The turn of seasons is upon us, and once again the new lists of “must haves” are starting to appear. Magazines and posts are quick to tell us about the gadgets, clothing, apps, toys, accessories, and tools that are absolute necessities for the coming months. Conveniently, most of these pieces are accompanied by links or store names for easy acquisition.
Intellectually, we can acknowledge that owning these belongings is not necessary for a satisfying life. Nonetheless, there is a not-so-subtle implication that failure to obtain these items will result in a life that is somehow lacking. Lists like these tempt us to start looking around, second guess ourselves, and even buy things we don’t like just because “they” told us to.
In preparing this post, I trolled around a bit to see what things I supposedly can’t live without this season.
“10 Things Every Woman Must Own”… a striped shirt and a leopard scarf
Personally, I don’t like stripes, especially horizontal ones, as I think they make me look short (which at 5’3” isn’t the look I’m hoping to achieve). A leopard scarf might be fun, but I’ve lived much of my life without one. As far as I am aware, I’ve never lost a client or missed a great opportunity because my scarf was plain black.
“12 Make-up Bag Must Haves” … on-the-go eye makeup remover
I have to admit I didn’t know these existed. My routine is to put my make-up on in the morning and then take whatever is left off at night before I go to bed. I’m guessing these are for women who have more of a nightlife than I.
“31 Things Every Man Should Own”… a cast iron skillet
I don’t want to generalize, but I imagine most men do not own one of these. Not to take away from their utility, as they are quite versatile and even add a bit of dietary iron. But to imply that this is one thing that is a “must” for a man seems a bit of a stretch.
“Back To School “ Haves”… whale shaped paper clips
Granted, there are things which students need when they head back to school, such as paper, pencils, pens, a backpack, notebooks, and folders. If the budget allows, it can be fun to go shopping at the beginning of the year and buy a few fun items to ease the pain of folding back into the daily grind of homework and studying. Animal-shaped paper clips are more of a might-be-nice than a “must have” for succeeding in school. Given the cost of school supplies today, no parent needs to feel guilty if he/she isn’t picking these up.
“12 Things Every Home Should Have” … candles at every meal
As it happens, I love burning a candle at dinner. I started this tradition as a New Year’s Resolution, and I’ve loved keeping it up. But I don’t burn candles at breakfast or lunch when I’m focused on the day’s tasks. Furthermore, some people aren’t even supposed to burn candles in their apartments for safety reasons. If you like candles, great. If you don’t, also great. This one is about what you enjoy and where you want to spend your money.
“20 Awesome Office Must Haves” … clip-on cup holder
While it might be nice to have a cup holder that clips onto the edge of your desk to hold your cup of java, I struggle to consider it a “must have.” For most of history, a spot on the desk (and maybe a coaster) have worked pretty well.
“24 Must Have Christmas Toys For Children” … Skate and Sing Elsa™
I loved the movie “Frozen.” The music, animation, and story were all wonderfully done. At the same time, I imagine there are a few Moms out there who aren’t excited by the prospect of yet another toy that sings “Let It Go.” I’m inclined to say that there is no such thing as a “must have” toy; kids will play with whatever is around. Do they want the toy? Maybe, but that is different from being necessary.
“Top 10 Latest Must Have Tech Gadgets” … universal remote control pillow
While the idea of a pillow that also functions as a universal remote control is kind of cool, I don’t think it is required for television viewing. In fact, were I to get the pillow, I would feel like I needed to worry about whether the fabric matches everything else in the room, which is just another layer of complexity. On the plus side, I guess I would be less likely to lose track of it!
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The purpose of this post is not to bash marketers or journalists. Like all myths, these lists can be fun to read and think about. The point is simply this: very little of what the media puts forth is actually a “must” for a full life. Admittedly, there are products and services we truly need to live and function. Nevertheless, it is smart to be mindful of the motives behind these persuasive posts, and to feel at peace investing money only in those items that we deem personally worthwhile.
Do you tend to read the “must have” lists? Have you ever regretted a “must have” purchase?