Achieving simpler lifestyle can start with 3 R’s

In my line of work, I have heard a lot about minimalism. Minimalism is a lifestyle that totally embraces the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

In fact, minimalists even take things a step farther by trying not to create any trash. Everything they buy is reusable or consumable. They buy food in bulk, with as little packaging as possible. And if there is packaging it would have to be recyclable or reusable.

In a minimalist lifestyle, the focus is to rid yourself of life’s excess so that you can focus on life’s simple pleasures. A minimalist would not buy/keep a book that could be borrowed from a library. They would prefer to walk, ride a bike or take a bus, so they don’t have to be bothered with buying and maintaining a car.

I like the idea of minimalism, but I’m not sure I can totally give up my consumerism lifestyle, and there isn’t bus service where I live. So, hygge may be my happy medium between consumerism and minimalism.

A good friend of mine turned me on to the new hygge movement. I should say new to me; it’s been talked about in the media since 2016 and for a lifetime in Denmark. I am always slow to jump on the “trend” train, thinking that once I buy all the stuff the trend will pass. But this is one that has potential, because there really isn’t anything to buy.

Hygge (hoo-gah) is the Danish ritual of relishing life’s simple pleasures and making the ordinary more beautiful, meaningful and special. Hyggelig (hoo-gah-lee), the adjective, means nice or friendly, or cozy or comfortable. There isn’t a word in the English language that is a direct translation to the Danish word hygge. Some say it is more of a feeling, like when you are sitting in front of a fire with a warm drink and a good book. It’s a feeling of coziness, light-heartedness and peace and with a focus on gathering and conversation. To the Danish, hygge is a part of their culture, like freedom is to American’s.

In his book, “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living,” Meik Wiking describes hygge as the act of living in the present and simplifying your life. I believe most Americans are continually in the pursuit of happiness and are always seeking a way to simplify their lives. Like me, most have never known that this way of life has a name, or that it has become a movement. Wiking not only wrote a book about hygge but also is the founder and chief executive of The Happiness Institute, and he gives us 10 tips to create hygge in your home. They are:

Set the mood: Dim lights, use candles

Be present: Turn off cellphones

Treat yourself: Eat cake, ice cream, chocolate

Share: People, not possessions

Be grateful: Notice what is good

Don’t brag: Life’s not a competition

Get comfy: Elastic-waist pants

Add plants to your space: Bring nature indoors

Build relationships: People, not possessions

Create space: More organized, less stuff

How do hygge and minimalism compare? Both lifestyles agree that less is more and one should buy quality over quantity. That home is for living and not just storing stuff, and creating memories is better than buying the souvenir. Their differences include how you spend your time and what possessions you should keep.

Minimalism focuses on spending time on what truly serves a purpose in your life and that it is important to spend time productively. Hygge isn’t as concerned about productivity as being in the present, slowing down and simply being. Minimalism teaches that possessions should only be kept if they have value and not in duplication (4 coffee cups instead of 12). In a hygge lifestyle, possessions that are loved should be kept and used (not sitting in a box in the closet). And that one should find a new home for things not loved or needed, because a home cannot be cozy if it is full of unnecessary items.

We are a little more than a month into the new year, so I challenge you to be more aware of your lifestyle. Maybe you can embrace minimalism and find it refreshing to try to not create trash. Perhaps hygge has sparked your interest in simplifying your life and creating coziness where ever you go. Or you are like me and are not sure you can give up consumerism, but agree 12 coffee cups are too many.

Whatever lifestyle appeals to you, do something over the next few weeks to slow down and simplify your life. I am going to add something hyggelig into my day, whether that means giving away an unloved coffee cup or lighting a candle.

For more information about local recycling options visit our website at bcswmd.com. And don’t forget to check out our Facebook page by searching for Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District.

Kari Spurgeon is the education coordinator at the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District. She can be reached at 812-376-2614 or kari.spurgeon@bartholomew.in.gov.