Roots to Roofs Special Section of The News-Register
After a lifetime of trying to hide an unflattering truth about myself, I came out with it in the paint supply aisle at my local hardware store.
I was in the midst of an internal meltdown over the way too many selections for types of caulking sealants and caulking guns when the friendly associate asked if he could help. He suggested perhaps I didn’t need the extra tool I was holding.
“But it says here that it’s for making a tidier project and I am a very messy person,” it came out of my mouth before I could filter myself. And just like that, I’d admitted what I’ve long been ashamed of and nothing bad happened.
Well, to be fair, the friendly associate stood there for a moment before laughing out loud and saying: “Okay, well yeah, maybe you need that tool and some extra towels then. Really? You’re that messy?”
“Yes, I am,” I said, owning it now.
Some time ago, a friend asked if I’d heard about hygge. Pronouned “hoo-gah.”
In essence, hygge is creating a sense of cosiness, comfort and enjoying simple pleasures at home. Think candles, twinkle lights, warm socks and nourishing food, which of course includes good chocolate.
As she started describing the Danish concept to me I realized that while I had not heard of it by name, I knew it when I felt it. And it was always at someone else’s houses.
I wanted some hygge in my life. So I set about researching which hygge habits I could realistically adopt into my home.
And just for a frame of reference, while blankets are considered hygge, a pile of them heaped at the foot of the couch leftover from a massive fort building session is not. Presentation matters.
Listen, I’m no stranger to trends like these. I mean I fenged the shui out of my marriage. Seriously, my inability to feng shui our home was a point of contention right up to the end of our relationship. I even remember trying to explain the precepts of Feng Shui to my mom who kept insisting it was just a fancy way of describing “picking up and putting things away.”
And then there was “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up.” Of course I jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon making piles of things and then holding each one individually to determine what did and did not “spark joy.” But there could not be a worse method for my brain and than this one requiring the focus to sort through huge piles while communing with inanimate objects. To each their own, but this one was not for me.
While there are general conventions defining what hygge is, I think as with anything, which habits you adopt is more personal.
Speaking of my mom, one way she showed me some hygge love is by turning down the covers of my freshly made bed whenever I came home to visit. Sometimes, when she knew I’d had a particularly terrible day she did this even in high school. Even when the cause of the bad day was our tumultuous relationship at the time. This small act of love was a sign that despite our harsh words and inability to see eye to eye on just about anything, she still cared about me. And to this day I remember how warm that made me feel. Now, I do that for my boys when they’ve been gone overnight or had a rough day. Just a small thing, right before bed to create a little extra cosiness. Another way I do this is by throwing their stuffed animals and favorite blankets in the dryer just before bed. It’s a special treat that costs me nothing and creates a feeling of specialness.
While I’m pretty good at creating special moments here and there, I’ve been pretty terrible about creating a calm, inviting home in general, despite how much I want that very thing.
Maybe my focus has been on the wrong things all this time. Here I’ve been trying to make myself something I am not instead of figuring out which habits I’d like to cultivate in my home, what climate I’d like to create and then intentionally cultivating that. Doesn’t this “I’m creating a comfortable home for myself and the people I love” sound way better than words like “housework” and “cleaning?”
What resonates with me most is that embracing a concept like hygge celebrates the notion that the care and feeding of people we love is a noble and important act. We can call it making dinner, we can call it vacuuming and doing laundry but really, any task done with the purpose of creating a comfortable home for ourselves, our family and our guests is contributing to this hygge concept of intentionally living well.
That noble goal might just make my messy self a little more cheerful about going about my mundane chores with a little hope in my heart that even though most of what I do just has to get done again (think dishes, laundry and cooking) the feeling instilled in people I love by doing those daily tasks might just be something that sticks with them forever.
If having clean laundry in dresser drawers and tasty foods to inhale in less time than it took me to preheat the oven makes my boys feel cherished, it’s worth it. If cleaning baseboards and keeping couch cushions in the vicinity of the actual couch makes guests feel welcome, it’s worth it.
All acts done with purpose toward the end goal of living on purpose are worth it.
I don’t want to go overboard and promise any guest-to-be a clean house every time they visit, but making sure the counter is cleared off enough to prepare a favorite beverage or mug of tea? That I can commit to cheerfully.
With that in mind, cheers to having a little hygge in the house.