The Tiny Things That Make Us Happy (and Convince Us to Buy)

tiny things that make you happy
My wife and I live in a modest two room apartment. We drive a used car, don’t eat out a lot, and we have a solid budget that we (usually) stick to.

Yet there are still a few things that we splurge on. For example, instead of buying regular plastic carton milk, I like to buy the locally-made organic milk that comes in a glass bottle. This typically runs $1.50-$2 more than the traditional plastic carton version, but I buy it anyway.

Why? Who knows! I know I love it, and even though I’ll maybe have a glass a day and maybe some in my cereal, it’s not a critical part of my life. I could easily go without the ritzy milk.

But I don’t. For whatever reason, this small, insignificant part of my life seems better when I have milk that comes in a glass container. The aesthetics of pouring milk from a glass container as opposed to a plastic carton are quite different.

When I’m creating, there are some things that have to be exact, and some that don’t. I’ll carefully consider the perfect pen and notebook, but I could care less about the location of where I’m creating. I’m really particular about the time of day that I write or create, but hardly ever give a second thought to what I wear.

Sometimes the things that I think mean a great deal never amount to much. Oftentimes it’s the smallest things in life that make me the happiest. The sound of my newborn nieces and nephews sleeping (my sister recently had triplets!),

Does this make sense? Not at first glance.

Think about it this way: if you were going to create something incredible, sometimes the small things make all the difference in the world.

Smart companies like Apple understand this, and even market their products to highlight these tiny things. Take, for example, the redesigned aluminum body on the new Macbooks.

unibody mac marketing

Sure, Apple’s marketing made sure to showcase “nuts and bolts” improvements on the hardware: the new graphics card, the new processor, and longer battery time. Yet they also have a page dedicated (with a video!) to the new process they use to create the aluminum chassis for the laptops. The page highlights the length Apple goes for the small improvements.

Why go to all the trouble to highlight small improvements?

These small, insignificant “features” make people feel a certain way. And emotions are what drive sales, not facts. Tiny, almost unmeasurable details can play more heavily into our thought processes and decision-making than we give them credit.

We are irrational people, after all. Or, at least I am ;)


It’s interesting to learn what small things really matter to me (like shmancy milk), and what bigger things don’t (like owning a house or a new car with all four hubcaps).

Anyway, this is what rolls through my head during a Saturday morning. What do you think? Why do the small things seem to matter so much? All I know is that they do.

Photo by athena

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jonathan Martell December 1, 2010, 9:35 am

    Great post!. A sum of tiny things makes our lives.

  • jmj godville September 2, 2010, 12:56 am

    small is beautiful…


  • Ed Wieczorek August 25, 2010, 1:30 pm

    It is oh so true!

    Awesome blog!

  • Breathalyzer August 24, 2010, 3:40 am

    I agree that communication is still important!

    Thanks for posting!

  • Cristina August 21, 2010, 9:40 am

    Hi Glen, small things do matter a lot for me, too. I can’t really express with words the reason why…but often small things drive my day, make me stop whatever I’m doing and take attention, appreciate life, be present…I can relate to your ‘organic milk in a glass bottle rather than carton’ choice; I don’t drink milk, but I do something similar – I buy good quality loose tea rather than tea bags. Loose tea tastes infinitely better, and I love the ritual of making tea. I think that buying loose tea is a way of treating myself well, of loving myself, if you want. I don’t care about cars, either, as long as they are safe and reliable.

    There’s an interesting TED Talk from Don Norman about the emotions that drive people to like/buy, and how important they are to the design process, I think you might enjoy it – you can find it in my blog, too.

    Have a good weekend :)

    • glen August 21, 2010, 10:14 am

      Thanks for the awesome thoughts Cristina. Glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t care about hubcaps ;)