Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products, and we also have, quite seriously, to learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Often our wants masquerade as needs when they are not needs at all. To say I need a new smartphone or simply new cellphone, while the old one is still performing well and is doing all you will ever need it for is not a need but a desire and want to have a new one just because there are new ones around.

The marketing industry, also known as advertising, has trained us well to buy products that will supposedly solve all of life's problems. But with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you may find more sustainable and less expensive solutions to your predicaments than shoddy consumer goods designed to break quickly and languish in landfill for an eternity.

Nothing is sometimes an excellent choice

But what if a major appliance has broken? Maybe it is an opportunity to change habits. For example:

Your microwave dies
You really crave popcorn. You open a box of microwave popcorn, pull out a bag, tear off the plastic, throw that in the trash, place the bag in the microwave, press a few buttons and – nothing. You try again but cannot revive your appliance.

If your microwave breaks, you have no moral obligation buy a new one. You could instead:
1. Repair the microwave.
2. Look for a secondhand microwave.
3. Stop using a microwave.

Your dryer dies
In the USA it is most uncommon for laundry to ever be hung outside, at least in suburbia, and in some areas it is actually against the local ordinances (by-laws) to do so, even in your backyard. The vast majority of people, therefore, and also for “convenience”, use electric dryers, even in sunny and hot California.

However, if and when your dryer dies (as it eventually will if it is still working), become a rebel and hang your clothes to dry. This is also better for the clothes.
1. Saves money.
2. Makes clothes last longer.
3. Liberates you from owning one more large appliance in need of space and infrastructure to accommodate it and money to maintain it.

In the winter, and in bad weather, you can hang the clothes up around your home in the basement, in the garage, on a rack in the laundry room or wherever. If your clothes take too long to dry hanging up, buy enough extra clothes, ideally secondhand, so you and your kids don't have to go naked, although indoors and on the property that would be an option to be considered.

But what if your car dies?
When your car finally dies the question of whether to replace it depends on whether you could, if you consider it properly and without prejudice, actually live without a car.

Unless you live in a rural locality, in most places, at least in the UK and other European countries, and in those probably still better than in Britain, as their public transit is better and a cycling infrastructure actually exists in most places, walking, cycling and bus, tram, and train, can very well replace the car and it is also in general cheaper to travel about in that way that using the car, considering the costs for fuel and especially parking charges and, in places such as London, the so-called “congestion charge”.

There was a time – I do say was – when you could get about the country rather cheaply using the train, and even travel abroad by train (and ferry) cheaper than flying. Today the roles are reversed and it is cheaper to fly from the UK to Spain or Germany than it is to go from London to the North of England or Scotland by train.

Patience pays off
Often, if you think you need something and wait, you can find what you want inexpensively or secondhand (or you might just forget about it and save some money).

Change our mindset
I am one of those people, though I guess in many places they are a rarity, who looks for solutions first rather than going to buy a product, or a new product. That is not to say that I do not buy (new) things, I mean aside from the essentials such as groceries, but often those are only the tools with which to solve the problems and create the solutions, and sometimes those are, whenever possible, secondhand. Consumables, such as screws and nails, will have to be purchased if salvaged ones are not to hand, though I have masses of salvaged ones as well.

I have not really bought any clothes, bar socks and underwear, for years, but bought those that in Britain are called Charity Shops secondhand though often even brand-new, and that has, in the past, included shoes and boots.

Cooker and washing machine, I have to say, if they break down it is either repair or getting a new one, and often, I hate to admit it, it is cheaper to buy new than to repair with a call-out running to £50 + before we even look at parts and labor costs.

In many places if you do not have a microwave, a dryer, or a TV, etc., in your home you are seen more or less as a deviant. More so still if you do not buy into the consumer society and buy secondhand, including clothes. So, let's be deviants.

© 2019