Lagom: the Way of Goldilocks

Lagom is a Swedish word signifying just the right amount or proportion of something. (Not to be confused with mathom, which refers to old things suitable only for perpetual regifting.)

“Just right” is just what Goldilocks was looking for, and, I’d argue, just what we should be looking for ourselves.

The story of the three bears 1839 pg 30

Bigger is not always better; less is sometimes more. But then, sometimes less is actually less. I loathe the idea of being smothered in my own excess, but I don’t want to strip away the things I genuinely enjoy and which enrich my life. I am in search of “just right” (but unlike Goldilocks, I am not looking for it in other people’s houses while they’re out)!

Lagom is a wonderful concept, and the best thing about it, in my opinion, is that it isn’t prescriptive. It doesn’t say “this much”. It says “just the right amount” – which is different for different people. To illustrate the point, let us consider interior decoration.

For some, this is lagom: the minimalist look of utter simplicity.

Mauerbach 20110923 0059

I like the look, myself, but I don’t think I could actually live like that. For more than a day or two, anyway. Where would all the books go?
For other people, “just right” is more elaborate, or perhaps even a bit luxurious. Like this.

Government House Trendy Sitting Room (8415287951) (2)

And for some people, “just right” could be described as creative chaos. Again, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there, myself. Not with all those swords on the wall. Not after the earthquake we had last night…

The problem is, of course, that it isn’t always easy to know what constitutes “just right” for you. Sometimes you’ve just got to whip out a spoon and try that porridge.

Generally speaking, most of us in the Western world have got rather full bowls. If you’re staring indigestion in the face, don’t feel you have to clean your plate. Consider spooning some out – into the smaller bowl, or out the window if it’s gone all cold and manky.

Whether you’re considering possessions, portion size or anything else, follow the Way of Goldilocks and ask yourself: Is This Just Right?
What’s lagom for you?

Denslow's three bears pg 5

If you were wondering who the old lady in the top picture is, she’s Goldilocks! She was originally a nasty old woman – and she wasn’t even called Goldilocks for her first sixty-seven years in print.

June: a Sense of Abundance

This month proved a struggle, looking at abundance – primarily in terms of material abundance – when all I seemed to abound in was phlegm. Such Fun.

I think Julia Cameron is really on to something here: “For many of us, raised to believe that money is the real source of security, a dependence on God feels foolhardy, suicidal, even laughable.” (p.105)

Consider the wildflowers…

I was raised by two people who were most definitely dependent on God rather than money, and I still struggle with wanting to be financially secure all the time, not to risk having nothing to fall back on.

“We have tried to be sensible – as though we have any proof at all that God is sensible…”
“Snowflakes, of course are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two alike.” (p.107)

Wilson A. Bentley snowflake, 1890

Dare we dream that God has something better for us than we have at present? Not necessarily something easier, or safer, to be sure, but better?

Now, Cameron and I do differ in places. She characterises common belief as “Hard work is good. A terrible job must be building our moral fiber.” (p.106)

And you know what? I think hard work is good. I think a terrible job can build your strength, your endurance. I think I have become a better writer by having to struggle to write. I’ve had to ask myself – how much do I want this? I’ve had to develop discipline, and you can’t tell me that’s a waste of time.

Truck pull – no rope

But that doesn’t mean that the Dreaded Day Job is all there is, in perpetuity. People don’t keep going to school once they’ve passed their last exams. Soldiers don’t stay in basic training forever.

But here’s what scares me: once you leave training is when the work really starts.

And here’s another thought: your dreams and God’s dreams for you aren’t necessarily the same dreams (although they can be). But given a clash, God’s dreams are always better. And bigger. And scarier, because we don’t think we can do it, and he knows we can (with his help), and he’s just got to keep pushing us til we reach the place where we’re prepared to try.

An acorn may be content to become a modest shrub, but God will not be content until he has made it an oak.

You can’t out-dream God.

Cameron moves on to discuss the idea of creative luxury – not wallowing in plutocratic plushiness, but allowing yourself those non-utilitarian things which feed your soul. Things that make you feel rich in life – doesn’t have to be expensive. An old LP of great music. A monthly packet of chocolate biscuits. Really nice paper to write on, instead of a ratty old exercise book. A beautiful cup and saucer, second-hand.


I freely admit that I didn’t do most of the exercises this month. For some reason, this is the month with all the practical stuff in it. Go outside and find five interesting rocks. (I have bronchitis.) Find five flowers. (It’s winter. Plus I have bronchitis.) Bake something. (It’s winter in the kitchen too.)

Things that I didn’t do but still intend to once I recover: purge 5 old ratty items of clothing; send 5 postcards to friends you’d like to hear from; make some changes to the [cluttered, messy] home environment.
I can’t decide whether to go for this:

Home Library 2005

or this:

luther room

Dreaming too big? Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.

And DDJ – your days are numbered. Even though I don’t know the number yet. God’s got dreams…