Hygge, Minimalism and the Art of Letting Go
For quite a few years I have been learning more and more about minimalism. I’ll preempt this by saying that I’m not a true minimalist by any means however I’m also not a huge consumer and have no problem getting rid of what I, or my family, doesn’t need.
My journey of “letting go” began with clothing long before minimalism was a “thing”.
I was just out of college and had been working for about a year in a massive “DSW-style” shoe store. In the beginning, I obviously bought a lot of shoes! As time went on, I learned to appreciate the craft and quality of a really good pair of shoes. Instead of buying a few pairs of trendy, inexpensive boots I would buy one pair of classic, very expensive boots.
Over time this mentality was applied to clothing as well. I invested in a great winter coat that would last for many years instead of buying a new coat every other year. I would save my money, get rid of every pair of faded dark jeans that didn’t make me feel awesome and buy one pair of great, dark jeans that fit perfectly.
From shirts and sweaters (especially sweaters) to dresses and bottoms, my closet slowly became filled with more expensive, better quality clothing and shrunk to half it's size.
This was a long process, one I’m still doing to this day! For example, I would love to buy a high-quality pair of black boots because the ones I have are super worn, uncomfortable, cost me $40 on clearance and leak like crazy in the snow (hate that!) but I’ll save my money to do so.
This post isn’t about money- it’s about cultivating the art of letting go in our lives. We are too used to consuming things we don’t need. Kitchen tools, toys, car accessories- we don’t need these things to be happy or to be functional human beings.
I’ll give you an example:
My husband wanted a snowblower. Our driveway, the first one my Dominican-born husband has ever had, is tiny. I think the manual exercise is healthy and on different weekends we have anywhere from 2-3 boys in the house who are able (and would love to!) help shovel.
Yes, it’s just shoveling snow. It’s not a life-changing experience that all parents need to do with their children but for this Canadian girl, I know what happens out there on the driveway in the snow. I value the time my husband spends with the boys as more valuable than a $500 snowblower. It is not just “living without a snowblower”; it is choosing to do what is difficult for long-term reward.
I don’t know if the snowblower example qualifies as living as a minimalist or not but it suits the minimalist lifestyle; Less is more.
This is how letting go begins. It doesn’t feel good but we do it because we know, in the end, it will feel better than holding on.
Much like minimalism, hygge is another type of lifestyle. It is pronounced "hoo-gah" for those of you who may have been wondering!
I recently read "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” and loved it. They say the Danes are the happiest people in the world. The author, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Soon after he wrote this book, it rose to the top of the best-sellers list and took the North American market by storm.
I have to say, Canada (which was mentioned in the book as a country with a similar mentality to the Danes) feels very hyggelit to me. At least, my family’s home and lifestyle does!
The Hygge Manifesto is as follows (taken from the book):
Atmosphere: Turn down the lights
Presence: Be here now. Turn off the phones.
Pleasure: Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. Gimme! Gimmie! Gimmie!
Equality: “We” over “me”. Share the tasks and the airtime.
Gratitude: Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.
Harmony: It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.
Comfort: Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.
Truce: No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.
Togetherness: Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we…?”
Shelter: This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.
Those of us who grew up in snow-laden Canada are used to getting cozy. Candles, fireplaces, big cups of hot cocoa, woollen socks and hand-knit casual sweaters are not thought of as a trendy hygge lifestyle but simply, a way of life. Reading the book, I could relate to everything the author said, although, my household could have used more cake!
Hygge is another type of layer in the art of letting go. It is a simple, un-rushed, un-frantic, non-anxious day spent enjoying the people around you and your moments of togetherness.
Again, I am not 100% hyggelit in my everyday life but it’s a way of life that suits how I was raised. My husband will attest I am forever nagging he “put away the electronics,” “spend more time with the kids” and “help me out more at home”. For me, it isn’t about the electronics or the housework, it’s about the partnership and values we're cultivating as a family.
For my husband, who came to the USA from a “what you own is where you stand in society” culture to New York City, which is a kind of “what you own is how important you are” environment, being married to me has most certainly pushed his limits, challenged and changed his values.
Of course, I think I’m right about everything (ha!) but the research doesn’t lie. The things that make us happiest are not “things” at all but having quality relationships, fulfillment in love and a sense of belonging.
Being married, spending 20 minutes a day in the outdoors, exercising, being part of a community, attending church [source], having deep conversations, spending more time sleeping and giving back to people are all proven to make us happier [source].
In other words, letting go of the idea that we need to “keep up with the Joneses” will invariably make us happier.
For those of us who have loved ones struggling with addiction, this might also explain why it hurts so much to have such a foundational element of our lives impacted in the way it does. Addiction destroys the intimate relationship, long conversations and fellowship; Long after the addiction has gone it still impacts the relationship. Wounding us where it hurts the most- the heart.
Although we must be cognoscente of being unhealthily attached to our loved one's actions while they’re struggling with an addiction, this is also why cutting them off completely from the relationship can do more damage than good in certain situations. A relationship is often the only thing that will give them the motivation and strength to get into recovery.
How can we apply the principles of minimalism and hygge to our everyday lives?
We must cultivate a solid, hygglit relationship with our heavenly Father so we have the wisdom to know when to let go of what feels good.
Long-term, this looks like being able to let go (and give over to God) what isn't good for us.
In the short-term, it means having gratitude for each moment of comfort and togetherness.
When we learn how to do these two things, letting go becomes a well-performed art.
There will be days that are harder than others but honestly, the more we work at it, the easier it will get. In time, we will develop an expensive, high-quality emotional closet to dress ourselves in filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).