A rainy first week of June in Miami inspired me to write up an article on the Danish concept of "hygge," terribly appropriate given the gloomy, unkind weather conditions. (If you're not sure what I'm talking about or haven't read the first two-part of my Hygge series click here.) Although here in Florida we don't get much in terms of winter, we do get plenty of rain in the summer, enough rain, in fact, to justify canceling beach plans and staying home if we can help it. But thankfully, the home front is where hygge thrives.
In this series, I'm exploring the concept of hygge and how to create it through the senses, since hygge is as much as sensory experience as it is a social one. Last week, I discussed ways to create visual and auditory hygge. This week, we're diving into olfactory, gustatory and tactile hygge, in other words, lovely smells, comforting foods, and soft textures. You'll find that although I've broken these suggestions down by sensory type, many of these come together beautifully to transform ordinary points in our day into memorable warm moments of contentment.
1. Olfactory Hygge: Aromatherapy
One of the first things I did when I started my minimalist journey was trade in our wallflower plugins for essential oils. Not only are essential oils a healthier alternative to scented plugins but they are much more potent than artificial fragrances and less likely to induce olfactory fatigue (when your nose becomes immune to a certain smell due to overexposure). This is largely due to the fact that you can diffuse different oils at different times of day, keeping your sense of smell engaged and your sense of olfactory hygge satisfied all day long. There are many essential oils that work remarkably well for calming the nervous system through aromatherapy, thereby reducing anxiety and increasing your level of contentment. For the purposes of creating hygge, whenever I want our home to smell inviting and homely, I tend to gravitate towards warm choices like cinnamon and coffee as well as happy citruses like tangerine. Other fantastic choices include: vanilla (pairs well with cinnamon, coffee and certain citruses), peppermint, and lavender. I find that it makes my day all the more cheerful if I diffuse different lovely scents throughout the day.
2. Gustatory Hygge: Cook a Rustic Meal with Loved Ones
Preparing a home-cooked meal together as family or with friends, might be the most hyggelig thing on this list. Cooking with your favorite people makes mealtime all the more intimate. Instead of going out to dinner with your loved ones, invite them over to create a delicious stew, roast some colorful vegetables, and bake a no-knead loaf of bread (the kind that won't stress you out or leave a floury mess on the countertops). This isn't the time to learn to boil lobster together or pop champagne bottles. This is a time to make simple meals that are hearty and comforting: soul food.
If your pantry isn't properly stocked, you can ask each of your hyggelig friends to bring an ingredient or two. If cooking together with culinarily-challenged friends sounds like a recipe for burnt pans and takeout, remove the source of the stress, by having a potluck so that everyone can bring something scrumptious that is already made. It is best to keep the number of invites low so that your kitchen doesn't become overcrowded and, more importantly, so that the intimate atmosphere is sustained. Too many people over the house will put you in the pressured position of "host" and you won't be able to relax the way you would with a few of your closest pals.
3. Gustatory/Tactile Hygge: Have an Indoor Picnic
Although a beautifully set table adorned with candles and fresh flowers can establish a wonderful setting for hygge, the family room floor provides an even more intimate one for leaving all the dining hall formalities behind. Back when my husband and I were carefree, honeymooning newlyweds, Sunday night was our favorite time for hygge (although the term wouldn't be familiar to us until the Oxford shortlist of words for 2016 was published). We'd throw down a few throw pillows (is that why the call them "throw?"), lay out a soft comforter, and serve dinner on the storage ottoman we use as a coffee table (yup, the same one from my toy clutter post). At the time we owned an antique Tiffany lamp that we'd turn on for instant visual hygge. I fondly remember the subdued kaleidoscopic backdrop the stained glass provided while we chatted away over a fresh-baked za'atar maneesh and a bowl of labneh (our favorite Lebanese dishes) about how we were going to solve all of the world's problems... or simply take it over. Those were probably my favorite date nights of all time.
Indoor picnics are no doubt a great opportunity to get to know each other, or better yet, to rediscover each other while relishing the earthly pleasure that is good food. So the next time you have your favorite hyggelig friends over for a meal or want to turn a rainy date-night with your significant other into an unforgettably cozy experience, skip the dining room, slip into your favorite stretchy pajama pants, put on some fuzzy socks, and grab the softest comforters and pillows you can find. Take the time to appreciate the soft textures hugging your skin as you explore the minds of those you love through deep, evocative "table talk" about anything and everything. And don't even think about turning this into a "Netflix and Chill" kind of night. The point of this exclusive picnic is to be present, that is, having lovely, meaningful conversation, developing a deeper appreciation for your closest friendships, and savoring every bite of the food you enjoy together.
4. Gustatory Hygge: Breakfast for Dinner
Whoever said that we needed to follow social mealtime conventions? Hygge deliberately defies all the formal constraints imposed upon us in our daily lives for the sake of personal comfort. If we can serve a meal on the plush, pillowy floor of an indoor picnic setting, then we can certainly have hotcakes and hash for supper. I'm ending this list with what is, quite frankly, my favorite suggestion for the most memorable gustatory experience: breakfast for dinner. Whether you crave variety and spontaneity in your home-life or you're a simple breakfast-lover like me, having breakfast for dinner one night a week is sure to break the dull monotony of a typical meal-planning regimen, especially for venturesome foodie families that enjoy heterogeneity in their menus. Breakfast foods, particularly the American variety, are naturally comforting as they are meant to gently ease your transition from sleepy to wakeful, from bed to the table and out the door. The inherently comforting nature of breakfast foods makes them a perfect, albeit pleasantly unusual, dinner option for a night dedicated to hygge.
So there you have it! Four more ways to create hygge moments via the senses. Although I've sorted hygge by the senses through which it can be experienced, it is also important to consider that hygge is as much a philosophy as it is a sensory and emotional experience. It is a way of life that advocates indulging without excesses and luxuriating in the present moment. It is a quiet, unpretentious luxury that anyone can create for themselves, whether they adhere to minimalism, maximalism or fall somewhere in between. It is my hope that this series inspires you take time to generate more hygge in your home-life Thank you for your readership..
About la maestra:
Bienvenidos! Bem-vindos! I'm Ali, a World Language maestra from Miami who went from hard-core maximalist to soft-core minimalist upon becoming a mother. The flexible form of minimalism that I practice, domestic minimalism, allows me to run my household efficiently and foster a home free of clutter and full of joy for my whole family. This is where I record my experiences as a wife, working mother of two, and homemaker. Thanks for stopping by.