When Vogue decreed that the Swedish idea of lagom was the new hygge, Swedish-Irish author Linnea Dunne realised she was in a good position to help clarify this new trend. Her book Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living, explains the lifestyle ethos, which is all about being content with ‘just enough’. Aside from the fact that both these trends are Scandinavian and based on societies that encourage people not to go overboard, that’s where the similarities end. If hygge was about incorporating comfort, cosiness and togetherness in your life, lagom is about moderation, consideration and finding contentment. It can affect how you dress, how you shop, how you style your home, and even how you conduct business and how you relate to people. Here, Linnea explains some of the key things to know about lagom and why it might be the secret to feeling more liberated, free from the pressure of having more than what you need.
So Linnea, what is lagom?
It’s not too little, not too much, it’s just enough. That’s the stock answer a Swede would give you. But then if you sat down to actually talk about it over a coffee, you’d get the longer version which is quite complex. It can be that balance which is both subjective and objective. It can relate to the way you relate to people in work, the way you look and dress, the way you raise your kids, how you deal with feelings and emotions. It’s about balance to begin with at the surface level, but when you dig deeper you will hear all about these values and processes behind it. It’s subconscious for Swedes, it’s not something they consciously subscribe to. It’s part of the Swedish psyche.
Why do you think we are looking to the Swedes for inspiration?
You can look at Sweden as a country that has a very famous social welfare system and that ranks highly in a lot of different ways, in health and happiness and equality for example. I write about this stuff all day everyday. I know this culture inside out, I grew up in Sweden, my kids are half-Swedish. I also have an understanding of the culture from an outsider’s perspective by virtue of having lived abroad for 15 or so years. There’s a fascination with Scandinavian and Nordic culture, and it's not going away.
Is lagom like minimalism then?
Interior design is part of it, but it’s not just about minimalism and white walls and decluttering. It’s also about considering more consciously the things you buy, so not necessarily, buying all the coolest latest fads but thinking about what you will actually get use out of and prioritising those things in the home. Lagom is more about buying a Volvo because it fits the stuff you need for your family and because it is inexpensive and it will last, and it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t look great because you know that it is the sensible choice. The other way of looking at it is about choosing what will stand the test of time. It’s about actively considering something and that is something the Swedes are very good at.
So if hygge is about being cosy, how do we make our life more lagom?
You can look at what is not working in your life for you right now and take that as a starting point. For a lot of us at the moment, we are spending a lot of time looking at our phones and checking emails. It’s a symptom of society at the moment. So you can bring that back to a lagom level, checking it just enough, but not eliminating it altogether. There are a number of ways you can take a step back and be more present in the moment and finding balance, whether that’s making time to take a break with friends of get out in nature. Or it might be a more bigger picture thing of whether you take up a hobby like joining a choir once a week. The book that I have written has six chapters which cover everything from how you drink to how you socialise, to how you exercise.
Lagom is not just about material things then?
No. It can be how you feel and how you deal with people. It can be about accepting that happiness doesn’t have to be about elation and being excited and super happy all the time. It’s that idea of having a lot of different feelings at once and being willing to live with that and not allowing it to get too overwhelming.
So how do you know when you’ve achieved lagom?
It’s more of a slow burner. It’s not an immediate thing, you cannot decide to make your life lagom tomorrow. It’s about incorporating it little by little and becoming aware of it slowly but surely. You can be lagom about lagom as well, you don’t have to be perfect about doing it, or do it all the time, or to every aspect of your life. It’s highly subjective.
Inform | Inspire | Indulge