HYGGE (pronounced somewhere between HOO-guh and HEW-guh) is the Danish word for a sort of mindful coziness. Now, I’m a word geek who absolutely loves things like etymology (the history of words and their meanings), and the background of the current Danish word is fascinating. The word hygge derives from an old Norse word that is about comforting, and is related to the Old German word that came over into English as “hug”. Kind of fun to know, especially when you are trying to get a handle on the concept.
If you are interested in incorporating hygge into your life this year (as a way of slower, cozier living, even if it’s just during the winter), then here are three concrete tips that will help you to get started:
First, tidy up a bit. Maybe you have been binge-watching Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” on Netflix, or have read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which case this idea may already be on your radar. Or perhaps you read my earlier blog posts about decluttering, including this one from the end of October entitled “Creating Space for Abundance.” I’m not telling you to get rid of your favorite things (those stay!) or to clear your bookcases (heaven forbid — though weeding out those books that you don’t like or that make you feel bad about not loving them is a great idea). But having a bit less stuff allows abundance into your life, and also allows you to relax so that you can feel a sense of hygge.
One tip that works super well, and that has helped some friends of mine as well, is to find one space in each room to keep clear and tidy, to give your eye a place to rest. It helps even if it is a small piece of furniture, but it’s super soothing if it’s the largest thing in the room. For instance, a made bed in a bedroom (without stuff piled all over it) gives your eye a place to rest. And as Navy Seal Admiral McRaven says in this speech (which has gone viral and also become a small book), it will give you a sense of purpose and achievement. If you can keep the dining table clear, the dining room will seem okay. Same goes for the island in your kitchen, or at least a stretch of countertop.
Second, organize your stuff. If you have massive piles of books all over the place, consider obtaining a bookcase and corralling those books in one place. If you (like me) have Serious Paper Issues involving mail and articles that you intend to read but haven’t gotten to yet, figure out (a) where to keep them and (b) if there is an organizational device that would work for you. For some people, a set of mail bins is super helpful; others prefer a few folders; still others are fond of binder clips, or boxes, or a file system.
Quite seriously, I’m best with piling stuff in one place on my desk and scheduling time to go through it each week, then filing the stuff I need to keep and recycling everything else. And I would argue that forking out a lot of money on boxes, baskets, bins, and folders that just contribute to your stress and/or clutter level makes no sense (no matter how tempting those Container Store catalogs look, if you won’t actually use the things you buy, you will just end up with more stuff to manage).
Third, allow yourself to relax and enjoy your space. Introduce cozy elements such as lit candles, an afghan, or other comforts into your living space. Take time to enjoy and appreciate your space, and to enjoy and appreciate your day. Make your favorite tea or coffee or (if you’re an adult) open a favorite bottle of wine or beer. Spend a bit of time having an actual conversation, in person or by telephone. You can always use some of the suggestions from this post about celebrating the little things in life.
If you are starting to see a trend in these posts, I hope it is that these many suggestions about how to live a more positive life dovetail and overlap. Tidying up is good for creating comfort (hygge), but also it’s good feng shui, and it helps reduce stress (since you can find things when you want them and your things are no longer taunting you by being in disarray).