Have you heard this “new to me” Swedish word Lagom? It means just the right amount – not too much, not too little. It defines a lifestyle characterized by frugality, fairness, and balance. It is the perfect lens to evaluate your life if you’re interested in simple living, minimalism, or living your life with intention.
Minimalism and Lagom
When you think of minimalism, what is the first thing that comes to mind? I personally think of extremes – only having 100 items to your name, only having 33 items in your seasonal capsule wardrobe, and a completely decluttered home with bare white walls. That’s partly why I call myself an “aspiring minimalist” because I feel so far from “achieving” any of those things.
Don’t get me wrong – I continue to aspire to minimalism because I think it’s a valuable guide. What I’ve come to learn is that minimalism/simple living/slow living is about stepping away from the cultural values that we’re constantly bombarded with, and choosing our own values. Minimalism looks as varied as the people who call themselves minimalists.Lagom, the Swedish word that can help us live with more intention. #lagom #minimalism #simple… Click To Tweet
This Swedish concept of Lagom feels “just right” to me in helping one define what intentional living can look like for each individual and their particular life stage. It encourages curiosity and experimentation versus rigid definitions of what “just right” looks like. Kathleen Bryson, a PhD graduate in evolutionary anthropology at UCL, called lagom a state of having “not too much of one-or-the-other, but more a Goldilocks ‘just right’.”
I love the image of Goldilocks curiously trying out Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear’s porridge, chairs, and beds finding exactly what suits her.
Curiosity as a First Step to Live Lagom
Taking that idea of Goldilocks’ curiosity and experimentation, let’s take a look at our own lives, and see where we can make changes in order to live lagom. These are areas that minimalists and simple living advocates generally agree are areas that we could all examine in order to live a life of intention.
Lagom: Not too much
- Stuff: I think we can all agree that in America, the majority of us struggle with having too much stuff. I know I’ve personally downsized the number of clothes, toys, and shoes in our household last year when I decluttered every room in our house. Lagom embraces sustainability as a way of life – not consuming too much and making environmentally friendly choices.
- Where do you have too much stuff? What is one area or room that feels overstuffed that you can work on decluttering (donate and recycle when you can)?
- What’s one thing you can do to live more sustainably? Some very simple ideas are:
- use a coffee mug at work instead of the throwaway cups
- use a refillable water thermos
- bring your reusable grocery bags every time you shop
- pass down and accept hand me downs for your children’s clothes
- shop at thrift stores and consignment shops
- Screen time: This is a constant
battlearea of concern in our family. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children are spending an average of 7 hours per day in front of some type of screen for entertainment media. We can all agree that 7 hours per day is too much for children (and adults). CNN reports that adults average about 10 hours a day on screens, so we’re not doing much better than the children!
- Keep track of your screen time to get an accurate picture of how much you’re on your screens.
- How can you reduce the number of hours that you spend on screens (if you are a parent, especially when you’re with your children) by one hour to start?
- Work: This particular subject could go in the too much or too little category depending on your situation and your choices, but it’s worth evaluating. I personally work outside the home part-time, three days a week. Whenever anyone hears of my ideal schedule, they always sigh and say, “I wish I could do that.” I sometimes say, “You can” because the number of hours that you work is actually a choice. I’ve gone through seasons of working full time, staying at home full time, and working part-time depending on what was going on with our family. In order to have the flexibility to do that, we have worked hard to get out of debt, keep our expenses low, and budget.
- How many hours are you working? Is it too much? Too little?
- Brainstorm ideas how you can make changes to your work situation to line up with your values and needs?
- Activities: Are you or your children involved in too many activities? Are you finding yourself constantly in the car driving your children to and from multiple appointments? Our family has adopted a one activity per child per season outside of school hours. They are usually sports activities that get our children outside of the house and moving their bodies which I love. For some families, this may be too much or it may be too little – asking the question and evaluating it is the first step.
- Ask yourself if you feel harried by the number of activities you and your family are involved in. If you don’t then this won’t be a point you need to dwell on.
- If you are feeling harried, write down all the activities that you are involved in. Do they all still deserve a space on your calendar? What isn’t too much, but just right for you and your family?
Lagom: Not too Little
- Time Outside: Given the average number of hours many Americans are spending on screens, time outside is one of the first things to go. This is high on my values list, but I have to brace myself for complaints and resistance from my older children when I plan time outside for our family. Inevitably, at the end of our time, they are rosy cheeked and thanking me for forcing them to participate.
- Plan for at least one activity outside every weekend.
- Plan to go outside for a short walk every day, especially if you work from home!
- Movement: Too much time on screens + not enough time outside = an unhealthy lifestyle. Most of us don’t get enough movement throughout the week. Getting a Fitbit helped me track how much I was actually moving, which was the first step in helping me plan changes in my daily and weekly schedule. When I work at home on the blog, I barely get 2,000 steps a day – yikes! To counter that I’ve scheduled in long walks or a run to try and hit at least 10,000 steps on those days as well.
- Track your movement through the day and week.
- Schedule more movement in your week. Write it down in your planner!
- Money: It’s been said that the tipping point of happiness when it comes to annual household income and day to day contentment is $75,000/year. Of course our state of having too little money not only depends on our annual income, but our spending habits and our monthly expenses. If you feel like there’s too little money and too much month, it may be time to ask yourself:
- Are there wants in my monthly budget that I can cut out (such as eating out)? Are there expenses in my monthly budget that I’m not using and I can stop (such as gym memberships, cable, and any subscriptions)?
- Do I need to get another job on the side?
- Sleep: How many hours are you getting every night? What’s your ideal number of hours? Getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night is the recommended amount for adults. Every month I aim for at least 6 hours a night (7 being the goal) and for the most part I’ve been able to keep to that schedule. There are the occasional nights when I’m up way too late, but its way more common for me to fall asleep around 9pm when I put my youngest to bed!
- Track your sleep if you’re fuzzy on how much sleep you actually get on average.
- Have a set bedtime in order to get your ideal amount of sleep, and try to get off all screens one hour before that time (it helps to get a good nights sleep).
- Gratitude: Practicing gratitude has many proven benefits, and it doesn’t have to be a complicated process. I personally write down 3 things I’m grateful for every night in a journal. You can just take a moment to think of what you’re grateful for, you can write it down, you can take a photo of one thing you’re grateful for, or you can sit around the table at dinner and share about something you were grateful for during the day. One of the best benefits of practicing gratitude is that it helps me to be present and aware as I’m going through my day.
- Face to face time with friends and family: This is the whole reason that I’m pursuing simplicity in all the other areas of my life – it’s so that I can really focus on what matters. For me, and I suspect that it’s the same for you, it’s about being able to be present and nurture relationships with my loved ones.
Lagom: Just Right
Lagom – not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. I appreciate this Swedish word that challenges us to question our lifestyle. Is it in balance? Are you living according to your values and your most important priorities. I know in my journey, it’s taken a long time to feel like I’m “just right” in some of these areas. In most areas, I feel like Goldilocks – trying out the different options and figuring out how it feels to me, at this time and season in my life.
Reading this list, what is one area of your life that you know is “too much” or “too little” and needs balancing?