I’m an organizer, a neat-freak. Everything in my home has its place. Order is my middle name.
For me, the concept of simplification makes perfect sense. Less stuff means a more organized home. And I’m all over that concept.
Marie Kondo? Yep, I love her. I’ve read her books and watched her new Netflix show. I must confess, I’ve been going through my already-neat-home, and using her methods to downsize and simplify all over again.
But another concept came to my attention a couple of years ago, and I’ve been striving for it in my life too. The concept is Hygge – pronounced hoo-ga. It’s the Danish process of creating joy and coziness into every part of your life, day and night, season to season. It’s a feeling, but it’s also a way of life. It’s about pursuing the things that bring joy into the way you live, and creating an environment that’s warm and inviting, every hour of every day.
With hygge, there is no right or wrong concept. It’s how you choose to approach it. It’s about consciously selecting what’s in your life. It’s about making every moment as perfect as possible.
Sunday Through Saturday, They All Should Be Good
I remember back in my first real career after college. I liked my job … at first. But very quickly it became mundane, a chore. After just a couple of years, I couldn’t dream of putting in enough years to retire.
Back then, I dreaded Sundays because I knew Mondays were soon to follow. And then I’d have five days at a job I didn’t love. Saturdays were there for recovery, I ran from sunup to sundown shopping and running errands to get ready for the next week. Saturdays thoroughly wore me out.
And then it started all over again.
What woke me up was a comment made by a woman who started a few months after I was hired. As we were sitting waiting for a project to be approved, wasting time on silly little tasks, she smiled and said, “I have two years down and thirty to go.” Unfortunately, that was the mindset of a lot of people I worked with.
That scared me to my core.
I vowed NEVER to have a day of the week I hated ever again.
It took a few years, but I built up my first business large enough to quit that job. And I’ve kept my promise to myself to love every single day of the week.
It’s The Things Around You
Hygge is about the little things in your life.
Living in a little rental, trying to consume less and less, I haven’t invested in a lot of material things the past few years. But with the things I do buy, I purchase only the best.
Once a week, I invest in a very large bouquet. I put it in the center of my dining room table.
I happen to work from my dining room table if I’m not out and about. So I see the flowers a lot, and I smile every time I see them. Today I have a dozen tulips nearby. I like to follow the seasons, so I’ll have daffodils in a few weeks. Sunflowers – I love them. I try and stick with colors of the rainbow, because looking at them gives me inspiration.
We’ve turned into a society that pushes the limits of everything we buy. Gain more income? Buy a bigger house. Or upgrade your car.
I get it, I used to do that too.
But when you take a considerable step backward, it’s amazing all the things you can do.
I don’t blink an eye at buying my big bouquets. Or selecting whatever I want on the menu when I’m out with friends. Or filling up my tea drawer with dozens of selections. Or buying a pillow with decorative flowers all over it; it’s a beautiful addition to my sofa.
It’s the little things that give me pleasure. And that makes me a happier me.
It’s Everything You Do
It’s impossible to have great days 365 days of the year. But when you consciously start planning what happens in your days, you can quickly increase your numbers.
Why do people put in five crappy days to enjoy two good ones? That’s the question that started rumbling around in my brain once I’d been made aware of it at my job.
Doesn’t it make more sense to love what you do every single day of the week?
I know it’s possible, because I’ve done it myself. In fact, I’ve done it over and over again, most recently as a part of my gap year quest.
So how do you hygge your midlife reinvention?
1. Define your days
Nobody can define what you want to do each day better than you. Spend some time writing down what your perfect day would look like. What time would you get up? What time would you go to bed? What would you do for money? What would you do for pleasure?
Don’t follow anyone else’s guidelines. Don’t look to your current lifestyle for ideas. (Unless you really love what you do!) Instead, look to the future and think about what would make each day perfect.
I knew I wanted to write. So I started working towards my goal way back when. Initially, I only wrote for me. But slowly, I found ways to bring in clients, write for magazines and newspapers, and eventually get paid to write books too.
2. What would you eat?
I’m a part of the slow movement. Yes, it exists. It’s the concept of slowing everything you do in life down just a bit. That’s where my idea of slow travel came from.
I also believe in the slow food movement.
You can’t live your best life if you aren’t healthy. You can’t spend time doing exactly what you want to do if you’re always worried about your health.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food” for a reason. You are what you eat. The first part of hygge is making conscious choices about what you put into your body, so your body can give you the best it can be.
3. How would you get your exercise?
I love being outdoors. The more walks, hikes, and exploring I can do, the happier I am.
Use it or lose it.
Have you ever noticed that the WOW videos you see shared a bazillion times online are of people doing what they love well into their old age? Like the 100 year old yoga instructor. Or the 98 year old who still competes in gymnastics?
They look good, they feel good. And in order to do that, they keep moving. They do what they love and they never sit down.
I’m active in a variety of classes as well – cardio step, Nia. And while I’m dancing and stepping with a lot of people my age, I always smile as I watch how well the 70 and 80 year olds perform as well. They’re my motivation.
4. Who would be in your life? How would you spend time with them?
Friends and family show their true colors when you change your life. Some stick with you. Some disappear.
And while it may be heart-wrenching in the process, once you come out the other side it can be more freeing than you ever imagined.
You start to look at the people in your life differently. You realize who is there for you through thick and thin. You find ways of being closer to them. You find ways of sharing your feelings, and letting them know how truly important they are in your life.
5. Where would you live?
The thing about forever homes is they aren’t always meant to be your forever home. I struggled with that concept.
We’d moved a lot in the first years of our marriage. From apartment, to condo, to townhome, to house. And when we finally moved into our 3300 square foot home sitting on one-third acre of land, I made plans to live there forever.
We’ll remodel the kitchen. Finish the basement. Put in an outside entertaining space, complete with water feature.
Oh yeah, the dreams were always there.
Year after year we tackled those dreams, one project at a time. With the BIG maintenance items tucked in between – new water heater, new furnace, etc.
I loved the feeling I had inside my home. Sitting in one of my favorite spots, snuggled up with my books and a mug of tea.
But dreams don’t always stay on target. As you grow, your dreams change too.
And that’s how I knew it was time to let my dream home go. What I used to love became a chore. My dreams moved on. I had to allow my body to move with them, and find a new place that captured my attention and made me feel like I’d found a new paradise.
6. What little details would be in your life?
Hobbies. Interests. Activities.
I read an interesting study the other day that stated the older we get, the more anti-social we become. And it makes sense.
In school, we’re surrounded by people. At work, we socialize with those we share office space with. At home, we stay active with family and kid commitments.
But as we age, retire, we slowly retreat into our own world. Our home becomes our everything. We become more contemplative, opinionated, because all we have to think about is what impacts us most.
How you grow as you age depends on you. You can knit at home, or join a group to knit with. You can read alone, or find a book club to share ideas with. You can watch television, or you can go out and explore.
The difference will show itself in the way you feel about your life.
7. Would travel be a part of your life?
Study after study shows that travel tops the lists of everyone who approaches retirement. We want to travel and explore. We want to travel to learn more about different cultures. We want to travel and volunteer.
Yet not everyone fulfills those dreams. That’s how armchair traveler was coined.
I’ve chosen to make travel an integral part of my future because I know how it changes me as a person.
Every time I go someplace new, I come home inspired.
That’s where I get my ideas for future books. That’s how I’ve come up with ideas for new businesses.
My fifty-something dreams are nothing like my twenty-something dreams. And that’s a good thing.
But as I see the world and learn my impact, I’m discovering how much more living there is to do.
Travel does that. So of course, I’m building my life around it
Hygge teaches that life is meant to be enjoyed, every second of the day.
The more conscious you are at making your choices, the more enjoyment and fulfillment you’ll bring into your days.
Are you consciously choosing what you’ll do today?