The weekend and the art of doing nothing

This summer, I have been working in a job which for the first time in years has no night-time or weekend work. It has been great. Once I have finished for the day and especially on a Friday, my time has been mine. I had made some plans for the weekends leading up to the summer, including a weekend away for my Wife’s Birthday, but otherwise each Saturday and Sunday was clear.

Inevitably, they did not end up that way, with decorating duties, tidying up after decorating duties, babysitting our nephews and visiting family, suddenly every weekend this summer was full, and there are still things we wanted to have done which are in hiatus. Clearly not every weekend was bad;we had a great day out with the nephews and it is always a pleasure to visit the family, but part of me still feels a little cheated when I return to work on a Monday morning having been busy and on the go throughout.

That is not to say I want to just sit and wile away my time, but finding a little space when nothing much is happening would be appreciated once in a while.

We have all had weekends where we find ourselves saying ‘I’ve done nothing’ when what we mean is ‘I’ve done nothing productive. Spending time lying on the sofa while the world passes you by is not a great use of time, but setting aside a little time to purposefully do nothing, now that is a different story.

The Dutch helpfully have a word for spending time doing nothing; Niksen. If you are a fan of the Danish concept ofHygge* or the Swedish idea of Lagom** then you may well have already heard of Niksen. Meaning to be in a state of purposefully doing nothing, what might seem like a strange and even lazy idea at first may actually be a powerful way for us to build a little tranquillity into our increasingly hectic lives.

Without knowing it, I have found myself practicing Niksenwhen I catch a spare moment. Not so much in the lazy sofa days, but when I have set myself aside some time, even briefly, to simply sit and experience the world around me. It does not happen often, and as I read this I can think of only two or three occasions, but I have certainly spent time actively doing nothing.

If I consider what I did when I did nothing, it seems important to set aside a specific amount of time, lest you find yourself at the end of the day saying once more ‘I’ve done nothing’. It also seems equally important to me to set aside a space away from distractions as well. There is no use in planning to do nothing when the kids, the dog, the neighbours and the plumber each traipse past you are you relax. I am sure I can find ten minutes this weekend when my Wife will be out of the house, and once the dog is having his mid-morning nap, the lounge will be mine for the practice of nothing.

While it may seem paradoxical, to do nothing well involves at least some preparatory work, and although you could just sit down where you are and stop, it might not be as beneficial as you would like.

So this weekend I have a plan. I am sure there will be the usual chores and cooking, and my lawn could do with (hopefully) a final mow before winter, but I also plan to find time for nothing. Ten minutes, just me, experiencing the world for no reason and with no expectation.

My weekend seems to be filling up again, but this time I will find space for nothing as well.


*The concept of Hygge has become increasingly popular outside of Denmark in the last couple of years. While not having a direct translation into English, it involves ideas of cosiness and comfort and bringing soft lighting, furnishings and food into the home to achieve this. If the increasingly dark nights fill you with dread, then Hygge might just be the idea you are looking for.

**Lagom is less well known outside of Sweden than Hygge is outside Denmark, but it is developing a certain following and fanbase. Lagom translates easier into English, meaning ‘just right’ or ‘moderate’, the word embodies the idea of having just what is needed in life, including food and possessions. Although not directly related to the declutter movement, it can certainly be seen along a similar vein.

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