Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Step 2: Simplicity and the Art of Living Well

Life has a way of teaching us lessons. Usually this occurs in the school of hard knocks, kick you when you're down style we've all come to know and love. Every once in a while our lesson shows up in the form of something wonderful though. That's what happened to me the other day. A friend and I decided on the spur of the moment to have lunch at our favorite restaurant, Craft, for no special reason at all--which is really the very best reason to treat yourself! One of the things we love most about Craft is the simplicity and quality of the food. Great ingredients do not need to be drowned in sauces, spices or dressings to shine. While enjoying our luscious diver scallops, Cobb salad and hen of the woods mushrooms, we talked about how much we preferred this type of food to virtually anything else around. Craft is not an everyday kind of restaurant (unless you are a lottery winner or Hollywood mogul--either of which I am quite willing to become, btw). It is pricey. We both agreed that we'd rather brown bag it most days instead of eating out at inexpensive and mediocre places and put the money saved toward the occasional Craft splurge. Quality over quantity is something you hear all the time, but I don't think it is a concept most Americans embrace. In America, more and bigger is always better. I've been guilty of this myself. In college I wanted to drink as much as possible so Black Label beer was great. Now that I've developed a more sophisticated palate (and have less tolerance for hangovers) I would really rather enjoy a couple of Fat Tires. I'd rather have one perfect artisanal truffle than an entire bar of cheap chocolate. Sometimes less really is more!

As I've been removing clutter from my home, I am convinced this concept applies there too. Clearly it is necessary to be ruthless whenever you make a purchase so that you end up with quality items you truly love and use rather than closets full of crap you wish you had never bought. We live in a disposable culture where most things seem poorly constructed, meant to be replaced rather than repaired. I think this is a shame considering our landfills are already overburdened. When I started shopping for furniture last year, many people thought I was crazy to spend as much as I did. I wanted something that would last though. I wanted furniture made from actual wood, not particle board. I will have this furniture for years to come and I am really glad that I took the extra time and money to find the quality pieces I wanted. Similarly, I've always heard that French women have fewer, but higher quality clothes. Realizing that I wear only about 10% of the clothes I own on a regular basis, I see that this concept can work. If you are wearing the same clothes over and over (and you know you are) consider why this is. Probably because these pieces are the most comfortable and look the best on you. So why not buy just a few really great pieces instead of several so-so items? Remember also that the cheapest thing is not always the best value. If it isn't made to last, odds are you will spend more replacing it than you would have on a higher quality product in the first place.

The lesson for me is that by concentrating on quality in our lives (that goes for quality people too, btw!) we can live well without necessarily spending a lot more over time. Quality food choices will make us healthier over all. Quality purchases will make our homes attractive and comfortable without adding to our clutter or our landfills. Quality people will make our lives richer without added chaos.