Comfort Versus Luxury

At what point does comfort cross into luxury?

That question came to me this morning, unexpectedly, while I was checking the clothes dryer. I washed a mish-mash of clothes last night—jeans, t-shirts, socks, etc.—but forgot about them. When I awoke sometime before four o’clock, I remembered, so I put them in the dryer.

A while later, I checked to see whether they were dry. As I opened the door to the laundry room, a blanket of delightfully warm air swept over me. I hadn’t felt chilly before—in fact I was quite comfortable—but that little room felt absolutely delightful. It felt luxuriously warm.

That’s when it occurred to me to ask: at what point does comfort become luxury? And vice versa? When does what once was luxury become the standard for comfort?

I was perfectly happy with the temperature in the house  set to sixty-seven degrees, thirty-nine degrees warmer than the chilly temperature outside this morning. I was comfortable in my shorts and t-shirt. But the temperature in the laundry room was several degrees warmer. It felt good. Luxurious.

Yet other people might consider sixty-seven degrees too cool; they might consider comfort a toasty seventy-four degrees. Still others might find fifty degrees comfortable, especially if wrapped in a down comforter; they might consider the temperature settings in my house a luxury, especially if the costs or efforts required to keep the house at that temperature were beyond their capabilities.

Comfort and luxury depend on context. To me, the lifestyles lived by people I consider wealthy are lifestyles of luxury. But to people who scrape by on a few dollars, or less, a day, my lifestyle might be one of obscenely conspicuous consumption.

Could I be comfortable setting the thermostat to fifty degrees? I suspect I could. I probably should, if for no other reason than to experience first-hand the situations confronting less fortunate people a stone’s throw from where I live. But I’m not alone in my house, so I will not impose my guilt on my spouse. I wonder whether I would actually give it a try if I lived alone?  I do not know the answer to that; I would have to know myself better to have that answer.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Doing Without, Just Thinking, Materialism, Philosophy, Self-discipline. Bookmark the permalink.

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