Living a balanced life.

We’ve written about Hygge (coziness) and Lykke (happiness), both Danish concepts which might explain the consistently high rankings Denmark gets for being the happiest country.  Now comes Lagom (pronounced LAH-GOM), another Scandinavian concept, only Swedish this time.

Lagom is the Swedish concept of balanced living.  It translates to “not too much and not too little”, or,” just the right amount”.  Minimalism is a popular current lifestyle trend in the U.S.  The millennials are decorating their houses and apartments in a very spare, uncluttered style.  Many people have adopted a personal uniform as a way to simplify their lives and minimize their wardrobes.  Many Americans are becoming more conscientious about their environmental footprints, are buying less and simplifying their lives as a result.

Lagom isn’t only about what we purchase.  It’s also about attaining a lifestyle that reduces stress and bad eating habits, and feeling happier.  Balancing work and the rest of life is the goal.   There are many ways to reduce stress, from meditation to taking breaks during the work day.  To correct bad eating habits, eat locally, grow your own food and simplify meal prep.  Increasing happiness is more complicated, but in the Lagom concept it means finding pleasure in what we have, what we do and who we are even if it’s not perfect.

While this concept will not appeal to everyone, Sweden ranks very high in studies on happy citizens, and it also ranks highly in studies of countries where the citizens are happy and productive.  The Swedes do not work 60-80 hour work weeks and collapse on the weekends. They take a sane approach and live somewhere in the middle – working productively and also enjoying their ample free time. For many over-achieving Americans, this would be an almost restrictive philosophy.

Recommendations from the experts in Lagom:

  • Take breaks during the work day.  A 5-minute break for every hour you work, (without filling it with social media) is considered a very sane approach to a good balance.
  • Keep to-do lists to a dull roar.  I have scraps of paper everywhere with ‘to do’ written on them, and my iPhone chirps additional reminders at me.  Sometimes it takes all the fun out of what I’m doing.  Again, the ‘not too little, not too much’ can apply to your to-do list.
  • De-clutter and stop being wasteful.  We recently put our house on the market and the real estate agent told us to get rid of 1/3 of what we had, reduce what was in our closets by half (she said stuffed closets made it seem like there wasn’t enough storage space) and take everything off table tops.  After we did all that our house looked like we were half moved out, but our kids loved it.  I grew used to it and find that I don’t necessarily want to put everything back. I also realized that I don’t need to buy another thing for a very long time.
  • Organize your wardrobe so that getting dressed is easy.  I often open my closet door and look at the rack of hanging clothes and think to myself “I have NOTHING to wear”.  It’s ridiculous.  Choose the core classic staples, add in some fun things and color, a few splurges, and lots of accessories. It’s easy for me to say, I’ll let you know if I can achieve it.
  • Make sure to take care of yourself.  That is the primary way to de-stress.  Take a long bath, eat well, read a book, see a movie, get a massage even if you think you can hear your to-do list screaming at you.

Lagom is basically a work-life balance with sustainability thrown in.  There is no right or wrong here.  It is about happiness with what you have, having only what you need,  caring for yourself, keeping your eye on the big picture and not getting lost in the details.  If that sounds appealing, go for it.

Further reading:

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne is $11.99.

Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark.  $13.88