Katharina looks for small but cheerful moments in the everyday and focuses on how to enjoy and celebrate them. The term ‘home’ plays a crucial role in our everyday life and that is why she is here to share her thoughts about the importance of ‘Heiterkeit’ (German noun for cheerfulness/joy) at home as well as how one can add heiter to their own four walls.
The interpretation of heiter is very personal and can mean something entirely different to you than it does to me. My associations with heiter is creativity, community, living by my values and well-being; the latter being directly linked to my definition of home. When I was younger, I felt like I didn’t fit in. With my creativity, interest in fashion and wish to make a space look beautiful (not just practical), I was an outsider in the traditional and conservative world I grew up in. As an introvert I found it hard to relax in an environment that was all about opening up the home for other people and putting their needs first. I was constantly stressed and tired. I longed for a space that made me feel safe and gave me the freedom to truly be myself. I wished for a place to wind down and recharge my batteries, a place that inspired me. I hoped for a home filled with Heiterkeit.
In my late teens and twenties, I began to move around. I lived in student halls, a tiny room above Italian vineyards and shared flats in London. They were neither big nor were they necessarily places you would find in interior magazines, but I was independent and managed to turn them all of them into something that made me feel at home. With every single one of them I created a space I felt joyful and protected in, even if I didn’t have a lot of tools to work with.
Based on my experience, I was not surprised when I read The Good Homes Report 2019. According to the Happiness Research Institute, our homes have a big impact on our happiness, even more so than employment, money and physical health. Another good example of that is the situation our society has been faced with since the beginning of this year. Like everyone else in the world, my husband, son and I didn’t leave our little house for several weeks. Yes, it was hard at times as we missed seeing our extended family and close friends but overall, we enjoyed the sense of peace and slowness that came with staying at home. It gave us more room to bond and grow as a family. Not only did we have time to talk and enjoy meals together, but also the opportunity to be more creative, do the gardening we’d been wanting to do for a long time and simply just let our minds rest. Our home felt more like a sanctuary than ever before.
My husband had grown up a bit of a nomad himself and that is why we wanted to continue the tradition of living in different places, turning them into homes together. Every time we moved to a new house, we made sure that it told a story, the story of us and the countries we had lived in. We were determined to create homes that gave us the opportunity to relax and let us celebrate heiter moments. Let me tell you more about how we have achieved that below.
How to add heiter to your home
No matter what my husband and I choose for our home, we make sure it tells a story. We recently rearranged our bedroom and added some pictures to the room. The pictures we chose all have a personal meaning to us. They remind us of our honeymoon, my mother-in-law’s Dutch roots and antique hunting on our travels. The same goes for furniture and decorative items – some of these ‘worldly goods’ were passed down from our grandparents, some found at flea markets, and others are treasured keepsakes from our wedding. Wherever we look in our home, we see items that are an extension of us and our journey so far.
In line with our values
We try to own items we believe in. Firstly, this means that whenever we need to purchase a new item for our house we primarily look into sustainable options. We invest in antiques, second hand furniture & accessories as well as reusable goods (rather than single-use items). Secondly, we support small businesses, artisans and brands whose values are in line with ours when we invest in anything new to us.
Letting nature in
Nature is essential for us to feel grounded and lead a heiter life. We spend a lot of time outside and would like that to be reflected in our home, too. All rooms in our house are filled with plants of different sizes, we display nature finds, e.g. dried grasses, leaves, shells and on top of that, most items we own are made from natural materials. Another good way of adding some cheer to our everyday is freshly picked flowers from the garden or a field close by.
Nesting and resting
As mentioned above, our home is a place to rest and recharge our batteries. We have small corners to read, write and let the mind wander. We usually add blankets, cushions, and candles to them so that they feel particularly cosy. We have a comfortable yellow armchair in our sitting room which has been a loyal companion for years. It has travelled to Alice’s Wonderland and Green Gables with us, I sat in it when I came up with ideas for my first heiter events and it is one of my favourite places for my daily journalling.
Spending time as a family and with people we love is part of our interpretation of Heiterkeit. We don’t have a big kitchen table or a spacious patio, but both allow us to have dinners, outdoor breakfasts and catch ups over tea with friends. Sometimes we simply get a picnic blanket out and invite our loved ones to sit down in the garden.
Hopefully this might encourage you to add some ‘heiter’ to your own home. Take the time to think about how your home makes you feel and which items bring a sense of cheerfulness and joy to your life. I truly believe it can transform your well-being and your relationship with your space.