Maybe it is the global pandemic. Maybe it is three years of exceptionally little sleep. Maybe it is just wanting a bit of comfort. Whatever the reason, I have been on an attempt to "hygge" up our home over the past few years.
To help get some ideas, I recently employed the help a book on our Current "To Read" List, The Little Book of Hygge.
Here are a few of our favourite changes:
As pointed out first and foremost in The Little Book of Hygge, lighting is key to hygge in any space. It also turns out it can be a relatively simple and low-cost change. Adding candles to the dinner table from October through March and swapping out cooler, higher watt bulbs for lower, warmer ones (1800 K) made a lovely and instant change. I would go as far as saying it transformed some of the rooms in the house, as well as overall warming the experience of eating dinner in the winter. Also, strategically changing out a few of the lighting fixtures (bought from Marketplace) added extra elements to the change and made for a dramatically increased hygge factor of the rooms.
2. Cozy, natural fiber blankets in every room with a seat
My favourite and exactly what it sounds like. Natural fiber is a key factor. Not only does it feel more hygge, but it also has a more environmentally friendly impact. Noticing how much some of our acrylic blankets were shedding made me wonder just how many of these tiny strands had made their way into the water system through our washing machine as microplastic waste over the years. This made it easy to retire them and turn to Marketplace for very reasonable wool alternatives.
3. Wool, wool, and more wool.
Did I mention wool? Moving back to Canada and needing a wardrobe update for the cold months, coming from California, I soon developed a bit of a wool obsession. As new wool clothing can be pricy, I went online and found fantastic deals on secondhand items. This started with one or two pieces, and after recognizing the benefits (I wasn't cold anymore), I started strategically replacing clothing for our whole family. Not only is it extremely comfortable, but I swear it feels "natural" in terms of breathability and temperature regulation. Also, with two toddlers/babies who struggled HARD learning to sleep, I would try anything and I also swear that wool (merino) body suits and sleep dresses made a difference (also bought second hand and funded with sales on Marketplace from "decluttering"). Since they help to regulate temperature, I also worry less that they will be too hot or cold. And I have met the nicest parents selling the well-looked after wool clothing of their children.
4. More natural fiber items. All funded through sales on Marketplace.
Plastic shower curtain replaced with an organic hemp curtain. This did cost a bit more in the short-term, but is meant to save cost and be more sustainable long-term. It is washable, durable, and smells pleasant rather than plastic.
Acrylic bath mats replaced with organic cotton. Similar in price, no microplastics, similar comfort.
Polyester children's pyjamas replaced with second-hand merino wool for winter and organic cotton for summer. Cosy, cosy, cosy. Minimized microplastics.
Plastic children's plates and cutlery traded in for child-size glassware and metal cutlery. They definitely prefer this and I believe it makes them feel less like "children" at the table. They do remarkably well with both. (these were purchased new).
4. Fewer plastic toys.
Thankfully, I came across some interesting philosophies in Montessori and Waldorf, among other teachings regarding natural material toys for children before ours were very old. We definitely have a few plastic toys at this point - and some are great (realistic animal figures, trucks, trucks, trucks), but have tried to limit the number and include more natural items (wood rounds, play scarves, locally made wooden climbing triangle, books, books, books). It seems to work for the kids, and perhaps more importantly, our home does not have the feel of a plastic filled toy store, but rather has diverse textures, materials, and muted but fun colours. All items very reasonably found on Marketplace except the climbing triangle, which was a worthwhile investment for gross motor development in the age of Covid. If it is pleasing for the adults, one thinks it must also be hygge for the kids ...
Who am I kidding - this was definitely not a change starting a few years ago. From birth, I was grandfathered into tea drinking and our three year old son already prefers his "tea" to any other beverage. It is something that remains a daytime ritual and is supported by minimizing our number of tea cups to ones that feel hygge to hold and bring joy sitting in the open cupboard. Recently after trying to reduce caffeine (more on the attempt to facilitate sleeping babies), I discovered an amazing Winter Warmer recipe with fresh, organic ginger, organic lemon, and raw local honey. Mmmmm. Definitely hygge.
7. More living things.
Plants. We have added many more plants to our indoor space. They bring life, an awareness and maximization of natural light, and literal organic material into the home. We have them both placed in optimal places around the home, as well as a dedicated "living wall" fixed with additional nourishing light (this has a name) that keeps them happy all year. This is possibly the best addition. I also really wanted to get a puppy, but was convinced that this would be the opposite of hygge with two toddlers.
8. Books, books, and more books.
As Meik Wiking states in The Little Book of Hygge, all books are hygge. This is good news as it supports our book collection habit. Luckily, it is VERY easy to find reasonably priced second-hand (and many times free) books. We have added opportunity for exposure to new books by creating a Little Free Library, where people are welcome to take a book and leave a new one if they would like. A fantastic program, "Calgary Reads," will supply these libraries with boxes of free books, which is amazing. Through various methods we have started curating books for our LFL and home with wonderful and diverse themes, characters, and stories across time. Some tips we have learned for finding especially great reads:
Caldecott and Newbury Award winning books tend to be wonderful (as expected)
Goodwill many times has shelves and shelves of books for all ages for very cheap (and many classic and new great reads)
Teachers often sell off older sets classroom books (well-loved), which is a great way to get pre-vetted great books in volume at a great price
Family and friends have the best recommendations for "loved" and classic books
Some of our favourite reads:
Finally, because what is more hygge than a sleeping cat under a lamp next to a lot of books and Paddington the Bear ...