Sanctuary is my Word of the Year for 2022. I chose it because the idea of a space away from the world and safe from external attacks appealed to me, especially after a rough couple of Covid years.
And I knew when I chose the word that the meaning, both physical and mental, would be important to me. I wanted to rebuild the inner sanctuary of my self-worth, which has suffered due to my reaction to external pressure over the past two years, and the outer sanctuary of my home which, lovely though it is, has been slightly ignored since my return fulltime to the office. I have a spending habit which can very quickly get out of control, and my full to the rafters home is demonstrating that all too well. For someone who writes so much about hygge, I have let creating a hygge home slip in my priorities. I think it’s tied up with my children growing older, beginning to live lives outside of the home and a very real need now for me and Mr Hygge Jem to decide what a hygge life is for us as a couple, not just as parents.
I think today’s book, The Spirit of the Home, came into my life in September. It was one of my post-holiday treats, but as soon as I started it I realised that it wasn’t a quick read and release book. I wanted to read, reflect and set in action many of the recommendations. I set it aside, and thought about Sanctuary as a word during November and December and, indeed, felt that it really was a concept I needed in my life. I started reading the book between Christmas and New Year, in my Romjul period, and taking notes on it in my planner.
Sometimes you can race through a book, take a few pages of notes and ideas and walk away not totally convinced that you need to put in action any of the things the author has suggested. This, for me, was not one of those books. I took 26 pages of notes and quotes. And that’s without flipping through the book for a second/third time and highlighting passages, or the list in the planner that captures the ideas I have had for creating and encouraging an atmosphere of peace, tranquility and sanctuary in the home.
The book is a paperback, about 9 by 6 inches, and very dense text. There aren’t any photographs or illustrations, and what pictures there are are diagrams to explain the feng shui advice in the book. The book is very much about the spirit, life force or chi in the home, and if you’re a very strict Christian it may be too New Age for you.
It’s split into seven sections, each examining a different facet of the home: The Spirit of the Home is the first section and takes up a good 20% of the book. It has interesting information on the role that Gods and Goddesses played in Greek and Roman times, and how the role of home in our lives matters. The second part, Thinking About Home, asks us to be honest about our homes, what we want them to be, who lives there and what we need to do to them.
I found Part 3, The Clear Clean Home, spoke to me most this weekend. I am only too aware of the power of a clean, clear room but also that I let my housekeeping slip away from me (a bad knee sprain stopped me for a few weeks, and I’ve never got back into the habit) and my home is in need of a good clearout and cleanse. I like the advice to see cleaning as a purification ritual, to set time aside especially to clean, to collect your tools together and to see it as a form of worship: an act of respect for the world and the God/dess you hold dearest.
Part 4 deals with feng shui. Believe it, or don’t, but the book has a reasonably accessible introduction to feng shui. Jane Alexander does advise getting a Feng Shui expert in if you really are keen to establish Feng Shui in your home. I’m not sure, but I do know I’m thinking of getting even more green plants in the house, on the basis that they seem to have a very positive effect everywhere.
Part 5, the Sensual Home, deals with colour, scent, texture and sound in the house. It encourages you to think what your home needs to be soothing and comfortable in all areas of the senses. Part 6 is about A Space of Your Own and encourages you to find a space that you can claim as your own sanctuary, whether that’s a room or a chair. It’s got me keen to keep my cosy corner as a sanctuary (I want to shift the bookshelves behind and replace with my bureau and display cabinet) and also to upscale my bathroom from a utilitarian, child-friendly space to a grecian spa. I need some candles, a good clear out, a clean and possibly some good, thick towels.
Part 7 is entitled The Helpful Home and is back to using Feng Shui as a way to boost love, career and creativity.
As I said above, the book is very text-heavy with a distinct lack of pictures or illustrations. That’s a shame, because it does mean the book doesn’t look as appealing as, perhaps, a fully illustrated heavy hardback would have. I’m sure that would put some people off. The book, though, rests on its contents alone. And those are excellent. It has left me with a need to look more closely at how my house is being used, what I need to do to upscale it from family home to (soon) empty nest for two adults and given me a renewed interest in being a homemaker. Don’t laugh, but I’ve bought a wicker basket to collect my homemaking equipment in, and will be setting up regular homemaking/housekeeping rituals in the home. Cleaning my house is a symbol of self-purification. I like that idea.
I will leave you, as always, with a flip through of the book. Have you read it? Have you used feng shui or space clearing in your home? Which books have you found useful in making you create a safe space or sanctuary?
I do love Jane Alexander’s appreciation of Hestia, the Greek Goddess of the Hearth. At one time she was honoured as one of the Great Olympians, keeper of the Eternal Flame and the only God or Goddess who didn’t need a temple or statues because her temple was the home and her statue was the fire in the hearth, the focus (look up the root of that word to see how apt it is) of the home. While we are too often outward bound and keen to do things outside the home, we also need time within the home to ground ourselves in our actual lives. I love the advice to
“Allow yourself a little Hestia time everyday, a quiet time for pottering around your home, adjusting something here, moving something there. Give yourself a few moments to watch a shaft of sunlight glancing through a window. That chair looks inviting? Allow yourself some time to sit and muse. Daydream.”(Jane Alexander, Spirit of the Home)
Don’t we all need that? Some time to think, muse and just be? Next time my husband asks what I’m up to, I think I’ll tell him I’m taking some Hestia Time, and he can wait until I’m finished. Then I’ll light a candle, grab a cup and just whisper my love to my home in a Hestian Hymn of praise for safety and sanctuary.
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. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. 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:
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. The New Year may not be the best time for resolutions, but a reset of rituals and a resuming of routines is not a bad idea after a month of Christmas. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.
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. And it’s always the little things.
Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the Christmas season. I have plans to follow it up shortly with a Self-Care Winter, but I really need to grab my sanctuary plans and run with them to create a writing nest.
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.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.
The regular photo I’m currently using between text and my book promotions is a photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash. I love the implied cosiness of the photograph: the two hot chocolate cups, the biscuits and squares of chocolate imply a good bit of chatting going on here. Plus I like the colours: red tartan and real wood. What’s not to like? And the post header is a flatlay of the book on my desk at work with a hygge candle I was gifted for my birthday and a warming cup of apple and cinnamon tea. I use my winter mugs all year round and this wide bowl, from Sainsburys last year, is one of my favourites.