If you keep up with Kate’s Favourite Things, you’ll know that when it comes to books, I lean towards suspense thrillers. (Basically, for the past five years I’ve read anything promoted with “If you loved Gone Girl…”.) That said, I also like to mix things up with some nonfiction, and I recently read a book I absolutely loved, called SLOW: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary.
I shared this photo on Instagram, which sums things up quite well:
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This page pretty much sums up the philosophy presented in @brookemcalary's fantastic book SLOW: Simple Living for a Frantic World. While I am highly successful when it comes to less "stuff", I am working on the rest. Though ironically I am hoping that you, my beloved followers, will "like" this post. Which goal do you find the most challenging? I will share more about this great book soon! #amreading #bookstagram #slow
Why would I explain further when Brooke is here to share her philosophy in her own words in this special guest post? Take it away, Brooke!
“Dear Mr and Mrs Jones,
I am writing to inform you of my withdrawal from the race to keep up with you. It has come to my attention that prolonged attempts to compete with you have been detrimental to my health, my bank account, my self-confidence and my ability to feel content. This is a price I am no longer willing to pay….”
So began my journey towards slow living.
Slow living seems like a big, fat contradiction in today’s fast-paced, constantly connected, always striving society. In fact, when I first heard about the idea, I equated it with re-branded laziness. I was someone who prided myself on my ability to get more done, to do it faster, to do it better, always have it together, and slowing down seemed like an admission that I wasn’t up to the job.
That is, until I was diagnosed with severe post-natal depression after my second baby was born. It was 2011 and I found myself in a terrible place, burnt out, completely numb, angry and sad and bitter and resentful. It was here, in the hardest and darkest days, that I discovered slow living, resigned from the race to keep up with the Joneses, and while it might seem like hyperbole, changed my life.
Which begs the question – what exactly is slow living?
Over the past three years on the Slow Home Podcast, I’ve interviewed more than 150 people who all have different views on what it means to live a slower life. From moving to the country to urban living, tiny homes to ethical consumption, self-sustainability to slow food – there is no one way of describing the external indicators of slow living, because there is no one way to live a slower, simpler life.
Author and slow-living advocate Erin Loechner told me that to her, slow living is a duality of caring more and caring less – that is, working out what’s worth caring more about and letting go of the things that aren’t. Since embracing a slower, more mindful life, she cares more about being available for her friends and far less about dust bunnies, for example. In other words, slow living doesn’t necessarily look like a certain type of house or a particular combination of colour-coordinated outfits, and it doesn’t need to involve baking bread or growing vegetables either. If you spend any time perusing #slowliving on Instagram however, you’d be forgiven for believing this is a lifestyle based almost solely on wearing washed-out neutral tones while walking through the woods, of timber floors and white walls and fashionably worn stovetops surrounded by beautifully aged chopping boards, artful lattes and crumpled bed sheets on rainy days.
But really, I think Erin gets to the heart of it. Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. 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.
It’s about living in accordance with the important things in life. And more specifically, living in accordance with the important things in your life.
It’s about cultivating self-awareness, letting go of the excess stuff in our homes, learning to live mindfully, getting in touch with our personal values and choosing which advice applies to our circumstances, happily releasing the ideas that don’t fit our homes, families, jobs or values.
It’s about life. The living part, specifically. It’s about paying attention to it and spending time in the noticing. The hand-holding and the tear stains and the sun rises and the uncertainties. The love and the anger and the joy and the envy.
So while I began by telling the Joneses where they can stick their version of a perfect life, slow living has very little to do with them (or me) and everything to do with you. Because your important stuff is almost certainly not the same as mine, or theirs.
Learning to slow down, to care more and care less, isn’t a race with a start and a finish. There is no there. It is gradual, imperfect, intentional and evolving – just like you.
If you’ve been looking for permission to slow down your life, to live a little more simply, go ahead and give it to yourself. Embrace those things worth caring more about, and learn to let go of those things that aren’t. There is so much to gain by letting go.
Thanks, Brooke! You can get your own copy of SLOW here. Now I’m off to declutter something…slowly, of course.