Slow Living - Something's Gotta Give
This year we are not having a holiday. My husband works in a small team with people who have young kids and who have more pressing childcare needs than we do, so he takes his holidays from work at other times of the year when our son is at school. Our moody teen isn't too bothered about this as he doesn't really want to hang out with us during the summer anyway. So we're all okay with the summer being quiet and slow. The other reason that we won't be going away is simple - we can't afford it. We've spent the last year saving up to put in a new kitchen so our money is going to be spent on our home and not a holiday. At the hairdressers recently I was asked the inevitable question - 'are you going anywhere nice on your holidays?' and I answered with a polite 'no'. She seemed shocked until I explained that we were investing in our home and that was our focus. Then out came the truth that she didn't want to go on holiday either as she and her husband were hoping to move house. He was pressurizing her to go away but she knew deep down that they should really save that money towards moving. She couldn't get him to see that they couldn't really afford to do both. Yet so many of us live like this, some from fear of missing out, others because they think we are entitled to it and sadly, there are a lot of people who are worried about how they appear to others. I used to think like this - I spent money on clothes and possessions I felt others would admire. I didn't worry about the consequences - financial or the strain on my relationship. I just kept doing it because I thought it would make me happy and it would show the world I was successful. Thankfully, I learned from these mistakes and we spent several years putting our finances in order, living simply and we're now looking at a future that we can get excited about. The biggest realisation for me has been that you can't do everything and you can't have everything, life doesn't work that way. I've come to believe that one of the fundamental principles to living a slow and simple life is this, something's gotta give. You can do some things and not others. You have to choose which is better for you, your family and what fits with your values and long term goals. You have to make tough decisions and compromise on things, but in the long term, the positives far outweigh any negatives.
Think about going plastic free and switching to using a shampoo bar. You use it a few times and then realise your hair is horrid, greasy and like old rope. So what do you do? Continue looking like you've stuck your head in the chip pan or reach for a plastic bottle of shampoo from another natural beauty brand? I've been there and felt bad at giving up on the bar yet I now look at it from another point of view - I've still used a product that helps the environment and is non-toxic. I'm making the best decision I can that fits with my values but unfortunately I've still created some waste - something's gotta give.
Or how about if you need to buy some new clothes as the ones you have are shabby. You'd like to be able to purchase something handmade or from a more ethical source but it will take too long as you need it now or it's simply too expensive and you can't afford it. You’ve tried searching the charity shops and vintage stores but can’t find what you need. So you do what you can to live slowly and simply - you buy only what you need from a high street store or online retailer and you buy something that will work with the rest of your wardrobe. Yip, I've been there too, something's gotta give.
You've decluttered the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom but there are those cupboards or shed that you dread clearing out and keep putting off to another day. That's okay. You've done a lot already and there have been other jobs that you needed to complete. Heck, you painted the living room, the landing and the kitchen ceiling. You weeded the garden and went to the tip three times last weekend but you didn't declutter that cupboard - something's gotta give.
It's important not to feel bad about what you can't do and totally embrace what you can. If you are trying to adopt a slow life then it's a good idea to accept that you can't do everything and that a perfect life isn't attainable. The truth is that we are all just trying to do our best for ourselves, our family and homes. We have to make choices that sit alongside our values (I've written about mine here) and sometimes we have to compromise. It's also important to ignore how others see you - be who you want to be, spend or save your money they way you want to, follow your own path. Life is complicated: sometimes we are super busy, sometimes we get ill, sometimes we have to deal with tough situations but accepting that something's gotta give really helps us maintain our focus and keep us on the right track.
If you feel bad or deprived that you can't afford something like a holiday, focus instead on the little things that you can do that bring you joy. Visit the cinema, have lunch with a friend or browse in a favourite bookshop. My husband and I recently had a day off together and took a little trip to Halifax on the train. We went to have a look around the newly refurbished 'Piece Hall' and we were looking forward to it all week. Sitting outside in the sunshine, sipping good coffee (from Darkwoods in Huddersfield which I think is the best coffee in these parts) and chatting about life was all that we needed. We did buy a couple of books at the wonderful bookshop there as well as some handmade chocolates and it really is worth a visit if you are in the Yorkshire area. Simple pleasures.
And I know in a few months that I'll have my new kitchen to cook and bake in. Yip, I won't have had a holiday this year but there's always next. Something's gotta give but it's totally worth it in the end.