How to Hygge at Home

Usually I don’t mind January even if it is cold, dark and dreary. It’s a quiet month, a welcome respite after the rush of the holidays and a perfect time for quiet reflection or creative projects. But as we start year four of the COVID pandemic, (yes, hard to believe), along with flu, RSV and those nasty Christmas colds still circulating – well, it’s hard not to resent being stuck inside once again. For some inspiration on how to turn a bad attitude into gratitude (so cozy to be cocooning among the comforts of home), I turned to Danish author, Meik Viking’s latest addition to his growing list of hygge/happiness books.

Because the world needs more hygge!

Here’s the publishers blurb:

The author of the New York Times bestseller The Little Book of Hygge, helps you turn your home into your happy, cozy safe place.

The urge to nest and control our close environments has never been stronger. We spend more time in our homes than anywhere else—but the way in which our homes impact how we feel has remained relatively unexplored until now.

Backed with Danish design principles, years of research, case studies and a sprinkle of hygge, Meik Wiking has created the ultimate guide to turning your home, office, or wherever you may be, into your happy place.

The Hygge Home will teach us all how to create a much-needed cozy safe space in our homes into which we can retreat to escape the tough things going on in the outside world. Meik will explore the size of our spaces, the way we decorate our homes, the amount of natural light coming in, how much access to green space we have and how we can extend these design principles from inside our homes to our neighbourhoods and beyond. Meik is guaranteed to help you create a home and safe space where you can both live and thrive.

Discussion:

If you have read his previous books, The Little Book of Hygge or The Little Book of Lykke, (Denmark is home to the world’s happiest people and the author is the CEO of the Happiness Institute) this is basically the same book, although much larger in dimensions (9X11) but with the same small print. There are plenty of pretty pictures of fireplaces scenes and cocoa…

….and advice about cooking and stocking your pantry. “A well stocked pantry is comforting….if there is an abundance of food, mankind would preserve it from earliest times.” Of course stockpiling provisions for the winter was always a matter of survival for our ancestors, so when my relatives reported those 10 bushels of apples on the 1861 census they were also preventing scurvy as there was no fresh fruit available at the general store. “No matter what is going on if there is something to eat at home and a well-stocked pantry, fridge or kitchen cupboard, there is a fail-safe way to hygge hunker down during events beyond our control, whether it is a blizzard or a global pandemic.”

My pantry/freezer is so well stocked that I may not have to venture out until March!

There is a section on pre-cluttering – a term I had not heard before, but he says stop and think before you buy that pancake batter dispenser. Does anyone really need a pancake batter dispenser – no but I’m tempted, it sounds like a handy thing if you make pancakes.

There are also readers stories, like the man who wrote and said what a difference lighting a candelabra at supper had made to his family’s dinner table conversation, no more teenagers shoveling food in and then disappearing back to the company of their electronic devices, plus it saves on hydro too. (This is so true, walk into any candle-lit restaurant and don’t you feel an instant sense of calm descend…..until you see the bill.)

There are anecdotes, like Cezanne designing his studio in the south of France for the best possible painting conditions, and the author’s own search for a writing room of his own. I envy him his walnut desk which he bought with his first royalty cheque. I myself would love to find “a desk that begs you to sit down and write,” although I’m usually okay once I get started.

Overall, there was less about what constitutes hygee (book one) or happiness (book two) here, and more about lighting, design, workplaces, green spaces and city planning etc – he is Danish after all and so many people have been working from home…..and hope to stay there.

I suppose if you have great literary success with a unique formula you can just keep re-inventing it and readers will continue to buy it. Although it was somewhat repetitive, I did enjoy this book because it was fun and sometimes you just need a light comforting read. Plus it made me feel better about hibernating indoors.

What else helped? (or applying the principles)

The weather has been mild and above freezing most days with little to no snow, other than that mini-blizzard at Christmas – very strange weather for January, but good for walking, if you don’t mind walking in the misty rain. It hasn’t been very hygge though – hygge requires the contrast between coming in from the bitter cold to a warm and comforting environment.

Almost a month into winter, and the most snow we’ve seen has been on my mother’s puzzle.

It was a really nice puzzle – German made, not a brand or artist I was familiar with or could credit the photo to.

I haven’t worn my down-filled parka even once as…..

the only thing chili has been in a pot.

Channeling my ancestors – freezer provisions for Superbowl Sunday.

There have been plenty of books, (reviews to follow sometime) including this one which I’m just starting. The 86 yr old Swedish author, Margareta Magnusson, wrote The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning – a bestseller several years ago, the gist of which was don’t leave a mess for your heirs to clean up. (That’s fine but how do you know when you’re going to die – you might live another ten years and wouldn’t you want your treasures around you until then? Where’s the hygge in that?) She must have decluttered the book, as it’s a very slim 130 pages, more of a memoir really than a decluttering guide, although there is an appendix chapter at the end. I seem to have zero interest in cleaning and reorganizing this January – the maids cancelled again and I just don’t care – let the dust and the glitter from the Christmas decorations reign supreme.

There was a batch of brownies – the kind with lots of icing – always comforting on a bleak winter’s day.

And if all else fails, there’s always pie…..channeling my ancestors again.

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” (Jane Austen – letter)

Happy January – from my hygge home to yours! Two more months until spring….yea…..

There is nothing like staying home for real comfort” – Jane Austen

Comfort & Joy: The Danish Art of Hygge (or how to survive January)

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.”  The song, Let It Snow, has all the ingredients for winter comfort and joy – popcorn, snuggling by the fire, snowstorm, and the best part for those who hate winter driving, no place to go.   It’s also the perfect recipe for hygge.

          According to recent surveys, Denmark rates among the happiest countries in the world, and hygge, the Danish art of living well, is a major reason for their sense of wellness.   Hygge, which can be summed up as “cocoa by candlelight”, is the perfect antidote to the cold dark winters and is considered a major survival strategy for January when the hours of daylight are few.   The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Live Well was written by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.    You know that if a country sets out to study happiness they are way ahead of the game.   Here is my book review from Goodreads.

  The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live WellThe Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a delightful little book, particularly suitable for reading this time of year, preferably during a snow storm. So light some candles, get cozy by the fire with a blanket and a cup of cocoa and prepare to be entertained. Based on the Danish art of living well, it may inspire you to practice a little hygge in your own life…..comes complete with charming pictures too, but warning – the print is very tiny.

         For those of us living in more melancholy nations, what exactly is hygge?  The word hygge derives from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being”.  Hygge is about atmosphere and experiences, not things, (great, I just decluttered, see previous blog post, but I hope I didn’t throw out anything hygge  – is it to late to retrieve those plaid pajama bottoms). 

           In the introduction the author describes a December weekend at a cabin with a group of his friends.  

Cabin in the Woods - AMc - 2016
Cabin in the Woods –  2016

Post hiking, they are sitting around the fire, wearing big jumpers and woolen socks, reading or half asleep and the only sound is the stew boiling, the sparks from the fire and someone having a sip of their mulled wine.  One of them breaks the silence and asks, could this be any more hygge, and someone answers, yes, if there was a storm raging outside, they all nod.     This is hygge in a nutshell, except he forgot the candles, (they are big on candles in Denmark as they have seventeen hours of darkness in the winter months), so I would like to add that I hope they ate by candlelight, and had coffee and cake later by the fire, (they are big on coffee and confectioneries too).

         According to the author, Danes have less anxiety and worry in their daily lives due to the cradle to grave social welfare state.  They don’t resent paying high taxes as they consider it investing in society and improving the quality of life.   What’s not to like about a country with paid daycare, where parents of small children must leave work early, and no one works nights or weekends, thus leaving more time for family and friends and all the other hygge-like things to do…..watch tv, read, relax.     

      The concept of hygge includes coziness, candles, coffee, blankets, fireplaces, hot drinks, good food, natural or rustic decor, nooks, soft lighting, comfortable clothing and casual entertaining.   Interestingly, the hygge life-style can be excellent for introverts, as it is a low-key way of being social without being drained or exhausted by too much activity and partying, not to mention being a soothing balm for over-stimulated minds at the end of the work day.   Even their workplaces try to be hygge.  They may have couches instead of desks.  I think I want to move.  I have a vague recollection of one of my first workplaces in the eighties where we had birthday cake during department meetings.  It was a horrible place to work but the cake was good. At my last job we didn’t even get meal breaks.  Or course, a hygge-like state is only possible if it is in contrast to something non-hygge, which tends to be the status quo for modern life.   Life today is a rat-race, stressful and unfair, money and jobs rule.  This book can inspire us to stop occasionally and add a little hygge to our lives, and don’t forget the cake!   (see next blog, How To Make Your Home Hygge).        

 Benjamin Franklin quote:  “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day then in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”               

Snow - AMC - 2015

Snow Day –  2015