Home office Hygge

 Eva-Maria Smith is the writer and photographer behind the blog House of Smilla. It is about hygge, slow living, simplifying and motherhood. www.houseofsmilla.com
 Eva-Maria Smith is the writer and photographer behind the blog House of Smilla. It is about hygge, slow living, simplifying and motherhood. www.houseofsmilla.com
 Eva-Maria Smith is the writer and photographer behind the blog House of Smilla. It is about hygge, slow living, simplifying and motherhood. www.houseofsmilla.com
 Eva-Maria Smith is the writer and photographer behind the blog House of Smilla. It is about hygge, slow living, simplifying and motherhood. www.houseofsmilla.com

The other day I posted impressions from my comfortable home office on Instagram stories which inspired me to write a whole post on it. 

While this may be most interesting for any creative working from home, I think anyone who has a desk in their house to call their own can get something out of it. 

When we moved into this rental I was upset for a bit that there is no space for a little office of my own. Instead I have a tiny corner in the spare room that also serves as our guest room, as well as my husbands office. Oddly, this has become one of the coziest corners in the home for me. In the past two years I have decreased my office space several times and turns out - you really don't need much at all anyways. 

So what makes the home office more hyggeligt, or more comfortable for me? After the poll on Instagram stories came back with 97% being interested in exactly that question I really started to think about it. 

Here are some of the things that I can highly recommend brining in to your office space:

Soft light. Here she comes with the candles again you may say. Yes, absolutely! Flickering candle light next to me is immediately bringing me a sense of calm and joy, but there's other light sources to consider. The light of my office lamp obviously provides enough light to help me see the work in front of me, but anything brighter than that I find irritating. What I absolutely adore about morning hours in my corner is the soft sunlight streaming in through the blinds, leaving a soft reflection of the tree outside of the window on my screen. 

Time. Ah - time! Who has ever enough of that? Currently I find myself particularly struggling to find time to write, edit and create at all. The kids keep me on my toes from dusk until bedtime. I used to work during nap time, but turns out my toddler is refusing naps more and more often. I also used to work in the evenings, but I try to limit this as well now, in order to make room for self-care, reading a book, painting and other creative pursuits to fill up the empty space within me, the creative vessel that has been drained throughout the day. So when I say bring time into your space I mean bring a set time, dedicated to concentrated work and a set intention. It is so easy to let the minutes slip away browsing the internet, or getting distracted by the sheer length of the to do list. So I try to come in with the intent of getting a task accomplished. I give myself  a realistic time-frame and then get to it. Time spent in my home office only leaves me satisfied if I step away with the feeling that I have accomplished something. Big or small. Also, if you can, arrange a fixed time slot with your husband, babysitter or any trusted care-giver, where the kids are taken care of and you can go work. My office has been my "me-time", my "retreat" one or two mornings a week, while a babysitter is in the living room playing with the little ones or taking them outside. For a while I thought it wasn't worth the investment, or that I couldn't make a return on that money spent on a sitter. Turns out, no matter how much professional work I get accomplished during that time - it is money spent on my well-being and my happiness and therefore it is absolutely worth the investment. I took me a while to get here, to accept help (well, to hire help in my situation), but I'm glad I'm finally here.

Inspiration. How does one find inspiration? Sometimes it finds you. And sometimes, we have to go look for it. It is inspirational to me to be sorrounded with beautiful things in my office space. Personal photos, that make me smile and fill my heart. A wonderful macrame wall hanging that a dear friend gifted me. The magazines, that have my published work in them, to give me a sense of achievement. The beautiful calendar I received from a wonderful Instagram friend. Library books, magazines, a framed quote, snippets and torn out pages from old mags...whatever inspires you is good to gather around. Don't decorate your home office space for "style" or "trend" or according to some wonderful images you have seen on Pinterest. Fill it with things that mean something to YOU, because those are the things that will ultimately inspire you most. 

Coffee/Tea/Water/Wine. Or all of the above. I regularly start a whole collection of empty cups and glasses on my desk. It is nice to have something to sip on while I work. Black coffee to start out. Tea throughout the day. Water to hydrate and rejuvenate. Wine to end the days work. 

Your partner. In our old house we used to have separate home offices and while I enjoyed the vast space to call mine, I realized quickly, that when we retreat to our "offices" after dinner (my husband was working on his degree at the time) we never see each other. Ever since that realization hit me, we have our office corners in one room together. We work quietly side by side. Typically we don't talk to much, or at least try not to interrupt one another when we are really concentrated. However, it is so wonderful to share a quick laughter, something inspirational we have just read, or something that is bothering our soul in between tasks. It is also nice to feel each other's presence and fill the room with the warmth between us. You can work quietly side by side and still feel very much connected. 

Then of course there are things, I'd strongly encourage you to leave out of your home office:

Noise. Whatever you do, don't bring noise into your office space. And by noise I mean something entirely different for everyone. For me, noise is anything that distracts me, has me feeling unsettled, or nervous, or simply bothers me. While I enjoy calm tunes during editing, I could never write a word with background music. You however might thrive with Mozart blasting out of the speakers. What we count as "noise" and "distraction" is surely very individual. I enjoy the quiet. Quite literally. I adore just sitting here with only stillness and the clacking of the keyboard. You should drown out anything that you consider "noise". 

Kids. Granted, this one isn't always possible. And sometimes, when they are older, or still very tiny, or of a more gentle kind, it may work out having them next to you playing while you work. But once they start yanking on cables, tapping on your keyboard, demanding you pull up a cartoon on youtube, turn off the printer, then turn it back on, or simply start screaming in the background you know it is time, to go play and return later. Having my toddler or baby in the office run wild is unfair to me and my work and my creativity. Truthfully, it is also wildly unfair to my toddler and my baby to just sit there while you stare at a screen. 

Clutter. I'm a very tidy person. I hate clutter. Stuff, that I don't need right now, as I'm writing this, just distracts me and puts my mind elsewhere when really it needs to be here with me. Now, with that being said, it does happen, that my desk will show somewhat of "creative chaos" that only makes sense to me. Generally, I do believe though that offices are a great place to start simplifying. You really only need one or two great pencils/pens, the notebook you love, your planner and your electronics to get to work. Get rid of pens that don't work, old bills, junk mail, any access that won't help your process along. 

Self-doubt. This is by far the hardest thing to lock out of the creative space. That sneaking feeling of "you are not enough". It often comes uninvited and brings along friends like "comparison", "envy", "frustration". When they move in for an office party, they usually leave you uninspired and depleted. The famous quote goes "Comparison is the thief of joy" and it really is. Some days I have a hard time with that, but I'm working on it. Sometimes, depending on my personal mood, it may seem that everyone else and their house cat is not only kissed by the muse, but heavily making out with it. It is easy to fall into thought patterns like "how did he or she come up with this" "why is everyone else a darn genius while I sit here with no ideas left", "how did he or she find the time to do all that", "Why didn't I think of that", or the worst "I will never be as good as...". I'm working on the acceptance that right now is a very full time of my life. My children need me and I don't want to miss out on their tiny moments. My husband is going through a massive career change that comes with long hours and big commitments. I simply won't be able to do it all. And that is ok. I need to focus on what is most important to me and then concentrate on that. So what, if I only have one new blog post a month, when it is the one that I was passionate about writing. So what, if I only have one photo client this month, but it was the most inspiring session? I think we all need to take the pressure off of ourselves a bit. There's always more to be done and there's always bigger ideas. And maybe, if it is the right ones they will wait for us to come around. 

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Hello, new year

 www.houseofsmilla.com blog about motherhood, hygge, slow living and minimalism. 

Hello, new year said our holiday card this year. Not because I'm the grinch who stole Christmas, but because it was the design that spoke to me the most. 

I also didn't plan on writing another post on new year resolutions/plans/ambitions/dreams, but then I opened up this blog template and it just came pouring out anyways. Last year, this post went something like this "...don't stress out, practice more hygge, see if it can make you happy". To read the full story you can click here. It is mid December as I'm re-reading last years words and I feel a slight sense of accomplishment, but mostly I feel that I fell short. I did add more "hygge" to my daily life. The first few weeks with Winter particularly, I slowed down and swam in a sea of newborn bliss. Then, the move happened. I told myself last year, whatever happens in 2017, don't loose your mind, don't loose yourself during this year of transition. And what happened ? I may have just lost my mind a little bit. Or in more self-loving, respectful words - I just haven't found my rhythm in this new Texas life of ours.

There are days, that I feel totally content, secure in my mothering, utmost happy in my marriage and everything from lighting a candle first thing in the morning, to a wonderful steamy homemade meal in the evening is just great. Mostly though, I am mourning the times that could be spent with our friends and family back in Germany and I mourn, that despite my best effort (and you really can't say I haven't tried) I just haven't found a deep, meaningful connection here. For someone who thrives on social contacts, that's not good at all. Chatter at the playground is nice, but it only goes so far towards greater happiness. My children are wonderful, they are my life - but as any mother will tell you, to talk all day about fairies and legos and animal noises just doesn't mentally stimulate you in the long run. I have a hard time adjusting to the climate and the fact that there are no seasons. After all, it's intentional living in the rhythm of the seasons that fulfills my heart. I feel for my husband, who has to deal with my changing moods on top of his stressful new career and the fact, that he hasn't quite found is rhythm either. On top of it all the nagging question: was it worth it? Will it be worth it?

The answer of course is, most likely, yes. Until I get over myself though and find real contentment in our new life, I need to stop being so hard on myself. I need to focus even more on the things that we have, the countless things we can be grateful for. 

Hello, new year says our holiday card. It also says:


I put that on there, because it matched the photographs I had picked so nicely. I thought it was smart and fresh. Just the perfect little message coming from us. A little bit more original maybe, than your standard "and a happy new year". 

Not until I received the cards in the mail did I realize, that, from an unconscious place, I prescribed myself exactly what I need for the new year. Turns out, I don't think I put that on there for you. I put it on there for me. 

DRINK GOOD COFFEE (continue to gain more knowledge on craft coffee // keep watching my handsome husband experiment with his brews // sit down together and analyze the taste, developing our palate one sip at a time // mainly, join together in conversation at our table // invite others to join us // togetherness.)

GET OUTSIDE (the Texas heat sucks // but I need air to breathe // the kids NEED room to roam // seek out places that fill our soul // find that wildness tonic )

READ ALL THE BOOKS (unplug // nourish your mind // stop feeling sorry for myself for not knowing about the ways of the world, but educate myself // remember how good written words makes you feel and soak it in // screens off)

GET SOME SLEEP (whenever you can, take a nap // the things I think of as important aren't nearly as important as my sanity // go the f to sleep // you need it mama // I will never feel good in my skin, if I keep up this sleep deprived mess that I am)

So without knowing it at first, I made some resolutions after all. Did you? 

p.s.: I wrote the draft for this post in mid-December. It is the first week of January now and oddly, with the new year came a sense of newfound positivity and cheerful outlook on the months to come. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep these energies flowing and make 2018 a happy one. 



On my nightstand {December}

house of smilla

As one of my goals for next year is to just take the time to read some books, I want to share on the blog, what I'm currently reading. So this is what is currently on my nightstand:

What falls from the sky by Esther Emery

Esther Emery was a successful playwright until she went through a personal and professional crisis and found herself in a new location, in a mending marriage, with little kids at home and decided something had to be done. She logged off. Completely. No internet for one year. In doing so, she learns valuable lessons and reconnects with God.

I was really intrigued by this book, as I think her experiment is sort of radical and kinda wonderful. So far I'm really enjoying this book, for the off-the-internet part. However, I do find, that the book turns out to be more about her reconnecting with her faith, than anything else. While I can follow her journey with interest, I can't fully grasp it. I think, if you find yourself on your own spiritual journey with the Christian faith this book is beautiful. For someone like me,  with a more secular lifestyle, it may be too much religious talk at times. I wish I would have found out more about her very interesting upbringing, her marriage and her day to day without the internet. 

All in all, I will still recommend this book for a cold winter day. Great shoutout to the person designing the cover! You had me brewing coffee and nestling in a soft blanket as soon as I set eyes on it. Maybe that's it: I was lured in by this amazing cover and was slightly let down by its content. 

How to Hygge by Signe Johansen

Another hygge book for my ever-growing collection. Johansen's book offers a little bit of everything. From an introduction to hygge, to the joy of pika, to recipes and resources. While it may not become my favorite book on hygge it certainly cheers me up and entertains me and the best part is - it is light. You can enjoy it in small pieces between naps and diaper changes. 

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

"Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant, in the blink of an eye, that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work, in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?"

My husband has read all the Gladwell's a while back and told me bits and pieces here and there. He quotes his works at dinners and christmas parties and I figured it is finally time to see for myself what the fuss is all about. 

I've only completed the first chapter but I'm already hooked. I guess, my instinct tells me this is going to be good.

There's no such thing as bad weather by Linda Akeson McGurk

I just finished listened to this as an audio book and I very much enjoyed it. Linda is a swede, married to an American, living in the Midwest and wondering "where are all the kids?". She compares the outdoor mentalities of Scandinavian and American parents and explores the benefit of taking the little ones outside. 

As a German, married to an American, living in Texas and wondering "where are all the kids?" - this was a listen right after my own heart. Highly recommend for any parent!

What is on your nightstand right now? Always looking for recommendations! Leave your suggestions for me in the comments. Thank you!