Hygge and holiday decorating

Author: Lenore Brooks Design |

Hygge is a Danish word that is taking the world by storm. It is a philosophy of living that is being written about in books and even taught in some universities. It is pronounced Hoo-ga (just imagine the Swedish chef saying “hug”) and is the thing I turn to when tackling holiday decorating.
Hygge loosely translates to “cozy” or “coziness” but is a much more encompassing philosophy that focuses on contentment in one’s environment, alone or with friends. The picture above, taken on a long-ago holiday visit to my grandparents, is what I think of as hygge: the warm comfort of a peaceful environment shared with those you love.
I love the holidays: the chance to bring out special ornaments, cook delicious food, and spend time with friends and family. But, it can easily get overwhelming. So, I have developed some strategies to make this time of year fun for me too, and not just a stressful sprint through decorating, baking, dinners and wrapping presents until I collapse into bed at 9:30 pm on New years’ eve.
Creating Hygge for myself, all season long
Of course, when it comes to decorating there is no single right answer. This list is what’s working for me. I’d love to hear what works for you, because as with so many things in life, it is a work in progress.

  1. I reflect on what matters to me. This is perhaps the most important one. I remind myself that the goal is happiness and comfort, not perfection. I repeat this step often because I am a bit of a perfectionist and tend to get caught up in the details.
  2. I take steps to enjoy the process. I have saved beautiful gift boxes with lids for the past several years and use them to store my Christmas decorations. Granted the pretty boxes are bundled up into a giant Rubbermaid bin for storage, but when I open that bin I am greeted with cheerful themed boxes and it honestly feels like opening presents early. I also save the tissue paper from gifts to wrap the decorations in, and every time I unpack I say “yes, it WAS worth the hassle”
  3. I simplify my designer tendencies. I take hygge as my theme, which means there’s a place for anything that is meaningful or wonderful to me. Aesthetically, my ornaments tend towards Scandinavian design. But I do have decorations that aren’t even a little bit Scandinavian, and you know what? A place can be found for them where they punctuate rather then stick out like a sore thumb.
  4. I don’t decorate everything in one day. I do the Christmas tree all at once, then I add things as I have the time. Doing it in pieces means I can take the time I need to get things the way I want, and not feel overwhelmed or stressed. It also allows me to do some of the picky things while my son is at school without him feeling left out, since he already helped with the tree.
  5. I keep it practical and functional. As much as I love them, I skip the coffee table displays that fill magazine shoots. These stunning vignettes are so appealing, but come with so much yelling of “for goodness sake PUT THAT DOWN NOW” and grumbling about nowhere to put down our drinks or snacks. Perhaps one day I will have my beautiful coffee table display, but until then, I choose peace on earth, and a silent night.

What are your tricks for giving yourself some calm during the holidays?