Monday, January 25, 2016

Come Here and Let Me Give You a Hygge

Hygge is all the rage these days, following a spate of articles that touted the Danish awful-winter-mitigating concept as something that Americans might want to consider, because we're all running around being bitter and tired and discontent.  (Some of us more so than others, obviously.) The concept of hygge loosely translates into something like "coziness" or "contentedness" or "happiness at being out of the crappy bad weather and stressful day-to day-mess we're running around in."  It's a little like Dutch "gezellig," I think, although there seems to be more emphasis on fun in gezellig.  Go here to check out hygge and here to read up on gezellig.

To be completely honest, I have a feeling that Americans might be entirely incapable of grasping what either term means.  We're too busy watching the reality show that is our politics to publicly and proudly value things like coziness.  Seriously.  Snark and sarcasm and snort-inducing wit are how we prefer to communicate, and we wave our money or religion or sports teams around like clubs to beat each other over the head via social media, which appears to be our favored form of communication.  (Last night--don't judge me--Will and I watched Nashville and the entire episode revolved around cell phones.  There was a cell phone in every scene.  People texted as if their voice boxes had been ripped out, which is pretty ironic, given the show.)

But whether I'm truly grocking the meaning of hygge (and/or gezellig), I have decided that I'm going to take that cozy ball and run with it, because all of the folks in the house are feeling a little stretched thin and grumpitudinous lately and I decided we could use a little carved out awesomeness in our days. That's where hygge comes in.

Now, to really get your hygge in full gear, you need to do a few things:
  1. Clean Your House  Ugh.  I knowwwww.  But, seriously, you have to do it. Danes are all about having clean houses, and that makes a big difference in the relaxation department.  It's hard to get all cozy and comfy on the couch when there's a pile of laundry on the end of it.  It's difficult to breathe in the scent of organic lavender candles when they're sharing the same space with the trash your kids are avoiding taking out to the can.  But that stuff is the EASY part of cleaning.  To really be able to fully relax, you need to dig down deep in the corners of your nest and clear out the junk.  A few months ago, I read one of the articles everybody read about the Japanese lady who talked to socks and extolled the virtues of "tidiness."  You can read one here.   It sparked something in me, because our bedrooms really did make me sad with their clutteredness.  So I rolled through those suckers like a Mack truck and wound up taking 25 garbage bags filled with clothes, toys, craft supplies, and knick knacks that we neither loved nor used to a local thrift store that supports battered women and children.  And it FELT.  SO.  GOOD.  I did the same thing a few weeks ago with my china cabinet and office spaces.  Those parts of the house actually FEEL lighter and--bonus--any stuff that winds up lying around because, well, we are still us, even if our house is tidier, stands out like a sore thumb and gets picked up and put away.   This new sense of clean also prevents me from buying junk I don't need while I'm at Home Goods or the thrift store, because I don't want to add to the clutter.   
  2. Pick up some candles  Candles are essential for hygge.  From a Danish perspective, it's dark and cold out, and there's something so warming about the flickering of a candle.  But even here in the smack dab middle of Georgia, where I wore shorts and a tee shirt at Christmas and felt a little dewy, that warmth resonates.  Fire = good, particularly when it's sitting atop a pretty candle in a pretty holder.  I light about six candles in our comfiest spot in the house, but I also have some going in the kitchen and bathrooms.  The kids look forward to the candle lighting, and I have to say that I feel my shoulders come down and a sense of peace come over me when I strike the first match. The ritual of it is just...comforting.  A word about candles:  I was completely unaware that there was controversy surrounding scented candles, but apparently, some doctors have linked them to asthma and even cancer.  The scented candles industry (they have lobbyists and unions, apparently...AMERICA) vehemently denies this.  We're steadily working our way through the vast assortment of scented candles we've collected through the years, and when one is finished, we replace it with an unscented one.  I have read that candles scented with natural essential oils and using cotton wicks are safer, but we'll probably just use the room spray we get from our friends at Olive Forge with our unscented candles.  Of course, you could use those fake candles that use LED lights.  I'll be honest, those things feel more "minion of darkness" than "hygge" to me.  Plastic fire just seems so WRONG.
  3. Set aside a place and time  Now, technically, hygge can break out anywhere and any time you feel that sense of security and happiness.  I feel it in my favorite bookstores, the aforementioned Olive Forge, out in my favorite stretch of pasture back on the farm.  BUT, it takes a little practice, I think, for us bitter Americans to really grab and recognize that feeling.  (Recognition, I think, is part of the whole deal.)  So we have carved out a little smidgen of time after homework and chores and outside time and before dinner to just be together in the library.  (If Will is late, we'll shift it to after supper and before bedtime.)  We read, play board games, work on puzzles, crochet, even play video games as long as we're playing together.   Believe it or not, this actually helps us get through chores and homework and makes the kids happier about coming inside, because they look forward to this downtime.  On the weekends, we try to carve out bigger stretches, and it helps us get all the stuff that's hanging over our heads done faster so we can get to the hygge faster.  
That's it.  There COULD be a fourth item, I guess, wherein I talk about aesthetics and placement of candles and throw pillows, but I think that really starts coming with the practice of hygge.  I will also note that it is entirely possible that I'm thinking about it too much and sort of tarnishing the whole concept, but the truth is that without the planning and thought, I'm not sure our family would be able to slow down and enjoy each other and our time together.

And that would be a shame.  Because as I was looking for photos to go with this post, I realized that...heh...I don't have that many because when I'm getting all hyggelich with my family, I don't pick up my camera.  I'll try to grab some more tonight, but I can't promise anything, because...hygge.

Hyggelich table at Thanksgiving


Because nothing says "comfy and cozy" (and possibly "a little drunk" like Dino and his snazzy loafers.


Frodo clearly is not really into the whole hygge thing.  

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