Lagom and Hygge: Two Little Words That Temper Our Minimalism

We’ve been called extremists by those outside minimalist circles. Friends, family members, and colleagues have struggled to understand why we only have four coffee mugs, why we would extend our minimal tendencies to our calendars and diets, or why I would want to take up bike commuting. With every new discovery on our minimalist journey, they respond with an “Oh, Jenna…” If only they knew how moderate our family’s minimalism can be!

If we think of minimalism as a spectrum, my family would probably fall somewhere in the middle. We only have one child, but we drive two cars. We’re fairly close to Francine Jay’s 100 Essentials model (I could not recommend this book more highly!), but one of those “things” is our several hundred books. We have a pet, we have more than two arm chairs, and we have a lot of candles. And, as minimalists, we’re more than okay with that. Here’s why:

  1. Lagom: Francine Jay wrote a great post on lagom, or the Swedish concept of “just the right amount.” She describes lagom as “a desirable state of appropriateness, or enoughness—[which] has nothing to do with scarcity or deprivation.” A personal state of appropriateness, which is different for everyone and, sometimes, is different within one family. What is just right for me is not the same as what is just right for my son or my husband. I like a sparse space, with few furnishings and room to play. My husband likes a cozy space filled with hefty, rustic luxuries. Our son can’t tell us what he prefers yet, but I’d bet it’s somewhere in the middle. To avoid conflict, each of us gets our own lagom.
  2. Hygge: We’re recently obsessed with the Danish concept of hygge, which Meik Wiking describes in The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living as “a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being.” We’ve spent the last month or so cultivating this intentional coziness in our home: lighting candles, turning off phones, putting on extra pairs of wool socks. It does require us to keep a few small comforts around (candles, books, blankets, etc.), but the payoff is well worth the price. We justify the extras by saying our minimalism makes room for our hygge. Our brand of minimalism is about intentionally practicing a genuine, comfortable, surrounded-by-loved-ones-with-hot-chocolate kind of life anyway.

No matter what we prioritize or define as enough, there’s room for all of us on the minimalism train, and we get to chart our own courses. It’s a journey, after all, toward a meaningful, authentic, and individual life—whatever that means to each of us (and no matter what we pack in our suitcase).