Is Lagom vastly different from hygge? Well, no. They’re not in competition. They are, in actuality, exceedingly compatible. Fredagsmys is hygge, fika is hygge, spending time outside is hygge. Whether you choose the Swedish or the Danish name is more the question.
In their love for jumping on bandwagons and breaking down self-created idols, papers this year have been quick to jump over hygge as “the last best thing before this new one” and to cry out that Hygge is Dead: Long Live Lagom. (see The Guardian for this) Of course, this is fast-moving daily print news where the next big thing needs to happen as soon as possible so that the people in the know can move on and get their fix of the latest, greatest as quickly as possible. It’s also daily print where icons are created to be destroyed since nobody likes a smart-arse. (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
In this, as in all things Scandi, I bow to my heroine, Brontë Aurell. She defines lagom as “Not too much, not too little: Just right. The appropriate amount.” It’s about balance in all things… in food, work, love, life, walking, playing. In using resources, living in houses, eating at a restaurant, buying, borrowing, spending. In this handy guide to lagom on her website she says that
- Having a slice of cake, but not two.
- Having sweets, but only on Saturdays.
- Having one cinnamon bun, not two.
- Wearing the lagom amount of accessories – don’t look too plain, but don’t be a Christmas tree. Just the right amount.
- Not having food waste – cook the lagom amount and make sure you eat the left overs.
Lagom is big on just the right amount, on sharing and having enough for all to have some. It’s a concept we could do with across our society. Not too much make up, not too many adverts for food, more time for family but not too much so we don’t work. It’s about making sure people have what they need but not in a way that stops them wanting to work. Yes, I know. It’s a utopian ideal, because it relies on the people knowing how and when to stop. Our culture, based on the Big is Better and More is Marvellous approach is very sniffy of lagom, the principle. You can see it on TV shows, where the cult of consumerism is King. You can see it in politics on both sides where envy and greed rule both sides of the political spectrum. Even in architecture where the buildings grow impossibly large as signifiers of wealth, status and ability.
My pet peeve is cars. I live in a nice middle class area, where most people have well enough to live on. And most families have two cars (that’s not the peeve, that idea I can see the point of). The nearest farms are 10 miles away, the nearest wildernesses a good 50 miles off, the families for the most part have 2 or 3 children.
They drive massive gas guzzling cars. Big Qashqai or Range Rover Evoques. And that’s just the second car for the small family run around. It makes me shake my head sadly. It’s not lagom, you see. I’m not offended at the idea that they can afford the cars, they’ve worked and to an extent what they spend their money on is their business, as much as by the waste of it. What is the fuel economy like? How many resources have gone on building the car? How big a car do we really need?
Lagom isn’t about frugality and saving money as much as about thrift and wise use of money and resources. It sits very nicely alongside the minimalist movement or the Konmari method of tidying as a concept based on getting the best bang for your bucks, basing your life on quality, not quantity and, due to its emphasis on friendship, probably basing your leisure on experiences rather than acquisition of stuff.
I think lagom is probably a more community applicable concept. You could imagine getting the local council to think more lagom, while hygge is a personal concept. Hygge for me may not be hygge for you, but I’m not inclined to see that living lagom and living hygge go far apart from each other.
How to incorporate more Lagom in Your Life:
- Read Brontë Aurell’s website page, A Handy Guide To Lagom.
- Read Linnea Dunne’s book, Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living
- Use your time wisely. Build in coffee breaks and time with the family. Have a hyggely time with friends.
- Stop before you buy new stuff. Do you really need it? Apply a one in-one out approach to things.
- Have a darned good clear out. In the words of William Morris, Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. Edit your belongings carefully, and put your future emphasis on quality above quantity,and experiences above things.
I am not a lagom writer, if there is such a label, but I do live lagom in my own life. It’s part of the appeal of scandinavian culture, isn’t it? The balanced, equitable, sharing approach. Incompatible with hygge? No, I’d say I think it makes hygge sweeter, because you know moderation and management. Will it make you happier? Only if you like your happiness to be balanced, steady, and based on an appreciation of enough. Have fun living lagom this weekend,and let me know how you get on!
My first two books are available now: 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way is available in Paperback and Kindle version and so is How to Hygge Your Summer, again in Paperback and Kindle form, from Amazon. If you purchase through the links on this page, I get a couple of pence extra per copy, and if you’ve already read it and enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I have a Goodreads Author’s Page!
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