The Problem with Hygge: A Minimalist Perspective
If you haven’t come across the Danish concept of Hygge, just as I hadn’t until about a week ago (I exist in a full-time working Australia bubble void of social media), it's an emerging trend posited as an antidote to the trying times we find our society in.
Based on carrying out daily routines around creating comfort, cosiness and extracting pleasure from the simpler moments of life, Hygge is gaining lots of attention across the blogging world and is increasingly penetrating popular media conversation.
Search the hashtag and you will find many quotes and imagery across social media with scenes of warmly filtered contentment.
On the surface it seems like a wholly common sense concept around cherishing time spent with family, friends and deriving inner relaxation and happiness from doing so.
Who would argue against that, or, simultaneously give it a hard-to pronounce name that basically means ‘Stuff that feels nice and is good’.
Is Hygge worthy of being a trending topic or a bestselling book? Is minimalism even worth the attention? Probably not, even if some of us could do with being reminded of the peace to be found in simplicity...
And yet many people are jumping onto Hygge and it’s taking on a life that might seem bigger than the actual concept at hand.
As soon as I became aware of it, I felt the need to wade in and understand it, and establish if it can bolster and complement minimalist principles, because on the surface it does feel like it might...
However so far I have found it actually has the potential to take you away from the true essence of minimalism, and yet also, bring you closer towards it…
Buying into Hygge
This article comments on how a crazy amount of lifestyle texts were published on how the Dane’s have cracked the life-code, all churned out in a short period of time, despite Hygge seemingly being something I could explain in 2 or 3 words.
This happening really does parallel the trend around minimalism, the lifestyle obsession predecessor of 2015/16.
I myself even contributed an e-book to the conversation because I think it’s a topic that everyone can have a different take on, or be on a different spot in the minimalist lifestyle spectrum.
Hygge seems a little too simple a concept to warrant you going out and buying 4-5 books on the topic. But people are. And the people who sell the stuff to the people who are, are using Hygge to sell more stuff, as that same article proffers.
I am not so cynical as to suggest that there isn’t some comfort to be found in having a warm quality cashmere blanket, or furnishing your home in a way that cultivates cosiness, but, as a minimalist, I am all about creating a simple and equally Hygge-like life that doesn’t require your debit card.
A More Relaxed Take on Simplicity
Hygge seems almost like a mild resistance to minimalism as opposed to an expansion of it.
So much of minimalism is about having less stuff, commitments, financial burdens and concerns to clear the decks of your mind and your life, so you can place people, love and growth at the centre.
Minimalism fundamentally means having less of the tangible, with the aim of building an entirely individual and intangible 'more'.
It’s possible however that some people would find the process of simplifying a period of extreme restriction and stressful change, with the subsequent need to alter the habits of a lifetime, not a very warm and pleasant experience at all.
For example, in my book, I talk about how to keep your home clutter-free and one of my suggestions, is a 5-minute blitz where each day you quickly tidy your spaces in 5 minutes. The goal is to make cleaning a short activity for those who really hate it or don’t have the time to clean for longer.
Some people might feel this isn’t a very Hygge concept, along with other clutter prevention methods that form much of minimalist thinking. Its possible a minimalist lifestyle can appear too disciplined or rigorous to be enjoyable.
I would however argue that Hygge, and those moments where life feels wholly pleasant and calm, can be the very end result of creating your more minimalist life and home.
A functioning simpler life requires some upkeep outside those hours where you might just drift off on the sofa with a good book.
Distracting The Masses
This article mentions the dark side of the seemingly light and wonderful rules behind Hygge living:
“The persistent quest for cosiness tends to deny the existence of anything that might ruin the mood, “the place where politics are set aside” — a dangerous state of being, when you think of the many things that do need to be discussed openly in 2016”.
This links back in my mind to how in my minimalism journey, I always viewed the transition as a way of rejecting capitalism and the manner in which is it used to distract the masses from the inherent problems endemic in our unbalanced society.
I wanted a simpler life, yes, but one that cared more about being part of a broader and wider social change, around environmentalism and other societal progress.
I actually see minimalism as an indulgent and privileged lifestyle concept just as much as it can be part of a wider more noble and aspirational movement.
Hygge seems problematic amidst that world-view.
Accounting for Individuality
A cosy moment or life experience is lived differently by all, just as minimalism can be adopted to differing degrees.
Hygge can be a complementary concept as long as we remember that the things which make us feel good inside can range from running 5k at 6am everyday, to attending a protest, to sleeping in in the morning and having breakfast in bed.
Hygge is fine, any popular lifestyle concept of late is fine, as long as we recognize that life is dark and light, good and bad, hard and easy.
We don’t all need to rush out and buy scented candles, giant blankets and a sack of fire-wood to cultivate moments of our day that make us feel alive, whole and at peace. We don't need to live in a way, 100% of the time, that excludes the truth and injustice of the world just to make our day a little more pleasant.
We don’t need to bandy the word around in our everyday vernacular, bashing people over the head with how badly they need to borrow the 4 books about it on our coffee table. And that can be applied to Hygge and minimalism...
Live as you wish and cultivate your own personal experience, as minimalist or Hygge as you desire, but think twice about advocating a set of basic principles with your debit card. Adopt the best of all these principles in their simplest form, setting aside time for self-care, home, and family, without leaving your social consciousness behind.
Thanks for reading!
Hannah here, one half of NomaderHowFar. I love reading, the beach, proper fish and chips, and a good cup of tea. But I mostly like to chat about minimalism, simplifying your life, the beauty of travel and sometimes I get a bit deep. Get to know us here!
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