In today's newspaper I read about a new restaurant whose owner described its cuisine as "comfort food." I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I suspect health-minded vegetarians like me wouldn't find much to eat there.
Still, I can identify with the concept, because I've been getting into comfort shopping. Not that this is something entirely new for me -- earlier this year I praised the iPhone 4 as the way to perfect happiness.
Yes, money can make us happy when it's used to buy the right things. In these tough economic times, the problem is finding the right "right" for us. Obviously this will be a personal, individual, idiosyncratic decision.
I'm finding that relatively small purchases can bring me more satisfaction than I would have anticipated back in the days when we could more easily afford fairly expensive stuff.
A few months ago I got enthused about trading in our 2006 Highlander Hybrid for a new model. After comparing the cost of doing this with our disposable income, it didn't take me long to dispose of the new car notion for the foreseeable future.
But I couldn't get rid of the idea that if I could only buy something, I'd be happier. After all, what other reason -- deep down -- is there for making a purchase, whether large or small? If it doesn't enhance our wellbeing, why would we want to fork out money for it?
So I started to be more mindful about what sort of stuff really gives me pleasure (aside from my iPhone 4). Books, for sure. Thus my Amazon purchases continue to be frequent, especially now that I've got the free shipping benefit of Amazon Prime.
What else, though? I paid attention to what material objects produced a warm glow of ahhhhh, yessssss! And found that often these were things that I wore, which sort of surprised me, since I've never been much of a clothes shopper.
Women probably would respond "Well, duh..." to my big personal discovery. I know my wife would. She cares about what she wears, not out of vanity (well, at least not much), but because she feels better when her apparel melds with her sense of style, color preferences, matching sensibility, and such.
My daughter is the sales director for a high-end designer eyeware company, Barton Perreira. When she first started in this business, I wondered why the heck someone would pay $300 (or more) for a pair of dark glasses.
Now I'm coming to understand. Our bodies are with us all of the time. When we're wearing something that makes us feel good, whether clothing or an accessory, it's right there -- not hanging on a wall or sitting on a shelf at home, or parked in a garage.
However, like I said, people are different. Some are attracted to comfort clothes, others to comfort art, others to... whatever. I'm just finding that the right sort of jacket, shoes, or gloves (for example) can provide a high happiness/cost ratio for me.
Every day, late in the afternoon, I head out on a two mile dog walk. Rain or shine, cold or hot. This part of the year in Oregon it's typically rainy and/or cold. I don't really mind, though, now that I've assembled a "comfort clothes" dog walking outfit.
I love my waterproof North Face Resolve jacket, REI rain pants, LL Bean hiking shoes, and Mountain Hardwear gloves. It isn't just they're functional; they make me feel good. I particularly like how the yellow laces of my gray/black shoes go with the yellow highlights of the gloves.
Writing that last sentence stimulated an unwanted voice inside my head: "That sounds so gay." Well, so be it. This thoroughly heterosexual martial arts-practicing maxi-scooter riding guy likes how his shoelaces and gloves match. Reality is what it is.
And that's the key to my comfort clothes philosophy. Or comfort anything. We've got to be honest with ourselves about what gives us pleasure. We may be the only people in the world who love some weird thing, or combination of weird things. So what?
I've started wearing my LL Bean shoes with the yellow laces more of the time. In fact, today I ordered another pair so I can have clean ones for going into town, and dirty ones for the dog walks and other hiking adventures.