Expand the definition of commodity for a more contended life


I’ve been mulling over the idea of a commodity lately. Commodities is an economics term for anything that is indistinguishable based on source or manufacturer. You can take white rice from four different brand names and dump them all into one pot without noticing a difference. Gasoline is another commodity. You can fill up at Sunoco, then fill up at Irving, and then at Exxon. Gasoline is roughly the same no matter where you buy it.

The status of a thing as a commodity has something to do with both frugality and contentment. The more things in your life you can treat as indistinguishable commodities, the less you will spend on those items and the happier you will be in your circumstance.

When I was a young whippersnapper, (Please, do your best whistly old woman voice as you read that), a place to sleep was a commodity. I slept on a standard if aged mattress for most of my childhood. In high school, I disclaimed a bed in search of simplicity and slept on a homemade pad of blankets, which I rolled up against the wall during the day. In my early days of hiking I did not carry a hiking mat. So long as there was no particularly aggressive tree root poking through my tent floor, I slept soundly on a wood floor or the solid dirt.

Now I’m ….several…. years older. I’ve subjected my body to a fairly aggressive wear & tear regimen, with long-distance hiking, camping, delivering mail for the US Postal Service, bearing children, and developing a degenerative joint disease. I require a real mattress for my bed, and am thinking about upgrading my 2.5 inch sleeping mat to the velvet-covered 6 inch self inflating air mattress. A bed used to be a commodity. Now it’s more like a specialty item.

So here’s my own feral definition of a commodity. A commodity is that which accomplishes a task without any need for quality, cachet, or (as Cat Man would say) prettiness. My car is a commodity. It is large enough and reliable enough, and I didn’t care what color it was (so long as it wasn’t maroon). My bed, in my advanced and decrepit (but still truckin’) state, is not a commodity anymore.