Do any of these phrases sound familiar?
“I just can’t figure out what to get for so-and-so! It’s driving me nuts!”
“Shopping is just so stressful. The parking, the crowds…ugh!”
“What do I do with all this STUFF now? I’m so exhausted!”
Every year, it seems like there are more people fed up with the excess of the holidays, ready for a change. This time of year can be overwhelming for some, and not enjoyable at all. A recent post on becomingminimalist.com has me inspired to keep the conversation going and encourage others to take those steps to embrace experiences instead of stuff we don’t need. I definitely recommend giving that one a read - there are some eye-opening statistics and helpful tips. If more than half of us are receiving gifts we don’t need, and also wasting money on things other people don’t need, then it’s time to take a look at our current situation and work toward new habits that will reduce the stress and waste. It’s never too late to change your own outlook on gift giving and encourage your loved ones to do the same.
Earlier this week, I attended a meeting with local organizers, and we discussed clutter-free, organizer-friendly gift ideas. If gift-giving is a tradition your family members insist on, then suggest gifts of experience or things you can consume. My friend Janine Cavanaugh, the Helpful Organizer, put together a comprehensive list of clutter-free gifts. Check out Janine's blog post for some excellent gift ideas!
In last month’s post, I talked about the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). I’m really sold on the idea that quality time and fun traditions bring on those warm fuzzy feelings we chase this time of year, and the stuff just brings stress. One thing worth mentioning - many people over schedule this time of year and get worn out. These ideas are not meant to burden you, but instead inspire new habits to replace the old ones. If you and your friends/family want to start dropping the gift-giving all together, here are some activities and traditions you can incorporate into not just the holidays, but all winter long:
Quality time indoors:
Get out around town:
Help family members decorate and/or declutter:
Are you working on changing your narrative around gift giving? What are your favorite yearly activities and traditions? I’d love to hear from you, feel free to comment down below.
As we approach the end of the year, our days are quickly becoming shorter and colder. We’re naturally spending more time indoors. There’s some excitement and anticipation with the holidays just around the corner.
I recently re-read The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, who is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year, this little book helped me get into a more cozy mindset as a way to get through, and actually appreciate the winter.
So, what exactly is hygge? Hygge is a concept that the Danish people have been living by for centuries. It’s important to note that UN’s World Happiness Report frequently ranks Denmark (among the other Scandinavian countries) at the top of the list. There are many similarities between the climate in Denmark and New England. I figured if the Danes can be the happiest people in the world with a long, dark winter, there might be something we can learn from them.
Hygge is a bit tricky to define and translate to English. It’s more of a feeling and concept more than anything. Hygge is defined by some as a feeling of well-being, safety, sense of ease, coziness, and contentment. It’s about slowing down, living in the moment, being grateful, and taking pleasure in simple everyday things. Hygge is not fancy or over the top and has little to do with consumerism - the more rustic, homemade, comfortable, and down-to-earth, the better. You can have a hygge-like experience alone, and according to a survey in the book, a group of 3-4 people is the sweet spot for social gatherings. Hygge can be enjoyed year-round but is mostly associated with winter as a survival strategy to get through those cold, dark months.
The best part about hygge is that it’s not something you can buy - using what you have helps create the best atmosphere and sets the tone for those slow, meaningful moments. Interested in embracing hygge to enhance your experience this holiday season and through the winter? You might find that you do many of these things and have what you need already!
Declutter your living space
As a professional organizer and someone who sees the value in living a life mostly free of clutter, it’s no surprise that I’m mentioning this first. When we declutter our surroundings, we reduce visual noise and distraction that reminds us of what needs to be done. In turn, this increases focus, ease, and helps us slow down to enjoy the present moment. An added benefit of a decluttered home is more open space to move around in and possibly host guests. If getting your whole house in order is too big of a task, consider starting with decluttering the space where you spend the most time in the winter.
Set the mood at home
Soft, warm lighting is at the top of the list for creating a hygge-like atmosphere. The most cozy lighting emulates the soft glow of sunset or a fireplace. The people in Denmark burn nearly twice as many candles as the rest of Europe, but if candle’s aren’t your thing, try string lights. Many of us have extra string lights hanging around that we aren’t using for holiday decorating. Try coiling them in a hurricane vase or stringing them up in a corner of your living or dining room.
With your space decluttered, consider rearranging furniture in the living room to create a “hyggekrog,” or cozy corner. Most of us have more blankets and pillows than we can use all at once. Take them out out of storage and lay enough out on the couch and arm chairs for each member of your family. Gather your favorite books, movies, and board games and make them easily accessible to encourage that simple, feel-good quality time.
Get a dose of nature
Bundle up and get outside! Embracing the beauty of winter makes it a little more bearable. Your area might have local conservation land or a bike path that’s perfect for a stroll. I love to spend time by the ocean listening to the waves and talking to people who are observing winter sea birds. Whatever it is you enjoy the most, try carving out some time to get out there. You’ll likely have increased feelings of coziness when you come back to your warm home. For a dose of nature inside the home, try gathering your houseplants into little clusters if you have them. Most houseplants don’t enjoy being near heating vents during the winter, so when the heat comes on, I gather mine away from the heat. It changes the landscape of the house, creating a fresh new feel, and gives me something green to look at when the outdoors are looking gray and gloomy.
Take time to enjoy the little things
In my opinion, this is the most important of them all - without creating space to feel hygge, it likely won’t happen. Creating the feeling of well-being is quite simple. When you make the effort to do something you enjoy every day, it helps bring some more happiness into your life. What is it that you enjoy? Cozy activities can be enjoyed in or out of your home. You might like:
Like I mentioned earlier, according to a survey, the Danish consider a group of 3-4 people to be the sweet spot for gatherings. When getting together as a small group, the focus is more on the experience of cooking and eating your meal, and enjoying uplifting conversation. Consider hosting a pot luck or cook an unfussy meal together. It’s all about setting the tone for togetherness. Bake some bread or other treat - the smell in the house is very hygge. You might like to play board games, look at old photos and reminisce, anything goes as long as you create an atmosphere of contentment and togetherness.
Are you inspired to bring a little more hygge into your life this winter? What are your favorite simple, enjoyable activities? Does your family have any traditions this time of year that you look forward to sharing together? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment down below.
Has laundry become a dreaded chore in your household? Does it seem like there’s a never-ending mountain of dirty clothing and linens waiting to be washed and put away? Here are a few tips that might help a number of situations:
I know this might be a controversial topic for some people, and they would never dream of doing so, but I’ve been mixing colors in the wash since I was responsible for my own laundry (let’s say its been more than two decades). Through my own experience, I’ve learned to wash new colorful items separately - like a pair of dark jeans, red pieces, etc. Other than a couple little incidents where I overlooked an item, I haven’t had a problem with my clothes. While I haven’t personally used them, I’ve heard from others that color catcher sheets might be helpful and useful if you're concerned about dye stains.
Pare Down Products
Do you feel like your laundry area houses as many products as the shelves at the store? Don’t sweat it - many of us can relate! Through experience, I’ve come to realize we don’t really need ALL of those products. If you want to seriously pare down and reduce digging through products, consider just detergent and a spot stain remover. Fabric softener and dryer sheets contain oils and wax that coat the fibers of fabric, and reduce the absorbency of towels. To add fluff, try a few clean tennis balls in the dryer. Concerned about static? A ball of tin foil is a simple, effective way to keep your clothes from clinging.
Remove Clothes From the Dryer and Put Away ASAP
I suggest incorporating this habit for one main reason: to reduce the wrinkles in your clothing. I don’t know about you, but I very rarely, almost never, iron - and I know I’m not alone! As they say these days, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Striving to get that clothes out of the dryer and put away while it’s still warm helps keep the wrinkles out. I’ve admitted before that I don’t particularly enjoy house chores, and so I adopt a “get it over with” attitude with tasks that need to be done. Putting clothes away immediately crosses this chore off the to-do list so that we can hopefully move on to something a bit more enjoyable.
Designate Containers to Gather Dirty Laundry
In some households, laundry feels like it's taken over parts of the house. Consider a basket or hamper for each member of your family, and place it in the easiest spot for them to gather their clothes. Where do you typically get dressed? Maybe the most logical place for you is near your closet. Does it make sense to keep the basket in the bathroom where you shower? I like to suggest a place that will make it simple for each person to maintain this habit and keep the clothing from spreading.
Believe it or not, kids can help with laundry - even pre-school aged children can get involved! A 3-year old (and older) will tend to feel included, like they’re really helping their family when they get to do “adult” things, and therefore, motivated to continue. Tasks like sorting clothing into categories, matching socks, folding small towels, and putting their own clothes in appropriate drawers might be good places to start. Increase responsibility, like putting shirts on a hanger, as your children develop more dexterity or show interest.
What’s the most frustrating part about your laundry routine? Or, have you mastered laundry in your household? I’d love to hear about ways that you make it work!