‘The art of slow living is not in how much “free time” you have, but how intentional you are with that time,’ says Melanie Barnes, author of Seeking Slow. Creating boundaries around your time and allowing for time to be filled with activity but also entirely empty of plans or purpose is okay. Being intentional with your time simply means really valuing your time and consciously acknowledging how precious it is. Stop monetising your time, or measuring it with lists of achievement or activities. Instead learn to value it with a different set of criteria: happiness, fulfilment, peace, quietness, energy, love.
LET GO OF EXCESS
‘We have forgotten what it is to have less,’ says Brooke McAlary. Less stuff, less stress, less expectation, less to do, less to be, less to prove.’ If you’ve ever seen a picture of a classic ‘slow home’, you’ll notice they are often minimal, lacking in clutter, clean, pared-back. But they are not sparse or barren. Instead they are beautiful because they have been intentionally filled with things of importance and necessity. Excess in our homes and lives means more clothes than we can wear, more plates than we can use, storage solutions bought to hide our surplus of stuff, flatpack furniture built to last only a few years, duplicates of items bought on a whim. Take time to simplify your belongings by decluttering. And do it carefully: it is an ongoing process but one that you can tackle a little bit every day.
REJECT THE CULT OF BUSY
‘We know the world only through the window of our mind,’ says Haemin Sunim, author of Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down. ‘When our mind is noisy, the world is as well.’ The world will never slow down – so, instead, we must. Many of us are living beyond our means, chasing an endless round of to-do lists, saying yes to every invitation, taking on more responsibility. Add technology to the mix and it’s a perfect storm for burnout and depression. Instead, set boundaries with your time, including your time spent on social media and technology. Experiment with what works and ask ‘why’ when considering how to fill your time. Learn to differentiate between important and urgent, learn the difference between a task and a project, and do one thing at a time. ‘It’s remarkable to me how much slow living boils down to leaving spaces in our schedule where we’re all home and not just getting back from one activity or rushing off to another,’ says Watkins.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
‘By slowing down and creating space to understand the body-mind connection, and by listening to our bodies, we can live fuller lives,’ says Melanie Barnes. The body is a great instrument for measuring slow living. It will always ask you to slow down when you need to – and, if you learn to really listen to it, will tell you what you need when you need it, whether that’s to sleep, dance, laugh, eat, cry. It is easy to miss these messages when we are living without intention or pushing our feelings down because we are busy. But the benefits of getting better connected with your body include better health, an increased sense of intuition and stronger capacity for emotional intelligence.
BE CONSCIOUS IN YOUR CONSUMERISM
‘We’re mindful about what we purchase, looking first to reuse or repurpose what we have,’ says Julia Watkins. ‘When we do buy, we see what we can get secondhand or what’s been designed and made to last a long time by businesses that share our intentions and our values.’ Reducing our impact on the planet is a really important part of slow living and the way we shop and spend is a core part of that. Start by focusing on buying less and buying better, secondhand or vintage where you can, and identifying brands that support this approach. Think about packaging too, and try to reduce it where you can – create a packaging-free shopping kit with paper bags, jars, boxes and baskets to store foodstuffs and new items. Shop locally wherever you can, either on the high street or with local delivery companies. And prepare your shopping lists in a timely fashion so you have the capacity to source items from different places, rather than one big supermarket.
LIVE WITH THE SEASONS
‘Live in each season as it passes,’ wrote Henry David Thoreau. ‘Breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.’ Living with the seasons naturally slows us down and encourages us to spend time in nature. Seasons have an ebb and a flow. They don’t run full-pelt at life without stopping, and they feature time and space for things to rest, recuperate, grow, flourish and be nurtured. The more time you spend in nature, the more you will develop an affinity and love for the earth, which will help you to better look after it. Anna Carlile’s book Grounded is organised into seasons, featuring activities for each season that include things like growing herbs, making kefir, planting vegetables, foraging and indoor plants. It’s a great place to start if you want to connect more with nature and also start to eat, work and live more seasonally.
MAKE & MEND
‘Often I try to make something just for the chance to learn a new skill and cultivate a deeper understanding of what matters most to me,’ says Julia Watkins. ‘It sounds trite, but I thrive on the process more than the end result.’ Home-cooking, sewing, fixing, reusing and upcycling things are important parts of slow living. The less we consume, and the more we make and produce ourselves, the more we lessen our impact on the planet. The less we throw away, the less that ends up in landfill. What we can make ourselves never fails to be an opportunity to forge new connection to our food or to our community; while the things we reuse or repurpose give us a connection to our ancestors and our creative potential. And the more we make and mend, the more we learn and grow.
STRIKE A BALANCE
‘Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go,’ saysBrooke McAlary. ‘Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t. Grounded and free. Heavy and light. Organised and flexible. Complex and simple.’ There’s sometimes a sense that slow living is about perfection and organic home baking and having a beautiful, effortless home. But it’s actually much more about finding balance between a busy life and an empty one. Sometimes life can be demanding and busy. Sometimes there are challenges, disappointments and setbacks. But the point is to be thoughtful about the choices you make, for yourself and for your family.
WORK OUT WHAT’S IMPORTANT
‘There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to slow living,’ says Anna Carlisle. Slow living is just living mindfully, in whatever way that is meaningful to you. Once you’ve rethought your values, you’re ready to find and connect to your purpose.’ Focusing on what’s important is at the centre of slow living, because if you know what moves and motivates you, you can build a life of meaning and intention around that. If you value time in nature, find a way to get more nature into your life. Plant something. Start hiking. If you decide you’re all about friends and family, then organise dinners, weekly catch-ups or book clubs. If you think that environmentalism is important, recycle more, and mend your broken things. If creativity is important, find time to paint, and set aside a reading corner. ‘And, of course, you don’t have to have just one purpose,’ notes Carlile. ‘By doing less and doing it better, you can still “have it all”.’