Words by Erin East
I adore the idea of a hygge house. You know the kind; they’re the ones you can find on social media filed under inspiring, peaceful sounding words like #darlinghome, #myhousebeautiful and #simplehousestyle. Scrolling through the feeds is like entering a world of pristine calm. All is white, organic, natural, and clean. Spotlessly clean. I look through the galleries of domestic perfection, and feel gratitude, joy, and Zen criss-cross my computer screen. I want some of that, I think.
But where to start? I consult the goddesses of hygge: the Instagram and Pinterest search engines. Instagram shows me pictures of healthy, voluptuous plants on wooden shelves. The shelves are made of reclaimed wooden boards; the pots are old tin cans painted in soothing earth tones. There isn’t a speck of dirt or dust. It’s like the plants cleaned themselves, their pots, and their shelves. Instagram even shows me pictures of plants that purify the air, vanquishing dust and other nasties. How clever of them, I think.
The Pinterest algorithm tells me that hygge homes are ordered and clutter-free. Toys are arranged artfully on white shelves too high for little hands to reach, or strategically stacked in white linen boxes. Blankets, all in appropriate neutral tones, aren’t sprawled across the couch inviting you to chill, but are draped fetchingly across rattan baskets.
Right, I say, talking at my computer, I think we have some old black IKEA canvas boxes. They’ll do for starters. I haul myself off my blanket-strewn, cookie crumb riddled couch and walk to the laundry. They’re probably in that large cardboard box at the back near the washing machine, I say, talking to the mismatched collection of dishes piled up on my kitchen bench. The box I’m looking for has sat at the back of our laundry room for more than a year. Neither my spouse nor I know what’s in there, and, in truth, we’re a little afraid to open it.
But I don’t make it to the laundry, at least not at first. You see, I walk across our honey-colored floorboards (yay, floorboards are totally hygge), and stand on a bright pink 2x4 Lego brick. Oh shucks, is what I should have said. What I actually said was something far more colorful – loud, florescent, and not at all subdued or earth toned. It’s a hygge fail, and I’ve barely started to Zen my house.
In the laundry I open the box, flinging accumulated dust onto the shirts drying on the nearby rack – gray, messy dust; very un-hygge. Inside the box I find the black canvas boxes, and about 100 years’ worth of paperwork. The papers are disordered, and they smell of neglect mixed with something subtle and sour. I peel back my senses, concentrating only on the smell. Aha, I think, and I shudder, because it’s a smell worse than your newborn’s diapers: It’s the smell of ‘adult responsibility’ mixed with ‘numbers.’ Yuck. I grab the black canvas boxes (This is all your fault, I scowl at them). I quickly retreat to my kitchen, only to step on yet another piece of Lego. This is so not hygge, I say, picking up the tiny toy of torture. I throw it into a black canvas box, and nod. I whiz about the kitchen, the lounge room, my daughter’s bedroom until every last piece of Lego is in a black canvas box.
But what now? How can I artfully arrange the Lego boxes in a hygge way, making them appear to be a natural, unobtrusive extension of my plain white walls? (White walls are very hygge. I give myself points for that.) I consult the goddess of Pinterest, and she tells me that storage boxes need to be tucked away on shelves or under small console tables that are glamorous but understated, functional but with only minimal storage. Right, I say, looking at our two bookshelves. To store the Legos in a hygge way, I need to sort through the books.
I kneel down on my dirty floorboards (I deduct points for the dirt), and begin to sort through a decade’s worth of accumulated books. With my foot I carefully push aside the miscellaneous debris cluttering my lounge room floor – toys, pencils, shoes, more toys, a sweater or two, even more toys. Into this space go all the books on the shelves.
Embracing the organizational philosophy of hygge homes, I stack the books into neat piles. There’s a pile for ‘keep books’ and a pile for ‘bin books’, a pile for ‘cookbooks’, and a pile for ‘kids’ books’. (Can I fit the kids’ books in my daughter’s room? Oh, shucks (again, not actually shucks), I’ll need to hygge her room as well.)
All this peace and calming is rather exhausting, and I haven’t even begun to think about plants or where I’ll find reclaimed wooden boards. I’ll just check Netflix. There’s bound to be a house cleaning show that will inspire me to push through. And there is, but I put on reruns of 2000s sitcoms instead.
I peer around the corners of my piles of books. It’s hard to see out of my fortress of mess. But it’s easier to see the TV if I lie down in my secret world behind three towers of dusty, yellowing pages. I lie down and fall asleep. And that’s how they find me, my spouse and daughter, asleep in a jumble of books, exhausted from too much Zen. “Mama,” I hear my daughter excitedly babble, “we bought you a plant!” Oh, shucks.
About the Author:
Wife - Mother - Writer - Plant Killer. Erin East lives in Vienna, Austria, where she seeks true joy in the everyday, and hunts for Vienna's best Sacher-Torte (that's a fancy Austrian chocolate cake with apricot jam).