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Have you heard of the Danish idea of hygge (hue-gah)?  Alex Beauchamp explains it this way:

The Danish word hygge (hue-gah) is a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary; whether it’s using real lights on a Christmas tree or breaking out the good wine when friends come over. It’s about owning things you only truly love or that inspire, being present in yourself and your life, putting effort into your home without being Martha Stewart or buying a bed in a bag. It’s also about being conscious and authentic from home to work to friends to celebrations and making all events {no matter how big or small, mundane or exciting} matter.

My husband and I spend a lot of time kvetching about all the things we can’t get our hands on in our rural town. How expensive all those things are that we can buy, how frustrating it is to have limited resources.  But as I wandered the downtown streets of Belo Horizonte, a shopper’s paradise, I realized that for the most part I don’t miss it. Sure, I´ll went home with a few key items (like a rural phone with a modem so that hopefully it will be easier to talk/write to you all), but for the most part I don’t want all the stuff. Moreover, I don’t want the temptation.

It’s so easy to wander into a store and get caught up in the “if I just have X, I´ll be so much happier” bug. Even if that store is just Goodwill. I like that our house has just the furniture that we need, and not much else. For starters, it makes cleaning house that much easier (which is good, because Brazilians are a little crazy about clean–for a great discussions read the comments in this Eat Rio post).  Simple is easier on the eyes.  It´s much gentler on the pocket-book.  Simple makes space for other things.

I resolved a while ago–long before I ever decided to travel overseas–that I would be more deliberate with my purchases, buy things that were meant to last, invest in quality over quantity. Easier said than done in the United States, the consumer heartland.  Then I had to pack all those “carefully selected” items into a shipping box and I realized that I still had missed the mark somewhat. Carefully selected needed to be narrowed down even further.

Now that I´m here and that most everything needs to be replaced, hygge seems like a good idea. We could use a new sofa, and we have the cash for it but we´ll wait until we can select the hygge one, the one that matches our personal style and will last us (hopefully) through a few kids. There’s tons of pillows and a beautiful afghan on that current, patched couch because it’s not worth having a piece of furniture if it’s not welcoming and comfortable. Hygge for now. Our doormats are handmade durable cotton crochet, because with our Brazilian mud it’s gotta be washable and because utilitarian doesn’t have to be ugly.  Hygge. We’ll build some TV shelving from plaster moulding (my husband’s business) to make it look like the artsy design ones in the magazines that always inspired us. Hygge. We could have bought some new Christmas tree decorations, probably much lovelier than what I had but I hand-carried on the plane a selection of the ones my family has used for decades. To me they’re home and they’re beautifully hygge. Those same precious Christmas tree lights get pulled out to light the yard for parties, any party. Our friends are worth the celebration. Hygge. We say grace at dinner for the food from the garden and rains that makes the roads impassable and the cows fat. Hygge.

On the other hand, who has time to be deliberately celebratory about everything?  I think that someone could easily take the whole thing too far.  It’s exhausting to be present all the time, sometimes we just gotta check out and play Wii or watch Maru on the internet, but this: “taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary”, THAT I adore and always hope to achieve.

What do you think of hygge and where does it show itself in your life?



  1. I can relate so much to this concept of happiness. For the same reason gift are no meaningful to me if they aren’t thoughtful. My husband and I have an understanding not to give each other anything at Christmas or birthday unless we had some “inspiration”. As a result some of my closest friends still remember their birthday years ago when I took the time to organise a surprise party and prepare some simple but flavourful dishes. 🙂
    (Now that I think about it, my latest post is about simple pleasures too: my time in the hammock –we have no couch too, but hey I have a hammock!!! 😉 — and my kids splashing in their kiddy pool) 😎

    • I hear you re: the gift giving. I’m the same way. And hammocks are the best aren’t they? We had to get two so that we’d stop bickering over whose turn it was 🙂

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