American Cozy by Stephanie Pedersen

So back when I shared my 2021 Reading Challenge list and showed off my “jar o’ prompts,” I mentioned that there were 2 categories I’d exempted from my randomizing system: the very first category (“In the beginning…”) and the category about “a book that you associate with a particular season”—the latter because I had chosen a book that went along with my ongoing love for hygge and things hygge-ish, and I was determined to read that book while we had snow on the ground.

Well, our recent end-of-January/early-February snowfalls created the perfect atmosphere for cozy, cuddly, hygge-reading. So here I am with a book review!

The front cover of a book:
American Cozy
Hygge-Inspired Ways to Create Comfort & Happiness
Stephanie Pedersen

I feel a little bit bad, though: I really wish I’d liked this book more than I did. ‘Cos I have every faith in Pedersen’s good intentions.

It’s just that her flavor of hygge really doesn’t do it for me.

Pedersen’s up front—at least to a degree—in presenting this book as her own “hygge-inspired” suggestions rather than as the authoritative guide on how to hygge-fy your life. (Except for those moments when she’s a bit over-authoritative on that score.)

Those moments of inflexibility and self-contradiction were one big turn-off for this book. In one chapter she talks about making sure you have board games close at hand in your living room (stored on your bookshelf, for example) for use with friends and family. Then, a few chapters later, when talking about entertaining, she talks about how Danish guests would be insulted if a host tried to pull out a game to play after dinner, rather than just allowing the natural brilliance of Scandinavian conversation to flow.

(First off, all Danish guests? Really? I have far too much faith in human variability to go along with that. And second off, are you not listening to yourself as you give contradictory pieces of advice, both of which are voiced with a little too much “thou shalt” in the energy.)

Ultimately, I think Pedersen is offering a very uniquely mish-mashed version of hygge, one that draws on her past history working with life coaching, Feng shui, and superfoods. All of these other threads of self-improvement frameworks end up seeping into her interpretation of the “Danish way.” And the resulting version of hygge the book advocates is one which has a whole bunch of casual fatphobia, a near-ubiquitous life coaching tool rebranded as “the Wheel of Hygge,”* and an inordinate emphasis (as far as I’m concerned) on minimalism.

No, no, and no. Though I gotta say that obsession with minimalism is probably my biggest disagreement with Pedersen’s approach.

As any of my Instagram friends can tell you, I can place my final break-up with Pedersen and this book to the paragraph. Because at the bottom of p. 99 appears this piece of advice on how to have a beautiful/hygge-fied kitchen.

Colorful magnets, kids’ artwork, coupons, bills, calendars, and so forth do not belong stuck to the fridge. Your kitchen will look cleaner, warmer, and more inviting if you find another place for these items.

Now, I’ll admit, we have a different system for bills and calendars so they haven’t been on our fridge for—maybe ever? But, as I stated on the ‘Gram,

You can have my colorful collage of sentimental magnets when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!

And I mean it.

An assortment of magnets on a refrigerator door. (Further descriptions of the magnets are in the blogpost.)
A second assortment of magnets on a refrigerator door. (Further descriptions of the magnets are in the blogpost.)

After I posted about this on Instagram and Mr. Mezzo saw it, we quite literally spent 15 or 20 minutes looking at all these magnets—and the ones outside of the camera frame—and reminiscing about the different memories and trips and experiences that they represented in our lives together. Disney. Cirque du Soleil. The Baltic Cruise. Kennebunkport. Skywalker Ranch. Red Sox and Sea Dog games. The university where my uncle used to teach. Hamilton. And then there’s the encouraging words that built up over the years as one or the other of us would, now and again, find a new inspiring magnet to add to the collage:

  • “Be your wild, courageous brilliant self every Single day”
  • “If I had a flower for every time I though of you, I would walk through my garden forever.”
  • “Live with intention.”
  • “YOU ROCK”

Now I understand the risks and costs of having too much clutter in the house. This is why I continue posting about my various efforts to address the hoarding-level clutter that I’ve built up along the way. (Here’s a random sample: One, two, three, four.)

But that refrigerator “clutter” up there? That to me is the epitome of cozy–comfortable, heart-warming, relaxing. It is as hygge as anything in our house could possibly be. And it’s no messier than some of the home decor from the more authentic book on hygge I read way back when:

So, yeah, I know which flavor of hygge speaks more to my heart’s tune. And I know which book I’ll keep on the shelves and which one I’ll putting in the Goodwill pile.

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*Puh-leez.

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Image credits: all photos taken by the author, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

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