Less, but better.

While checking my priority, I looked into the essentialist movement, starting with some exercises of decluttering. This was not really a journey I planned, and I would not describe myself a minimalist. It was something that came up when moving to a new apartment - moving stuff we don’t need is very inefficient, regardless of how much one owns. During that journey I recognized lots of relations to other positive aspects like mindfulness, financial stability, and sustainability. “Less, but better” goes back to Dieter Rams, an industrial designer who put his priority on functionality. This principle can be applied to many areas and has very positive effect in general.


I subscribed to the idea of owning high-quality items many years ago already, compared to owning a ton of obsolete crap. This is probably based on the satisfaction that comes from using well-made items and the idea of getting the most value for money. Value is very often translated to economic terms like “as cheap as possible” but this is not the whole story. I rather see it as “cost-effective” which can mean many things, for example “cost per usage”, “durability”, “satisfaction” or “additional future use”.

Cost per usage

When purchasing an item, let’s say a mobile phone, the idea could be to get the cheapest possible option that still fulfills my requirements. However, in most cases this means making concessions in terms of quality, satisfaction and longevity. Spending €1.000 on a phone might seem excessive, since there are phones for €50 that will work almost as well - or let’s say they are not so bad that it’s justified to spend 20x that amount. I use my phone at least 20 times a day and upgrade every 4-5 years. That means roughly 36.000 uses during its lifespan or 3ct per usage, while the cheap phone is below 0.2ct per usage. Even if the cheap phone lasts 5 years, which it most likely will not, the question is not “is the expensive phone worth €950 more?” but rather “does it provide a value of 3ct or more per use?”. I’d rather not use any phone at all if that interaction provides a value of less than 3ct, and I certainly would not change this assessment if it would save me 2.9ct. This way of thinking puts many things into perspective. People ranting about spending €1.000 on a phone on the other hand have no issue spending €50.000 on a car and just using it an average of 30 minutes per day.

Future use

Another idea is “additional future use”, which I use when purchasing tools, for example. There is a saying that “you always pay double for cheap tools” which can mean many things, including a lack of durability, safety, bad results but also functional obsolesce. When getting into a new hobby, say woodworking, it does not make sense to spend excessive amounts and buy all sorts of tools because you typically start as a novice. At this point you’re not in any way limited by the capabilities of tools but by your skills. It’s also entirely possible to lose interest in the hobby. When progressing however, the question is to buy the “next level” of tools or go for the “best money can buy”. I usually opt for the second because the improvement in skill and capability is not linear, but exponential. This means an average tool will start limiting me quite soon, and I’d rather not buy three tools when I can buy the best right away. The other benefit is that I can never blame a tool for the result, just myself.

Reason and impulse

Regardless of these ideas, there is always the question of “reason”, even when gravitating towards high-quality goods. I reject the idea of consuming just for the sake of status, which I find a terribly stupid and wasteful thing. There may be no reason to spend €50k on a high-quality car or getting a gold-plated phone if it does not provide any additional value for me. Those decisions have to be thoughtful in any case. I realized that delaying purchases is a great tool to avoid buying things that one would regret. Everything I purchase online sits on my “watch list” for at least 20 days. If I’m still convinced that an item adds value after 20 days, it’s very likely to be a good decision. These mechanics counters impulse purchases by 99% and saves lots of money that can be spent on higher quality goods.

Doing my part Books I read in 2020
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