Lagom Är Bäst

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Who else is a little tired of hygge, the Danish trend that took over last year inspiring many an Instagrammer (yours truly included) to post photos of warm drinks, cozy socks, and faux fur accent pillows and throws?  I know I am. And let's face it, I love everything Scandinavian, from Norwegian Black Metal to lingon berry jam and back again, so if I'm over it you know it's done.

So why am I buying into another Scandi trend? Well, because this one is more than just a trend, and it's something that I have been working towards for about a year without actually knowing it.  Lagom is a Swedish word meaning just the right amount.  Something that has really been a struggle for me since entering my 30s is figuring out what I need as opposed to what I want.  I graduated from my MFA program this past winter and without the aid of student loans and the looming inevitability of paying them back for the rest of my life, I'm beginning to figure out how to properly budget not only my money, but my time, stress level, workload, etc. Hygge is about making cozy moments, while lagom is about a more balance lifestyle.

Scandinavians are some of the happiest people in the world.  And why shouldn't they be? They have an incredible economy, extensive paid parental leave, excellent health care, and workplaces that care about them.  In Sweden, taxes may be higher than other places in Europe, but you can really see them make a difference.  You show up on time to work, and you leave as soon as the work day is over.  No working late after the office closes, and honestly, if your boss sees you doing this it will be assumed that you aren't doing your work throughout the day and you will probably have to endure a few performance meetings.  Here in the US, working late is rewarded and if you jump up to leave as soon as the clock strikes 5pm, you're not usually seen as the most efficient worker.

Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, and Denmark) all place high importance on relaxation and creating time for family, friends, and time to just generally do whatever you want.  Lots of cities in Sweden have implemented a 6 hour work day, as it has been found that people only do about 6 hours of work in a day anyway, and they are most efficient if the day is kept a couple hours shorter and they get a sufficient lunch break (I rarely take a break at work, and frequently eat my lunch standing next to the fridge...and I have no one to blame for that but myself).  Also, paid vacation is a huge deal.  Anyone who does business with Swedish clients will know that not a lot gets done in the summer time, because when the weather gets warm everyone goes on holiday.  And holidays in Sweden aren't just a couple days, or even a week.  It's been found that on the 7th day of vacation is when you really start to reap the benefits of time off from work, so about 14 days is optimal for sufficient rest.

So it's clear to see why this lifestyle is so appealing.  I'm a pretty balanced person by nature, so you would think that adopting this Scandi lifestyle would be easy.  Well, you'd be wrong.  Being born and raised in the US, there are a few things that have been instilled in me since birth that are absolutely American.  I'm usually afraid to ask for days off work.  I feel unproductive if I don't clean the entire house every weekend.  I'm the first to volunteer to work late or come in on my days off.  When you just come out of grad school for 3 years while simultaneously working full time, this kind of living can really catch up with you.  It's important to find this balance, this lagom.

So how do you begin?
For me, it was about clearing things out. Spring is the perfect time to go through all your crap and throw most of it away.  Seriously, I found half used bottles of bleach and hair color that were in a paper bag in our hallway closet...TF do I need that for?!  I have also being getting rid of a lot of clothes that I haven't worn in a while (sometimes ever, that still have tags on them), that somehow missed the other few rounds of closet cleaning.  Anyway, let me break all this down:

Clear out your closet.
I have things in my closet that I've had for years, and haven't worn more than a time or two.  Why? Beats me.  I tend to form attachments to things based on who gave the to me, where I was when I got them, or guilt (I shelled out x amount of dollars for this...I should hold on to it).  Well, I gotta cut that out because my closets are small and I only really wear the same handful of work outfits every week, and because I'm at work more than I am at home (at night I swiftly put on PJ pants when I get off work), I don't end up wearing half my closet.  Lagom, however, is not minimalism.  It's balance.  So if you want to keep a few guilt sweaters, do it, but don't let them take over your closet.

Go through your kitchen.
Honestly, do you need 5 billion tupperwares with no lids? Do you like 16,000 lids with no tupperware? How about plastic serving utensils? Toss em, or better yet, donate them. Replace them with wooden or metal versions that are sturdier, and last a lot longer.  Part of lagom is cutting back on your waste.  Plastic is awful, to be honest.  It's taking over the world, ruining our oceans, and killing animals.  Ask your Postmate to spare you the plastic forks and spoons, and take stainless steel straws with you to restaurants.  My girl Rooney Mara takes a mason jar with her to get coffee and makes them use that instead of a paper cup.  But like seriously, do you need 157 novelty coffee mugs? GET IT OUTTA HERE.

Don't buy any new clothes for 3 months.
Dude.  You don't need plastic jewelry, you don't need the latest trends, and you don't need anything neon. Trust.  Resist the impulse buy! One of my biggest hurdles in the wardrobe department is I have an exceptionally diverse style.  I love pretty much everything and I think I have to have everything I love. Here's the thing: you don't need everything you love. Most of it probably won't fit with what you have in your closet, and you'll end up never wearing it.  I have purchased multiple floral maxi dresses and have worn them probably 3 times max(i).  Truth be told, I'm a sucker for patterns, prints, embellishments and bright colors, but I basically only wear basic tee shirts, super comfy jeans and leggings, and white converse sneakers on my days off. Which is actually super Swedish of me.

Clean off all the surfaces in your house.
Take everything off your kitchen table.  Put back a vase of flowers, a runner, and a candle.  That's it.
Take everything off your coffee table. See above.
Get a metal organizer for your mail and never leave it loose in the hallway, or on the counter, or on your desk.
Hang your keys on hooks.

Give experiences and meals as gifts, instead of objects.
I have bought many people many gifts that I have never seen them use or wear or enjoy.
This year at Christmas, I bought my family things they could use to cook with like sauces and seasonings.  Get people things that they can use up, so they don't accumulate.  Take your mom out to brunch for Mother's Day, get her a spa package, get your dad a hot shave at the barber shop for Father's Day, or take them both to a cool museum and lunch. They will appreciate the time they get to spend with you and the thoughtfulness it takes to plan a day that you think they'll enjoy.

Take a break everyday at work, even if it's just to walk around the block.
I may not take a legit full hour lunch break everyday (or even most days) at work, but I do walk the half block to get coffee on the corner.  Of course, I'm an addict and need the caffeine fix, but I also enjoy getting outside, feeling the air on my face, and enjoying the almost constant good Los Angeles weather.  I also sometimes just need to get up and walk around.  This little break in Sweden is called fika and should usually involve some kind of treat, a coffee, and a friend.  I prefer to take this break alone though.

Designate one night a week to eating leftovers.
You cook all this food, and swear you'll eat the leftovers later.....DO IT. You'll save money and time and your fridge will be cleaner and you will feel better about not wasting food.

Be happy with what you have.
Learn to look at your possessions differently.  I'm going to Las Vegas in a couple weeks and bought a new dress for the trip.  When I got it, I took it out of the packaging and hung it up on the back of my closet and left it there for 3 days.  Every time I looked at it, I realized that I had a different dress already in my closet that I liked better and rarely wear.  I returned the new one and decided to wear the old one.  Moral of the story is, you don't need new stuff.

Take a real vacation.
For longer than a few days, and don't bring any work related stress with you.  Your job will survive without you for a week or so, I promise. And when you come back refreshed and maybe a little more tan, your boss will appreciate your new happiness and productivity.

Eat Scandinavian sized portions.
Americans eat huge portions.  Other European countries (not just Scandinavian ones) eat less at a time, more frequently throughout the day, and usually slower and with friends or family.  They would also sooner die than shove fast food in their face in the car.  Enjoy your meal and your company, and you might find that you'll be talking and laughing so much that you won't even finish (save it for your weekly leftovers).  It's proven that eating more slowly will allow your body to realize its full before you've scarfed down an entire bowl of fettuccine alfredo.  Take it easy.

So that's my story. I'll be working on this for a while, I know.  Change doesn't happen over night, and if you crack and buy a ridiculous bandage dress at Forever21 because it was only $20 (there's a reason it's only 20 bucks...), don't beat yourself up.  Just focus on ways to channel that energy into something else. And maybe next time you get the urge to splurge, hit up a vintage store or a thrift store.  You can also sell or donate an item for every new item you buy.  The point is to find your own way of living lagom that works for you!
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