Five Tips on How to Live a Lagom Life, Starting at Home

By Aaron De Silva / EdgeProp | December 27, 2017 8:00 AM SGT
For much of 2016, you couldn’t get away from hearing the Danish word hygge, at least not in design circles. The term, loosely translated, describes a sense of cosy comfort and feelings of contentment and well-being. According to The New Yorker magazine, hygge nearly became the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of The Year 2016. Such was its prevalence.
This year, another Scandinavian buzzword entered the English-speaking world: the Swedish lagom. The term has no direct equivalent in English, but roughly means balance and moderation. Not too little, not too much, just right. And if the fashionable set has anything to do with it, lagom looks set to displace hygge as 2017’s most ubiquitous phrase.
Now, while hygge is about enjoying life’s simple pleasures – such as sharing a meal and laughs with friends or snuggling up in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate – lagom is more of a lifestyle choice.
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Lagom is a break from the business or constantly checking our phone, driving forward and being ‘on’. Time to unplug and switch off is so important for us, for our well-being, our relationships and our creativity,” pyschologist Dr. Jessamy Hibberd told Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper. Incidentally, Dr. Hibberd is also author of This Book Will Make You Calm, a tome that offers tips on how to cope with stress and anxiety.
The fundamentals of lagom begin at home. Think of Swedish furnishing giant IKEA and how they’ve refined domestic living to an artform. Swedish interior design and decoration is practical, functional and aesthetically pleasing, but never over-the-top.
There’s no shortage of manuals devoted to living the lagom lifestyle. Books Kinokuniya’s shelves are practically heaving with titles like The Little Book of Lagom; Lagom (Not Too Little, Not Too Much); and Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living.
The reads offer a useful guide on how to declutter, downsize, reprioritise, recycle, upcycle, reduce waste, save energy and ultimately, find balance and happiness in life. It’s quite a paradigm shift from an existence that emphasises achievement and accumulation, to one that’s more balanced and prudent. Yet it seems so right, given the current state of the world.
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If nothing else, it’ll help get you off to a great start in 2018. Here are five ways you can live la vida lagom.
1. When it Comes to Decorating, Simplicity is Key
Image Source: Home Designing
Not maximalist, not minimalist, but somewhere in between: that’s the lagom ideal. The Scandi-Modern aesthetic that’s currently on-trend is a great reference. To create your calm space, think lots of natural light, a neutral colour palette, and warm, inviting elements – a comfy sofa, a cosy armchair, a pile of cushions, and maybe a rug or two.
2. Declutter
One of lagom’s basic tenets is simplicity. The simpler your living environment, the more lagom it will be. Strip away the excess: old magazines and clothes, bills and receipts, expired items in your fridge. Donate the usable but unwanted items to charity, or offload them on an online marketplace. Getting rid of the glut means the items you really cherish will get a chance to shine.
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Once done, introduce a new element that helps keep you organised and feeling balanced. This could be a desk tidy, a goal-setting vision board, a shelving system or even a plant that brightens up your space. It’s also a good idea to declutter on a regular basis. In the long run, when you want to sell your home, it might help speed up the process.
3. Have Your Furniture Perform Double Duty
Image Source: Cromly
When shopping for new furniture, keep a lookout for pieces that are multifunctional. For example, a sofa that transforms into a bed for overnight guests. Or beds and banquette seats with storage spaces in the base. In the kitchen, an induction cooktop can double up as prepping surface when not in use. If you like using the dining table as your workspace, consider not having a separate study table. Less is more.
4. Make Sustainability a Cornerstone
Image Source: Woodpecker Flooring
Sustainability is another key principle of lagom. When planning your living space, seek out sustainable furniture and building materials. Bamboo is a great renewable resource, and there’s plenty of bamboo furniture available. Bamboo flooring is also a more sustainable alternative to timber floors.
Consider buying vintage, too. One of Singapore’s biggest and best places to trawl for second-hand furnishings is Hock Siong & Co. There you will find everything from teakwood sofas and Chinese cabinets to crystal chandeliers and old-school electric fans.
If you’ve managed to uncover some gems from your thrift shop trawls, it’s time to engage in some upcycling. Old doors can be transformed into tabletops, headboards or dividing screens. A wooden stepladder makes a great storage device in the bathroom. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh lick of paint to give an old table or chair a brand new look. Not only will you feel good about recycling, but you’ll also have a unique item that no one else has.
5. Grow Your Own Food
The Swedes love bringing a touch of nature indoors so that they can enjoy it all year round. This is especially relevant to land-starved Singapore. Potted plants, especially edible greens like herbs, are a popular choice. Not only do they green your space, but they also provide food. And they help save you money, since you won’t need to buy them from the grocer. That’s lagom on two (or is it three?) counts!