Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

January 8, 2008



What do I want?

You, like me, may go through your day and think of lots of things you want.

Working at home seems to lend itself to this want mode. As I get up from my computer or leave my office and walk from one room to the next I always seem to see things/think of things that I want/need/would like to have or get for our house. A side table here. A new shower curtain there. An old typewriter for my office. An old flat file. More art for the walls. A mug without a handle would be delightful for my coffee too.

Most of these things are not necessary stuff like toilet paper. They are things that would be nice to have but I/we don't really need. Sometimes they are things I see online posted by some of my favorite blogs/inspirational sites or etsy. Sometimes they are something that I think would help me organize something else.

Because I like to go to antique/second hand stores for lots of these sorts of things I decided to start a little book that sits right below my computer monitor. Easily accessible. And tangible. A home for all these wants. And something I can take along with me to remind myself of the things I have wanted (and I can add things like dimensions + such for larger pieces).

But what I am really working on is not having to have things right now. Or maybe even at all.

I am working on holding off on buying stuff. So far I have found with this little book system that I am often satisfied simply by the act of writing it down. And then time goes by and maybe (often) the want goes away. It is helping me remember that I really already have everything I need.

The wants that do stay around seem a bit more worth it after the wait.

Stamps used on this little Moleskine book were acquired in Tokyo in 2006. Leslie sometimes has them available here.


  • 1.
    Michelle said…

    That is an awesome idea!

  • 2.
    Traci said…

    martha stewart had a girl (the girl works for martha) on her show that made notebooks w/papers from the office. pretty cute. might make one of those and use it for this!

  • 3.
    Lisa said…

    I remember when I was a kid folding over the corners of the Sear and JC Penny’s books of things I wanted….still do that will all the cataloges I get. Ripping out the pages I want and putting them in a folder. I think I get almost as much satisfaction from that. I go through it now and then and filter through the great finds. It’s like my list of favorites. Instead of shopping it’s like collecting great ideas for possibilities. Sometimes just knowing I found a cool thing is thrill enough. Unshopping?

  • 4.
    Kate Van Vleck said…

    I love this idea! There is something about letting an idea travel from your mind through your hand and then onto the paper that just helps you let it go, a physical let go! So simple, like an exhale. Love it!

  • 5.
    joyce said…

    Esty shoppes here and creative items there, trinket bundles that cost more then hubby is willing to pay…thanks for the reminder about writing your wants down and giving them a little time. I have a lot of these lists written down in my daily journal -some of the older ones (by the time I could actually buy them), most of the items were discontinued. Happy happies to you.

  • 6.
    Sally said…

    Ali, it’s like reading my thoughts. What a great idea – I just love it. Inspirational as always.

  • 7.
    Deb Wisker said…

    I have a Wants list too, but it is a list of books I want to read. All too often I’m stuck on line at the grocery store and read People mag’s “pics & Pans” for the book reviews, write down the title and author and eventually treat myself to a trip to Barnes and Noble. My list, by the way, is 4 pages long. Someday I’ll catch up with my reading!!

  • 8.
    Lindsay said…

    Ali, you always have such incredible way to inspire and this is just perfect, especially for the post- Christmas feelings of blah I have going on right now (I’m a teacher, so yesterday was a tough jolt back to reality).

  • 9.
    Frances M said…

    Fab idea! Been “wanting” to do something like your book for awhile including some sort of to do things i.e., make light in bedroom a dimmer. Just starting to read your new book now. Love the format!

  • 10.
    Jess S said…

    I love this idea. I tend to get caught up in the things I have to have. I think I will try to keep a list and see if this helps. Jess

  • 11.
    Sarah Corbett said…

    I need a system like this too because I tend to want it and then go out and buy it, which is bad for my budget!! Thanks for some inspiration!

  • 12.
    Kim Hacking said…

    Great idea! Man, I wish I had been as wise as you 10 years ago. You always amaze me with your vision.

  • 13.
    Brooke said…

    Thank you SO much, Ali, for this idea. I WANT to stop wanting and more so, follow through with being content. Writing things down has always been a favorite of mine and maybe, just maybe, this will help with my habit of wanting. Huh. Think about that…..a habit of writing things down to stop another habit? Leave it to you to always make me stop and FOCUS ( my one word ) on what’s important.

  • 14.
    cathy walters said…

    yup, super cool idea! :)

  • 15.
    CarrieJ said…

    Of course I think of “things” I want when I walk around the house, but my BIG WANT is the structural stuff I would do to my house. It was so designed by a man that did not think once about the fact that someone would have to place furniture in here. I want to move doors, and I want to make walls, and I desperately want to overhaul the kitchen cabinets. I think it is knowing that we can’t do that right now that makes me WANT to buy little things, but like you I am trying not to. Right now the main thing I want is canvas … AND TIME!

  • 16.
    Jeanette said…

    The sense of accomplishment I achieve just by writing what I want and/or need on a sheet of paper makes me feel good. So I couldn’t agree more with your theory.
    I sometimes tear photos out of catalogs and magazines and save them. And about a month or two down the road I flip through them again and find that a majority of the items I’ve saved I no longer have a yearning for.
    Creating an “I Want” book is a brilliant idea. Number one on my list right now is to see Ali Edwards at Scrapbowl next month. ;)

  • 17.
    misti said…

    I have a moleskine and I have never turned back! I was keeping a “want” list for awhile but now it is mostly a “want to craft” list. Someday it will all get done. Maybe!

  • 18.
    Sue said…

    Fantastic idea Ali, as always. Constantly amazed (and oh so pleased) at your ideas and those of others who comment on your blog – just confirms to me that there are others (many, many others) who think like me – so comforting to know that my thoughts and feelings are “normal” (because there are many times when I feel that they are not!) Will be working on my “want” book today. :-)

  • 19.
    Cherie said…

    Super idea – one my husband and I could both add to – especially when thinking about the house!

  • 20.
    kristy said…

    Another great idea Ali!
    We are currently visualizing wants vs. needs with a legal pad on our refrigerator. It’s a great constant reminder of the BIG wants we want that we could eventually get if we didn’t get all the little ones! :)

  • 21.
    Mo said…

    Great philosophy!
    And there might be something pulling us in the same direction universally speaking. I have been toying with making a wish list similar to your want book. I was even going to use a black Moleskin too.

  • 22.
    Leah said…

    i do this too…a really good way to control the impulse shopping!!

  • 23.
    Leah said…

    i do this too…a really good way to control the impulse shopping!!

  • 24.
    Rebecca said…

    Ali – this is so great. It’s an ongoing effort for me of small impromptu garage sales (tricky at times with Central NY weather) and giving things away to friends and charity. It clears the path to open space in small places, and time to consider, at some point in the future, some thoughtful addition to my home space. Have you seen “The Story of Stuff” video on the web? Interesting . . .
    Thanks for sharing all of your creative inspiration. It seems to come from so many places family, friends, nature, recipes, etc.
    Keep it coming . . .

  • 25.
    Nicole said…

    Love this idea to bits!

  • 26.
    Melissa Villalobos said…

    I’m actually working on something similar…love making wishlists and seeing how much “wants” change if I hold off on purchasing something right away.

  • 27.
    karin ms said…

    Tee hee, I use this idea with my kids!
    Whenever they have something they NEED (you know how kids are) I have them write it on their “wish list” and they don’t ask for it again.
    They know they can save their money towards it or get it for their birthdays etc, but most of the time they end up crossing things off that they really didn’t want after they thought it over.
    I think I might just make one for my dh :) , ok, I just might need one for myself as well!

  • 28.
    Misty D said…

    Love the idea of a little book. I just made a list of things I would like for the house earlier tonight – how funny!

  • 29.
    Molly said…

    There’s yet another example where writing things down, taking time to reflect, and slowing an impulse is just plain good for the soul. Awesome, accessible visual for a great way of thinking.

  • 30.
    Mary Rogers said…

    I have always had a little list on my desk of WANTS and NEEDS….I have been using it for my scrapbooking for about a year….it is amazing how much I haven’t bought, that just sits unused, if I just give it a little time and “it” doesn’t move from the wants list to the needs list….he, he.
    great minds and all that….

  • 31.
    daryl said…

    I started a book like this on January 1st to get my spending under control. Like you, my work has me on the computer all day — and allows me the freedom to wander across the world wide web. Unfortunately, this freedom has translated into hundreds of little purchases and dwindling funds that could have been pooled towards something useful/necessary/that I really wanted and or needed, etc.! So my little book of wants has become my outlet — in it goes every little (or big) purchase I almost made on a whim or flight of fancy, along w/the price + shipping (and sometimes a little picture and the website address, just in case). THEN, at the end of the month (with January 31st being my first eom)…I am planning to add up my “savings.” Based on our real expenses and savings I may treat myself to one of those wants…or maybe two! I hope this works…lol!

  • 32.
    Erin H. said…

    This is a fantastic idea and kind of ironic that you brought this topic up, because I just did one that I too keep next to my computer monitor…lol. My reason is kind of different from yours, as all before the holiday season all anyone asked me was what can we get you for Christmas and I would say don’t worry about getting me anything because I couldn’t come up with anything that I wanted…that was necessary. Well, after getting harrassed by my family over and over again, I said fine…I will have an ongoing list and as needed I will let people look…just like my Christmas list as a kid…lol. I like your reasoning better because now that I type this, it sounds materialistic…which is NOT me. Anywho, I think this a fantastic idea because it allows for assessment of items and whether or not it’s at all necessary!

  • 33.
    Julie said…

    Hi Ali,
    I was getting ready to copy down your quote of the day, and when I logged back on, it was changed! Could you please send me what Monday’s quote was…or whatever it was before the one that is up now???!!!
    p.s. I LOVE your blog…you are such an inspiration…thanks.

  • 34.
    Leigh said…

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. The word I chose for 2008 is simplify and I told my dh that for me, right now, simplify means thinking “Do I need this?” Groceries, yes. A new sweater (or goodies from the LSS), not so much a need. So far, it’s been good. But I like your idea of making a book. And sometimes, it’s just nice to think about things (without actually having them.)

  • 35.
    Holly said…

    Hells bells! If writing my wants down will curb my spending, I’m all over it!

  • 36.

    That’s too funny! Yesterday, I was in Target and I really WANTED a black purse that was on clearance – flying out to Palm Springs on Wednesday – i.e. trip=new handbag of course. However, I tried to fend off the urge to be so compulsive and walked away telling myself that I would think about it and could always come back on Tuesday if I still WANTED it as badly after one nights sleep.
    I did head back to Target today to get it (am packing it right now for tomorrow’s trip).
    At least a was able to fend off the urge for one day! Maybe next time I can fend off the urge for 2 days! LOL!

  • 37.
    leslie said…

    i, along with everybody else, love this idea. often writing them down is all in need. love the moleskine, too. muji is a great japanese alternative. did you go to muji when you were in tokyo? i will throw some more stamps in my shop soon.

  • 38.
    noell said…

    Cool. Love the approach to minimalism.

  • 39.
    Denise said…

    I need a general place to write down measurements…I have a want/need for a long, shallow table halfway up our stairs, but exactly *how* long? *how* narrow? I have too many little notebooks in my purse and I need to consolidate. Great idea :)

  • 40.
    noell said…

    Daryl–I like the details of how you do yours. I think I might have an unused check register in our office. I’ll go look and see if I can make a want book out of that.

  • 41.
    Emily Hoadley said…

    Really like the idea of writing down wants, seems like a good way to slow down the impulse buying (kind of like a food journal). I’m really trying to get a handle on the chaos in my lovely home. So I will try not to buy anything extra until I’ve sorted the boxes from our last move (3 years ago) and donated/gotten rid of a lot of stuff. Really trying to not accumulate so much stuff.

  • 42.
    Jeannine said…

    I noticed that one of your wants is an old typewriter for your office. I actually have one that I have tried to sell on Craigslist. It would be hard to ship to you (it is extremely heavy), but if you ever have an opportunity to be in Kansas City or know someone close that could get it to you, I would make you a great deal! Just an idea! I would love for someone to have it that would love and appreciate it, instead of it just sitting in my basement, neglected. It came from my grandparent’s basement when we moved my grandma out after 40+ years.
    Love the book! Great idea!
    Jeannine :)

  • 43.
    Brittany said…

    I have been doing this for about a year now. It works so well for me. And the best part? Being able to scratch off an item, not because I bought it, but because I simply don’t want it anymore… i love that!
    Another tip, especially with scrap goodies, I usually wait a week after the initial excitement of seeing a new product before I buy anything. This way, I have a clear and objective view of what to purchase.

  • 44.
    paula harrington said…

    LOVE the ‘want’ book! I guess I have been keeping one of these for years, but had never really thought about it. I like being able to check things off lists, and realize a number of my wants (painting rooms, re-flooring, and other/smaller wants) had been checked off over the YEARS… others had not. And what perfect timing on your bit about simplicity, as my word is ‘simplify.’ (I didn’t submit my word to your list, but saw someone else had.) Thanks gobs.

  • 45.
    Tona said…

    I have a want book that I keep in the drawer by my recliner. I use it when I’m watching the scrapbooking shows on QVC or HSN. It really does help cut down on the impulse buying and many times down the road I tear out the pages & throw them away…only to fill others up much too soon :)

  • 46.
    Michelle said…

    This is a great idea. We are busy trying to really simplify things are our house and it is amazing how much time I spend dealing with and getting rid of things that I thought I wanted but really don’t work for us. Now I really think before I buy anything – and having a place to record the wants is a great idea.

  • 47.
    Laura Reaux said…

    Great great great. I can so relate. I picked up a couple of little notebooks while at Target this evening. Thanks for the idea!

  • 48.
    Jeani said…

    I should give it a try too. Thanks for the idea!

  • 49.
    ikuko said…

    What a great idea!
    I thought the stamped letters looks familiar :)
    Miss you so much lately!

  • 50.
    Ali said…

    The idea of a want book was something we used when my eldest (then 5) was struggling with attack after attack of the wanties.
    At least writing them down or drawing them gave him something to do with his wants. And was also a good lesson in teaching him about delayed gratification. And saving. And over consumption. And long term goals.
    Yup, I don’t know why I don’t have one for me too. Maybe I shall.

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