Want Things To be Simpler? Follow A Swede!
As I was considering what to write about this week, several concepts that I’ve been aware of for a while all re-emerged for me around the same time. One day I was on Facebook and a woman I follow for minimalism ideas posted a quote. The next day I opened up a bag and re-discovered a book my cousin wrote and gave me last year, and then my husband sent me a link to an interesting video I had seen a while ago. It seemed that my message came to me this time!
My Dad is Swedish (well he’s Canadian too, since this past week he celebrated his 55th year living in Canada – congratulations!), but he was born in Sweden and has remained connected over his life, keeping us connected as well. I’ve always known that in Sweden, and Scandinavia as a whole, there is a certain way of being that is inherently simpler than the way we tend to live in North America. Organizations support family values like shorter working days and provide highly progressive parental leave and child care. Furniture and house design have clean lines (thanks to Ikea for spreading that idea outside Sweden), people enjoy simple but delicious food and spending time outside is considered vital to health and wellbeing.
Learning how to incorporate a Scandinavian way of life can be challenging when we don’t live in a culture that is steeped in this simplicity. But here are three philosophies or “ways of being” that each of us individually can connect with and consider pursuing to help along the way. I’m going to introduce you to all 3 of them today, and then over the next couple of weeks will dig into each of them a bit more deeply:
An Old Swedish Proverb: “He who buys what he does not need, steals from himself.”
This is quite self-explanatory as a statement. But when I start thinking about it in my life, and as I look around parts of my home and consider the things I don’t use and feel burdened by, it starts to feel like maybe when I’m not thoughtful enough, I am stealing from myself.
I have financial goals and aspirations and if I’m not thoughtful enough about my choices, these become much more difficult to achieve.
If you read this proverb and it struck you, I challenge you to try the following:
* Write down the goals you wish to achieve and the timelines you hope to achieve them by.
* Consider what you NEED to buy vs. what you WISH to have.
* Write down what you think will get in your way of your goals (things like: shopping sprees or eating out for lunch every day).
* Buy only what you need this week.
A Swedish Word: Lagom
This is a Swedish word AND way of life. In translation it means: “not too much, not too little, but just about right”. When I lived in Sweden, I learned to speak Swedish. I found when I came home to Canada, for a long while Swedish words peppered my speech and my thinking. Over time this happened less and less often, but lagom was a word that stuck around longer than most – I believe partially because the concept made sense to me, and partially because there simply isn’t a single word English equivalent.
This word is really the epitome of living in balance. About choosing a simpler approach (but not too simple) in all parts of your life.
Happiness, contentment, sustainability – these are fostered by the concept of lagom – which is about having the mindset of good enough. There is less need to continually strive for more, or for perfection. Taking a lagom approach means that you don’t have to plan that perfect event. Meeting a friend for tea or going for a walk in the park might be all you need. You don’t need to own that big expensive house – having the smaller one might give you more time to spend reading the books you love or fostering your love of painting.
Consider the following ways to foster lagom in your own life:
Consider the following ways to foster lagom in your own life:
* Check out my cousin Elisabeth Carlsson’s book The Lagom Life for more details
* Ask yourself “Is this good enough?” instead of “Can I do better?” Give yourself a break from seeking unattainable perfection we constantly hear we need.
* Make time for the things in your life that help you feel balanced. Go for your morning walk. Step away from your computer for a few minutes every hour. Meet your friend for coffee. You’ll feel better and do better for it.
* Plan fewer activities. On the weekend, aim for one unplanned day. See what emerges for you when the space in front is open.
* Leave work on time and go to bed earlier. Find space and time that allow you to feel more rested.
* Eat in moderation but enjoy what you do eat.
* Plan your meals for the week and focus on including simple to prepare, plant-based foods. Your body and mind will thank you for down the goals you wish to achieve and the timelines you hope to achieve them by.
Svensk Döstädning (AKA Swedish Death Cleaning)
This isn’t what it might sound like. It isn’t negative. In fact – quite the opposite. This is a concept where you decide today that when you die, you will not have too many things for the people left behind to deal with. It’s like a gift for your family and friends in the future!
At a high level, the concept is that at a certain time of life (the recommendation is at least by age 50) you will begin to let go of things that you no longer need or use. You might sell things, donate them to charity, or give them to family members. All the while bringing fewer things back into your life and buying less stuff overall.
A year or so ago, a book was written on this topic by a Swedish woman named Margareta Magnusson called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.
You can watch a short clip of the author on this topic here.
If you wanted to get started with this now, begin by taking a scan around your house. Are there things that you’ve always known you would give to your daughter or nephew? Would it be helpful to give away that book you loved, but know you won’t read again? Use this philosophy to look at the things you have just a bit differently and maybe you’ll see more things that are ready to leave you to be at home somewhere else.
Share your thoughts in the comments below! What are you prepared to try?