few examples:

We really didn’t need two iPhone docks

Neither a large collection of jackets or

That extra long coat or

Those linen sets

I donated the books I knew I would never read again.

Replaced my big dresser with a small one and kept the stuff I really need and use.

And did we really need to hang on to old memories through old cards, letters, odd souvenirs, music and video tapes? No! But this didn’t happen without resistance. I was accused of destroying “memories”, I answered back with my digital camera and took lots of photos of “memories” (I still carry the label of being cruel).

Cards - 01

An example of how I stored memories for my family: digital photos of cards sitting in storage boxes


Cards - 02

Physical memories were converted into digital ones when I was accused of throwing out memories (sitting in storage boxes)

Closets got rearranged, a few pieces of furniture sold, a new one brought in to create a practical solution for kids’ books and art and craft supplies and earlier ones moved around.

The last stop was kids’ toys. We do exercise the rule of one in, one out, but this time, it was about how many toy cars do my kids really need? Do they really need six baby dolls? I had a long discussion in age-appropriate words with my seven-year old and four-year old and I am so proud of my children that they sorted a boxful of toys that they decided were excessive. Both went with us to donate it. Will blog separately on this, but you get the idea.

July has started and I am so relieved to share that we are left with one last thing: old bills and paper files! Most of these have to be shredded and recycled, and we have aimed to finish it by the end of July. Our home has never looked so relieved – it is so much more peaceful, the energy flows unobstructed, and we live with an everyday lesson that:

We need to live with what we really need, but:

We need to evaluate our needs on a continuous basis, for we may never know when our wants may have become needs!

Categories: Yoga

Tags: , , ,

8 replies

  1. I would love to do the same, at least to some extent!

  2. Reblogged this on Dil Se… and commented:
    Wants vs Needs..

  3. Dear Anu, you missed a third element. That of desire. Human life is a constant oscillation between the trinity of need, want and desire. Psychoanalytically speaking, desire is different from want. A want is something that you simply want to have. But a desire is libidinally charged and invested with intense psychic energy. To put it simply, desire is always rooted in love. Desire can consume self. It has the power to engulf all our needs and wants. No one has described it more beautifully than Rumi:

    “I once had a thousand desires. But in my one desire to know you all else melted away.” ― Rumi


  1. My apologies! I have been out of touch. | Sandhu Bhamra on Finding Self

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