I started my journey of de-owning and letting go of stuff some years ago when I found myself a bit overwhelmed by possessions I have acquired over the years. I didn’t notice it and if I did, I probably paid little attention or said to myself that I would declutter when I had the time. And then, of course, I procrastinated.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, and it was not that I needed all the stuff that piled up in the 26 sqm. apartment I used to live in. I just didn’t prioritize it until one day, I found myself “tired” of simply looking at those books I knew I wouldn’t read, notebooks I’d never use, clothes I’d never had the occasion to wear, and what have you.
Last year, I found this book called Lagom (Not too little, not too much) The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brandtmark, and found it helpful in my journey of owning just enough. I’ve read it twice since getting myself a copy. Even before I was introduced to the Lagom way of life, I had already started my own personal journey of decluttering though I admit it is not as brutal as Mari Kondo’s way of saying goodbye to whatever it is that didn’t spark joy. In fact, until now, I still find it difficult to declutter ruthlessly. For now, minimalism at its finest is not yet for me.
Lagom and “minimalism,” I think, are similar in many aspects. The author and public speaker Greg McKeon, known as a “minimalist who takes action” calls it “essentialism or the disciplined pursuit of less.” You could say that many Swedes are already minimalists even before Kondo contributed to making it a trend. The Lagom way of living life seems both suitable and appealing to me. So, I found myself applying what I have learned from that book.
I understand that this kind of quest differs from person to person. I’ve read about people who have become notorious hoarders because of poverty or scarcity mindset. The “I used to not have this and so now that I can afford it, I will buy a lot” perspective is something one should seriously consider as it is not healthy. But I digress.
The Swedes, being practical people, believe that the right amount is “best” and that moderation is key. This is what Lagom is all about. To them, it is a “step towards ensuring that no one amasses too much, and no one is left wanting. In the book, Brandtmark discussed Lagom in one’s personal life, in family and relationships, and in the wider world. As for me, I wanted more space in my home and hopefully to achieve some peace of mind. I started letting go of books I haven’t touched in years, even ones that were gifted to me. I purged my closet (this is honestly an ongoing but hopefully not a forever task) and separated the ones that I haven’t worn in months or years and kept my favorites. I sold some clothes online, donated, and gave away the rest.
These days, whenever I want to buy something new—be it clothes, shoes, or accessories—I look around and decide which ones should go.
When it comes to furniture, each piece must serve a purpose and must last long. One of the reasons why the Lagom way of life has attracted me is because it’s not only about owning the right number of possessions. To Swedes, such possessions need not be expensive but must be of great quality—something that will last long enough for it to be used again if sold or given to a new owner or by the next generation. Even in furnishing and decorating a home, I also try to practice the Swedes’ way of not too lavish, not too sparse.
There is no right or wrong way of doing so, the book said, if you are aware of the right blend of furniture, colors, as well as of incorporating “old and new, vintage and modern.” I still have a long way to go, but this way of life excites me beyond measure. What’s good in this practice is that if you think you failed, you can always try again. And that’s the whole point of a job well done—doing your best at something, and when faced with setbacks, persevere, or begin again.
For comments and feedback, you may reach the author at joba.botana.gmail.com