If you could see my house on Thursday night, you would have stood on the threshold and refused to come in.
I have three teenage children, a full time job outside the home, parents growing rapidly older, an extensive reading list, a nature that rebels against cleanliness as next to Godliness and…. to add to the mix…. last Easter we got three Guinea pigs who are so cute it’s unbelievable, but like to wander around the living room and contribute to the general mess.
I am not a natural housekeeper. My friends will tell you that. They know that I have a dozen projects on the go at once. mostly piled in bags at the side of my chair or behind the settee or under the stairs. I don’t claim to be a good cleaner, I’m good at creating a comfy, hyggelig home. The sort where you kick your shoes off, curl up on the settee, smile at the photos that line the shelves, put mugs on top of a pile of magazines and where laughter, talking and hubbub is the order of the day.
I was reading a book, Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom by Lena Bentsen. The subtitle is How to create space for Danish Hygge and Lifestyle by cleaning up, organizing and decorating with care. I may at some point review the book, so I’m not going into big detail on it here, just that the point of the book is ultimately as a decluttering manual with the avowed first intention of cleaning up ready to hygge. As if hygge can’t happen in a space with mess.
That’s like saying you can’t do yoga in a rain storm, or drink tea without a good clear out. It’s not true.
Hygge doesn’t depend on having a magazine-ready living space, or having scandi-design stamped on every piece of furniture. It doesn’t rely on the Royal Copenhagen stacked in the cupboard or quantities of Greengate tea towels spread every where. Hygge could happen in a hovel. It could happen in a home where the only bit of furniture is a settee or a bed or a roll of carpet, as long as it was a comfortable place to rest.
It could happen with tea, coffee, hot chocolate or a warm beer as long as it is a drink that you like to drink.
It could happen in Holstebro or Honolulu or Hull. As long as it’s a place you call home.
And it can happen with friends you’ve known since childhood, work colleagues you meet over the water cooler or a group you’ve just met at a meeting, hygge isn’t tied to or reliant on a list of ‘must do’ items. It really rather more depends on the attitude. If you know you will be happy, you will be happy. If you think this will be the most boring night of your life… guess what, you were right!
But having said that… well, I have to admit it. A clean enough room is nicer to sit in than a smelly, crammed sitting space. And it’s easier to hygge with friends who know you and whose sense of humour you know so that you can spot the gently leg-pulling. And a cup of tea tastes nicer from a mug that doesn’t have burgundy lipstick stains on when you only ever wear coral peach.
I cleaned this weekend, partly because I knew I had people calling by on Monday and partly because I felt the need to have a tidy up. I sorted out a pile of papers that were occupying my window sill like a herd of anti-capitalists outside a bank. I cleared the sides of cupboards, found places for everything and put everything in that place. I polished and hoovered and tweaked the place to suit.
It will never win prizes, it wouldn’t even get me in the home magazines I love so well.
But it is my home, and the children’s home and the husband’s home and in the end it only has to suit us.
Sunday night we hyggered with my Mum and Dad; beautifully soft roast beef, roast potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli cheese and homemade Yorkshire puddings. We watched Strictly: The Results and drank coffee as Poldark slipped on to our telly. We set the guinea pigs free from their cages, and they wandered around, pootling beneath our feet and circling the food. Sometimes they broke into a run, mad dash around the carpet, and just as suddenly stopped, bum waggled to the hay tray and flopped absolutely. There was no pressure on them to do too much, no pressure to produce, to be special, to perform. They just were. I find it a beautifully relaxing way to spend an evening, just watching them.
And it was good. Better for being a sweet-smelling, tidier place, but not in need of perfection. We left the table at the end of the night with the cloth messed, the bottles still out and the feeling that it… imperfect as it was… was a lovely hyggely night.
I can’t leave without a resource to recommend; Today, a fantastic flavour of coffee. We like to drink a cafetiere of coffee every weekend breakfast, because it’s such a slow-down process that makes us pause for breakfast. Our favourite coffee supplier on the internet is Beanies, who do instant flavoured (not recommended) and ground coffee (highly recommended!) and at the moment we are working our way through Mocha Orange coffee. It’s lovely, because it doesn’t smell too orangy in the cup but it tastes divine to us.