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Maybe I don’t need the best

simple living china - bike - best in lifeWhen packing to move to China I started realizing something.

In China I have been struggling and thinking more.

This 1 thing is a material trap for both pack-rats and minimalists, people with money and people without.

This 1 idea is what keeps us thinking, planning, and comparing.   Often wasting both our time and our money.

Realizing this 1 idea can help me and you have more of these resources to put toward our living.

Maybe I don’t need the best of everything

Often, it is wanting the best quality or the newest new thing that adds on more things to our homes.  We often accuse people with overflowing houses of always wanting the newest and best of everything.

But this is a struggle for the minimalist as well

In our hunt for quality over quantity we can become wrapped up in always wanting the best.  We justify it because we only have a few things, so they deserve to be the best quality.

(when I say the best, I don’t mean the VERY best, but the best our money/economic status can buy)

This makes sense right?

Before moving to China I found myself wanting to buy all new things because I wanted to take the best clothes, books, electronics etc, to China.  … why carry it to the other side of the world if it isn’t high quality.

But, what we had was working for us in the US, why would it change when we started to live in China?

In the end I didn’t purchase too many new items, and now that we have been here for a while I am realizing that we really do have what we need.  Several items I did purchase new didn’t end up working well and I have gotten rid of already :(

The Best ‘Itch’

This ‘itch’ of needing the best often comes during a transition and many readers (including myself) are transitioning to simple living/minimalism.  But this ‘itch’ can be a trap.

In your transition it could surface as something like this:

  • If you aren’t going to have as many TV’s, than you should have 1 really good one
  • If you aren’t going to have a TV at all, than your computer should be very good
  • If you aren’t going to have as many clothes than you should go buy some high quality pieces
  • If you get some multipurpose furniture you can replace several other pieces

We spend time trying to compare phones, appliances, and cars trying to make sure we get the best value for the best price.

and

Not only is quality and new technology always trying to get us to purchase the newest and best, time saving, space saving, and organizational gadgets are a huge business.

and

We are taught we ‘deserve’ the best.  Somehow… I am not sure why we feel we deserve it, but there is a touch of entitlement that gets mixed in to our rationalization for getting the best.

But, what if I didn’t have to have the best?

I am a perfectionist that is always trying to figure out how to make things better and this question was challenging to me.

What if I don’t have to have the best?

In a world where the best is always being passed by something else even better, it might be good to relax and just be content.

What if:

  • our clothes are a bit faded
  • some of our phone features don’t work any more
  • our computer doesn’t run as fast as it could
  • our appliances aren’t the most earth friendly
  • our dishes or towels aren’t a complete set

… the list could go on to include everything in our lives.

We are taught that there is always a ‘best’ and that we should always strive for it.  There is a best for money, health, the environment, and technology.  But we spin circles in our head because these ‘bests’ don’t give us a clear answer.

  • do I purchase a more expensive fridge because it is better for the environment?
  • do I make sure to purchase new clothes to make sure to always ‘dress for success’ or do is it a waste of money?
  • do I work extra jobs or put off retirement so we can get all organic food?
  • do I walk or bike to work, or have more time in the evening to spend with family?

Sometimes these questions can haunt me and keep me awake at night.

But… maybe I don’t need the best

I have to say this idea has been freeing.  This idea is a key to contentment.  I want to be the best person I can be, but I don’t need the best material possessions.   

I am not against quality or buying for it, it is just not an excuse to trade out things that already work.  It is not an excuse to spend time thinking and dreaming about things that really aren’t needed to make me happy.  It is a lesson in contentment, pride, self-worth, and materialism.

Photo Credit: Bryon Lippincott – this is a picture my husband took near our new home in China.  I love the color and texture contrast, it mixes with the old bike that isn’t the best – but still works :)

19 Comments

  1. Yes, exactly!! Good enough is often good enough!! Someone mentioned this to be this week and I have been thinking about it ever since.

  2. Nancy Nancy

    The number of things we own or the quality of them will never bring us happiness for long. It is nice to enjoy something new and I enjoy knowing it is good quality and a good price because then it will reliably work for me and I won’t need to think about again for a while. It is a mistake to focus so much on the material things in life. So often we get distracted by the comercial, materialistic environment we live in, and end up loving things and using people. What a sad mistake. Wouldn’t it be so much better to use things and focus on building loving relationships. At the end of the day that is what really matters is’t it?

  3. I think it’s kind of a balancing act. Some things wear out quickly, so we end up buying more, if we don’t get the best. Our knife is an example of this. I think the key might be to buy the best, when something has worn out to the point where it’s no longer useful or functional. But throwing away things that do still work, in order to “upgrade,” is wasteful.

  4. Good point Lorilee. I think we can also put undue pressure on ourselves to get the best deal. To shop around and do a lot of research. But sometimes it does not make a huge difference to the cost and takes a great deal of time and energy to the point where we can’t get to a decision. If a telemarketer asks me if I want to save money, as a lead into selling me a deal, I say no. I dont want to save money. That confuses them . Not that I want to waste money but I dont want to keep revisiting every decision on phone and electricity company etc on someone elses schedule just because they are selling something. I would rather pay what I had committed to and be left alone. We can waste a lot of time chasing after the best when the good is in front of us.

  5. I can definitely relate. i think a lot of this for me is also infortunately caring too much what other people thnk. “I can’t wear this old shirt! People will think I am a slob!” “I am embarassed of my 1987 almond colored refrigerator”. ” i drive my kids to school in an old small car”. Uh. Letting go of the best and accepting “good enough” takes a big weight off the shoulders. Same with letting go of what people think.

    Kate

    • melissa melissa

      I loved that almond color and wanted those appliances sooo much in the 80’s. :) I wonder if the all important stainless steel will go that way in 20 years. When all we really need is a refrigerator that keeps things cold.

  6. anuradha anuradha

    Seriously freeing thought! I love it! Just thinking “maybe I don’t need the best” I can feel myself exhaling and becoming more relaxed!Thank you!

  7. Ouch. Were you hanging out in my head yesterday?

  8. andrea_upnorth andrea_upnorth

    Good article. We are looking at a potential kitchen project. I want a nice, functional kitchen but don’t feel the need to send working but not the most aesthetic looking cabinets to the landfill or have the desire to spend thousands of dollars on this when it could be used for other things (travel, etc.). In other words, I don’t NEED the best.

  9. One of the advantages of minimalism for me has been that it has justified my instincts in retrospect. Meaning, I never really felt the need to have a lot of new furniture, I just thought I should want to. I always liked my little white particle board bookshelf, and now thats OK! Its simple, fresh and minimal. I am glad it has survived years of me thinking it wasn’t good enough, even thought I loved it.

  10. sallyann sallyann

    Thank you, a breath of fresh air I needed today. I was just reading another site talking about engagement rings, and the desire for bigger, better, perfect was making me nauseous. I totally agree we do not always need the best. Just because there is a better whatsit, doesn’t mean we actually need it. I am still early in my journey towards minimalism (and my husband is not really on board yet), but I am doing what I can. This year, I am buying myself no new clothes (so far, so good!). I plan to wear out a few things over the year! And re-evaluate any needs in 2014.

  11. Risto Puhakka Risto Puhakka

    This is great posting. Very tought provoking. One thing I am struggling with is best schools. We want to give our kids best education. I believe private schools do that. How can I approach this challenge appropriately. It is a huge challenge for me personally, and it will affect me for years to come. Any wisdom on this would be greatly welcome.
    Risto

    • Risto, I understand, it is very hard. This is one reason I am homeschooling my kids. I want the quality but can’t cover the cost of private. I would rather be home with my kids then working all the time so I can have money to send them to good schools. … though, I am not saying this is the best answer for everyone, it is a tough problem :(

  12. Claudia Claudia

    So encouraging, Lorilee! This was on my mind last week, too, as I packed for a short trip. I spent way too much time because nothing seemed “good enough.” In the end, I wasted precious sleep time and ended up with good enough anyway and had a wonderful trip. Especially loved your point of being the best person you can be, yet not needing the best material possessions. Wanting the best things (I can afford/get) often drains me of the energy my family deserves. So not worth it! Loved this post! Claudia :)

  13. natalia natalia

    Great post!!

  14. Linda Sipp Linda Sipp

    The only thing I disagree with is food quality. If you do not eat high quality (organic when possible) food you will not need to save for retirement. You will be sick from the chemicals, antibiotics and preservatives. You will then qualify for disability. What you eat everyday affects your health and it is so important to feed our families quality foods in order to remain healthy and thrive.

    l

    • melissa melissa

      I agree with not eating junk food with unrecognizable ingredients but organic food is often double in price. Many many people have lived into their nineties without ever eating organic.

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