Monday, September 13, 2010

Quality vs. Quantity

Yesterday at lunch, I had a most interesting conversation with my husband.  Recently, our son discovered a movie based on a novel from the 1980s, American Psycho.  If you ignore the "psycho" portions, the movie was pretty accurate about the shallowness of the 80s.  My son was laughing about the characters' obsessions with having the best business card, getting reservations at the most exclusive restaurant, and wearing the right clothes.  I told him that the 80s really was about status - what you wore, what you drove, how you entertained.  

Talking to my husband about it, I said the 80s was all about quality, whereas in the present day, it's all about quantity, i.e. consumerism.  While there was a lot wrong with the 80s, I do think in some ways we had it right.  We really should be concerned with purchasing quality items that endure the test of time.  It's much better to have a few quality items that you enjoy for years to come, than to purchase a lot of cheap goods that are thrown away after a few uses.  The problem with the 80s was that we bought items to impress others.  

Today, however, we don't care at all about quality.  It's all about price and getting more, more, more.  Crass consumerism is the new way to impress friends and neighbors.  We tell ourselves that we have a lot of really good stuff and we that we've saved lots of money in the process.  The sad thing is that we really don't save money in the end.  We find ourselves spending even more money to replace the items that didn't last.  And for the few items that do last, we end up having them clutter our homes or putting them in storage because we really didn't need them in the first place.  We were just seduced by  low prices and shiny products.

Although we need to avoid trying to impress our friends and neighbors, I would like to see us get back to caring about spending our limited dollars on quality rather than quantity.  By doing so, we simplify our lives, save money, and reduce our impact on the planet.  


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

In L.A. (+ I'm sure in other places, not so much in Nashville) you still see a lot of 80's model 300-series BMW's on the road...that's 20+ years from a car + what I would call reliable!

What a great line of thinking.

Fiona said...

Cherie, I really love this twist on thinking of the 80s. The scales tipped one way and then the other, perhaps now we ('people') will purchase just the amount of good quality that we need, and look after it.

Deanna said...

My husband and I had a similar conversation the other day. The modern notion of "planned obsolescence" drives me nuts. My parents have been married 39 years and are still using many items they received as wedding gifts. They own much of the furniture I grew up with and that of my grandparents. The quality of these items is often so much better than what we usually have available these days.

I'm delighted to be the recipient of many family heirlooms from both my family and my husband's. Not only do they add charm to my home but I know they will last.

Stephanie said...

Amen! I've never thought of the 80's this way but you're right. It was about both quality and advancement.

Cherie said...

Shona, in the 80s I worked with someone who drove an ancient BMW - I think it was passed down from her family. That car had so much more style than many brand new cars.

Fiona, people are now having to buy less. However, I'm afraid many are overextended credit-wise and now have to buy the cheap products rather than investing in quality.

Deanna, once again we're on the same page! When my husband and I were younger and didn't have much money, I would have a wish list of quality items that I would buy when I saved up enough. I still have many of those items.

Stephanie, you're right. It was also about advancement, improving the quality of our lives. Perhaps the pendulum can swing back that way without getting into the excesses.