Last week, I hit my semi-annual “I have too much stuff!” crisis. While primarily focused on my craft supplies, it also applied to my clothing and To Be Read pile. There was just too much clutter around the house, and it was weighing me down badly. I picked up Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (a book I had, ironically, owned and gotten rid of previously) and got to work.
I didn’t know it at the time, but reading that book became a gateway drug. The KonMari Method forces you to realize just how much stuff you have by putting it all in one place — one category at a time — and once you do that, hoo boy do you know you have too much of it. There is a high in getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy”, leaving behind only that which suits your vision of your life. I had envisioned our home as a cosy minimalist haven, and I was now slowly working my way towards that goal.
It wasn’t enough, though. My husband and I had recently been talking about simplifying our lives, to the point of fantasizing of moving into the woods of Vermont and ignoring the world around us. He’s overwhelmed with work and the state of the world; I’m overwhelmed by my to-do list and the need to get everything done NOW because my ADHD brain doesn’t easily break down tasks into smaller actions. It’s an easy recipe for both personal and relationship burnout, and we were inching ever closer to both.
On Monday, I’d had enough. I had heard about slow living as a concept, but knew nothing more. On a whim, I Googled the term and discovered a whole new possibility for life. Instead of hewing to the Cult of Productivity and Busyness, you could simply break away and focus on the here and now. Slow living encourages you to be more mindful in your day, to literally stop and smell the roses. Some tasks still need to get done, but they can be done with an intentionality that will leave you less stressed. It asks you to really look and see what brings you joy, both in material possessions and in daily living, and get rid of the rest.
I know, you’re probably thinking “That’s fine for other people, but not me. I have too much stuff to do.” If you think that’s the case, I really want you to sit down with your to-do list and ask how many things are “musts” and how many of them are “shoulds.” Then, eliminate the “shoulds.” Slow living asks us to start saying “no” to things that won’t bring you joy, be that a social obligation you’re not excited about or mindlessly watching TV in the evenings. It encourages you to spend the time you think you don’t have engaging with your community, enjoying a hobby, or just sitting in contemplative silence while drinking a cup of tea.
Slow living is also about consuming less, to release your need for “more” and to say hello to “enough.” As the slow living blog Vanilla Papers puts it, “the pursuit of status symbols and material possessions is endless by design. And it won’t ever bring you happiness.” This goes for digital consumption as well as consumption of goods; while slow living is not expressly anti-technology, it does ask you to spend less time on your phone and more time on activities you enjoy. I’ve already started reducing my digital consumption, and it feels great to have less information overload in my life.
There’s so much more than I can fit in 500-700 words, so I encourage you to check out some of the links both in this essay and below in order to learn more. We don’t have to be slaves to the capitalist grindstone; we can and should find joy and value in our lives outside of consumption and productivity. Reconnect with the world around you and make it better, whether you’re at home or at work. Don’t let yourself burn out trying to do All The Things; try slowing down instead.
Slow Living Links
The Art of Slow Living, and How To Slow Down , from Vanilla Papers
Slow Living in the City: 10 Tips To Find Balance , from Vanilla Papers
How To Slow Your Life, from Design For Mankind
Destination Simple: Everyday Rituals for a Slower Life, by Brooke McAlary
In Praise of Slowness: Challenging The Cult of Speed, by Carl Honoré
Noise du Jour
Today’s Noise du Jour is lovingly stolen from my husband’s own Noise du Jour playlist. I get Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s “It’s Called: Freefall” in my head a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I think it has to do with the simple layering of vocals and sparse instrumentation which I find incredibly soothing. The full breakdown at the end of the song is pretty great too. And then there’s the video, which is suitably weird and wonderful in ways I can’t describe. It’s an all-around treat, and I’m thankful to my husband for introducing it to me.
Links are a little on the sparse side this week, as I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about slow living and the KonMari Method. I won’t leave you hanging, though! Here’s some links from my archives.
- The Myth of The Productive Commute, from Anne Helen Petersen
- A Beginner’s Guide To Getting Things Done®, David Allen’s revolutionary productivity system, from Zenkit. Get everything out of your head so you can focus on the important stuff.
- Searching For Shelley Duvall, from The Hollywood Reporter
- Worried you might peak professionally? It happens sooner than you think, according to Arthur C. Brooks for The Atlantic
- Typefaces of The Occult Revival, from designer John Coulthart