Why slow living takes hard work
I've discovered many unexpected things about slow and simple living, but by far the biggest realization is that slow living isn't always easy, it actually takes a lot of hard work. My husband works in the NHS. He sets off early, around 6am, takes the bus and often does not get home until ten o'clock at night. During the day he travels from hospital to hospital in the North of England, sitting in horrendous traffic jams, covering hundreds of miles and if he's lucky he may have enough time to grab a quick bite to eat. Now, this isn't what most people would picture as slow living but no matter how busy he is, he still embraces the lifestyle. How? Well, when he takes a seat on the bus he doesn't scroll mindlessly through his phone, instead he uses the time to read a book. If he is in the office during the day, he goes out for a walk on his lunch break for some fresh air or he heads to the library to get more books to read. Rather than popping a ready meal in the microwave or buying a takeaway sandwich, on his days off or at weekends he spends some time preparing his meals to take for lunches. He makes falafel, salads and flapjacks from local, seasonal ingredients. All of these things help him to live simply and slowly during his busy working week.
If you browse through all the slow living hashtags on Instagram you'll probably see a lot of flowers, coffee, books and brown hues. And whilst these images are lovely and they represent a gentle way of life, slow living isn't that simple to pin down. Yes, it's about living a life of intention and deciding how we want to spend our time, but it's also about making choices to help make our lives better:
Money - it's easy to say yes to spending money. It's far harder to say no. Yet, it's really the answer to a lot of our money worries. Think about how you feel when the credit card bill pops into your inbox or drops through your letterbox. If it fills you with a fear of dread, gives you sleepless nights and worries about the future, then wouldn't you like those feelings to be alleviated? Imagine not having that pressure on your shoulders every month. It's a really good feeling. I used to hover around the letterbox every month waiting to grab that Visa bill out of the postman's hand before my husband could see it. Now, I don't have to do that and the fear has gone. But, it didn't happen overnight. It took hard work to get rid of my debt, to take control of my finances and to start saving. It all comes down to saying no. No to buying new clothing that I didn't need, no to expensive holidays, no to extra purchases for my home, no to meals out, no to so many things. Now, I can say yes to things without worrying about how I'm going to pay for it because the money is physically in my bank account before I make any decisions. Slowing down and simplifying doesn't mean depriving yourself, but it does mean making tough, hard decisions about how you spend your money.
Start small - create a monthly budget. Not very exciting I know, but if you can stick to it, it works brilliantly. There are lots of good budgeting apps around to help you keep on top of things. Stop shopping for things you don't need - when you are in Ikea, don't buy lots of little extras like candles, plants or crockery. When you are in the supermarket, take a list with you for your shopping and stick to it. Avoid shopping in your lunch hour where boredom often means you'll start buying and stay off online stores if you've had a glass of wine or two. You'll feel so much better when you stop yourself from purchasing stuff you don't really want or need.
Food - choosing good food that nourishes our bodies and minds is vital for everyone. Taking the time to shop for seasonal and local ingredients and then making something with them is an important part of slow living. Of course, it's far easier to get in the car and go to the supermarket or book an online delivery. It's even easier to stick a ready meal in the oven or the microwave than cook from scratch. Making the effort to go to a farmer's market, farm shop or deli is harder. Chopping, baking, roasting all take more planning and time. Yet, the benefits we get from shopping and eating this way are far greater than simply shoving a plastic box of lasagne in the microwave. We can support local farmers and businesses, we can use less packaging and we can eat produce that is freshly picked and full of flavour.
Start slowly - on a weekend or a free day visit your local farm shop, market, butcher, fishmonger etc for fresh ingredients and then spend some time in the kitchen with a plan to make extra. If you've got to turn the oven on, make double the amount to put in it. Freeze what's leftover for a quick mid-week meal. Make pesto with leftover herbs, roast a large tray of seasonal vegetables and toast some nuts and seeds to keep in the cupboard. All of these can be added to salads and pasta dishes, helping you to live simply and slowly on busier days.
Home - our homes should be the place we retreat to. It shouldn't be somewhere that stresses us out or overwhelms us with all the jobs that need doing. Making a home a simple, happy and comforting place takes time and effort. It's not about throwing money at the problem. It's about looking around and deciding what works and what doesn't. It's about coming up with a plan to turn your house into a home that you love. If you regularly read this blog you'll know I've been working on a monthly check list this year to tick off the jobs that I need to do in my home and any purchases I have to make. Working this way keeps me focused, prevents me from spending unnecessary money and I can see the positive outcome from making these changes. Before I was able to make these plans I spent time clearing out cupboards, drawers and my wardrobe. I sent bags of clothing, books, household items and toys to be donated, I sold a few things on Ebay and at car boot sales. I wish I'd counted how many things I got rid of, but it's certainly in the thousands. It's not finished, my home is very much a work in progress but that's okay. Getting rid of so many things has freed up space and time. Although, we haven't cleared the loft and I know there are boxes of stuff up there from when we moved into this house. Fifteen year old boxes of stuff we've never ever looked at. Ahem. But we'll get there and it'll just take a little more hard work.
Start slowly - spend some time thinking about what causes you the most overwhelm in your home. Is it cupboards full of stuff? Is it too many kids toys that are never played with? Or is it too many clothes in your wardrobe? Begin decluttering that one area in your home that you know could make life a little easier. Start simply by clearing a sock drawer, a food cupboard or the magazine pile.
I hope you find some of these tips helpful. Slow living isn't an easy, one size fits all solution and we all will find different ways to approach it. It takes patience, time and above all, hard work to get there, but it's totally worth the effort. x