I found this essay by Dustin Curtis fascinating:
When I got back to San Francisco after a three month trip to Southeast Asia last year, I had no possessions. I was living out of hotels. Everything I carried had to fit into a backpack, so I spent the time to carefully research and buy only the very best of each individual item I was carrying. The best towel. The best pen and notebook. The best headlamp. The best headphones. The best wallet. Everything I owned had been carefully designed by a person who cared deeply about the problem being solved.
The advice in his piece flies in the face of our current culture of consumerism. You know the kind where people just buy things because they like buying things. Most of the time a purchase is made because it’s motivated by a need, like ‘I need a new shirt’, so you go and look around and buy one and that’s ok. The bad kind of buying is when you see a store advertising ‘SALE up to 50% off!’ and you wander in only to end up buying stuff that you never needed but just couldn’t pass on the fantastic discount those items were being sold at. That’s not so good.
I think what Dustin is addressing in his essay (albeit indirectly) is that we should think more carefully about the things that we buy to ensure that we don’t just get for the sake of getting but that we get the best of every item possible in order to firstly minimise our purchases and to secondly maximise our enjoyment of each of these items.
I agree that there’s a lot to learn about getting the best of everything you need. It would definitely cut down waste for one if people would pay a bit more for something that lasted them 20 years instead of 2. But to know what is the best for a person is tricky as everyone has different needs and criteria for choosing something. To me the best smart phone is definitely the iPhone by Apple because it hits all the right notes for what a great smart phone should be. But to another person it might be an Android phone or even a Windows phone.
Deciding on what’s best is a personal choice.
Over here in Singapore people tend to be so wasteful. You often see people going to sales and just grabbing any old thing just because it’s a bargain. I think part of it stems from our past where a lot of people were poor migrants who came to Singapore looking for a better future. Growing up in such times the dream (as I see it) would be to have enough money to be able to buy whatever you want whenever you wanted it. Or at the very least to cultivate a latent desire to obtain shiny new things.
I’ve seen people who have more stuff than they have time on earth to use it all, and they still want more. This is a first world problem that needs some eradication if you ask me.
Actively seeking for the best also means making concious decisions about the things that you choose to buy. It requires discipline and patience, to ignore the voice inside that says ‘Get Get GET!’ and ask yourself, ‘Does this piece of equipement/clothing/tool/toy really fit the need that I have?’ and more importantly ‘Can I do without it?’ instead.
Because that’s what choosing the best is all about.