Hygge your home this Winter
IT'S THAT time of year again. And I'm not about to waffle on about Winter, or the cold weather. Although after the balmy October we had here in Ireland, it's worth a mention. Consider it done.
No, I'm talking about the time of year when I start getting notions. House notions, to be exact. Hygge*, to be more precise.
For those of you who regularly read this blog (thanks a million, by the way), you might be scratching your heads and wondering why this sounds familiar. It is: I've talked about Hygge before. I'm probably a bit obsessed. I'm just not very good at it.
Hygge simply means being cosy. The idea was apparently invented by the Danes, no doubt as compensation for their defeat by the Irish in the Battle of Clontarf, 1014.**
You can imagine their Viking ancestors after the defeat. Years of rape and pillage had left them with all this loot. The men intent on trading, until one woman, with a keen sense of aesthetic, thought those hand-woven shawls and gold goblets would look very well in the dining room, thanks very much.
And a whole new concept was born. Hygge: being cosy. In the Winter. When it's cold and dark. It's a lot more than just staying in bed under the duvet all day. I checked. So how do the Danes (and in fairness, all the other Scandi countries) do Hygge?
First, they all aim to make their homes havens of peace and tranquillity. A lot of this involves getting rid of what they don't need. Massive clear outs, like. Believe me, I've tried that. There's salmon swimming upstream who have an easier time of it.
But I'm brilliant at some of the other stuff. The whole cosy thing means having warm throws for your sofas, scatter cushions...scattered, lamps for gentle, low lighting.
My home ticks all of these boxes, much to my slightly smug satisfaction, and The Husband's complete bewilderment.
"Why do we need all these blankets and cushions?" he demands regularly. Really, very regularly.
Hygge is also about creating ambiance. If you have a fireplace, you're supposed to use it. No arguments there. It's an old house, and if I don't light a fire, it's bloody freezing. Candles are important for mood. I'll tell you now, I have so many candles we could have a séance every night for a year, and not run out. Were we so inclined.
So far, so Hygge, you might think. But you'd be wrong. Apparently, all this time I was shaking throws and lighting fires, I had overlooked one vital ingredient: scent.
I had dismissed this as the ultimate in mad notions, when the same person in the know, reminded me of estate agents, and how they frequently exploit our sense of smell to sell houses.
So if you're not falling in love with the place when you smell those flowers in that humungous hall display, you're ready to bid your life away by the time you're inhaling the bread baking and the coffee brewing in the kitchen.
Thing is, positive scents make us happy and relaxed. And in my case, anything has to be better than the current situation, where, thanks to The Boy, the hall smells mainly of eau de sports kit and football boots.
"Try a diffuser," says my knowledgeable friend. I only have to mention it to my mother and she buys me one. Waterford crystal, no less.
"It'll look lovely on the hall table," says she. Her sense of relief is palpable.
Although the hall is sorted, it's a house with thick walls and high ceilings. I need more. So I'm delighted to find a box of massage oils. Laugh away: they were a gift. One I'd forgotten about, so they're completely unused, which is admittedly, a bit sad. I decide I have a better use for them. I open the first (tiny) bottle and take a sniff. I can't identify it.
"What does that say?" I ask The Eldest, who's just in from a hard day's teaching. "The print's too small."
She glances at the bottle.
"Really? It doesn't smell like geranium." Or how I think geranium smells.
It doesn't matter. I study our miniscule downstairs loo. An arrangement of cream silk flowers sit in a white pot on the windowsill. It's dead tasteful, really. You'll have to take my word for it. The flowers are stuck into an oasis: perfect.
I tip the bottle of geranium scented oil upside down, and soak the oasis. It works. Already, I'm happier in the downstairs loo. For good measure, I top up the soap dispenser and change the towels.
I try another bottle: lemon. It'll probably work in the upstairs bathroom. The problem is, there's nowhere obvious to pour it. In the end, I soak a cloth, and just clean the bathroom with it. I feel like a domestic goddess.
But I don't get too carried away: nobody wants competing smells in every room. And to be perfectly honest, I don't really understand smelly oils. For example, the massage kit consists of six tiny bottles containing very strong smelling oils, and one big bottle of wheatgerm oil. Which smells of nothing! Are you supposed to mix them, I wonder.
It's all a bit academic now, given that I've found other uses for the small bottles. And the wheatgerm oil might bring up a nice shine on the furniture.
Renewed, I return to my desk and manage to work, convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that my productivity has improved, thanks to my newly scented house.
Nobody notices. I give them all a day, before I almost explode with frustration.
"Do you not notice anything different?" I demand. There's blank looks all round. "What about the hall?" I stare at The Husband. "You've a nose for these things."
Can the hints get any heavier?
He wanders out to the hall and looks around. Finally he turns to me.
"Did you put another light in the ceiling?"
Maybe it's enough that I know.
Have a Hygge November.
** The Vikings were defeated at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, but the Hygge connection is pure imagination!
If you've any more Hygge ideas, I'd love to hear from you. (Seriously, anything that helps to get through the Winter, is completely wonderful!!) 💚
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Until next month, have a happy, Hygge November.