The Real Luxury

Many wish for designer clothes or bags – my biggest wish is for life by design. And may the design be my own.

For almost a year I was working in the department store in Oslo that sells the most expensive and exclusive brands. Lately Norwegians have gotten more interest for the high-end products and Oslo started to develop its own area of luxury shopping. Some years ago these streets were filled with kiosks, small shops and cafes. Now in their place there are all the famous fashion names.

Walking past them every day, I had enough time and opportunity to contemplate about luxury. And I came to conclusion that, for me, luxury is not Louis and Gucci, not flying with a private jet, popping champagne bottles. The greatest luxury for me is to live my life by my terms and rules.

Yesterday we had a literary discussion on our balcony (is there a better way to spend a sunny Sunday?). My man is reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari and I am reading “Trust Me: I Am Lying. Confessions of a Media Manipulator” by Ryan Holiday. The image of our intellectual couple – done, check 😉 To be honest, my man prefers newspapers to books, and discussing the property prices – to the literature talks. But yesterday was that day when we were talking about books, yay.

He started telling me the point from the book about agricultural revolution and how its narrative is told to us – positively, but not honestly. We learn that it was good for people to stop running in the woods, looking for food and hunting, and start producing their own crops. But, the book says, while we believe that the people domesticated the soil, it indeed domesticated the people. It made them stay in one place, abandoning their freedom, working hard and getting many new deceases because the body was not built for that lifestyle. The societies got more aggressive too because now they had to fight for the territory and the grain, while hunters and collectors didn’t fight with other small societies because they had no territorial claims: the food was out there for everyone. So was the agricultural revolution good for humans? If evolution means multiplying your DNA, the author says, then it was. But for the individual quality of life it was not good.

The author then draws the line to the modern times and says that we are still enslaved like that agricultural society. We create luxury (as I understand, he talks about mobiles, cars and homes, not the fashion brands) – but we have to work all our life and take loans to be able to afford that luxury. In other words, you have to be domesticated: you have to buy into the general societal program and play by its rules, earning your salary and pension points.

I feel some confidence that the new generation, if it doesn’t get distracted by sensationalism, consumerism and entertainment culture, can create a new wave – and that wave will be about freeing yourself from that kind of slavery. They are doing it already. Minimalism, eco consciousness, private gardening done by serious bearded hipsters. Choosing the retro style and second hand things, choosing vegetarianism over meat, creating freelance jobs. All their popular hashtags: easyliving, greenliving, authenticliving. The generation before them has created the culture of consumerism and stress – the kids now have these values as the departing point for their journey. I believe, they can create something better.

While on the personal level, I am not going to sit around and wait for some revolution. I have experienced three revolutions (and one war) in my country and don’t have great faith in sudden societal turnovers. I want a quiet revolution for myself. Changing my mindset, changing my life – creating it by my own design. Building it around my own values.

I just want to live an interesting life. And I have come to realize that no one will create it for me. If I want it, the creator must be me.

And what would you name as the real luxury for you?

24 thoughts on “The Real Luxury

  1. What a wonderful blog post. By the way, the book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” is on my reading list too, it sounds interesting. I like your definition of real luxury. I think when humans have excess money, they just don’t know what to do with it and spend it on materialistic pleasures such as branded car, branded clothing etc. I’ve never had that much spare money to spend on those things, as for me other things are more important. For me, a real luxury is also living a fulfilling life in my own terms. And that means a lot of traveling and spending time and money on activities I enjoy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pooja! I have heard good reports of the book and even would put it on my list – but so far I get some points delivered from my man)) this is my way of recommending it 🙂
      I agree, that with excess money there are more temptations to spend them on status symbols. But there are also cultures for that. In Ukrainian culture it is very important to show off, even though there is no excess money (like in Norway).
      I guess, capitalist system is based on consumerism, and living in this culture takes consciousness so that we can take different choices. It makes the practice tougher, but maybe, even more valuable 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely agree with your understanding of luxury, and I think we are more and more to realize it. Thanks for the reminder, too, I actually read the last paragraph out loud, I sort of needed to hear it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Funny to hear that’s an acceptable thing to write in a book – I’ve been thinking of office cubicle life as modern slavery all my life but it sounds too dramatic to say it out loud. (An uninteresting job where you earn barely enough to get by but never accumulate wealth.) Also, I read somewhere years ago that work days are created so long (8h) so that people (workers=consumers) are too tired to enjoy their lives in a creative way but rather pamper themselves by buying products, which keeps the economy going. It added that it is well proven that an employee isn’t productive after a few hours and could actully get the same amount of work done in half the time, the 8h work days have no real justification. Sounds cynical but I believe it is so!
    Anyway, interesting thoughts in this post! 😊 To me, luxury is free time (ie time not working for someone else) and the ability to do what you want with it. I’ve never been a material person. But I also like to get quality products whenI do buy something. Something I need, that is. I’ll never buy a vuitton bag or anything like that, it just seems so crazy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, right? 🙂 I find it very acceptable, it surely captures the sentiment of many. I also read a book “No more work” by J. Livingston which he wanted to title “F*k work”. So here you go 😉 The time is ripe.
      I also read that idea in an article of a guy who worked little and travelled much, and then came back to corporate life. His point was that tired society is best for consuming goods and entertainment. The less time you have, the more you are prone to spend your money on “quality time”.
      The idea of 8h-working day is too retro, I find. But I read Norwegian discussion of places that experiment with shorter working days. And majority say that no, it would not be possible to keep the economy (and the living standards) if Norway would go 6h. F.ex., the nurses said that they had shorter days – but still the same tasks but in shorter time. And this is not an office job. So they had to run more, and had even shorter breaks, like 15 min a day.
      There were articles that Sweden went to 6h days – but had to stop it bc it was not good for economy. Have you heard of it?
      And you in Finland have the citizen income, no? Though a small sum but it allows people to work less, be more flexible, etc. What is your opinion of it?

      Liked by 2 people

      • What do you mean by citizen income? No we don’t have that…
        Here, everything is very old-fashioned. Finns aren’t as quick to adapt new things as Swedes for example.
        A trend here for the past 15 years in the corporate world has been to reduce the amount of employees (by firing or e.g. when someone retires they are not replaced) but keep the same amount of tasks, just divide them up among the existing employees, add to their tasks. Salaries don’t rise. Also more results are expected. So even if the work day is still 8h, the ”nurse phenomenon” you described happens.
        Tired society, yes, exactly. I wish I could get our parliament to read that article.
        Finland actually just passed an idiotic law where everyone has to work 15min more per day for the same salary, AND you had to retroactively replace like 6 months’ worth of 15minutes. So for example I had worked hard and saved 10 extra hours to use when I was pregnant and tired and wanted to doa shorter day. But thanks to the government (it didn’t appy to politicians btw) I had to give all my saved hours to the company for free PLUS I owed them some. So instead of taking it easy while pregnant with twins at 38 years and tired as hell, I had to work extra long 9-10 hour days. Lets just say I too would like to write a book titled F*** Work!!!! 😂 And maybe I will!!!

        Liked by 3 people

      • “Citizen income” is borgerlønn, in Norwegian. I watched a short report (on Spanish TV) that Finns are entitled to a sum of like 500 euro, on the base of their citizenship. So it’s not enough to stop working totally, but it allows to work more flexible hours, work less, etc. the author of “F*k work” is advocating for this system too, btw. Don’t you have that borgerlønn? ouch.

        Ooh oh, that is really idiotic law. Wow, you’re getting more capitalized. I find that article not really applying to Norway, cuz it is difficult to talk about a tired society here, hehe (if not talking about nurses). It is not like that corporate culture of USA when everyone is answering their mails day and night. It is more balanced. And I find people to have more leisure here, than any place. Fridays at 3pm they rush from their work and go to the cabins, or travel. No job is done on Friday after 3pm. They have many free days, holidays, long weekends. My Spanish friend got shocked after starting working here, that a thing that takes 3 hours in Spain, would take 2 days in Norway. He was like “and you talk about Spanish manana???” 🙂
        Norwegians value “fred og ro” (peace and quiet) so much, that it reflects in their working style. Everything goes like it goes, no rush.
        I thought, Finland lives that Scandinavian dream of work-life balance. Hmm…Such a surprise.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Over here, people answer work emails day and night, weekends and holidays. I refuse to accept a mobile phone from my employer as a “benefit”, because it would mean exactly that. I buy my own phone and keep it muted when I want to. But I’m in the minority and while it’s technically allowed to do this, no one else does! They all accept the company’s phone. (The company also has access to everything private on your phone. Nice.)
        Anyway, there was an experiment 1-2 years ago where a small test group was selected to participate in this kind of “citizen income”. I don’t know if you had to be unemployed or how they selected the people. It was only a few thousand people and I don’t know anyone who got this money. Also, I never heard a report afterwards how the experiment went… I guess it didn’t go that well or else it’d be a media hit???

        Liked by 1 person

      • Much depends on the sector, I guess. Since I have worked in school, the teachers didn’t have that obligation to be answering mails (and they got no phones, hehe). My friends worked in different fields, and I have heard of work phones – but never heard of answering the mails around the clock. Maybe, they just didn’t share that. But I got this impression that Norwegians mostly let their work at the office at 5pm. There are exceptions too, but the culture generally is not work around the clock. Sure, other people have different impressions too.
        Oh wow, so it was experiment. No, media likes sensations, not the positive experiments :)) Spanish media seems to have liked it though. So weird that I have heard it like it was the fact :))

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Just a quick comment before I go to bed… Have you read “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” by Marina Lewycka?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For me luxury is as simple as not checking my bank account before spending money. Before I got my first apartment, when living at my parents’, my first wages were exactly that : luxury! I could buy CDs every week, the Lancôme perfume I liked, get tickets to big concerts, go to the restaurant, go to H&M after work, plan trips to England regularly, buy grocery at the “Lafayette Gourmet” … Now 20 years later, that sort of luxury is alien! Ending the month with a positive bank balance is extraordinary. There are no perfume anymore, I illegally download the music I really like, the last concert I went to was… (I can’t even remember it!), restaurant and H&M have been replaced by a monthly take-away and second-hand shops, I have not visited my best friend in England for the last 10 years, and forget about the Lafayette Gourmet shopping…
    Being 45 should mean I secured my place in a proper job and money is not a problem anymore. Wrooooong! But I guess I made the choice to always leave my job when it got boring and looked for new adventures thinking the grass could be greener else where.
    The professionnel world made me sick twice in my life. That was when I tried to act as an adult : don’t quit! permanent contract! benefits! security!
    Well I chose differently…
    I’m afraid when I turn 50, I’ll still be with that seasonal work contract I have now. But my luxury now is being happy at work. It has become my luxury.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your story! Yeah, that sounds familiar. The choices we make and their consequences.
      I would also choose adventure over security – but that has its price too. So, no, it’s not automatic that being adult is having secured this and that. If you have worked with that, choosing that kind of jobs, investing in property, taking mortgage for the rest of your life – yes, you have secured. And you are paying the price (I mean “you” generally here, not personally you :)). And other choices have other price tags.
      And yes, the first money is luxury bc we were provided food and home by our parents. I had a tiny income living with my parents. I was private English tutor while I was studying. And there was no so much luxury, but it felt good to start getting your own money. Though, honestly, then I just could buy a chocolate and some nuts and fruit for me. Now I can buy a bit more for me. But this is, maybe, cuz I had a low start :)))

      Being happy at work is one of the best luxuries! I have come to realize that life without work can be a boring life, so my hope for everyone to be doing what makes them happy. It is much better than doing nothing. Cheers to that!

      Liked by 1 person

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