Extract

The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits

'Hygge is as simple as a candle, lit and placed on a windowsill to welcome someone home. It is both an inner and outer condition of simplicity'


He didn’t remember, he didn’t worry, he just was - Tove Jansson


Hygge is as simple as a candle, lit and placed on a windowsill to welcome someone home. It is both an inner and outer condition of simplicity; a clarity of presence and intention, and an honest, uncomplicated practice. In our over-stimulated lives with so much to distract our attention and pull us in opposing directions, we can turn to hygge as a conscious and appreciative approach to living. Hygge is a timeless practice, an everyday mindfulness that comes from a wholehearted participation in life.

There is a simple fidelity to the moment that we experience through hygge. We notice how a mug of morning coffee stands steaming on the table, how our bedside lamp and an old volume of poetry or a new lover beckon us to bed, how a familiar room slowly changes colour as morning arrives. When we hygger, we remove the clutter of perception and reach a singleness of purpose. By dimming the lights, putting the kettle on or laying out a picnic rug, we adjust our surroundings to guide our energy and desire. Hygge pays attention to the concerns of the human spirit, turning us towards a manner of living that prioritizes simple pleasure, friendship and connection above consumption.

 

 

Less is more

- Robert Browning

Simple pleasure

To spend an hour digging a flowerbed with a friend or to end a working day in a hot bath with the window open to the sound of evening folding in on itself on the street outside, are experiences infused with hygge. The familiarity of domestic routine and the delight inherent in simple pleasures evoke hygge – fresh bread, an evening walk, pure wool, a kiss, a bike ride. Hygge is about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being. When we hygger, we experience abundance in contrast to the pervasive affluence in which many of us are starved of soulful experience. But hygge is not pinching and parsimonious. It is generous and celebratory, a way to remember the importance of the simple act of living itself.

 

 

I have no philosophy, my favourite thing is sitting in the studio

- Arne Jacobsen

Ordinariness

A single bloom on a kitchen table speaks of the simplicity that characterizes hygge – something modest, lovely and evanescent to show that we care.

Hygge is found in quiet generosity not grand gestures, in returning to the office with a coffee for a colleague or making breakfast in bed for our partner. There are minor and hidden things that contribute to a hyggeligt life that we notice only in their absence – fresh bed linen, the box of candles that we reach for at the bottom of a cupboard, a photograph pinned to an office cubicle, the way that a flatmate routinely leaves a note and an extra portion of food for us in the fridge.

 


Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful

- William Morris


There is an enriching and integral nature that wellcrafted things bring to our lives, and a power of enchantment that resides in a handcrafted object. When we use a simple, handmade item, there is an interplay that takes place between the object and our own emotions and state of mind. We encounter the possibility of simplicity in ourselves in what we hold in our hands. And we touch the life of the maker.

There is a social and spiritual significance in bringing practical beauty into our homes, an invitation to live a life of real quality. But ultimately, quality of life is not tied to owning craft but to the careful crafting of our lives. Buying the perfect bread board doesn’t lead to a life of simplicity. Slow living isn’t the determined and nostalgic collecting of thrifted and lovely things to arrange and display. It is a mindful and intentional approach to living. Hygge helps us to slow down, to take time to find beauty in what seems ordinary.

 

 

Craft makes our homes more human
- Ilse Crawford

Authenticity

Simplicity is a way of being, not an acquired lifestyle. In recent years, many of us have slowly shifted our desire for labels and mass-produced goods towards the handcrafted and homemade. The pared down aesthetic that has been adopted by consumers around the world stems from values that Scandinavian cultures have quietly adhered to for years – the values of authenticity and simplicity that underpin hygge. But an aesthetic that appears to eschew ostentation can still be a marker of status in a different guise. Instead of visible consumption of brash and branded goods, the elegant trappings of a simple life can easily become cultural capital, symbols of taste and knowledge.

Although many Danes enjoy comfortable lives of material abundance, most resist display of status. In Denmark, hygge is considered antithetical to excess and held at a distance from excessive consumption. It is upheld of as a marker of authenticity, associated with an informal, intimate way of being and socializing that gives a sense of being distanced from status games. Hygge is thought to be lost when we indulge in luxury consumption or when we thirst to be noticed, no matter how simply we clothe that desire. Hygge isn’t interested in our qualifications or appearance, but in who we are and what we bring to the moment.

Ideally, it draws us away from the brittle edges of our selves and pulls us towards a still, warm centre of simple presence, and connection.

Hygge is an atmosphere of unselfconscious wellbeing that disappears if an occasion is taut or manipulated. It cannot be bought or engineered, no matter how artfully we arrange a scene or orchestrate an occasion. If we approach hygge from its perimeters by attempting to craft and capture perfect moments, it will elude us. We can clothe ourselves and our homes in the accoutrements of a simple life but fail to reach the heart of the matter, that simplicity is a way of being not having. It affords us space and clarity to address the very real, and often messy, business of living and caring for one another. Hygge is not allied to the carefully pared-down and controlled but to generosity, paying attention and letting go. The pleasure is found in living hygge not curating it, in the experience of the journey not owning the map.

The effortless flow of conversation between two old friends, the worn surface of a kitchen table scratched with time and use, are hygge. The ease of interaction that comes from sincerity and authenticity, a desire to shelter not rise above each other. It is the raw authenticity of being unguarded and free.

 

The Book of Hygge

Louisa Thomsen Brits

The most beautiful guide to the Danish custom of hygge, the everyday life philosophy for better living.

Hygge is a feeling of belonging and warmth, a moment of comfort and contentment. This beautiful little book will help you to find hygge and embrace it every day. Make a pot of coffee, relax in your favourite chair and discover for yourself how life is better with hygge.

'Best [book] for the philosophy of hygge' You Magazine

'...a philosophy for mindful living' The Guardian

‘Her book is a thing of beauty’ Irish Examiner

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