I spent time with my Dad on Cape Cod over the last couple of weeks, and somehow we got to talking about furniture. I shared my dismay over the quality of mine back home. Like many, I have accumulated a wide array of self-assembly bookshelves and dressers. I recently learned my long treasured mission style table is wrapped in veneer, and my faux leather couch, now lumpy and ripped, seemed to have been haphazardly constructed with staples and glue.
My Dad nodded knowingly and said, ” My father used to always say to me, “We’re too poor to afford cheap stuff.” He reminded me that when he was a kid, his family could not afford to keep replacing things that wore out or broke.
It was a casual exchange, but it has rattled in my head for several days, and it occurred to me that the sentiment is just as true now as 75 years ago. We live in a disposable society driven by a consumer economy, and it may be warping our thinking.
On one end of the scale, we confuse the appearance of authenticity with genuine authenticity. A maple finish is not always maple wood, it is often lacquered paper. We seem content with artificial flavors and pirated goods. We forget or no longer care that all that glitters is not gold. This makes us value things disproportionately higher than they are worth.
Those with money to spare, fall on the other end of the scale, and often fail to invest in craftsmanship and ongoing care. We buy immediacy, seeking a quick fix and instant gratification. When a hue fades or falls out of favor, we abandon it for something new, brighter and more shiny.
Those who have the attitude that they are “too poor to afford cheap things” are patient. They build and save their resources, investing in the best quality they can afford. Then they care for, protect and maintain it. They value it higher, so they treat it better. They also invest in repairing it if it dulls, breaks or fails to perform.
Imagine how your world would improve if you adopted a similar attitude in your life, regardless of your income? Think of the implications of this as a business owner, or the leader of an organization, someone making hiring decisions or feeding a family. As an effective manager do you invest in the best people, and then care for, protect and maintain your relationships? If someone breaks or fails to perform to your expectations, do you invest in repairing them, or do you discard them and abandon their dignity?
Imagine putting your ego aside and being humble enough to patiently invest in the people, places, products, mission or ideals you say you value?
The market is addicted to the newest, fastest, and brightest. However, to the discerning eye, many of these purported improvements are little more than squares transformed into diamonds by a slight twist. Not nearly as revolutionary as they first appear.
I am convinced embracing this attitude brings greater rewards. You do not have to live like a pauper, or suffer from scarcity. You do need to become more discerning and reduce the literal and figurative junk in your life.Stop making excuses for shoddy craftsmanship, poor advice, negligent leadership or slipshod friendships. Be patient and realistic in what you can afford, not what you want others to think you can afford.
Life is more pleasant when you surround yourself with a few things that work extremely well, rather than a plethora of dysfunction.