Everyday Hygge

Time for change

20 Mar ’14
Train Station Clock on Hygge House

There are two reasons why I’ve hesitated in writing this post for so long. One, I’m not a huge fan of these big cliche posts where people go on about the changes that need to happen in there lives and two, I wasn’t entirely clear what the change was that needed to happen to help me fall in-love again with this space and online sharing in general.

Since 1995 I’ve had a blog and HyggeHouse.com since 2002. As you can imagine, I’ve seen all the changes that have happened to the online communities. And honestly, I’ve felt really lost in the space and frankly saddened by a lot of the direction that sharing/creating has taken. I recognize that I will sound like a grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn, so I think an explanation is needed. It used to be that it was hard to share online – there wasn’t the ease producing a blog. WordPress and Blogger were in their infancy and unless you could code and design and had the money for hosting, you were kind of out of luck. So those who really loved sharing and connecting worked through all the challenges. The content and concepts were just that important to get out.

Over the past few years, blogging has become an industry. I’ve seen so many bloggers who had a POV change their whole voice because they basically just became cheap ad agencies for brands. And having worked on the brand side of things, I’ve seen the blogger greed and lack of return and wondering how this industry will survive if it’s just ad after ad after ad.

Instead of talking about life and helping each other discover new things or talk about ideas, we are selling to each other or feeling like we have to be like those we see “making it” (and feeling like a failure if we aren’t). It’s the online Martha Stewart syndrome for a new generation.

The sad thing is, having known a lot of these well known bloggers on a personal and business side, I can tell you only 1% are really making it financially or are happy personally. “Professionally blogging” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When you have to hustle all the time, don’t really control your own content because it’s dictated by brands, your work is all from home and isolated and your life is as small as the paycheques, it can’t be that great. But the need to keep up appearances to keep generating ad revenue puts the writer – and reader – in a vicious cycle.

Hygge House has never had a goal of monetization. I don’t want to ever do sponsored posts or advertising – it’s just not my thing. I hesitate a lot in even doing posts in which I recommend stuff because I don’t want to come across as shelling things. But I do because 1. I’m asked a lot about what my favorites are and 2. it’s part of sharing and 3. it’s all stuff I have bought and am not asked to mention.

The goal of this blog has always been to talk about the concept of hygge and really living. I mean, it’s in the tag line for a reason – live well, live simply, live hygge. I feel like the art of living – of enjoying small moments, making coffee a verb, of enjoying home and not having a fear of missing out – has vanished from online blogs. How do we live well and observe everything around us without having a brand attached to it or feeling like we’ll get it in a box delivered to us? I realize I will contradict that paragraph above at some point because I do love things. When I go home to Denmark I bring back candle holders or a dress to remind me of my travels or a moment. I love linens and can’t stop collecting tea cups or tea. I’m not going to have a home filled with nothing. It’s just that I want a life filled with more than things. I want it filled with experience, love, friends, joy, success and even failure.

I feel like that’s the kind of storytelling I’ve tried to do and what people connect to. I’ve just forgotten how for awhile which is why it’s been so quiet here. Part of that reason is because I think I’ve been focusing too much on what I think is wrong with blogging and being frustrated by it. Paying too much attention to what you don’t like always prevents one from paying attention to what they do. And also, 2013 was the most brutal year on record for me.

I moved in spring and put all my things in storage. So I didn’t have a hygge home. I struggled with where I should live, I struggled with what I should do, I struggled in so many ways last year that the hyggeness was just completely gone. The old quote from Henry David Thoreau “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” kept ringing in my ears and it felt completely inauthentic to be writing about a way of living that I myself was not.

I think when a person is unhappy, there is both a sense of confusion and a sense of direction in which to go. The hard part is being strong enough, brave enough or clear enough to move in that direction. Because confusion is so powerful that it can make one feel like they know nothing at all. But I think we always know what’s right for us. We just don’t always know how to make it real.

Currently, I’m in a very little New York hotel room. My initial reaction when I got in at midnight last night to my room was “I can’t believe it’s so small. Where is the desk? This is not the Four Seasons!” But this morning when I woke up and rolled over right next to a big window, I saw this view: Chelsea, NYC on HyggeHouse.com It was so hygge to me. That unexplainable charm. Being cosy in a little bed in front of a big window – hygge. Walking through Chelsea to get coffee and seeing all the old buildings – hygge. Bundling up with a scarf – hygge. Coffee as a verb? Very hygge.

The stark difference of NY’s spring time versus the perpetual blue skies and perfect whether of Los Angeles was what I needed to snap me out of being complacent with life. Hygge is not about that – it’s about fully participating in it and recognizing all the small moments instead of focusing on the once in awhile big blasts. This simple re-discovery of something I used to live so well, helped me to feel confident in the direction that I and HyggeHouse.com need to go.

There’s been an idea brewing for about a year and I’ve even been vocal about it with close friends, but I’ve just been keeping it idea. But this trip and the inspiration I’ve been getting from friends who are doing some incredible things, was enough to snap me out of dreaming and into reality and also into the habit of living. Not observing, not going through the motions, not thinking hygge, but living it again.

I cannot promise to update this frequently because I’ve never been one to share daily or even weekly. But I am working on finding my voice and online purpose again and sharing what I learn and love in the honest way I always have. There will still be no sponsored posts or advertising on this blog, so that’s not going to change.

What will, will hopefully just be in the volume of sharing stories and connecting with you once again.

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  • Reply S.I.No Gravatar 20 Mar ’14 at 6:09 pm

    I love what you wrote here; I feel the same way. I’ve had my blog since 2003 and I keep stopping and restarting it because of these very reasons. I constantly struggle with loving blogs and social media, to hating what it’s become. And then I have the internal battles, questioning if I’m being authentic or contributing to the very things that repel me. More than once I have found myself trying to be like the other big bloggers out there, losing my own voice and becoming overly snarky because it’s the cool thing to do or trying to have a picture perfect life like all that is portrayed online these days. I’ve gotten so lost along the way and have tried giving up on the whole thing many times.

    But I keep coming back because I do love blogging and social media when it’s done right. I’m still trying to figure out what that means for me. Right now, as I start over yet again (reading this post was perfect timing, actually), I’m just trying to remember to be authentic, to be me, to only put out meaningful things and not just add to the noise.

    Thank you for this reminder, and good luck with your search as well!

    • Reply Greta SutherlandNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 6:27 pm

      I will join voices with others. I often wonder why I worked so hard at coding and checking the cheat sheet next to my huuuuge computer for code phrases in my blogging beginning – with a healthy following and even more importantly, people who actually commented…yet now, I find it so difficult to find my blog voice again. In the beginning, I felt like I could be heard. Now, I feel as if I could never compete with the vastness of the space.

      You verbalized what many longtime bloggers are feeling. We all need to find a way to be true to our writer’s heart whether we are being sponsored or not.

      Finding our way through the noise…

  • Reply ShaunNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 3:19 am

    Hits the spot Alex – you are so right about it being the small moments in everyday life that make everything so worthwhile.

    Right behind ya!


  • Reply LaurenNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 7:00 am

    I’m so glad you’re back! I love reading your posts and I am so inspired by the hygge way of life.

    So much of this post rang true to me. Thank you for your honesty :)

  • Reply SharonNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 7:56 am

    I appreciate the brutal honesty of your post. Learning to live well moment by moment is perhaps the hardest thing I’ve had to do, and will probably spend the rest of my life working on! Maybe understanding the many shades of life on its various levels helps this practice become more meaningful. Perhaps our hardships are opportunities to learn how to appreciate hygge all the more! Sending hugs. Hang in there! :)

  • Reply MariNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 10:03 am

    Love this, and you, so very much. I’m proud of you and I’ll support you however I can. Make those dreams breathe real life, girl!

  • Reply AliNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 10:27 am

    I am cheering loudly from this side of the screen – having felt similar frustrations about what monetization has done to our community. Because as a blogger, it is the community that I love the most and the sharing. So hooray for you holding true to your values and here’s to many more years.

  • Reply Rebecca | Seven2Seven8No Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 10:56 am

    Hi there. I only recently found your blog, but I love it. I love the concept of “hygge” because that – more than “minimalism” or “style” or what-have-you, is exactly what most of us are striving for and we each need to find our own version of hygge – what speaks to us, personally, is so personal to us.

    I understand your frustration with commercial blogging. I have two blogs, a public one (about bicycling) that I started last June and only aim to update on Fridays* and a personal one, that I aim to update 3-5 days each week and which is password protected. Neither is monetized; there are there for the love of sharing and the joy of community, and they are “hygge” to me for that reason – the personal blog is almost like a diary-become-scrapbook that I invite people to share in if they are interested in the topics, and thus is a great source of refuge, fulfillment, peace, and a tiny community.

    That said, 2013, and the start of 2014, have been dark and hard for me, too. I haven’t wanted to write as much, and there have been gaps where I haven’t updated as a result. I’m finding a lot of rebirth in spring, and I hope it continues into the rest of this year.

    Wishing you the best!

    • Reply Rebecca | Seven2Seven8No Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 10:58 am

      Ah, the unanswered asterisk.

      *But I’ve had Fridays where I haven’t posted this winter because I haven’t had anything to say. To the point of the first commenter – I want to share things which are lovely or useful, and not just add noise to the world. Excellent point, S.I.

  • Reply monicaNo Gravatar 21 Mar ’14 at 11:01 am

    Hi Alex, I’ve been following you on & off since 2003. When you started branching out into multiple websites, then stopped blogging so much, I missed your more personal writing and your perspective on things. I completely understand the disillusionment with blogging and the need to pull back into living life rather than writing about living life. Thank you for what you have shared and for having the courage to share where you’re at. Good things are in store. I wish you well. May lots of hygge come your way…

  • Reply KathleenNo Gravatar 22 Mar ’14 at 1:12 pm

    Love this! Thanks for helping me figure out why I haven’t started writing. Can’t wait to hear more about this big idea.

  • Reply MarieNo Gravatar 24 Mar ’14 at 2:51 pm

    Yes, yes, YES to all of this. I’ve been blogging for about as long as you, Alex, and I’ve gone through several periods of losing my ‘voice’ and struggling to find it. Even changing domain names several times because the old ones never seem to ‘fit’ for long. These days, it’s more lost than found.

    I struggle so much with wanting to just write about my life vs feeling as though I need to be witty, or creative, or inspiring to others. There’s this… pressure to keep up with everyone else. To be on your game with every post. To build a following by offering content that appeals to them, rather than just being yourself and letting people like you for you. It has become so pronounced that I’ve stopped following several blogs. I’m bombarded day in and day out with marketing and advertising, and my blog reading time is a bit of a refuge for me – the last thing I want is to be persistently marketed to some more.

    The blogging world has certainly changed, and I feel like I just haven’t changed with it. I’m not sure I’ll ever catch up with it. And perhaps its time I make my peace with that.

  • Reply JulieBNo Gravatar 25 Mar ’14 at 5:15 pm

    Best wishes as you re-focus and recharge. I, too, have just recently found your blog and the concept of Hygge. I have been paring away at the non-essentials and distractions and trying to focus on important things for a few years. I knew I would not become a true minimalist, and when I found this word in the fall, I knew it was what I was aiming for. It really helped sooth my soul this winter – one of the most brutal in my memory in terms of weather and length. I look forward to more posts as you have time.

  • Reply DiNo Gravatar 31 Mar ’14 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you for this post. I have been a follower of your blog on and off and always loved it. And today for some reason I thought of it although I hadn’t visited in a long time. And the reason for that thought, I was looking at the blog posts on my feedly account and was thinking how many of them were now “professional bloggers” and how I missed the blogs like I hope mine is (and some of the others I read) which are just out there telling stories and sharing stuff they’ve made…so I went off in search of blogs long remembered to see if I could find more of these personal blogs and when I got to yours, there was a post, explaining most eloquently what I was feeling.

    I had also just been on Facebook chatting with a friend on Costa Rica about life in general and we were saying how life can sometimes suck – but we were reminded about a quote she had seen – that someone out there was always happier with less than you have – and I am trying to remember that.

    Thank you for sharing and blogging!

  • Reply SandraNo Gravatar 2 Apr ’14 at 11:39 pm

    Hear hear! Thank you for speaking from the heart. I been reading your thoughts since 1999. I have secretly admired how you transformed your career and life into something you love.

    I miss the early years when people spent hours coding to create the simples web page to share their thoughts, without thinking if there’d be more payback than maybe discovering and meeting a kindred spirit.

    I’m glad you’re still around and haven’t gone the route of destroying the quality of your writing for ad money.

  • Reply LynnNo Gravatar 16 Apr ’14 at 1:55 pm

    Hi Alex
    I’ve read your blogs for year and am still trying to find my “online voice”. I’m very excited as it sounds as if you will post more. I look forward to it and reading more about living the hygge life!

  • Reply AngelaNo Gravatar 6 May ’14 at 3:01 am

    I really love what you wrote here.

    I used to be a member of a mailing list that you ran, back in 2002 (I think it was a mailing list). I’d been inspired by you and others, and was hoping to become creative again, and just get to know people. I miss those days – I’m afraid that I was too shy, missed out on a lot, and haven’t been successful at all, but I think back to those days when I read some really good blogs, and wished that I had the guts to write my own, and make friends.

    I’ve become more and more disappointed with the blogs that I come across. As much as I would love to be able to make a living from home (so I can understand why they would jump at the chance to do this), I don’t want to read blog posts that are an advert for a company, or solely designed to sell a product. There are very few bloggers who actually interest me anymore. I’m on your blog tonight, for this reason – just to see how you are doing.

  • Reply AnnaNo Gravatar 5 Dec ’14 at 4:38 pm

    WOW! So affirming and inspiring at once, how do you do that?! Devoured every morsel of this post, thank you!

  • Reply JacquieNo Gravatar 19 Dec ’14 at 7:55 pm

    I just popped on again to see if there was a new post and although there wasn’t, it was nice to read through some of the old ones. You are like a favourite author – I’m so excited when you release new material but your posts are timeless and can be read again and again.
    Thank you for your writing. I hope you have a very hygge Christmas.

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