Fifteen years ago, in Vermont, I discovered minimalism. While cleaning a garage full of clutter, my neighbor changed my life with a couple of sentences. She said, “That’s why my daughter is a minimalist. She keeps telling me I don’t need to own all this stuff.”
The scene that played out in front of me changed my life. My garage, full of dirty clutter, had taken up hours of my morning, while my 5-year old son played alone on the swing-set in the backyard.
I realized the need for change. All the things I owned were not contributing to a better life. Even worse, they were keeping me from it.
My wife and I, along with our two young kids, embarked on a journey to remove all the unnecessary possessions from our home and life. And with it, came countless benefits. Real things like: more money, more time, more focus, and less stress.
One of the most surprising benefits I discovered along the way was the ability to own higher quality items without increasing my spending.
Owning high quality items wasn’t necessarily a benefit I foresaw when I decided to embrace a more minimalist life. But it’s absolutely true!
Let me share how this realization dawned on me.
It began with my wardrobe. Like many, my closet was crammed with cheap, fast-fashion and items I had found on clearance racks. My closet was literally full of hundreds of different items.
Shortly after pursuing minimalism, I discovered the Project 333 Experiment started by Courtney Carver. I decided to give it a shot and cut my wardrobe down to just 33 items (at first, for just a three month trial).
But when I made that decision, I noticed something fascinating: Almost all of the 33 things I decided to keep were higher quality items than those I chose to discard.
“Wait a minute,” the thought occurred to me for the first time. “If I purposefully own fewer items, I could own much higher quality things. Minimalism and frugality are not the same.”
I could immediately upgrade the possessions in my life by spending twice as much on an item, but only buying half as many!
If I don’t need 20 pairs of pants in my closet, I could spend twice as much on the ten that I do own. If I don’t need ten pairs of shoes, I could spend twice as much on the five pairs that I do buy. If I didn’t need to own six different watches, I could buy one really nice one.
It was a simple yet life-changing realization: By owning fewer things, I could afford to invest in higher quality.
Spend twice as much on an item, but buy half as many.
Clothing is just one example. Think of all the areas in life where we could adopt this same principle: towels, linens, shoes, coats, purses, watches, ties, tools, cookware, knives, furniture, decorations, travel mugs, personal care items, technology, televisions, sporting equipment, even cars and houses. The list is virtually endless!
The quickest way to upgrade your lifestyle without spending an extra penny is to buy higher quality and lesser quantity.
And it’s available to anyone, right now, who wants to upgrade their lifestyle.
Of course, this principle will play out differently based on your income. A family making $250,000/year would apply the principle of “fewer, but better” differently than a family making $50,000/year. But unless you are already living an extreme minimalist lifestyle, there is always room for you to apply this life principle.
You can upgrade your lifestyle today without needing to spend more. Buy better, but fewer.
In the long run, in fact, my guess is that you’ll find this principle actually costs you less. When we choose to purchase higher quality, the items tend to last longer, we tend to love them longer, we tend to take better care of them, and we probably even receive more personalized care where and when we bought them.
The magic formula for upgrading your life doesn’t require more money. It just requires buying less.