Hygge, the Danish Art of Coziness, Part 2

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Before going into some architectural ideas for your next project in Part 3, I’d like to share a few everyday things I experimented with to sample Hygge. Pick whatever sounds good, I would love to hear about your own experience!

Part 2: Everyday Life Hygge:

Acknowledging the realities of my current life I focused on reserving  just a little extra time for 1: Nothing; 2: Relationships; 3. Stuff. Nothing time allows me to take a step back, Relationship time allows me to prioritize meaningful over immediate, and Stuff time recognizes that, well, we’re surrounded by it and long-term developing better habits with how we handle or care for it will pay off beyond more hygge.

 

1: Schedule time for Nothing: To try this, I took an afternoon off with the objective to do as little as possible, and seek out a little more hyggeness. No chores or activities like going to the gym, and minimal gadget use. I found myself wandering around downtown Great Falls, looking for hygge things to do. At first it brought me back to my highschool days, in particular the occasional playing hookie. A mix of guilt, excitement, and “what am I doing here”?! It has been years since I actually had that kind of time. I know some of you never did. I ran into old acquaintances, and several familiar faces, which by itself felt hygge as in the sense of community when you feel “this is my hometown”. I bought a few cards, and took them to Crooked Tree, a hygge Cafe here in Great Falls. I had a Latte prepared with love, and served  in a beautifully simple “for-here” cup. Accompanied by a piece of warmed up pie on a real plate, with real silverware. I carried these things upstairs and found my favorite comfy couch in the corner of the little loft, overlooking the life of the coffeeshop below. No rush, nowhere to be, this almost felt unreal. You could argue that the cards were a little cop-out on my mission against productivity, and there is some truth in it. There were a few overdue letters that had been on my to-do list for a long time. They weren’t exactly urgent, but they had built up a nagging feeling over time, and it felt amazing to get those done while no other items competed for attention.  Writing a couple more  cards for no particular reason felt even better!

2: Invest in a relationships. The concept of hygge includes sharing some of the coziness with others.

There are those old friendships and of course family, relationships that have survived the different paths we’re on, geographical distance, and more. People that know us from different times of our life. As good friends they cut as a fair amount of slack when we’re out of touch, and we can “snap” right back into our relationship given the chance. For a little extra dose of Hygge, schedule time for a call, a visit, a letter, or to pick out a thoughtful gift for them.

Cultivate new relationships. I moved from Germany to Arizona and to Montana. Along the way life got busier, and it is tempting to triage activities by urgency instead of meaning. Making space for new friendships is one of those important things that can be hard to pull off. Going from acquaintance to friendship takes an investment of quality time:  Doing activities together, good conversations, and asking for, accepting, and offering help build ease and trust. You know that you have arrived when you get to that magic spot where your new friends can show up unannounced Saturday Morning. You open the door in PJs, and are not worried about what your place looks like, but just happy to welcome them in and offer a cup of coffee. I think this particular situation beautifully describes the opposite of bragging: We become ok with the vulnerability of just being ourselves, guards down. Here we can ask for help, and have the best conversations of our life. I’m not saying that lighting a candle gets you to this level of Hygge, but maybe it can serve as a symbol reminding you to invite a friend over. Full disclosure: We owe an acquaintance a dinner invitation we issued six months ago. The kids got sick, so we had to reschedule. Trips got in the way on both sides, and I’m almost to embarrassed to bring it up at this point. Homework for Sophia: Make it happen in the next 14 days…

3: Care for your stuff. This will sound anti-hygge at first, as in going back into the frenzied to-do list mode, but bear with me. I confess that I have to follow up with more Danes to confirm the concept. In the meantime, here is my hypothesis for how caring for things is hygge:

I picture a medieval shoemaker, organizing his tools and cleaning his shop in the glow of the gas lamp. Over time his well used and cared for tools embody more and more of the energy of the place. At the end of the day, everything is oiled, repaired, and put in it’s spot. I can almost feel the pleasant exhaustion my shoemaker feels as he finally lays down in bed. In my fantasy this has a certain Zen-ness to it, and occasionally I get a taste of it when my husband and I are cleaning up the kitchen together after the kids are in bed.  More often though, I’m confronted by entropy. Chaos that multiplied with the arrival of those kids. I’ve read many books on how to organize the contents of a house, both for professional and private purposes, but I also know first hand that it is easy to lose momentum, and that the house quickly fills up again unless we learn to get more selective of what earns its place inside our home. While a few serious interventions and bursts of activity may be needed to get you started here, I believe that long-term it is about consciously developing some habits in the area. Maybe starting with a small but persistent nuisance, observing how it evolves, and trying strategies to deal with it. My hypothesis is that finger pointing is decidedly non-hygge, so start with something within  your own control (extra brownie points if it is something you know has bothered those around you!). The item we are currently working on in our house is a clear and clean kitchen counter before bedtime, and we are making progress.

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Sophia Sparklin

Growing up in a family with generations in medical practice, Sophia discovered her passion for architecture during an internship 1996. Since then Sophia received formal and informal education in Germany and the US. At Arizona State University she was honored by the Henry Adams Certificate for graduating on top of her (Master of Architecture) class in 2005.