Experiencing quality versus quantity

in Eco-minimalism - 5 min read

It is our personal experience, dating back as far as the first years of our lives, when each of us began to reflect consciously on our observations, that poor quality is unaffordable, especially if one is poor or lives on a tight budget.

It took some time to put our fingers on and wrap our minds around this paradox, but once we did, no one could convince us of the opposite again.

We might have remained tacit about, for guardians in our families were in favor of thrifty solutions, in other words of cheap and their strong voices overpowered our juvenile sentiments, until we came of maturity and grew into ever more independent souls. Symbolically speaking, we managed to unhook from their feeding tube of cheap quantity and although we plugged it, the slowly drying up tube still drips on occasion.

A gradual distaste-turned-disgust formed against the frequent purchases of products that lacked integrity, thus fell apart too soon, and whilst witnessing how the amassed stuff outgrew rooms, basements, garages and crept into remote public storage spaces.

Meanwhile, our real wishes for those few, but quality items, were met with stiff shortsighted incomprehension and resentment over our out-of-scale desires. Sounds familiar to you too?

Both of us had a concept of what some attributes of good quality were, within the conventional sense, anyway:

• longevity
• sturdiness
• craftsmanship
• natural materials
• a style that allows all of the above shine through in harmony

Even if brand names were not the driving appeal for our purchases anymore, they did still act as reassurance for the choices we made, performing their mission nonetheless, in persuading us too. It was not why we bought any kind of garment, but still accepted names and logos embossed in leather, engraved in metal, machine embroidered on fabrics and left behind on our footprints – subliminal queues for those behind to follow in our steps.

And in our steps forward did we leave those bothersome brand markings behind too.

First we got annoyed by the irritating feel of several tags rubbing against our skin at the garments’ neck- and waistlines, so we removed them.

Then we started seeking out those products that were discrete, not shouting their manufacturer’s identity. Given today’s promiscuous industrial and marketing conduct, this proved to be a hard task.

Fortunately, it did not even take ever setting our feet on the sparkling floors of the highest fashion shops to shine through clearly, like their one item per window, that:

• haute couture creates design patterns of its sheer name more than any other player of the clothing industry;
• what is hailed as top quality, operates on the basis of perception and not genuine integrity;
• ethics are subordinate to revenue generating powers, the same as on any other now-existing quality level of conventionally manufactured goods from apparel and accessories through hand and power tools on to electronic devices.

These times have fortunately coincided with the beginnings of our surely life-long adventure in self-reliance, as well as the implementation of sustainable lifestyle practices. Both of these became reality with home making.

From here onward, our notion of quality expanded to include an inseparable measurement: the extent to which a product (or service) respects nature and approaches sustainability.

With brands largely faded from our lives, the concept of ecological customization emerged, now requiring craftsmanship to also be principled and act responsibly (at the very least on hire), be it solid hardwood bookshelves with joinery, a stainless steel cup or a heavy-duty sawhorse.

Perhaps the greatest change we experienced was the self-push to keep as much of the creating power in our own hands as possible, while providing quality and well-functioning answers to our specific demands.

Indeed, this takes learning how to tame one’s wants and recognize the real needs.

In our case, we decided to heal, cook and clothe ourselves, so far our hands have been most diligent in foraging, natural healing practices, the use of cooking utensils and needles of various shapes and sizes. To others the focus may be placed somewhere else within self-reliance or one may find outsourcing of the projects, hiring already skilled specialists the most practical. The great majority of us, however, will probably choose a combination of do-it-yourself and commissioning.

Either way, switching your approach from a quantity- to a quality-driven one and embracing locally addressed sustainable solutions to needs, you will invite all new, rewarding experiences into your life, such as:

• valuable skills,
• meaningful connections,
• pride that is finally dissociated from the sense of guilt (conscious or subconscious) that often accompanies our expenditure,
• textures versus sterile smoothness,
• organic imperfection in lieu of clear-cut edges and sharp corners…

…to name but a few.

It is entirely possible that one overindulges in this newly acquired chemistry towards all things natural and begins filling those recently emptied trunks with products of genuine, what’s more, heirloom quality – so a natural kind of stuff. But we would in no way advocate for such behavior and recommend leaving it to professional collectors and those who cannot escape a compulsive hoarding.

As for us, the large majority, it is best advised to practice a healthy discipline in acquisitions, fostered by a wonderful benefit of quality: that it simply cancels out the need for much.

When you spot the next party balloon escaped into the air, think of it as a metaphor, a sad reminder what happens with all things without value: we hold on to them as if they meant much and then don’t even realize when they are gone. Gone as trash, burdening others and the Earth.

So both you and us need to be very vigilant of what our children see us doing, including our choices we make, because we are their ultimate source of reference and role models during their formative years. Even if our influence over our children will later eventually be balanced by other role models of their choice, we will live on strongly in their memories. The “quality versus quantity” issue should no longer be a dilemma of theirs in the future.

Let’s not burden, but lighten the epigenetic haul we pass on to our little ones.

Roland Magyar

Passionate rewilder, who lives outside of the world of compromises.

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