How to <em>live smaller</em> in 2009 (quality kitchen knives <em>essential</em>)
Talk about commitment. Or not, as the case is with most of us. With very few exceptions, we'll screw over our New Year resolutions within the first week, if not the first few hours (if you're thinking about the no drinking / chocolate / pizza resolutions, just don't bother starting). So meet Rick Jelliffe, who decided that 2008 would be the year of living smaller. That's a concept we could all do with right now, but how many of us would see it through with Jelliffe's tenacity?
I caught public transport only. I got rid of extra lightbulbs. I baked my own bread. I didn't buy any gadget. I didn't buy any CD. I didn't get a flatscreen TV. No home phone; no home internet; no cable TV. When my kettle broke, I didn't replace it: I use a pot. When my contact lenses broke, I didn't even replace them (which means that when I saw the Benjamin Button movie last week, Brad Pitt looked the same in every frame, unfortunately.) When my socks had a hole, I repaired them; I didn't buy any clothes, and I avoided wearing clothes that would need dry cleaning or special treatment.
Jelliffe admits he earned less in 2008 as a result, quite possibly a result of not bothering with mobile phones for long stretches of time, and turning down a book offer too. While he admits good luck played some part in his experiences (no major illness or family complications) the experiment does seem to have led Jelliffe to a less restless, more placid lifestyle.
Most telling though, were Jelliffe's comments on modern day commodities:
Simplicity is great if it is coupled with quality household goods, but terrible with commodity goods that bust all the time. I am using my grandparents' knives: they use a kind of steel that has not been produced for about 70 years now: they are thin blades that never need sharpening and cut as well as a carving knife. They are great examples of the kind of quality I am looking for: when you know you will be eating with a sharp knife, you don't need to make concessions in your cooking.
Simplicity does not let us escape entirely consumerism, in the sense that it leaves one free from considering things: indeed. it seems to merely lift the game. If I want my knives to be in continuous use for fifty or one hundred years, they need to be good. And the quality equation only makes sense over commodity goods if they are beautiful or excellent.
You may not want to live such an extreme lifestyle in 2009, but is there a lesson to be learnt from paying a little more for quality, even when money is tight?