Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simplicity in Material Things

Dear friends,

Happy Monday! On this end of the world it is about bedtime on Monday and the week is full steam ahead. It was a fantastic weekend with some great friends. Lots of laughter, food, wine and more laughter.

Anyhow, we said that we would begin with a series on simplicity in order to combat the excess that exists in our lives.

Let's just get one thing straight. We believe that we must combat the excess in our lives not simply for combating excess; but for freeing ourselves for more important things. In other words, we get rid of the excess so that we may have more. More of what?

More of life... love... family... quite times for contemplation...intimate moments... laughter... tears... times of joy...(you get the idea).

It sounds like a paradox and you could call us crazy, but we firmly believe that the less that you have the more you can have.

Let's start with today's topic... Material things. (It's so hard to give insight on a problem when you know you suffer with it right? Let's try anyways...) We mentioned earlier that for most of us there is certainly an excess of material stuff in our lives. The sad thing is that these multiple things are not even good quality things. Is it possible that nowadays people are just obsessed with having a gigantic assortment of poor quality things?

It seems that instead of having 1 really good product that will last a long time, we would rather have a bunch of mediocre products that last a fraction as long.

We need to simplify the way we buy and own things.

Here's how we see it:

1) Don't be Swayed by the Trends - Trends are exactly what they are... trends. They are fine now, but next year you will most likely look a bit off when you still have it. Go for classic styles and products.

2) Think before You Buy - Before you go all crazy on the 10 for the price of one at your favorite department store, ask yourself... do you really need 10 of them? Are you really going to use them? Also, avoid impulse buying. Kinda like not going into a grocery hungry (guilty right here), you can't go into a store when you are feeling impulsive. How do you know you are feeling impulsive? Easy... it's when everything looks appealing to you. It's best to approach purchasing with a calm and sound mind. And ask yourself... do I really need this leather bag? Do I already have one like this? Do I really another one? But what if it is...ON SALE! ONCE IN A LIFETIME! - Come on now. Do you think that it will never be on sale again? Or at least something like it. And even if your battery-powered-flame-throwing-espresso-machine with DVD player never goes on a sale again ask yourself again... is this really necessary?

3) Buy for Quality and Longevity - This is SUPER important. One of the things I like to ask myself when I am buying something these days is "Could I still use this 10 years from now?" Examine the quality. Ask about the product. Compare the product with other products. See if there is a warranty and ask if you can hit it with a baseball bat (just kidding). But seriously, if get the best quality in the end you will be saving tons of money, because you won't be replacing it as often.

4) Get Rid of the Old when You Bring in the New (or Just Get Rid of the Old) - Cay and I need to follow through on this. Whenever we buy something new, we should recycle something we already have. After all that's why you bought something new right? Because the old thing no longer served it's purpose. When you buy yourself a new hat, bring some of your old ones to the local Salvation Army or charities. Moreover... if you have are one of those that have tons of things, I suggest you immediately implement the one year practice: If you haven't used it in a year, then toss it (give it to someone else - charity, ebay, relatives, enemies, whatever.)

5) Try to Support Your Local Artisans and Suppliers - I love finding products that are made in the geographical area of where I am living. Plus, you are supporting the local economy; and a lot of the local artisans and craftspeople make things better than some mass producing machine. Sure it will cost you a bit more, but I the payoff is worth it when you know you have a good product that was made by someone's bear hands. (p.s. Local artisans are also more likely to repair your product if you need them to)

6) Be Minimal - One thing that I am trying to do right now is get all my belongings into one closet, and I am getting closer everyday. Why? Because I am tired of having stuff scattered all over the house. The house just seems more spacious and free when you have less things occupying it. There is something beautiful about sitting in front of a beautiful empty wooden table in the morning. I believe that being minimal with belongings gives you more room to move and think and just... be. When you have less you have more.

7) TAKE CARE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE - Now that you have the thing. Take care of it. Put it in a proper place and keep it in good condition so that you will not ruin it. Clean out your coffee machine and put shoe trees in your quality shoes. When you take care of the things that you have it lengthens the life of the product.

8) Be a Good Example to Your Family - Remember that children do what the parents do (so I've heard). What kind of example do you want to set for your kids? Sit down and talk with them about the importance of being prudent with things and how to take care of them.

9) If You Can't Afford it then You Don't Need it - Pure and simple. This will surely get the excess out of your life. I cut up my credit cards 2 years ago and have paid everything with cash since then. It has been challenging when it comes to buying things like plane tickets, but I have never felt more free than I do now. We do not buy anything that we cannot pay and cash, and if we can't afford it now, then we SAVE till we can.

10) You Own Things, not the Other Way Around - Ponder this statement.

More to come...


Vince and Cay


  1. Nice blogpost dawg. To both you and Cay... first for having this conversation. I don't think I want to cut up EVERY credit card, but for Jorge and I, we've done a pretty good job of handling the credit when used. For the most part.... the balances don't sit on the cards and we're aware of what we've spent. It was really difficult in the beginning, but I think it's good practice for self control. Credit cards can be really evil. I'll never forget those days when I didn't even there was interest on those cards. Crazy huh?

    I liked the buying the quality stuff (like even in the simplest areas) and taking care of what you have. There's no point of buying quality stuff if you DON'T take care of them. I always remember growing up and Papa had these great Colehan loafers that were never taken care of. The thing is, when we take care of the stuff we have, we're showing appreciation and gratitude to God for these blessings. The ability to have these things. And I like the idea of not letting these things OWN us. Fr. Jonathan was talking about how it's not bad to have money, but when you allow it to be the end all, then it's bad.

    I wanted to add something to your list as well. Alot of our expenses go into food. I've found a great way to simplify is to eat whatever is in the pantry. Whatever is in the fridge. Take out ingredients that have been sitting there for a while that can be made into something and make something from it. That's helped us a lot. I used to be the QUEEN of buying all the ingredients almost everyday for each meal. I just accumulated so much stuff.

    Okay, I commented! I love you both and happy nesting Cay! I'm 36 weeks this Saturday. It's right around the corner and I have so much to do to prepare.

  2. Girlie... Thanks for the comment!

    Thanks for posting it. We agree with you completely about the food! We were also very guilty of being stuff and letting it stockpile in the fridge until it eventually spoils and you have to throw it away. Now we've realized that we really should eat everything we buy. You would be proud of us... as of this week there are no left-overs in our fridge because we've eaten almost everything that can be eaten! (Now excuse me as I go down to the shop and buy more peanut butter and oatmeal).

  3. One word..."very good!" Haha...that's two, but just wanted to make you smile! :)
    Something to add....simplicity in activities. No need to go extravagant in activities. The best in life doesn't cost money, but does require time and effort. I see this in my kids...all they wanna do is spend time with mom and dad. This is something I need to work in with my job, but they woud rather play games at home with us than go to the mall...where we get tempted to buy more stuff.
    Miss you guys.

  4. Kenneth,

    I agree with you completely with the best things in life not costing money. You are a blessed man to have a job that allows you to bring your kids in to hang out. Malls... I can't stand them man. We miss you tons and can't wait for you to come out and visit us here. Hint.

    Love you bro... Vince and Cay