It can be tempting to think that life is built around universal principles that are devoid of any fallacies or contradictions. Unfortunately, as we all know, life is full of paradoxes and I've recently come across one in my own quest for a simpler life.
One of the benefits of living with a more minimalist mindset is that the concept of "quality over quantity" suddenly becomes much more attainable. Instead of buying more of a mediocre object I can buy less of a better product. I've written about this before and it is nothing earth-shattering.
However, the paradox comes into play when you think about another core principle of living a simple and happy life, being content and grateful for what we already have. Much of the suffering and complications that arise in our lives seem to be centered around the attainment of more "stuff." The desire to have things that we cannot afford is the basis of many people's financial woes and psychological unrest. Breaking the cycle of consumerism and learning to be content with what we already have is a huge step in the direction of simplicity.
With that being said, does anyone see the contradiction between these two principles? On the one hand I'm arguing toward having better stuff and on the other arguing for being content with what I already have. What gives?
To resolve this conundrum I advocate the idea of "responsible upgrade" of physical items in your life. The first step would be to identify where in your life you would want to apply the quality over quantity principle versus being content with what you have. I would recommend that anything you use on a daily basis or more regularly should be purchased and maintained on the quality over quantity principle. For example, I wear a watch everyday. I could have purchased a very low quality watch that might break after a couple years or, I could have one watch that will last for a LONG time that might be initially more expensive.
On the other hand, anything that is not used a lot or maybe isn't that important to you can be centered around the idea of just being grateful for what you have. For me, clothing and fashion is not incredibly important. I have nice looking clothes, but they aren't designer labels or expensive because that is not something I care about. If, however, I decided that I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe the "responsible upgrade" would be to start setting money aside now so that when the time comes I can apply the quality over quantity principle and not be financially ruined.
Navigating the contradictions and paradoxes in our lives is a very tricky thing to do. Unfortunately we do not live in a world where everything is always clear cut or black and white. As you begin to live a simpler life keep in mind the principle of quality over quantity while also holding close the idea of being content with what you already have. If you can resolve these two ideas I guarantee that you will be living a simpler-- and happier-- life.