Life's Little Luxuries?
August 2, 2014 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to raise my game in all sorts of areas and seeking advice on the things you've invested time and money in that lift your life out of the ordinary...

Having once "had it all" I found myself still wanting. The things I thought would make me happy didn't. But over the years I've found profound happiness in a few items and activities that have a pureness to them, something very pleasing to the soul. Most of the the things in which I found lack are probably obvious in hindsight, luxury holidays, huge TVs, the big house and expensive car etc. The special things are also obvious, sunsets, friends, family, nature etc. I'm now exploring the inbetween...

Can you help?

So far, great wine at a fair price, a well made Negroni, freshly caught fish cooked over wood, a decent telescope, a watch that stands the test of time, an oil painting, skinny dipping, a good camera, new music, cigars, proper chocolate.

What are the objects and their related activities that raise your life to another level? The sort of things that embody something ’more‘?
posted by Caskeum to Religion & Philosophy (44 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I noticed a friend who hit it big in the startup world didn't frivolously or conspicuously spend their money and I asked them why. They said mostly it was to make sure they would continue to have money by not spending it, but that spending big got boring really quick. Then they gave me advice I've never forgotten.

They said to upgrade the points in your life that you touch and do daily, repeatedly all day long. So that meant have a nice car, have a nice office chair (for a programmer this is a big deal and where you spend lots of time), get a nice bathroom with the perfect tub or shower you always wanted, and splurge on a good bed that lets you sleep well. All the rest of the things in your life you don't need to spend money on, it's mostly a waste. I've taken that advice to heart and noticed the pattern in others that have hit it big in the software/web/startup world as well.
posted by mathowie at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2014 [69 favorites]

A good patio chair or plus lawn swing to watch the birds and sunsets.
Bird feeders.
Plants and flower boxes that attract nature.
Bubble baths with candles.
A fluffy blanket.
Good slippers.
A massage.
Personally, I love my sonicare. Having really clean teeth feels amazing.
Loose leaf tea (I have a tea sparrow box subscription.)
posted by Crystalinne at 10:20 AM on August 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Re: music, a Spotify subscription is wonderful. Infinite new music. Highly recommended.

A vegetable garden and time and friends to prepare, cook, and eat a meal using the proceeds.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:20 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good coffee
Nice yarn for knitting (or similar nice whatever you use for hobbies)
A comfy reading chair
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Really nice bedding.
Pretty glassware for everyday use.
Access to a park where I can walk barefoot in the grass.
My family has a very simple cabin in a very quiet place, and going there from time to time is entirely restorative.

And really, I'd say my dog. Her companionship is a true luxury and one of the things I enjoy most.
posted by mochapickle at 10:38 AM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Good shoes that last even if they get left out in the rain, that actually support your feet.
The space, money and time to care for animals who otherwise would not have a home.
A quick-draw with cash or credit to buy a meal, ticket, or other ~$50 item for friends who would otherwise not be able to enjoy that thing with you, with absolute relaxed refusal to be paid back.
posted by Mizu at 10:43 AM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Beautiful dishes. You use them every day. Doesn't matter if it's china or stoneware or Corelle, but something that's pleasing to look at and touch, and also practical to use.

In fact, the whole intersection of "practical" and "beautiful" is where many of my favorite things live ... a hand-made teapot. The little bowl that catches my keys is a funny little bowl I got at a local art show. A nice broom (shut up, I love their brooms). That sort of thing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Spend money on shoes and your bed - if your not on one your on the other.
Brushed cotton sheets for winter - so it's not cold when you get in. An electric blanket.
posted by tanktop at 10:56 AM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I miss Clair, who used to clean our house better we ever could. Just can't afford her anymore. Ultimate luxury for me is a coming back to a spotless house
posted by Hash at 11:12 AM on August 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

Great tools bring their own sort of enjoyment. Cooking knives. A garden spade. If you've the inclination, hand woodworking tools, especially hand planes. I get almost as much satisfaction out of sharpening my tools as I do out of using them.
posted by mr vino at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good coffee
High quality olive oil
Nice dishes
Luxurious skincare products
Going out with friends for drinks & tapas and picking up the bill
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:51 AM on August 2, 2014

Definitely nice bedding and a pet companion, frequent massages and someone to clean your house if you hate it as much as I do, as mentioned above.

I don't have a lot of money but I just treated myself to a $150 package from Lush because reading in a bath and keeping my hair soft and touchable make me happy.

Someone also mentioned nice yarn for knitting...this is another big one for me but more generally, find a hobby that allows you to create ~ music, painting, woodcarving ~ anything that leaves you with a finished product, and really invest to get good tools and then invest your passion and energy.
posted by kattyann at 12:52 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Being able to donate generously to a cause that makes a lasting difference. You don't have to be the Gates Foundation and eliminate a dread disease; it feels good just to buy a few discounted school supplies for kids at a local school. Research a nonprofit whose mission you support, whose financials meet your standards, ideally small enough that the amount you'll donate will be really significant for them, and surprise them with a phone call or email offering your support.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:13 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

For me, it's more of an aesthetic thing. Waiting until I find the perfect mug/makeup brush/sweater, and then splurging on something I'll keep on loving and never have to replace with a different model or think about again. There are a few things I love that way, and I'm hoping to slowly replace everything in my life with good, final versions as I'm able to afford to do so. I'll have to replace them when they wear out, but I'm not going to hunt around for a better replacement. I bought a tea kettle that was kind of out of my student price range six years ago, and when I use it every day I'm happy all over again that I found it and bought it because it's fantastic.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:16 PM on August 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

I like to have lavish dinner parties for my friends and family where I splurge on the very best ingredients.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:23 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bedding that makes you groan a little with pleasure when you slide into it. Really nice wineglasses. A small handful of really great cocktail recipes you can make without looking up a recipe. Always have the staples on hand to snack for dinner if you don't want to cook - in my house, that's nice bread, a really good cheese or two, a really good bit of salami or chorizo, some lovely olives, some fruit. Fresh herbs in the garden. Something made of cashmere (provided you aren't allergic). A great leather bag (provided you aren't anti-leather). A perfume that someone you love recognizes as "you" (I have about 6 of these).

As a side note - I'm a huge advocate of using things you have - I will not save the fine china for twice a year (we use it on the back deck or when we're having pizza), quilts are used for picnic blankets, the really nice perfume is worn on a regular old Tuesday. I used to "save things for special", and it took a long time to get it through my thick head that every day is special.
posted by ersatzkat at 1:35 PM on August 2, 2014 [19 favorites]

Dogs, and keeping glasses for serving white wine, martinis, and beer in the freezer.

Timer on the coffee pot so it's ready on waking.

WeMo, which turns on music in the morning - and the coffee pot - before we get up.

But really mostly dogs.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also fancy soap.

It's a little luxury in every shower. (I like the daily quick-hit luxuries, I guess.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:54 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

For me, it was exercise. Joining a boot camp / outdoor fitness group got me out of bed with the sun, breathing fresh air first thing in the morning, working up a healthy sweat with other people I like, challenging myself, feeling fresh and alert for the rest of the day, and reaping all the associated benefits (clearer complexion, more energy, improved mood, tons more self-confidence).
posted by mykescipark at 2:41 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You've said that you've found luxury holidays lacking. Plan your travel well in advance to a fascinating part of the world (and these are too numerous to run out of). Book your stay at a nice-enough home base to sleep in and spend the time between now and departure consuming information about the destination: its literature, movies, music, language. When you go, everything you've experienced second-hand will coalesce into an experience that you can keep in your mind like a jewel that will color all of your subsequent life.
posted by Morrigan at 3:12 PM on August 2, 2014 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Previously and previously!

Seems like I remember another similar thread, also a good read... I'll keep looking.
posted by jessicapierce at 3:20 PM on August 2, 2014

Tip more.
posted by chrchr at 4:04 PM on August 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Any tool that is well-crafted and facilitates a hobby. For me, this could be a good pair of knitting needles, Photoshop, a new lens... for you, it might be a set of precision chisels, hiking boots that support you perfectly, ultralight camping gear, a high-quality multitool or kitchen gadgets that help with fiddly tasks.

I could also recommend reading all the books. No time spent reading a book is wasted, even if it's a bad book - you can always laugh over it later.
posted by Nyx at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good cheese
House plants
posted by floweredfish at 4:27 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you type a lot for writing or coding, and don't use a laptop as your main work station (or use/would like to set up a dock), people really seem to like mechanical keyboards with buckling spring keys, whether they're a more modern take on it or the vintage IBM Model M keyboards.

If you cook, Oxo tools are probably already familiar to you, but get more of them. They're really nice to hold and look at.

In the bathroom, get a nice bath rug. I just replaced an old nasty one with a memory foam one that wasn't too expensive. And I'm not big on a bunch of crazy soaps and lotions (Dr. Bronner and Neutrogena T-Gel are about all I need), but wetshaving is really nice and therapeutic if you have the time for it, and not that expensive if you limit yourself to one razor and one shave soap and don't go crazy with experimenting with dozens of products (technique counts for more than finding the perfect blade/razor combo for your face).

Here's a general thought. You're not going to get a sense of luxury out of anything unless it's something you'd be happy to use regularly, or would at least yearn to use occasionally. Imagine you were to put all your things in the basement, and think about what you'd actually bother to take back upstairs within hours of putting it there. Those are the things you need to get nice versions of. You can get the pasta maker of your dreams, but if you never make pasta, it's not going to be that fun on a day to day basis.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:43 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Good, regular housekeeping. Coming home to a sparkling clean place is a joy.
posted by colin_l at 5:00 PM on August 2, 2014

Socks and underwear.

Charitable giving -- pick a relatively small, local organization, or otherwise one that does something you're passionate about. Learn about them and establish contact with them, and become a significant and repeated donor. All sorts of studies show that giving away money makes you happier than spending it on yourself. Establishing the relationship means you know them, they know you, and you can see concretely how your money is making a difference.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:55 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

For me, it's not about making financial donations to causes, but volunteering my time to help, in even the smallest of ways.
posted by peppermind at 6:38 PM on August 2, 2014

A hot tub.
I had one put into the house a few years ago, and every single time I use it, it reminds me that it was money well spent.
YMMV, but a really lovely towel, a latte from the espresso machine in the house, made with Really Good Coffee, whole milk from the glass bottle guy that still has the cream on the top and about 10-15 minutes in the hot tub in the mornings is so much more preferable to the rush from shower to email to work to whatever.

It does require care and feeding, but you asked about 'things that are raising your life to the next level', and that was a huge thing for me.
posted by msamye at 7:46 PM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Live music. The best seats.
posted by beanie at 8:36 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good speakers and/or good headphones is a big one for me.

I hate oxo, because I hate touching and looking at plastic and rubber. For me wood and metal kitchen implements win out every single time.

Dishes and glasses that are pleasant to touch and use. I find that restaurant supply stores are a good place to find these.
posted by aubilenon at 11:15 PM on August 2, 2014

Like to cook?

Lodge cast iron pans.

To use with said pans, some silicone gloves. I use these, with great success: Tuff-Az Gloves.

Also, a good waffle maker. Because, who can get mad at a waffle?
posted by spinifex23 at 11:25 PM on August 2, 2014

I started off ready to be all "objects are just stuff", and then realized there *is* one object like that for me.

A decent bicycle, that's been fitted to you, and that you've had a chance to tweak and play with until you're comfortable riding it any reasonable length of time. Assuming you live in a warm enough place, a $1000 bicycle is *enormously* more beneficial than an extra $1000 the next time you buy a car.

A yoga mat goes the same way, if you prefer normally indoors; it's a nice thing, you can spend a bit more on it, but it's not going to give you squat unless you spend the time to break it in, either.

After you have the essentials, experiences - and a few memories of them - are better spends of money than stuff, unless the stuff enables new experiences. In my case, I like riding a bicycle around my neighborhood and the neighboring towns, and that does it for me.

Meanwhile, if you're in the financial shape to ask this question... just give some money away. From time to time, when you see a friend (or stranger!) on Facebook who wishes they could go do X, but it's a bit too expensive? Give them $20 (or more) towards it; enough that it's not trivial for you. Basically: help buy positive experiences for other people.
posted by talldean at 11:26 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Morrigan's suggestion about "vacations to places you've researched and immersed yourself in the culture and history of". Nicest way to travel. Doesn't have to be anywhere fancy or stimulating. Once you're there, just wander around and look and understand.

Other matters: for me the greatest luxury is "setting aside time", which vacations are a subset of. I like solitude and I like the things I can use solitude for: reading, meditating, walking, swimming, cycling. Each grows on you as you practice it, takes some work, takes lots of time, and is rewarding in a unique way.

On the cycling note: a fitted bicycle. One over $1000, with cleats, that goes fast. It's like flying.

For material goods: I'm willing to be fancy with bedding, shoes, underwear, overcoats, towels. Also the little bits of art in my living space, and the stoneware. The latter were quite cheap; it was the specifics of how they looked that I was after, not build-quality.

The rest: charity. You'll feel good knowing your money is fixing things that are wrong in the world.
posted by ead at 11:28 PM on August 2, 2014

I find that extra money spent on personal care products goes a long way to making me feel good about my lot in life, and I'm a hetero dude, so this is contra stereotype. Having some nice cologne is pretty great, and money I've spent at Kiehl's on extra nice face lotion &c also feels good.

I also second headphones. Most electronics junk is junk, but I wore and enjoyed a pair of Sennheiser HD 570s most days for a decade. The money I spent on those had a huge amount of leverage.
posted by chrchr at 12:06 AM on August 3, 2014

Oh, yes, a good set of headphones, especially if you use public transit, work in an open-plan office, or fly frequently. I bought a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort on The Wirecutter's advice and have used them for hours every day since. Pure luxury.

Other small luxuries I have enjoyed: storage containers from Muji to keep my closet in order. It makes me feel like a millionaire to walk into my closet and see everything arranged nicely.

A high-quality candle — I can't bring myself to spend $80 for a Dyptique candle, but I buy a hand-made soy wax candle from a local store a few times per year, and love lighting it in the evenings.

Hardcover books have become a luxury for me — I'm so used to reading on an electronic device that the act of picking up a physical book and turning pages feels indulgent.

I don't have a bath tub at home, so occasionally I'll treat myself to an evening at the local Japanese baths and soak for a few hours. Amazing.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:36 AM on August 3, 2014

I read your question as a mild dissatisfaction with life. Things haven't made you happy, and more things may be a little more pleasant, but are unlikely to make you happier. Find some activities that matter to you. Build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Teach and rescue people from living on a garbage dump with Safe Passage. Read good books, subscribe to The New Yorker, The Economist. Work on political causes that inspire you. If you want to hang out with rich people, play golf and ski. Travel to interesting places where you'll meet interesting people. Find a hobby that will engage you and where you can develop expertise.
posted by theora55 at 7:41 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Going beyond yoga or boot camp - a good personal trainer.

There is nothing better than somebody who is paid to help you and only you how to achieve the goals that you have set out for yourself. And there is nothing better than sweating it out, doing the work, and winding up successful and stronger than you would have believed.

Couple this with massage or other body work, and you will have trained and sympathetic professionals that will attend to your every ache and pain and work to get you to 100%.

Good health is unfortunately a luxury and we must spend to keep ourselves in working order.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:59 AM on August 3, 2014

A seriously thoughtful interior paint scheme. That's worth it.

All my life I lived in places with off-white walls, ceilings, trim…sometimes with the odd accent wall or entire room painted something very saturated, but otherwise bog standard white (I gather it's "magnolia" in the UK). Then, last year we worked with a consultant to come up with a palette of 3 or 4 paint colors for every room and hallway and nook. Colors that were historically appropriate, worked with the tones we'd already favored in our art and upholstery choices and whatnot, and most importantly, colors that flowed—for every view through a doorway, every transition from one space to another to make perfect visual sense. And importantly, for none of it to be a statement, but just to be a well thought-out backdrop for your life. It just dials-in your environment and, like a good camera, sunset, or summer evening rosé, feels right. Which to me, at least, is an unaccustomed luxury.
posted by mumkin at 9:28 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

The things I thought would make me happy didn't.

I learned from the Dalai Lama the difference between Happiness and Pleasure. Likely, you mistook one for the other.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:16 AM on August 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Lamps and lighting.

Installing spotlighting in my high-ceilinged den has transformed it from faded postwar sitting parlor to visionary spacepod. (Maybe not quite that dramatic, but it's made a real difference to the feel and comfort a cramped apartment).

Strings of Christmas lights brighten things up in the breakfast nook and kitchen, and a few funky thrifted table and floor lamps add color and personality to the bedroom.
posted by Occam's Aftershave at 2:21 AM on August 4, 2014

I'm hardly on a "luxury level" salary, but things I do that make me feel like a king:

-spoil the absolute crap out of my dog

-tip really well, especially on things I do locally/often (leaving a 50% tip on my morning dunkin donuts coffee, or the tacqueria down the street, or my cheapo pedicure place tends to me getting a lot of "oops, accidentally upgraded your order hope you don't mind the extra thing wink wink" treatment

-good cheese, good butter, good bread, always have prosciutto in the fridge
posted by phunniemee at 4:52 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've enslaved robots. The person I live with has ethical issues around hiring a housekeeper, but I like to come home to a clean floor every day. My compromise was to get a robotic vacuum and a robotic litter box. Do these need maintenance? Yes. But I prefer them to schlepping and scooping daily.

I feel fortunate that I obtained means slowly because I was able to ask myself, do I really want this thing? The particular make and model of classic car I wanted, I lusted after for 20 years. I felt confident that I would still enjoy it after buying it and I do. Same with a big ol soaker tub and my dogs. Maybe it takes me a long time to make decisions, heh.

I guess what I am saying is be mindful of what you feel might be "missing" even if it is not stuff that is 100% essential to life.
posted by Lardmitten at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2014

One day I'd like to buy a really nice pen. I mean really nice.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:23 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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