The Danish concept of hygge has replaced feng shui as the most popular international export to encourage a happy home.
Pronounced “hoo-ga,” it promotes a cozy way of life with an emphasis on warmth, friends and natural textures. Unlike feng shui it is easy to master and does not require you to install a fountain in your rented townhome or reposition the furniture in the Navy Lodge, making hygge a good fit for military families on the move.
As PCS season approaches many of us face the unenviable task of cohabitating in hotel rooms with kids and pets and moving into homes we have little choice in or control over (base housing, rentals, temporary quarters). Luckily there is an option short of a Fixer Upper style makeover – so get hygge with these five easy tips:
Warm It Up
A major component of hygge is warm drinks that create a feeling of coziness – think coffee, tea and hot chocolate, so shelve that iced coffee, pump up the AC in your temporary quarters, pull out your French press and make yourself a nice cup of joe.
Sound like too much trouble?
Interesting tea bags are almost always available at Home Goods and similar stores. Grab a few and a cute new mug while you’re at it. Danes prefer their coffee with, wait for it, a Danish, so this is a great time to Google bakeries in your new city and go searching for the perfect pastry.
Overhead lights that is. We’re all well acquainted with the pasty glow of overhead lighting at its worst in big box stores but it can be equally miserable in the cheap ceiling fixtures found in many homes.
While I have friends who cart their own fixtures from place to place to ensure that they always dine under the light of faux candles aligned on a distressed wood beam, I am just not that motivated.
So back to Home Goods I go searching for reasonably priced accent and floor lamps that provide a softer glow, hiding a multitude of imperfections (dust, carpet stains, fine lines and wrinkles) and creating a very hygge feeling of warmth.
Well don’t unplug your new accent lamp…that you need. And to a certain extent electronics are a sanity saver for PCSing moms, I get that, but make an effort to be together without your phones and tablets, even if it’s just instituting a device-free dinner.
In-person interactions have been linked to happiness and being together is a big component of hygge.
While having a glass of wine with friends I was introduced to a military spouse from Denmark. I told her about my interest in hygge and asked how to incorporate it when living in a temperate climate like California. She responded “This, right now. This is very hygge. We’re together, connecting in person, outside in nature.”
Bring The Outside In
Those sticks, leaves and stones your kids dragged in and you have yet to dispose of? Turns out they’re very hygge!
Bringing the outside inside government housing in the form of natural textures – think wood, wool and stone – is one of the ways that Danes connect with nature, especially during cold winters, and ensure their homes have the cozy feel associated with hygge (something you just don’t get from linoleum).
Chipped tile and worn carpeting can easily be covered with thicker area rugs and soft throw blankets even make camping chairs more appealing. A few hearty houseplants will complete the natural look.
Not to generalize, but getting comfortable is something I think milspouses know how to do – at least I do. What’s the sense in having a comfy home or hotel room if we’re wearing uncomfortable clothes?
I have seen the spouse who flew alone with three children while wearing a sundress and strappy sandals and I’ve seen the woman balancing in kitten heels while checking off box numbers during a move.
But mostly I’ve seen people like me, just trying to look halfway decent while wrangling kids and paperwork and boxes. This is not to say that sloppiness is hygge, it’s not.
Danes enjoy lounging in hyggebukser, a pair of pants you relax in at home but would never wear out and about. Think your oldest, coziest pair of sweats.
So pack up your hyggebusker and at the end of a long day enjoy slipping into them, brewing your tea, flicking on your accent lamp, turning off your iPhone, curling up under your throw blanket and remembering why we do this.
No one sums it up better than author Eric Micha’el Leventhal: “I knew I loved you when ‘home’ went from being a place to being a person.”
Aimee Lorge is a freelance writer and personal essayist with a focus on family, career and the unique intersection of both in the military spouse experience. She is preparing for a very hygge cross country PCS this summer. For more information visit www.aimeelorge.com.