What does a slow and simple living mean?
I recently have come upon this concept and it got me wondering. We’re often told to slow down, to take a moment and just breathe, to be mindful of what we’re doing and enjoy the process. And I fully support this movement because our modern lives are too fast-paced, too full of things and tasks that we don’t really need. It is too rushed and over-complicated, even when it doesn’t have to be.
I know, with work, children, home and a hundred dozen other things to do we were somewhat pushed to learn to be time-efficient and to multitask. As a result, we manage to fill the day with many errands and call it a success in the end of a day, but at what price? What do you remember when the day is done?
Do you remember enjoying your breakfast? You probably were skimming through the morning news instead of savouring that bite. What’s there to savour? you may even ask, because you hardly had time to cook a proper breakfast and just arranged a quick toast with whatever you have found in your fridge.
Do you remember that first uplifting cup of coffee? The one you probably chugged down on the way to work in a car or subway.
Do you remember the morning conversation with your partner or your child? Or were you too busy packing lunch while the clock was ticking?
Have you noticed that sunshine at your lunch break? Or have you stayed in the office to finish that extra bit, without even knowing there was a break in the rain?
And what about your evenings? Did you take an opportunity to spend time with your family, to see your children play or cuddle with your partner? To walk your dog and not just let it out in the garden because you were too busy?
That’s what I mean. Our days are just a bunch of tasks we tick off as we go, a mere checklist. It’s called being productive, but it doesn’t include actually living your life and paying attention to the process.
The concept of slow living is the opposite to what our modern lives have taught us. It is making time for things that matter, to only do things that are necessary and meaningful, and to discard the rest that is distracting and time-consuming without any real benefit, like ironing the bed sheets to only get them wrinkled the moment you lie down. It is about simplifying life to the bare minimum and finding pleasure in the things we do, being mindful and not rushed.
What is a Slow and Simple Living?
When I think about the slow, time-filled days, it brings me back to summer holidays when I was just a kid. Not just one summer, but every summer, especially the days we spent in our summer house in the country. They were probably the only days I loved to wake up early – to see the dawn twinkle over the distant fields, to catch a breeze of fresh air after sunrise, to feel it on my bare skin and smell the dampness of the morning dew, the tiny crystal beads nestled so neatly on the leaves and petals.
I remember not rushing for breakfast, but instead waiting for the family to gather first. My granny was usually the first one up so she would cook us some breakfast, most often pancakes that we’d devour with a homemade jam. There was never any rush, even if there was a lot of work to be done in the day. Just as she cooked, taking her time, humming a tune under her nose, we would eat taking our time to talk and enjoy, before we set off to do our chores – working in the vegetable garden or cleaning around the house while men would do the harder work or fix things. After some chores we’d play away till lunch time, hardly stepping a foot inside unless it rained.
There was no TV in the house for a long time, and even when we brought one, it only had 6 channels and the reception was so bad that we could hardly watch it. We were, as kids, excited at first at the prospect of a TV in our summer house, because back in the day it was a rarity. But I quickly realized that I loved it more without the TV. It only brought the news shows to our lunch times and evenings, removing good old conversations yet making the house noisier, while without TV we’d chat, solve crosswords together, read jokes and stories, often out loud, play bingo or card games. We’d drink tea to spark the conversations and warm our souls, almost as if to protect our souls from the coldness and dampness of the rain.
The early years I can remember, we wouldn’t even have an electric kettle or a gas stove in the house. The stove we had was a traditional Russian oven, for which to work you’d need to put the logs in and light the fire (follow the link to Wikipedia in case you’re wondering). Cooking was a lengthy process back then and making tea was hardly any different. But cooking meals from fresh ingredients from our own garden or bought directly from the local farmers was amazing. Even at that early age it felt to me so different from going to a shop and buying things there.
We would often have relatives (my grandpa had so many in the village!) come for lunch and dinner, and the small dining room would become overcrowded and so loud that we, as children, couldn’t wait to run off outside and play unsupervised in peace and quiet, with the entire yard being our kingdom. And the adults would stay at the table for hours, chatting more that eating.
One day, I remember, my great uncle came in with a bunch of leaves and twigs in his hands and told us to make tea from them. We steeped the leaves and twigs with some sugar in freshly boiled water and poured to cups. The liquid had a fresh aroma and a light yellow colour – so different to our regular black tea. I was reluctant to try it at first but talked into it because it was sweet. To my great surprise, it turned out to be the most amazing tea I’ve ever had – or do I only think so because it was back in my childhood? Throughout the years I have not forgotten that taste, though I can’t quite describe. In case you are wondering what it was, I will tell you that it was made of raspberry and blackcurrant leaves and twigs, picked straight from the orchard. But unfortunately I cannot share the recipe because, to this day, I have yet to find it.
Our evenings were late, at times spent outside, around the fire pit, roasting pieces of bread and “baking” new potatoes in the hot ashes from the fire, with guitar cords, folk songs and stories. If the weather wasn’t as fine, then inside the house it was just as loud and fun.
We’d go to bed by midnight or much later, after having cleaned the dining room and kitchen. Despite the small hours, it would still take us a long time to fall asleep. We’d often read books or solve crosswords first, cocooned in blankets in our beds, then chat for what had seemed like hours. And when the house would finally get quiet (oh, we all shared one room with many beds, like in a hostel), one of us, usually me or my cousin, would burst in a wild laughter, contaminating the other until someone will give out grumpily, still half-asleep. But even then it was so hard to stop laughing, and their funny muffled words would only spark another wave of laughter. No one complained in the morning though. It was all fun and care-free.
Those days are so far away now, buried in the past and half-forgotten, but the warm memories of fragments of that slow, uncomplicated life still linger and I would go to them any time.
The Rushing World
Our lives have changed since then. There’s work to go to 5 days a week, there’s school (unless it’s summer). There are TV, mobile phones, devices that occupy our minds apart from chores and tasks. We’re centred around technology, we are dependent on it. We don’t communicate as much unless it’s texting over instant messaging apps or going out to pubs. We seldom share meals with friends and family, all having different schedules and diets. Even if we do get together for a meal, it’s easier to go to a restaurant or order a take-out then gather up in the kitchen and prepare the meal we’re going to share over a glass of wine and conversations.
We are so used to being on our own, buried under a pile of tasks and schedules that we seem to have become intimidated by doing simple things in another’s company and communicating face-to-face. We either need a phone from which we text, hidden behind a mask, with all the time to carefully choose our words and smileys to choose from to conceal our true feelings and emotions; or we at least require a noisy pub and drinks to get us in a chatty mood and ensure that we don’t remember the next day if we were awkward or said something embarrassing.
We rush all the time and measure success by the quantity of boxes ticked and not by how it made us feel, not by the degree of joy it brought upon us. We forget that rush is counter-productive; it causes our brains to race and results in stress and anxieties. We think with the speed of hundreds different things a minute and the majority of time we don’t know what we’re thinking about. Our days are blurred at this high speed and minds are lacking clarity. The only way to keep us on the track is by creating more lists and schedules that tell us what to do and how we’re doing.
With the machines weaved tightly into our lives for more ease and efficiency, we are, ourselves, turning into these time- and work-efficient robots, forgetting how to be simply human.
We need to change something and it should start with this: simplifying our lives, clearing up the schedules, creating space for silence and nothingness to let the mind rest, and then adding more face-to-face communication, more nature, more togetherness. Maybe in going back to our roots we will find more happiness and peace.
The Art of Slow and Simple Living
So what is slow and simple living after all?
It is living mindfully, slowly, without rush and the unnecessary clutter. By clutter I mean both physical and mental clutter.
It is simplifying down to the things you need around your home, simplifying down to only tasks and processes you really need in your life.
It is simplifying down to people you really love having in your life.
It is saying no to things you don’t want. It is keeping only what matters.
It is excluding multitasking because it creates clutter in your mind and doing only one thing at a time, giving it all the due attention without the fear of wasting precious time. Because the only real time is now. The past is done and cannot be changed and the future can’t exist without now.
Simple living, in my view, has a lot to do with the ever-so-popular trends on mindfulness and minimalism, and even hygge for that matter. And there is a reason for it – they all emphasize the importance of having and doing only things you love and enjoy, and blocking out all the other noise. It doesn’t call you to live with nothing, unless you’re comfortable that way, but it calls you to live with less because less is truly more.
Less things means more attention to the ones you have, nothing gets lost in the background, less tasks means focusing on the most important ones, less people means giving more attention to the most loved ones and to yourself, which isn’t any less important. It means less hesitation, less anxiety and stress, less suffering, and as an outcome – more happiness, more space, more freedom.
It shouldn’t, in reality, be called art. It should come natural to us, after all we have been doing this for generations. And yet somehow, during the last couple decades we have wasted that talent and can only appreciate it as someone else’s art or criticize it for believing different.
It is indeed the time to slow down or maybe even stop, review our entire system of beliefs and values and our ways of living. And finally, it is our time to act. Because if we can’t change our now, tomorrow will hardly be any different.
Thank You for reading. Stay tuned for more.