Can unnecessary things make us happy?
You can't buy happiness.
We’ve all heard it. Things can’t make you happy.
I respectfully disagree.
I’m not saying that “stuff” can replace the important things in our lives, like love, friends or a meaningful existence and a happy family. That would be stupid. But I’m saying that they can (and do) play an important part in some, if not most, peoples lives.
I’m not talking about a new iPhone, no, I’m talking about the really unnecessary things. Like a pen. You can get a really good pen for a buck. Still, some people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a pen. It’s not in any way a more functional pen. It’s a pen of a higher quality, yes, but not a more functional pen. Now why would anyone do this? I own a Lamy 2000 Rollerball pen. It’s a ridiculously expensive pen. For the cost of that pen I could get hundreds of inexpensive pens that writes just as well. But that is not the issue here. I don’t care about that kind of quality in this case. The kind of quality I want in the case of a pen for myself, is the weight of the pen, the feel of the pen in my hand as I write. Is the balance right? How does the ink feel as I write on the paper? How does the ink look on the paper? A normal ballpoint pen would probably be better in every way from a practical point of view. But I’m willing to overlook all those details just to have something “feel” good.
The same goes for a watch. You can get a great Casio watch for next to nothing that tells time in a more legible and accurate way than any Rolex. Still the cost of a Rolex can be 100 times that of the Casio. This is a phenomenon that defies common sense. The individual parts of the Rolex are more expensive, sure, but not 100 times more expensive.
I first started to think about this odd human behavior a few months ago when I felt the need for a new keyboard. The keyboard on my new MacBook Pro started to behave strange. I had to type a little harder on the spacebar for it to register. No big deal, but it led me to think about my disgust for laptop keyboards. I knew of mechanical keyboards and the spell they put on people. I told myself that “that is not a rabbit hole I’m going down”. No way. So of course, I had ordered a new mechanical keyboard within a few days. I spent my days totally obsessing with everything that had anything to do with mechanical keyboards. And I came to the conclusion that if I’m getting a mechanical keyboard it has to be the best. And when I say “the best” I’m not talking about more keys than other keyboards or flashing lights, no, I’m talking about something that’s well made. Something that’s made with love and care. Something that’s not being made with production streamline and efficiency as the main priority. I want something that someone has thought about for hours and weeks and months. I don’t want something that’s made out of plastic unless plastic is the best material for that part.
In the case of the keyboard that I ordered, it was a good keyboard with an aluminum body and really good PBT keycaps (PBT is a high quality plastic that is used on some of the best keycaps available). But it was not “right”, it was not special, it was not good enough. I had gotten a feel for mechanical keyboards, but I knew I could get something even better. After some research I had learned that the mechanical keyboard world was just as obsessed with the perfect feel as I was. In fact, everything was based on “feel” in this tactile world. The cases of the custom boards should preferably be made of a single piece of aluminum with some going so far as to put pieces of brass in the cases as to make them even more sturdy and heavy, to make them “feel” even better. The keycaps come in different shapes or profiles and that makes each of the sets feel different and it also makes each of the sets sound different. They are also made out of different materials for a different feel depending on the plastic used. But the most important thing when it comes to the “feel” of a Keyboard is the switches. There are hundreds of switches to choose from and everyone claims to offer a different feel, a different tactility. Some are clicky (my favorite), some are tactile and some are linear. You have to try them to really appreciate the difference, and believe me when I say they are different.
For me to make the perfect keyboard, for me to feel as if I had the perfect keyboard, I already had gone to insane lengths. I’d learned about switches and keycaps, different plastics used in keycaps and from whom I should order all these parts so I could make my own fabulous and perfect just for me, tactile keyboard.
I eventually built my perfect keyboard, I’m writing on it now in fact. It’s a Planck keyboard with PBT DSA keycaps and wonderfully clicky Kailh Box White switches and an aluminum case, of course. This probably doesn’t mean much to the average human being, but it means that I can “feel” something when I type that I can’t quite put in to words. It feels wonderful, in fact it feels fantastic. Every click under my fingers is a deep satisfaction. I feel quality and that is important to me.
This keyboard makes me happy.
My pen makes me happy.
I used to own an Apple Watch. I sold it so I could buy a mechanical watch instead. Two in fact. They are much worse than the Apple watch at showing me the time or even keeping the time and they most certainly can’t show me my notifications. But they are complicated little machines that give me great pleasure every day. They are not digital, they are analog. They are mechanical. Little cog wheels spinning and making quiet music for me to listen to.
My watches make me happy.
These things sometimes cost a bit more, but they are often well made and sometimes will last you a lifetime. Your Apple Watch will not. Your cheap pen will not and the keyboard in your laptop will not.
Enjoy the small things. Take the time to find the perfekt thing for you. You might find that it can add some happiness to your life. It’s the little things, the details that make all the difference.