You might have spent much of 2016 adding a little more hygge to your life (that is, the Danish way of living cozily). And you should definitely keep that up, because things like knitted socks, porridge, and playing board games in front of a fire with your closest friends are all excellent uses of your time. However, there's a new lifestyle trend emerging out of Scandinavia, and this time it's the Swedish concept of lagom — that is, the art of moderation and sustainability, which kind of sounds like a surefire way to find contentment (what is it with Scandinavian countries and their happiness levels?).
Like hygge, lagom (pronounced "lah-gom") isn't really new; it's more just a way of being. The word loosely translates to "just right" and "everything in moderation," and as Niki Brantmark wrote in Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, lagom pretty much sums up the Swedish psyche. "Today, lagom is closely linked to the Swedish cultural and social ideology of fairness and equality," she writes.
"It feels liberating not to have to wear your accomplishments on your sleeve."
In an article for Slate, Lola Akinmade Akerström described it as this: "To me, it meant a cool restraint, a certain self-confidence. It feels liberating not to have to wear your accomplishments on your sleeve. I didn't need to boast or brag about my achievements, but actually let my work do the talking for me — as did everyone else."
And while the idea of lagom can also have a dark side — that is, not voicing your opinions lest you seem like a braggart or dimming your light under a bushel — it's mostly a quite fine way to live.
It's a way of being modest and not boastful, and this can extend to your home and being content with what you have. In her book, Brantmark writes:
"By deliberately seeking a more manageable, comfortable, balanced way of doing things (and finding perfection in imperfection), you're not just taking the pressure off yourself — you're taking the pressure off others, too. And you're gaining more of today's most precious resource: time."
There are many ways that you can introduce the concept of lagom into your living spaces, including using storage well and embracing "upcycling" (i.e., giving old pieces a new life with a coat of paint or fixing something broken rather than throwing it away).
Here are 10 other ways to introduce a little (but not too much) lagom into your life.
- Ditch the huge coffee mugs and, instead, buy a few moderate-size cups. Drink your coffee (not too strong) in companionable silence with your partner.
- Start a compost bin.
- Grow a few herbs on your balcony and use them regularly in your cooking.
- Be modest in your home updates; only buy things that you need and that will last a long time.
- Stick to a neutral color palette.
- Remember to turn the lights off when you leave a room.
- Declutter. Then declutter again.
- Set up direct debits for all your bills so you always pay them on time.
- Put away social media, unplug, and let yourself have some peaceful timeout in your home.
- Stop being wasteful, whether it's throwing out leftovers, buying things you don't need, or having too many unproductive days.
— Additional reporting by Tara Block