There’s a lot to thank Scandinavia for - their simplistic style, their minimalist mindset, and of course, the existence of IKEA. We all know that Scandi countries take pride in their homes but, besides their brilliant eye for design, these countries also put a great focus on practicality, creating spaces that combine form and function in the best ways possible.
That means there’s a thing or two we can learn from them when it comes to streamlining our spaces and how to declutter your home. From decluttering methods like Swedish death cleaning to their typically minimalist designs, there’s a lot to learn in the Scandi decluttering and organizing rulebook. Rather than strict codes of practice, however, the Scandi approach is far more holistic, with a few guiding principles that help instill order in our living space. To change your habits for a simpler Scandi home, here are five of their ideas that should definitely be on your radar.
1. Adopt a ‘less is more’ mindset
The Scandi decor style tends to lean toward minimalism, with simple pared-back designs and neutral color schemes. They’re all about living well with less so, when it comes to decluttering and organizing, that necessitates a ‘less is more’ mindset.
‘By owning fewer possessions you are more easily able to “njuta” (savor) the items you do have,’ explains Niki Brantmark, founder of My Scandinavian Home and author of Njuta - The Swedish Art of Savouring the Moment (available at Amazon). Rather than live surrounded by stuff that doesn’t hold much value to you, only showcase the very best possessions that really deserve attention.
As Niki is quick to point out, however, this isn’t a simple technique you can employ overnight. Rather, it involves adopting an entirely new mindset and changing your habits for good. ‘The Scandi way of organizing and decluttering their home is truly inspiring as it's less of a one-off or something you do every time you have amassed too much stuff and need to have a cull, it's a way of life,’ she explains. ‘Once you’ve mastered the Scandinavian approach it is a really sustainable way of keeping your stuff in order long-term.’
Design-wise, California-based organizer Melissa Gugni suggests aiming for a Scandinavian Farmhouse look. ‘‘If you’ve ever spent time in an IKEA store, you can get the picture,' she says. 'It's all about simplicity - clean lines, neutral colors, and minimal clutter. There is a clear home for everything and less is always more.’
2. Practice the Swedish art of ‘Death Cleaning’
‘Let's face it, no one likes to think about their demise, but Swedes are a highly practical bunch who don't like the idea of causing anyone else any hassle,’ explains Niki. ‘Döstädning (death cleaning) is all about getting your home, possessions and paperwork in order so that if you do kick the bucket, sorting your estate will be less stressful for those you leave behind.’
It might sound morbid, but this ruthless decluttering idea (and realistic reminder) will help convince you to cut the clutter where other methods fall short. ‘I think it is a very altruistic way of looking at one's things,’ explains Melissa. ‘Not only is it treating your loved ones and their time with love and respect (I've heard of adult children spending their weekends for months and even years dealing with their parents' estates) it helps to get your home in order to enjoy while you are alive.’
So, what actions can you take today to embrace Swedish death cleaning? ‘Start with a big de-clutter, ridding your home of items you no longer use nor love, and find a home for everything that remains so that everything can be located,' suggests Niki. ‘You might think this is an exercise for the old, but why not get started now - that way you can enjoy a more organized home right away!’
3. Use ‘lagom’ principles to make slower, more conscious decisions about your stuff
Lagom is a Swedish ideology that’s all about living a more balanced, moderately paced life. It's about achieving a Goldilock’s balance - not having too much or too little of anything - and, as a decluttering tip, that applies to the belongings in your home. Niki suggests using the notion of Lagom to influence our decluttering (or cluttering) habits. We should let go of unnecessary stuff we've collected over the years, but realize a completely minimalist home isn't entirely realistic either.
A slow, Lagom ethos should also influence our decisions when it comes to bringing stuff into the home, too. ‘Take your time choosing items for your home - rather than amassing lots of items quickly,’ says Niki. ‘Scour second-hand and antique stores for meaningful items that bear the beauty of a past life and yet are still in perfect working order. Items such as these as well as family heirlooms will feel more meaningful and you'll enjoy them more knowing they tell the tale of a past life.’
As she goes on to explain, saving up for a coveted design classic over time will hold more value when you finally have it in your home. ‘If you do decide to invest, opt for timeless, beautifully crafted classics that you'll never tire of that will stand the test of time, and give them plenty of space in the room,’ she adds.
4. Combine form and function where possible
One trend you’ll notice across all of Scandinavia’s designs is the harmony between form and function. This means investing in items that hold a practical purpose as well as an aesthetic one to maximize their utility.
‘It's natural to collect small items over time that are purely aesthetic, and that can bring lots of joy to your life on a daily basis when arranged on a shelf or side table,’ explains Niki. ‘However, for larger items such as chairs, sofas, tables and lamps, try to ensure that they are aesthetically pleasing and practical too. A multifunctional, smart piece of furniture such as a sofa bed with storage, table with folding or extendable leaves, or lights with dimmers will make each item go further, meaning you'll need less!’
There’s always room for the odd trinket that exists for no reason other than to look beautiful and bring you joy, but to maximize value, make sure larger furniture items in your Scandi living room have practicality at their heart, too.
5. Let ‘Hygge’ influence your organizing
Hygge is a Danish term that refers to a quality of coziness, and it’s just what we’re all looking for during this hunkering-down season. The idea of curating a sanctuary space that makes you feel warm, relaxed, and safe spans every Scandi culture, and professional organizers love to use it to influence their decluttering techniques, too.
‘Hygge is more of a scandi design term, but I love using its principles in organizing,’ says Melissa. ‘It’s all about coziness, relaxation, and simplicity. Think storing big fluffy blankets in a basket, keeping candles neatly corralled for cozy evenings, and spending quiet time at home with friends.’
To make your home more Hygge in the context of organization, buy big baskets for your spare pillows and throws, invest in beautiful earthenware candle holders, and neatly stack your firewood in the corner of your room. You'll be on the path to a more Scandi way of life in next to no time.
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Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.
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