Slow living: a beginner’s guide


Julia passed a topic my way a few weeks ago: What does slow living mean to me? It was a question posed by Emma, and pretty timely: slow living is my aim for 2015, and seems to be pretty du jour across the internet.

It’s a tricky concept to pin down, I’ve found. The phrase itself really resonated with me, but during endless reading in the autumn of 2014, I found myself getting increasingly confused. The Slow Food movement sort of makes sense by itself, but doesn’t translate to a whole lifestyle. (Similarly, I discovered the ‘whole 30’ was not, as I’d imagined, just about wholefoods. Coffee is a whole food, dammit!).

I love Kinfolk as much as the next instagrammer, but I was looking for more than just crumpled tea towels and linen aprons as an answer.

So 2015 has been my year for figuring out how to live more slowly, & for some reason, I started with Bev.

In a different lifetime, I shared an office with Bev. She was close to retirement age, sharp, savvy, and very very kind. I was young and foolish and looking back, really quite annoying, but that’s irrelevant here.
Bev once said something that has stayed with me since: she was glad she’d never learnt to drive, because driving meant people started rushing everywhere.
“Once you can drive”, she said, “you think  ‘oh I’ll pick x up on the way‘. ‘I’ll just drive over and do y‘. I’ll have time to do everything.”
When you have to walk or ride public transport, the world is bigger. Much more of your day is already taken up with the journey, and you do a lot less a result.
We all talk a lot about how the internet has changed our pace of living, but Bev’s thoughts on driving have stayed with me.
How would your life look different without that hurry? What would change if cars were suddenly banned?
I’d have to find childcare much closer to home, or keep Orla with me. I’d have to work from home, which I’m lucky enough to be able to do, but I’d also have to make time at least twice a week to walk – almost hike – to the shops. Instead of our usual daily grazing from supermarket aisles, we’d stagger home uphill with as much as we could carry, and make things last. The local veg and eggs we can get would stop being a novelty, and become our new convenience food.
I’d have more money, because it would be harder to spend it, and because I wouldn’t have a car sucking it up. I wouldn’t get to use my Audible subscription, but then I’d probably have time to read my actual books. I’d be fitter, without paying for yoga classes or pool time. I’d get more daylight, and see more of nature. I’d sleep a lot more.
It isn’t a perfect model, but it’s pretty good: slow living is making those sorts of changes by choice. 
If you’re anything like me, you’re now thinking ‘sounds great, but I just don’t have time’. In this magical world with no cars, the expectations on us would all shift: it would be perfectly acceptable to leave the office at 4 if you had to trek eight miles & milk a cow before tea.
We can still make that shift in our own lives, though. Living slowly means stopping the glorification of ‘busy’; realising that the stuff we do when we aren’t working or doing chores is the stuff that really matters – the actual living of life.
Perhaps it’s living here, in a village still bearing the marks of the Industrial Revolution, but work/life balance is on my mind a lot these days. I think about the work ethic so instilled in us all – that we’re lazy if we don’t have a job, that too busy is the ultimate goal. That Protestant work ethic was vital in the mills that now lie crumbling around this village – poor people working hard, for every possible hour, then traipsing home through the mud for the few hours of comfort at home, or at the pub, that their wages bought. That never-ending cycle of need and work.
If we needed less, we could work less. & somewhere in there, all my talk of ‘slow living’ and ‘minimalism’ meet. I was so busy chasing things to make me happy that I’ve been forgetting to actually feel that happiness.
That busy=important ideal is still pervasive in society; we see it in the treatment of benefit recipients and stay-at-home parents, in the suggestion that blogging isn’t hard enough to be ‘a real job’. And aside from the fact that, it saddens me to report, what I do now is just as challenging & time consuming as any other job I’ve had, this shows our utter foolishness: we’ve been tricked into thinking that all work, & no free time, is the ultimate goal. 
 Slow living is a huge concept – too huge for a single blog post – but it can also be present in the smallest of moments. It’s refusing to iron the bedsheets, only to crumple them again (unless you love freshly ironed bedsheets, in which case, its ironing them 😉 ). It’s guilt-free pyjamas till 2pm. It’s making a mess on the kitchen floor with your toddler without mentally cleaning it up as you play.
Illogical as it sounds, I’m finding living slowly means accepting that life is short, & our moments are speedily ticking by. It is remembering not to waste those precious seconds, and all of our eye-watering first-world privilege, on anything we wouldn’t choose – out of need or of want.

What does slow living mean you? Does it appeal to you or sound like total woo? Any practical tips?

PS. My dear IG friends Mel & Danielle have a slow living project going on Instagram, which you can find via here.
PPS Emma started up a couple of tags for this little series over there too – search #thisthingcalledslowliving and #findingtimeforslowliving over on Instagram.