Friday, November 28, 2008

Fewer, Better Things

"I'm too poor to be cheap!" a friend told me years ago, when she was shopping for a couch. She said that she always bought the best, few things she could afford. Because it was ultimately more frugal to buy one good item that would last for years, rather than a bunch of shoddy stuff that would have to be replaced, perhaps several times over.

De Beers Group brilliantly mines (pun sort of intended) this philosophy. There's a full-page ad in today's New York Times that I think is absolutely inspired--and inspiring. It's a powerful antidote to the empty consumerism displayed by the martyr mommy and her "stuff" in my post Which Quote Is More Nauseating? It reads:

FEWER, BETTER THINGS.

Our lives are full of things. Disposable distractions,
stuff you buy but do not cherish, own yet never love.
Thrown away in weeks rather than passed down for generations.

Perhaps things will be different now. Wiser choices made with greater care.
After all, if the fewer things you own always excite you, would you
really miss the many that never could?

Near the bottom of the ad is De Beers' trademark phrase, "A DIAMOND IS FOREVER," with a pair of diamond solitaire studs just above it.

Now I'm not about to rush out and buy myself diamond earrings, or ask Darling Husband to do so. I'm perfectly happy with the $50 crystals I bought at a Georgetown consignment shop on my last trip to DC. Fake diamonds are forever too, and I'll never worry about their being lost or stolen.

But the ad's message really hits home. Thinking back on all the presents I received as a child, few have survived, either in memory or reality. The toys I so ardently begged for were early casualties: Chatty Cathy, Play-Doh Fun Factory, Barbie's Dream House (then made of cardboard, not plastic). Two gifts are unforgettable: the parakeet I got for Christmas when I was nine (I didn't start celebrating Hanukah till I hooked up with DH) and the puppy I got at age ten to replace the lost parakeet. (The bird was returned the next day and lorded it over the dog ever after.)

What do I still have decades later, besides fond memories of my pets? Things with emotional resonance, containing not a speck of plastic: a little pearl pendant on a whisper-thin gold chain, given by my father when I was five; a clay plaque he made me when he was recovering from his first heart attack; a crewel-embroidered velveteen koala bear, made by my mother; a pair of silver wire earrings, given by my mother and stepfather for my high-school graduation.

When I hold those gifts now, they still make me happy. Treasures for a lifetime.

1 comment:

Mr. Obie Joe said...

Oh, I like this. I'm in the midst of obssessing over finding the perfect pair of earrings for my oldest daughter, soon to turn 13. I felt silly for being so serious on the search, but I do realize these are the kind of things that are worth it. I don't have a lot of money to spend on it, so it really will be the thought that counts. And...I love the description of the necklace on a "whisper thin" chain.