This is a post I wrote a month ago while waiting for my flight to Taipei. I was inspired to put some thoughts down when I saw what people were emptying their wallets on in the duty-free arcade.
Sunday, 4:42pm – Gate 121, Incheon Airport, South Korea
Question of the Day: How can you own fewer items and remain satisfied?
I strive to own as few things as possible, but I still like to enjoy the comfort of advanced technology and craftsmanship.
I’m happy to have a smartphone with an Internet connection in my pocket so that I can stay in touch with my friends and family. The device is also handy for looking up train routes and timetables on the go, and I love the fact that if I tell it to do so, my phone will magically remind me to do something at the right moment. That’s just incredible. And it also performs well as a portable music player and RSS reader.
Before I used to buy lots of things I didn’t need at all. I used to hoard stacks of key holders, figures, pens, and all kinds of junk that just ended up cluttering the closet.
Some minimalists might argue that food, clothes, and shelter are the only necessities in life—period. But ordinary people like myself (I think) still want to have a soft bed and a reading lamp in the bedroom, and a couch in the living room, and more than one ricebowl and a pair of chopsticks per person in the pantry. Etc.
The problem arises when excess takes over necessity.
It’s easy to associate necessity with usefulness—or more commonly, the feeling of “just in case”. Noodle makers are useful, but not necessary unless you own a noodle shop or consistently make your noodles from scratch. But do you need to have five pairs of scissors lying around in the house? You would probably do just as well having only one pair with razor-sharp blades made of solid stainless steel. Do you need both an MP3 player AND a mobile phone that can play music? How about replacing your bookshelf with an ebook reader?
Before becoming an iPhone convert, I used to switch phones on a yearly basis because I was never happy with what I had, so I kept looking for newer and better models. But when I got my first iPhone—the 3GS—I was content. Not only was the operating system easy to use and responsive, the outer shell was pleasing as well. And after two model updates since 2009, I still haven’t felt the urge to upgrade since the 3GS perfectly satisfies my needs.
The same principle applies to other items as well. Surely, getting a $400 Louis Vuitton wallet won’t guarantee unlimited durability, but by investing a bit of money in genuine leather and fine craftsmanship, you can be quite sure that your wallet will last a decade or two.