You know how sometimes when you need something the exact thing you need drops into your lap, even though it’s been hanging around for a while and you were just overlooking it?
Today’s book, Dwelling by Melissa Michaels, was one of my Advent gifts to myself. The inscription inside reads ‘Christmas of Hope Advent 1: 29.11.20’. I must have unwrapped this, flipped through and put to one side to read later that week or (more likely) in my Romjul period and then walked away.
Well, last night I was looking for this week’s Book Friday and noticed this in my hygge basket by my chair. With a free evening and being a fast reader, I settled down with my Santa mug of chai (it is always Christmas in my house) and a pencil, pen and pad to jot some notes as I went along.
It was exactly what I needed after yesterday’s blog post. It was a breath of inspiration at the end of a busy week, and I will be rereading it simply because I want to enjoy, appreciate and re-inspire myself with some of the wise words.
The book is only 222 pages long, but it’s very text-rich. There are no illustrations, charts or photographs, but the aesthetic of the book is beautiful, with pages of meaty reading interspersed by whole page quotations or thinking points in a beautiful brush lettering. I have the hardback version, and the paper quality is very fine, but not very thick. A highlighter, for instance, would bleed through to the other side.
The book is arranged in 10 chapters: Invitation, Well-being, Sanctuary, Loveliness, Savoring, Streamlining, Foraging, Nourishing, Gathering and Thriving. Melissa describes herself as an absolute homebody, and says that “the relationship between how we feel, the way we live and the house we live in is as inspiring as it is important”. She makes a very clear link between the state of our homes and our inner lives: that chaos in one will feed or create chaos in the other. Melissa doesn’t judge people on having a messy home: her own history is of issues that created or encouraged a messy life, and she tells quiet honestly of the struggle she had to create a nurturing place, a home and lifestyle that encourages health and wellbeing.
The chapters are short but meaty, and have actions that range from journal work (there are a lot of journal prompts throughout the book) to small practical actions like clearing flat surfaces in one room at least to give your eyes a restful pause or using your phone to set time prompts to remind you to look after yourself.
The book is a great blend of self care manual, advice on interior design and homemaking and lifestyle wellness guru. That’s because in Melissa’s philosophy they are all blended: “Our environment is like a mirror, reflecting what’s going on inside of us and in turn affects our wellbeing. If we’re discouraged, run down and haven’t cared for ourselves as we should, our homes may suffer, too.” You can see why I read it with lightbulbs popping all over my head last night. This is absolutely the state I’d got myself into this week: I was ill, and low, the house was sickly and chaotic and my life was not reflecting the simple, intentional life I wanted it to be.
Flylady (and how I love that woman!) always says start where you are and baby steps, baby steps. Melissa talks about simplifying life, and she doesn’t mean selling up and having a small holding in the country: she means start where you are, and streamline the inside of your house as well as the inside of your head. Find what simplicity and streamlined living means to you, keep those objects and activities that mean most to you and speak of what you are now. Focus on your wellbeing, and that will give you the strength you need to help other people as well. Melissa knows as a mother or homemaker it is too easy to put ourselves at the back of the list: behind children, pets, parents, partners and work. Melissa advises taking a few minutes each day to set up a self-care ritual, just a pot of tea or a bath, a chapter of a book or a little time crafting: just something that feeds your soul. (I know this too, of course: that’s what Cosy Happy Hygge is all about, but sometimes I just need to be reminded of it: perhaps I need to reread my own words as well!)
The book is filled with quotations. Most of the full page brushstroke quotations are Melissa’s words, but she regularly quotes from other people, including this Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation that hit me fully. Today is the best day. Oh, yes, and this book made me pause and reflect on how much I’m letting slide at the moment. That spring cleaning list at the weekend is getting longer… but so, too, is my list of self-care activities.
All in all, I finished the book feeling more positive than I was before, with a better appreciation of my why in life. And a renewed sense of needing to centre wellbeing for myself and others. I should just mark a reminder on my calendar at the moment once a month to check in and make sure I’m being sensible: balancing work and writing, keeping on top of the molehills before they become mountains and keeping my focus on the things that matter, not the things that make me distracted.
You can read more of Melissa’s words and wisdom on her website, The Inspired Home, or follow her on Instagram (eye candy for the weekend), Facebook and Twitter, which seems a bit less populated than her blog or Insta. She also has several other books, including Love the Home You Have, which I read almost six years ago now, and Simple Gatherings which has been added to my birthday wishlist for May.
Today’s header is my photo of the book, along with my current favourite candle in the office and a painted rock… it says Bee Happy, and I should remember that, shouldn’t I?
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
How to Hygge Your Summer: Hygge isn’t just about candles, throws and fireside cuppas (if indeed it is ever actually about them) and this book gives you ideas for creating hygge ready spaces and paces of life throughout the summer.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.