Hungover after too many whiskies at The Hyde Bar the evening before, I lit an Heir & Grace Oudh candle and got into bed with a bag of popcorn and started watching The Minimalists, the ‘documentary about important things’ which featured interviews with architects, economists, entrepreneurs, but mostly with authors of books such as 10% Happier, Zen Habits, No Impact Man, Clutterfree With Kids, and Enough.
Fifteen minutes of mostly watching the authors of The Minimalists scaring off their miniscule audiences with greetings of ‘I’m a hugger’ before invading their personal space was as much as I could manage before switching to something else on Netflix.
Minimalism is about as smug a lifestyle trend as the other big hitter this year: hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) – the Danish word for ‘cosiness’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘being kind to yourself’ and ‘enjoying life’s simple pleasures’. It seems to involve lighting lots of candles (Danes burn more candles per head than anywhere in Europe, according to the European Candle Association) and it sounds a bit like the English word ‘hug’ for which the Oxford English Dictionary lists no origins. The 19th/early 20th Century philologist Walter William Skeat thought it might be of Scandinavian origin. Notionally the effect of hygge and a hug is similar – comforting and secure. What’s more, an obsolete meaning of hug is ‘to cherish oneself; to keep or make oneself snug’, according to the OED.
Minimalism is having The White Company bedsheets. The oppposite is decorating your bed with square cushions placed in a diamond shape (see Sir David Tang’s full explanation of why that’s so wrong) – essentially bad taste. Hygge is sipping glogg with friends while wearing cashmere socks in front of the fire in your beautifully designed and artfully lit home. I’m pretty sure hygge is not slurping tea and dropping crumbs of popcorn in bed while watching TV alone (ahem).
However, the trend in minimalism and hygge is, in essence, underpinned by an attempt to get happier. The Danes are often named as the happiest people in the world. But it might just be a myth (as a Danish date once pointed out to me). Michael Booth, a UK native who has lived in Scandinavia for over a decade, described the Danes in a book as a ‘frosty, solemn bunch’ who take a lot of anti-depressants. He also revealed in The Washington Post that the Danes, ‘have dropped from the top spot [of happiest people in the world] in recent surveys, mostly because they are not as rich as they once were. The sad take-away from that is, money does, in fact, make you happy. I don’t think they ever were the “happiest” people in the world, but you could argue they have been the most “satisfied.” They are good at appreciating the small things in life and making the most of what they have — a legacy, I think, of experiencing the rough hand of geopolitics in the 18th and 19th centuries.’
So perhaps we should be wishing each other a very satisfying 2017 rather than a happy new year.
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