Sometime in 2016 I began to feel this sadness for how fast time seemed to fly by. I began to ache for less of the daily grind and more time spent enjoying the simplicity of the every day moments. I found myself craving something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was during this time I found the Danish term “hygge” and I am sure you have heard of this by now, it has taken Instagram by storm and become a common term in the United States. It was like finding a word for my deepest desires.
At the base the concept is simply a feeling of coziness and a feeling of contentment, but through it I found much more. For our family embracing hygge meant letting go of the aspirations that we find ourselves driving towards, and acquiring less. We took a year off from extracurricular activities for the kids and ourselves, and spent less time running around. We made a bold move to sell a home we had just barely moved into, and move 30 minutes out of the city to have a quieter existence and more focus on the nature around us. And we found a sense of happy we hadn’t felt in years.
There is always a bit of nervousness and conflict when you change everything about your children’s world, and truthfully we had no idea of how our kids would do in this new space. In the beginning they were excited about the process, in fact our oldest daughter found most of the small farmsteads that we looked at, and talked at length about all the things she would be able to do. Our youngest was simply excited that she would have a bedroom right next to Mom.
We began purging years of accumulated stuff that meant nothing to us, and filling our lives with more books and less toys and gadgets. We donated bags upon bags of household goods, clothes, games, and random décor.
All our efforts paid off, in a bigger way than we ever could have imagined. We spent long days working outside or inside and nights snuggled together talking and laughing. When summer ended and it was time for the girls to attend a new school, those old butterflies popped up again at another unknown. Going to a small country school would be a strange land for them, and to our utter delight, they flourished. Our youngest had woken up every school day for the past 2 years screaming that she refused to go. She didn’t know why, but she hated school, and we had decided that we would probably have to homeschool her by mid-year. But now, she was arriving home smiling, saying she loved school. Not only that, but she was in love with learning, bringing home extra math problems, sitting up reading at night, and obsessively learning extra about Native Americans. In this time out in the fresh air, and this freedom to slow down, she has changed.
The biggest difference is that I have changed. I am present with my family, I’m now not rushed to get somewhere, or to do something. After the bus drops them off in the afternoon all I have been working on I can let go, because there is no rush. We sit around the kitchen laughing, rehashing their day, and eating a snack while they work on their homework. We have found a joy in each other that we had lost. We have found the time to be more patient and to work out our issues when they arise instead of pushing them off to a more convenient time. We wake before the sun most days, and watch as the colors spread across the sky, and go to bed earlier. We don’t have many days that involve technology, and usually when we do, it is purposeful and together. I have learned that the days when we find ourselves drawn into them for whatever reason (sickness, alone time, etc) we are not as good to each other, and that has been a lesson for us to release that disconnection more and more often. We have made the choice to not have a television as the center of any room. (We actually have never had a permanent TV anywhere, but now we pull it out even less), and instead have become creative with entertaining each other. We put on mini performances, have dance competitions, have silly work-out sessions, or simply read out snippets of our favorite books.
For our family, living a hygge life has been an answer to a heartfelt hope for more. And while not everyone can completely start over from scratch, there are some simple ways you can embrace hygge in your family without a complete overhaul.
- Start your day off with a family “turkaffe.” This is translated to a coffee break while hiking. Pour coffee and hot chocolate into thermos’s and trek out into the world. You don’t need a mountain, or a country road, just each other. Warm your hands with your drinks, and spend time together reveling in the outside within your reach.
- Have an indoor picnic: exchange the table for a blanket on the floor, and serve simple sandwiches made from leftovers, and embrace the silliness of it all (or serve a smorrebrod—a Danish interpretation of an open-faced sandwich, originally designed to make it easier to eat the night’s leftovers in the fields the next day, and now an embraced and celebrated food on its own).
- Have a candle-lit reading night together (or in front of the fireplace). Put on your pajamas, and either read a story out loud, or all bring your books, crosswords, or drawing together to the same space for a quiet evening.
We are slowly building a life where even our ordinary moments are worth savoring. In fact as I write this, it happens to be New Years Eve. My spouse it sitting near me, with coffee in hand, on a rare morning without children, reading a book she was gifted at the holidays, and we are in no rush. There is a peace, there is a contentment, and a knowledge that, at most, we will ring in the New Year with an outdoor fire, and a warm mug of rum and cider.
*I do want to note, that our children didn’t embrace each step right away, it may take 4-5 morning walks as a family before they really start to open up or see the world around them. It takes patience for you too to begin to notice things other than just the cold, or the dirt. It’s not an immediate change, give yourself time to learn to let go of the hustle, and soon it will become second nature!