About ten years ago I put everything I owned on the street in front of my apartment building in New York City.
The only things that remained in my small apartment were a week’s worth of clothing, a queen sized bed, some basic cooking stuff, and a very nice Italian-made table an ex-girlfriend had left me. It took me a few months to get new chairs for the table, and until then I sat and ate on the floor.
I didn’t decide do this because I’m some kind of minimalist monk. I just realized that my relationship with “stuff” had become unhealthy, and I decided to start over, from scratch.
Since then my approach is to own just what I use, and nothing else. Because I don't waste a lot of money on a lot of cheap stuff, I make sure that the things I do own are very good quality, well designed, and make me happy every time I use them.
The things I own usually cost a bit more, but last much longer and in the long run I spend much less now than I did before. I still own my ex-girlfriends table and I live a better life.
My bicycle was my primary form of transportation for close to 15 years. Since I couldn’t find a bike that I wanted to own enough to buy, I began designing my own bicycles and having them fabricated out of titanium: a material that is ultra-light, compliant, beautiful, and never rusts, so it lasts virtually forever. I’ve never been a racer — I just like to have a perfect (and lovely) machine that will get me from here to there as elegantly and effortlessly as possible.
After a while people started to ask me to make bicycles for them, too.
This led to Budnitz Bicycles, which now sells about 250 handmade bicycles a year out of our studio here in Burlington, Vermont. There’s almost always a waiting list for most models.
Quite frankly, our sales pitch is rather odd. We're not about adding another bike to your garage or having fantasies of winning the Tour or bombing rocky singletrack as fast as possible.
We believe that owning (and using) few very good things that are well made and that function to perfection allows us to fall in love with the objects that touch us day to day. By doing so our lives become objectively better, we save money (even though the fewer things we do buy cost a bit more), and we stop wasting the world’s resources by building lots of cheap junk that works poorly, and that we have to replace every few years.
Even if our bicycles are not for you, I encourage you to think about what you own, what you use (and don’t), and to choose quality (and love) over quantity.
A lot of these same principals went into Ello, which I helped to found too. It’s a reason this network remains so brilliant, uniquely positive, and inspiring.