While living a slow lifestyle is usually associated with a lack of ‘things’ it is perhaps inevitable in our modern society that certain tools will be required for any way of life. For me, it’s all about choosing the right tools so that I’m not left with things I don’t need or really want.
This decision making process didn’t happen overnight, and even today I can still be tempted when I see new and exciting products on the market that profess to cure all sorts of ailments or solve your problems. A few years ago, temptation proved too difficult to withstand and after university I ended up carting to my new home an exercise bike, bread maker and electronic keyboard, with plans for a new car, laptop and more exercise equipment. I thought that choosing these ‘things’ would help me to achieve a way of life that I thought I desired: a life where I’d cycle for an hour a day (in my living room) and use gadgets to avoid spending any length of time in the kitchen. And for what? Solitary indoor exercise made me miserable, gadgets were expensive space fillers and I’d spent far too much money on things I thought were what I needed. Sound familiar?
My ‘everything-clicked’ moment of realisation that this wasn’t what I wanted at all was when we were preparing to move house. I looked at the piles of ‘things’ ready to be shipped to our new home and didn’t feel connected to any of it. In my quest to fit in with what everyone else was doing I’d lost any concept of what I loved and what made me unique. I think sometimes it can be a scary and intimidating process to admit that what you want to do with your life, and how you want to live your life, is so very different to those people around you. I didn’t want any of what they had, but I didn’t know how to escape it.
Aptly, I started slowly and gradually reduced my reliance and acceptance of the way things were. I ditched the gadgets and got rid of anything that I didn’t love and that didn’t make me happy. Although initially daunting, it became a liberating process. Don’t be misled into thinking that I fully embraced the maxims of minimalism: there was no way I’d ever get rid of my piles of books, but that was the whole point – instead of finding no time to read the books (the things that actually did make me happy) I’d created a new lifestyle in which books took centre stage and I had prioritised the ‘tools’ that I found both useful and joyful.
Without further ado, then, here are my essential tools for slow living:
- A calendar and weekly planner. “What?” I hear you cry, “isn’t this supposed to be slow living, you know, without complications and extra work?” You’re right, it is, but the crux of living more slowly is using your time efficiently. Time isn’t endless, and we will always desire more of it, so making sure to prioritise and schedule in time for doing what you love is essential. My job could take up twelve hours a day if I let it, so using a planner to ensure this doesn’t happen is a vital part of being able to live life in this way.
- Preserving jars and freezer containers. You don't have to turn into Delia Smith overnight to reap the rewards of eating with the seasons and thinking ahead to prolong the enjoyment of certain foods. Since slowing my life down I've made jams, jellies, chutnies and cordials, despite having no prior experience, and aiming to have a fully-stocked larder (ideally with homemade produce) makes it so much easier to enjoy the process of cooking and eating food. Making huge batches of midweek favourites is also a good idea; spend an afternoon over a hot stove and you'll be able to fill your freezer for those days when cooking is the last thing on your mind.
- Inspiring books and magazines. There are days when I feel like everything is slipping. A lost list here, a panic over plans there and slow living can fly out of the window. Whilst I aspire to live slowly, seasonally and positively, there are inevitably moments when things start to crumble and it can be hard to pick yourself up. It's on those days that I find picking up an inspiring book or magazine can do wonders for my soul.
- Outdoor space (even if it’s just a windowsill) and a few pots. Slow living is all about taking the time to appreciate the natural world and all it has to offer, but that doesn't mean you have to live in the countryside. When I first started living more slowly my home was a tiny flat with no outside space whatsoever. But I still grew my own herbs (on the windowsill) and picked wildflowers for my bedside table. If you've got a tiny balcony or patio there's plenty of space for a few pots, and over the summer months a few seeds and the odd splash water will ensure you are self-sufficient in salad leaves.
Of course, there are many more tools that you could use on your path to living more slowly. We now own a polytunnel, for example, and I have vases and wreath bases and so on to allow me to bring nature into the home. Your creative outlet might require specific materials and products, or maybe owning a journal is an essential part of your routine. But if you don't have these 4 things, I've found from past experience that slow living can get a little caught up in everyday life and become impossible.