Lagom – not too much, not too little, just enough!
Have you ever asked yourself the question: “Which of my possessions do I actually need?”. Now, I don’t mean the “OMG, I really NEED this new Orla Kiely handbag, it’s just fab” – kinda need! I mean the true sense of the word need: What do I need to live my life, what do I use regularly, let’s even add “What makes me really happy?”. It’s a great mental exercise to do, I’d even call it a mindfulness exercise: becoming truly aware of all the things we possess and asking ourselves the questions: Do I need it to live my life? Do I use it regularly? Could I do without it? Does it make me happy? Even if you don’t immediately delve into a seemingly “hip” decluttering craze, it’s a good and sometimes sobering exercise to do, especially when like me, you’re a borderline hoarder, even though I have got much better in recent years especially after our last house move. Obviously everybody is different but from my personal experience I would say that without a doubt I could get rid of at least 70% of my belongings as I don’t need them, I don’t use them regularly, I could do without them and that means that they don’t seem to affect my happiness significantly. But still anytime I tell myself exactly this and try to really declutter, I am only ever able to scrape the surface. I fill a couple of bags and then I can’t seem to find the next item I can do without. Thoughts like “Oh but … gave this to me”, “This was amazing value” (probably still has the tags on it to prove it!!) or “I’ll get to wear it some day.” are probably familiar to some of you. It’s a work in progress and I keep working on it as I truly believe that most “things” just weigh us down. I want to be a positive role model for my children and if I am unable to live more simply with less distractions, how can I expect my children to do this?
I remember watching an amazing documentary about a tribe somewhere in the depths of the African bush in Namibia. Their main philosophy of life was, that in order to live life in the bush it was necessary people would only take what they needed to live, to insure that their habitat would keep the necessary balance for sustaining everybody: people, animals and the eco system around them. It’s so simple, so obvious and true, yet our lifestyle in Western society could not be further away from this.
Throughout history we can observe this again and again, many indigenous people led balanced and happy lives, with their own challenges of course, until they were introduced to money, materialism or so-called progress introduced by missionaries. Greed is in my opinion the biggest enemy of happiness, the need to own things, to accumulate more wealth, to show our neighbour how well you’re doing.
I do “get” the human attachment to objects and the maybe false sense of identification and even sense of safety. But I also believe that it is a very Western phenomenon that has taken on unhealthy and obsessional dimensions and that our possessions, or should I say our attachment to our possessions, actually keep us prisoner rather than make us feel good. Of course I can only speak for myself, but anytime I sort out things that I don’t really need anymore and just take up a lot of space, I get a great feeling of relief and even happiness if I can give them to somebody who can make use of them. I can literally breathe easier when I reduce the clutter in our house, and yet it is still difficult to detach from more.
I recently read an article about the Swedish concept of “Lagom”, which literally translated means “enough, sufficient, just right”. It seems though that there is a whole philosophy behind this single word which means so much more and I just love the ideas and attitudes defining it. “Lagom” stands for a lifestyle that is balanced, not too much of anything, not too little, just the right amount… I had to smile when I read the description of “ a Goldilocks approach”. The term lagom originates from the two words “laget om” literally meaning “around the team”, dating back to the Viking era, when drinking horns were filled with meade (honey wine) and then passed around with everybody just drinking their own share and no more, so there would be enough for everybody. I remember a chat with my dad, who is a chemistry and biology teacher, many years ago. We had gone into the forest to collect mushrooms and we found an extremely poisonous species. I asked him if eating the mushroom could kill a person to which he replied: “That depends on the dosage, even the most dangerous poison is only effective if too much is ingested. The same with anything, too much of anything will always be harmful, even too much of the most delicious strawberry ice cream will give you a stomach ache.” It’s one of these nuggets of wisdom that has stayed with me since… too much of anything will always be harmful, so true.
When I read a little more about it I realised that basically “Lagom” is what I define as a mindful lifestyle: live in the moment, appreciate and enjoy your blessings, take as much as you truly need but no more, share and be kind to others and respect the world you live in.
Obviously “what we need” it is a very personal concept, things that are important to me might mean nothing to you and that’s only normal. But if we all generally became a little more aware of our attachment to possessions and try to stick more to a “Lagom” lifestyle, it can only have a positive effect on our own well-being and that of our family and even society in the long-run. Especially for our generation of children and teenagers I think this would be important, as I strongly believe that the focus on material belongings, success and wealth is having a negative impact on important values such as gratitude, kindness and compassion and is diluting the meaning of special treats and the appreciation of everyday blessings, which in turn has a big impact on their sense of happiness and well-being.
Wishing us all not too much, not too little, just enough!!
If you want to read more about how to include a more mindful approach into everyday life for yourself and your children: My book “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a Revolution” is available in my shop on the website www.rootsandwings.pub
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