Your story. How did you become interested in slow living? Was there something specific that provoked your interest?
When our second baby was born in 2010, I was living a hectic, fast-paced, stressful life. I was desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses, trying to maintain the facade of having it all together, trying to cope with the pace of modern life when I was diagnosed with severe post natal depression. I was anxious and overwhelmed and exhausted, and as a result of the depression I started to see a psychiatrist. She asked me one day if I’d ever considered slowing down or simplifying my life a little bit, and while I initially was offended - I thought she was saying I was deficient in some way because I couldn’t cope with the pace of modern life - the idea stuck with me. I started by Googling “How do I simplify my life?” and discovered the minimalism movement. That was the beginning of it for me, and over time things have shifted from minimalism to slow living.
Tell us how you would define 'slow living'… what does it actually mean?
It’s about figuring out what is important in our lives and working to put those things at the centre of our life every day. It’s about quality over quantity, depth over breadth and finding contentment over endlessly wanting more. It’s about finding time to slow down and pay attention, and it’s about opting out of the busy-ness that we so often fall in to.
What have been the biggest outcomes you have been able to achieve now that you live a slower paced lifestyle?
Literally everything has changed in my life since we started to adopt a slower pace of life. My husband and I now both work for ourselves, and we work from home the majority of the time too, which has had a massively positive impact on our relationship and the time we spend together as a family. My mental health is better than it’s ever been and the anxiety and depression that used to be part of my life has gone. I’m a more engaged parent both physically and emotionally, and I laugh more, play more, explore more and adventure more. I used to wish I had time for all of those things, and over the past few years, small step by small step, we’ve been able to make them a reality by figuring out what to care more about and what to let go of.
We know you (and your family) love to practice yoga. How has the practice of yoga benefited you and your family?
The physical benefits of yoga have been enormous for me, particularly in terms of reducing tension and creating ease in my body, but the emotional benefits have probably been even greater, which I didn’t expect! Learning to turn up on the mat and let go of thoughts or ideas that aren’t serving me in any way has been a game-changer. Plus I love the grounding feeling that comes with starting my day with yoga. Sometimes it’s only a few sun salutations while I wait for the jug to boil early in the morning, but even that is enough to draw me in to the moment and pay attention to how I’m feeling.
What are the 3 biggest misconceptions and do you have any regrets?
I think people have a slightly simplified view of what slow living is, often believing it to be all about country living and baking our own bread and growing our own veggies. And it absolutely can look like that, but it also doesn’t have to. I know lots of people who’ve adopted a slower pace while living in the city, using public transport, shopping at farmer’s markets, living waste-free…It can look a multitude of different ways and I hope that as the conversation about slow living continues to grow we start to see different ideas emerging about what it means to live slowly.
In terms of regrets, I don’t really have any. I see all the forwards and backwards steps as valuable lessons and I’m glad of them! I guess sometimes I wish I had’ve discovered my why a little earlier as knowing what I’m working towards in life makes the tough decisions simpler to make. But I think even that needed time to percolate in the back of my mind. Things take the time they need to, generally.
It's well publicised that a few years ago you de-cluttered 25,000 items from your life. Tell me more about this, it just blows my mind!!
It sounds like a lot doesn’t it?! And I guess at the time it felt like a lot, as these were individual things I had to choose to keep or let go of. It was tough in the beginning, before my decision-making muscles had a chance to grow, but as I got better at letting go of things and as I realised I didn’t miss anything I’d decluttered, it became easier. I started by clearing out really tiny areas of my home (my purse, handbag, the car, medicine cabinet, toiletries, utensils drawer, junk drawer etc) and over time worked up to bigger projects like my wardrobe and the kids toys. I didn’t set out to declutter that many things, it was just the (unexpected) result of small steps every day.
We have many readers who have children which I’m sure are a little sceptical that the concept of slow living could even possible. How have you achieved this with kids?
I totally understand the working parent juggle, but interestingly it was my kids who taught me how to slow down and be in the moment. I noticed that they would always be in the present - whether that was stopping every 10 metres on a walk, checking out the ants and the flowers, or the sheer joy with which they’d play with each other - and I knew there was a lesson there for me too. I spent so much of my time trying to do everything for everyone, be everything to everyone, that I wasn’t doing any of it very well at all. Once I started to slow down and pay attention to what was right in front of me, I began to experience everything differently.
Can you give me your top 5 tips for getting started in this way of life, I am sure there are many reading this who love the idea but just don't know what steps to take or things to put in place to kick-start their own journey.
1. Figure out what is most important to you in life. I started by writing my eulogy, but even if you spent some time asking yourself what you want life to look like, what you want your legacy to be, it will bring in to perspective those things that really are important to you.
2. Once you know what those things are, it becomes a little simpler to work out what’s worth caring more about and what’s worth caring less about. Then it’s a matter of putting the important things at the centre of your life and letting go of the others.
3. Take time every day (just a minute or two is OK if that’s all you can spare) to simply sit and notice. Take a moment to scan through each of your senses and ask - what can I see, hear, taste, smell and feel right now? By taking time to do this very simple mindfulness exercise you’re practicing the art of paying attention to the present, and simultaneously getting out of your head for a minute too. It’s in these tiny moments that we give ourselves space, as insignificant as it seems.
4. Let go of physical clutter. It’s a cliche I know, but creating a bit of physical space has such a positive impact on our headspace. So if you’re struggling to let go of sentimental items or things you’re keeping “just in case” then start somewhere else. Start somewhere easy. Clear out your handbag or remove the empty bottles from your shower. See if there’s anything on the fridge that you no longer need. Go through your pens and toss any that no longer work. These small steps really do add up over time, and if a task feels too big to tackle, see if you can instead find a really tiny task that you can do instead.
5. Set an alarm for one hour before your bedtime and use it as a reminder to turn off all screens. Keep your bedroom a screen-free space and spend the last hour of the evening reading, taking a bath, drinking a cup of tea or journaling. This simple change can have a massive impact on your ability to go to, and stay, asleep and is a simple habit change.
So for the readers who do want to make a change, what is your message for them today?
Take it slowly, and understand that it is a process we need to work through. There is no right or wrong either, only what works for you.
And to finish off can you tell us what 'to live a heart-led life" means to you.
To live a heart-led life is to act with love. It’s to put love and intention and our personal values at the centre of everything we do, and to go to bed at the end of the day feeling weary and satisfied that we tried our best.