little birdie

Blog

Slow Living - Values & A Simple Living Plan

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home
— Edith Sitwell

In case you have been wondering where I am (and big thanks to all who sent me emails and social media messages asking if I was okay!) but I chose to blow off January. Why? Well, firstly it is a month I loathe. The car has it's MOT and service, the self-assessment tax form has to be filled in, it's cold, it's icy, it's dark, Spring feels like an age away. And this year to top off the January highlights I ended up with two flat tyres, one after the other. Or rather two tyre valves that broke one after the other and with a car that doesn't need a spare wheel, no way of doing an emergency fix to get to the nearest garage. So that was fun. The second reason I wasn't around was because of freelance work committments and my next feature for 91 magazine is out very soon. You can sign up to receive the free e-zine featuring my piece on Becca from Nook of the North and her home by clicking here(image top right is Becca's living room - isn't it lovely? image top left is my new hanging book/magazine basket I bought from here).

January is also the month when everyone seems to declare their intentions for the year ahead. Usually it's a word that embraces what they want to achieve for themselves or how they want their business to grow. And that's great if it's the way you want to motivate yourself and I have done this before too. But I find myself more and more taking a step back from these things, opting for a quieter, simpler, slower way to achieve my goals. Taking my cue from the Edith Sitwell quote above I wanted to spend my January at home as much as possible,  I wanted to feel warm, peaceful and content. I took some time to really think about what I wanted this coming year to be like and most importantly how I could ease myself into a life that sits happily alongside my hopes and goals for the future. 

Over the last few weeks and particularly in the days following Christmas, the blog post I wrote early last year on 'What Slow Living Means To Me' got a lot of traffic. I imagine it's because that frenetic period got many people thinking about slowing down and simplifying and looking for answers to some pretty big questions. That post is one of my most popular posts ever which I'm super proud of and pleased about as I know that many have the wrong impression about living slowly from what they see in magazines or from social media. I think it's important to stress that you don't need to move to the countryside, grow your own vegetables or carve your own cutlery from the forest to live a slow life, it's simply about living a life with purpose. You can live a slow life in the city, in a town, in a village, in a caravan, on the Moon, wherever you are. I'm happy for now to live in the city but it is our long term goal to move to a town closer to the Yorkshire Dales as we love to walk and explore that area. This coming year I want to write more about our simple and slow living experience, the good things and the bad as it's a subject that is close to my heart. Now in a world that seems completely nuts it is essential to enjoy the little things and those moments that offer genuine pleasure. 

I've been thinking about the things that are important in my life, contemplating our future and how I'd like it to be for my family. It's also crossed my mind that future generations need to be considered more than ever and we really should be focusing on making big changes to pass on to our children and their own offspring. I couldn't quite put my finger on how to sum this up when I stumbled upon an old podcast episode on Slow Home. Brooke and Ben discuss their 'values' and how they affect their choices and actions on a day to day basis. I'd listened to it originally last year and must have stored it away in my brain for later use as it suddenly came to me that I'd heard something that felt connected to how I was feeling. Re-listening to them chat about this topic was exactly what I needed to get fingers to keyboard and capture my own thoughts and ideas. So here they are - my values -  health, considered living and happiness. I've broken them down into chunks that I've listed below. My plan is to write once a month on how these values affect my day to day living and align with my intentions for the coming year. I've written up a plan and a budget for each month of the year too (I haven't gone into my husband or moody teen's things to buy other than for household items) and you can see the list for the first few months of the year at the bottom of the page. I find it helpful to write a list and tick it off when I accomplish something and I always have a Pinterest board for items of clothing or things for the house that I want to buy. (If you are looking for tips to stop you shopping and spending have a read of my Simple Home - How to Shop post here.) 

My Values - 

Health  - Over the last couple of years I've put a bit of weight on and I haven't felt comfortable with this at all. I've gone up a dress size and could easily find myself going up another if I didn't make the decision to change. Hitting my mid-forties this year also means that it gets harder and harder to lose the weight if I don't get more active now. It's not only about fitting in my clothes, it's also about feeling stronger in myself, something that I'm definitely lacking. The threat of osteoporosis in middle age is something to consider too, so my goal for this year is to move more, eat better and get stronger. I've already started with this as I'm currently doing Louise Parker's Transform  - a six week programme that revolves around thinking succesfully, living well, eating beautifully and working out intelligently. In little under two weeks I've already lost over two inches of fat in key areas - tummy, bum and thighs. It is a high protein, low carb approach to eating which I was a little concerned about as I love my pasta and potatoes but I truthfully haven't missed them at all. The super cherry bircher for breakfast is one of the nicest breakfasts I've ever eaten and it fills me up for the entire morning. The book 'Lean for Life' is great and has lots of recipe ideas but not so many for vegetarians or vegans so I've adapted a few of our own planned meals using courgetti instead of pasta and cauliflower rice instead of actual rice. I've slightly adapted the exercise plan to suit me as I have problems with weight bearing exercises on the knees, so instead I'm supplementing with Yoga With Adrienne's Sensitive Knee programme on YouTube alongside walking over 10,000 steps a day. After the six weeks 'Transform' period is over the idea is to continue on an 80/20 diet, so 80% of the time you aim to eat high protein, the remaining 20% allows you to bring in a few treats like pasta, potatoes and bread. My goal is to stick to this as much as I can. But don't worry, the occasional cake will still crop up on here as I won't be giving up on the baking forever! I also plan to eat more plant based meals and cut back on the dairy products. Essentially I need to look after myself better. 

Considered living - This is simply a reflection of what I want my home, my wardrobe and my life choices to be. It's about living simply, responsibly and making positive choices for my family and future generations.  I've divided them up below: 

Home - I want to get stuff done and ticked off the big to-do list in my house. I also want to make sure that any purchases are 'considered' and necessary. This means choosing quality items with good eco credentials that fit with my personal design goals. My other plan for my home is to get more organised. Over the past couple of years we have been slowly decluttering. If we have to move I want to be able to simply box up items and go, not have a massive chucking out session for weeks before. I'm lucky that my husband wants to do this too but with the moody teen it's harder as he definitely has hoarding tendencies. With his GCSE's coming next year, it's more important than ever that his room is as clutter free as possible and his six foot tall frame needs a new bed to sleep in rather than the current bunk beds he has. I'm looking at ways to improve storage in every room of the house, a must really as it's a small home. So for each month I've listed which job needs to be done or purchase I need to make.  I also want to learn properly about making my own cleaning products instead of relying on supermarket buys. 

Zero waste living - Like many others I hope to cut down on plastics this year. I was happy to find Bea Johnson's 'Zero Waste Home' in the library over the New Year period and took it home, eager to get started on my zero waste journey. Yet it made me feel completely overwhelmed by all the ways to reduce plastics and waste in my home and much of it I couldn't relate to it at all - take pillow cases to the baker and get them to pop your freshly baked baguettes in them? Seriously? I have no good baker near my home and I can only imagine what the staff at Morrisons or Asda would make of me asking them to put a loaf of bread in a pillowcase. There are plenty of good tips, don't get me wrong, it was just not what I needed to get me started. Instead I've decided to keep things simpler and am making one positive change each month this year which should hopefully build up to be twelve changes that are achievable and become part of everyday living. 

Wardrobe -  I already have a paired down wardrobe and only have twenty items in it. Some of these are starting to get shabbier and will need replacing over the next few months but others are fine but I need to take care of them a little better - you know, polish shoes, dry clean my winter coat, that kind of thing! I don't really shop for clothes anymore and it's not something I enjoy at all these days (which is funny when I think back to the mountains of stuff I used to have and the delivery man knocking on the door with more several times a week, ahem). Now I shop less but choose better quality, buying vintage or second hand whenever possible. I also want to support more ethical brands. I have a list of things I have to buy for the next couple of months but only what I absolutely need and I will be looking at spending a little more on basic items like jeans and jumpers than I previously would have done. Simply it's buy less, buy better. 

(I've created a Considered Living - Home board over on Pinterest if you are looking for some inspiration for storage ideas, natural cleaning and other ways to simplify at home).

Happiness - it goes without saying that we are all looking to be happy and healthy. Yet, often we're not for so many complicated reasons. Deep down I know there have been years where I haven't felt happy and that buying more stuff was the way I overcompensated for this. It's funny how letting go of possessions has calmed me so much and not even being interested in buying  things has actually brought me joy. But one thing I know that doesn't bring me joy or happiness is social media. I gave up Twitter at the beginning of 2017 and I don't really miss it and I've decided to not use my personal Facebook anymore (I'm keeping the blog page active though as I know there are a few of you that visit here through that channel). Instagram has sadly also lost it's appeal and I haven't updated my account there for weeks as it feels too fake, too 'professional' these days, I don't want to spend hours everyday watching stories or highlight reels and I'm so tired of all the selling but for now it stays. I'm simply not going to post very often. Instead I want to devote more time to writing here again as taking proper photographs and writing these blog posts make me happy. The other plan is to watch more movies at the cinema - I love film, yet over the years have lost the joy of visiting the cinema. Most films I've been to see have been family friendly affairs, endured rather than enjoyed with the accompanying rustling sweet wrappers, talking and people using phones throughout. Now, once or twice a month I go to the cinema by myself on a weekday morning to enjoy new films, taking in a single cup of coffee and sitting with a small audience that actually want to watch the movie. It makes me blissfully happy to sit in the dark and be captivated by a story. 

Towards the end of February I'll detail how I got on making these simple changes and ticking things off on the to-do list. Maybe you'd like to work on your values  and see how you can include them more in your day-to-day living too? I'd love to hear how you get on. x

February

Home: Buy and put up wallpaper in bedroom. 

Wardrobe: Buy new trainers to replace ones that have a hole in the sole. 

Get organisedClean out kitchen cupboards and gather/buy glass storage jars. 

Zero waste living -  Switch from once a use plastic bottles to eco friendly water bottles for packed lunches. 

March

Home: Re-paint moody teen's room including woodwork. 

Wardrobe: Buy new jeans to replace shabby ones. 

Get organised - Buy under bed storage for duvets and bedlinen. 

Zero waste living - Switch to bulk buying nuts, seeds and spices from the market. 

April

Home: New desk for moody teen's room to increase space for study. 

Wardrobe: Buy two new shirts/tops to replace shabby ones. 

Get organised - Install wooden hooks in bathroom to hang more towels on. 

Zero waste living - Switch from plastic toothbrushes to eco friendly bamboo versions.