The Swedish word ‘lagom’, dubbed the covetable ethos to live by, means ‘not too little, not too much – but just enough’, and behind it is a whole set of social norms and traditions providing clues for how to get well-designed homes and find sustainable happiness. Load up the coffee machine, stop checking your email, and take inspiration from the Swedes to add some balance to your life.
Ditch the diet
Call them cynical or even dull, but Swedes have little time for fads. Give them a tried and tested method, however, and they’re all in. Compulsory home economics classes in Swedish schools teach pupils about the importance of a solid breakfast and at least a third of your dinner plate being made up of greens and veg. You’ll be surprised how many adults still live by it.
Do a declutter
It sounds obvious, but it can’t be overstated: physical space means mental space, not to mention all the time you’ll save on not having to go through messy drawers and unsorted piles of stuff to find that thing you put in a well-considered place last Monday. Ever trawled through Pinterest albums of Scandinavian homes? Exactly.
It’s amazing how many crazy ideas the fashion industry seems to get away with when a pair of comfortable brogues, a few understated leggings and tunics and a colourful scarf manage to create comfortable coolness with such little effort. There’s a saying in Sweden that ‘there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes’. We could all do with embracing it.
Take up a hobby
A creative hobby and a bit of ‘me time’ can go a long way in terms of both a sense of fulfilment and keeping the spark lit at work. Swedes are very good at work-life balance, and it’s not just about affordable childcare and generous parental packages; embracing your spare time and creative urges have endless proven benefits, too – and indeed, Sweden is both a design mecca and a pop music hub.
Deal with emotional labour
Speaking of work-life balance – while you might not enjoy the shared parental benefits of Sweden’s liberal welfare system, you can deal with the division of labour in the home. And if research is anything to go by, it is absolutely worth taking that conversation; egalitarian couples are healthier, happier, have happier children… the list goes on. Who keeps track of birthdays and toilet paper stock? Who makes lunch boxes and makes sure that everyone’s got clean underwear? Who manages the relationship with the difficult neighbour? Sometimes, a quick tally is all it takes.
Check in with Mother Nature
It’s not rocket science – thought science agrees too: time in nature comes with ample benefits. Swedish culture and traditions bring countless opportunities, from foraging to outdoor exercise classes and a love of recreational outdoor sports. If you have access to a lake, go all in with a swim in the nip; but if not, just a stroll through the woods will help you refocus.
Hang out at home
Swedes are not just house proud; they’re keen on the savings that come with a tipple at home, too. Once you get over the panic-cleaning stage, inviting your friends over makes socialising simple, affordable and comfortable. You pick the music, Tesco provides the snacks and there’s no one – unless events take a highly unexpected turn – spilling beer down your neck.
Try a purchase cap
‘Köpstopp’, a purchase cap of sorts, became a popular way of getting on top of your consumption habits in Sweden a few years ago. You could decide, for instance, not to buy anything other than groceries for a month. What few people expect is that the exercise brings about not just more conscious consumption habits, but also a dwindling desire for shopping, generally speaking. In fact, many people describe their newfound lightweight attitude to material possessions as incredibly liberating.
Embrace vintage bargains
You can’t go wrong with all-white minimalism, but recent interior design trends have seen a boost in colour and character. Vintage stores provide endless beautiful items with stories to tell, or you can go crafty with the sandpaper and some paint and touch up an old picture frame or a Windsor chair from a flea market. There’s great satisfaction in adding that personal touch, and you just can’t argue with the environmental and financial sense.
Have a ‘fika’
The Swedish institution that is ‘fika’, meaning to have coffee and buns with colleagues, friends or a good book, could be just what the world needs right now. It helps you take regular breaks in work, forces us away from screens for a moment and, most often, provides the perfect platform for conversation and connection. Enjoy the full process with some mindfulness in the kitchen as you bake your own cinnamon buns, or keep it simple with café-bought pastries. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the coffee – and enjoy it.
Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne is published by Gaia, £10 (www.octopusbooks.co.uk)