Slow living: a beginner’s guide


Julia passed a topic my way a few weeks ago: What does slow living mean to me? It was a question posed by Emma, and pretty timely: slow living is my aim for 2015, and seems to be pretty du jour across the internet.

It’s a tricky concept to pin down, I’ve found. The phrase itself really resonated with me, but during endless reading in the autumn of 2014, I found myself getting increasingly confused. The Slow Food movement sort of makes sense by itself, but doesn’t translate to a whole lifestyle. (Similarly, I discovered the ‘whole 30′ was not, as I’d imagined, just about wholefoods. Coffee is a whole food, dammit!).

I love Kinfolk as much as the next instagrammer, but I was looking for more than just crumpled tea towels and linen aprons as an answer.

So 2015 has been my year for figuring out how to live more slowly, & for some reason, I started with Bev.

In a different lifetime, I shared an office with Bev. She was close to retirement age, sharp, savvy, and very very kind. I was young and foolish and looking back, really quite annoying, but that’s irrelevant here.
Bev once said something that has stayed with me since: she was glad she’d never learnt to drive, because driving meant people started rushing everywhere.
“Once you can drive”, she said, “you think  ‘oh I’ll pick x up on the way‘. ‘I’ll just drive over and do y‘. I’ll have time to do everything.”
When you have to walk or ride public transport, the world is bigger. Much more of your day is already taken up with the journey, and you do a lot less a result.
We all talk a lot about how the internet has changed our pace of living, but Bev’s thoughts on driving have stayed with me.
How would your life look different without that hurry? What would change if cars were suddenly banned?
I’d have to find childcare much closer to home, or keep Orla with me. I’d have to work from home, which I’m lucky enough to be able to do, but I’d also have to make time at least twice a week to walk – almost hike – to the shops. Instead of our usual daily grazing from supermarket aisles, we’d stagger home uphill with as much as we could carry, and make things last. The local veg and eggs we can get would stop being a novelty, and become our new convenience food.
I’d have more money, because it would be harder to spend it, and because I wouldn’t have a car sucking it up. I wouldn’t get to use my Audible subscription, but then I’d probably have time to read my actual books. I’d be fitter, without paying for yoga classes or pool time. I’d get more daylight, and see more of nature. I’d sleep a lot more.
It isn’t a perfect model, but it’s pretty good: slow living is making those sorts of changes by choice. 
If you’re anything like me, you’re now thinking ‘sounds great, but I just don’t have time’. In this magical world with no cars, the expectations on us would all shift: it would be perfectly acceptable to leave the office at 4 if you had to trek eight miles & milk a cow before tea.
We can still make that shift in our own lives, though. Living slowly means stopping the glorification of ‘busy'; realising that the stuff we do when we aren’t working or doing chores is the stuff that really matters – the actual living of life.
Perhaps it’s living here, in a village still bearing the marks of the Industrial Revolution, but work/life balance is on my mind a lot these days. I think about the work ethic so instilled in us all – that we’re lazy if we don’t have a job, that too busy is the ultimate goal. That Protestant work ethic was vital in the mills that now lie crumbling around this village – poor people working hard, for every possible hour, then traipsing home through the mud for the few hours of comfort at home, or at the pub, that their wages bought. That never-ending cycle of need and work.
If we needed less, we could work less. & somewhere in there, all my talk of ‘slow living’ and ‘minimalism’ meet. I was so busy chasing things to make me happy that I’ve been forgetting to actually feel that happiness.
That busy=important ideal is still pervasive in society; we see it in the treatment of benefit recipients and stay-at-home parents, in the suggestion that blogging isn’t hard enough to be ‘a real job’. And aside from the fact that, it saddens me to report, what I do now is just as challenging & time consuming as any other job I’ve had, this shows our utter foolishness: we’ve been tricked into thinking that all work, & no free time, is the ultimate goal. 
 Slow living is a huge concept – too huge for a single blog post – but it can also be present in the smallest of moments. It’s refusing to iron the bedsheets, only to crumple them again (unless you love freshly ironed bedsheets, in which case, its ironing them πŸ˜‰ ). It’s guilt-free pyjamas till 2pm. It’s making a mess on the kitchen floor with your toddler without mentally cleaning it up as you play.
Illogical as it sounds, I’m finding living slowly means accepting that life is short, & our moments are speedily ticking by. It is remembering not to waste those precious seconds, and all of our eye-watering first-world privilege, on anything we wouldn’t choose – out of need or of want.

What does slow living mean you? Does it appeal to you or sound like total woo? Any practical tips?

PS. My dear IG friends Mel & Danielle have a slow living project going on Instagram, which you can find via here.
PPS Emma started up a couple of tags for this little series over there too – search #thisthingcalledslowliving and #findingtimeforslowliving over on Instagram.



  • HannahB

    De-rigeur across the internet- hah! But true. Davina and I have been talking a lot about it. For us it meant taking a 5 week blog break in June, limiting the amount of blog posts and the breadth of the content too. For my day to day living, it’s meant saying no to stuff, and intentionally keeping weekends clear. It’s meant drastically de-cluttering so there is left stuff around and less to tidy up. It’s also meant going outside as much as possible- cutting the to do list down to ‘go to the beach/ woods’ and that being the major achievement of the day. It’s meant rushing Frankie as little as possible and finding peace in the little mundane pleasures of the every day like filling the kettle before bed, watering the garden and taking time to make an exquisite cup of coffee etc etc. So yes. I’m allll up in slow living’s face.

    • Sara Tasker

      The internet is the only place I’m ever on trend! Ha!
      Slow blogging is a whole new level I haven’t even considered yet, but it sounds like the exact same principles. Focusing on what really matters, not trying to do everything all of the time. You’ve got me thinking.
      Actually, a lot of what you said when you were here did too! For a few weeks after I kept saying, ‘Hannah told me about this thing…’. Was like I had mentionitis! πŸ˜„πŸ™ˆ xx

      • HannahB

        hah! well i’m pleased to have mentioned some things worth ruminating on (I can’t remember for the life of me what I said now…) – also so true about the cult of busy- i’ve been a slave to that for a long time, hard lesson to unlearn. brilliant post. x

  • Melanie

    Thanks for mentioning our slow living instagram project Sara. I wrote a post at the beginning of the Summer about slow living too, and spent some time working out what it means to me (you can read it here if you are interested ) Basically though the phrase I have found to sum it up best is ‘choosing quality over quantity’. Busy does not equal important or happy. Happiness is found in those simple moments where we get to be really present and wholehearted, and it’s almost impossible if you are rushing to feel connected to anything. I need to slow down to make space for those precious moments that I think fuel all of our existence. Lovely post x

  • Julia Smith

    Such a great post Sara, thank you for sharing! I love Bevs outlook and absolutely agree that there is a perception that busy means successful. I’ve seen it so many times, how people cram both their own and their childrens days with activities and clubs and often the result is people who find it harder to just be. To occupy themselves with a quiet task… But does that make one way better than the other? Not necessarily, I do think that as with all things finding a way that suits you is more important than trying to fit with others expectations. Yes definitely food for thought…

  • Emma Harris

    Bev sounds like a very wise lady, I’ve never thought of driving in that way before, but she is right. I actually find that I barely drive these days, living in a City, means that everything is within walking distance. But because everything is so accessible on foot, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a slower pace in life either because if I need anything, I can just nip out and get it. Which is fine, it just means finding other ways to slow down x

  • Candy Pop

    Lovely post, and as a non-driving / keen walker I totally agree with Bev. I went swimming this morning, followed by my daily meditation, then breakfast, at midday! Life in the slow lane – for someone who doesn’t drive! Have a great weekend.

  • Sarah Rooftops

    Oh, I love this. I don’t drive – about twice a year I think a car would be useful but the rest of the time I look at friends stressing about parking permits and parking spaces and car repairs and whether or not to get that weird clanking noise investigated and I feel baffled. I don’t see the appeal. I love riding the bus and watching the world go by and, yes, it’s a little slower and sometimes I have to wait ages in blizzards but I’d rather have that time to switch my mind off and drift than to be focused on whether or not the traffic jam’s about to move.

  • Sheona

    When I didn’t have a car my life was still chaotic. It just involved more time out of the house and expensive trips to co-op because it was closest. I think if I didn’t work full time, I’d find it all easier. In the summer holidays we fall into quite a nice, quiet routine. It feels like we are spending time breathing, instead of gasping as we rush about. It’s possible that a really sporty 7 year old isn’t conducive to slow living either πŸ˜‚

  • Em Wild

    what a beautiful post – sounds like what I say to myself every single morning, but it never materializes. All the other faff gets in the way, and it really is just that – faff, stuff we do because everyone else does it and that’s just how it is – the commutes, the school runs, the nursery runs, the football practice, the food shop, the swimming lessons, the shopping trips – its all nonsense. I really wish I listened to myself in the morning!!! Maybe I need to save this post and have it as my ritual read each day – thank you x

  • Gilly Holmes

    I took early retirement 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. The question I am asked most when I say I’m retired is “what are you up to now” My answer of “this and that ” often meets with a strange look. I didn’t retire to be busy but to do what I wanted when I wanted. That is slow living for me. Stopping the endless round of doing and living life as it comes.

  • Mammasaurus

    I opted for downshifting this year, very much in the spirit of slowliving and it’s been wonderful for my family and I – enjoy your retreat xx

  • Simone Hawlisch

    Dear Sara,
    I also will be writing soon about Slow Living for a mag. Was intersting to read your perspective and the approach you have taken. Love to share mine with you once the article is online.

    Take care,
    Simone xx

  • Ingrid – for the love of pie

    Hi Sara,

    I think you summed it up pretty well! I love the concept but find it sometimes hard to live by. Your post inspired me to try harder! Thanks x

  • ZoΓ« Power

    Living with chronic fatigue has forced me to slow down. I think I did too much for too long, always cramming things in, and my body ran out of reserves. I’ve long since given up the notion that busyness is a good thing and had a desire to work as little as possible in order to enjoy life as much as possible. It’s all about finding the right balance. And it definitely starts with the little things. For me it’s all about not rushing, doing one thing at a time, being OK with not achieving everything I’d hoped to, being present, and turning off the online world every now and then to reconnect with the real world in front of me. I don’t drive, so Bev’s reflections are v interesting – probably why I love to walk! Have you come across Flow Magazine? I think you’d love it – it’s all about slow living and mindfulness. There’s a post about it on my blog if you are interested xxx

    • Sara Tasker

      A really interesting perspective, Zoe – I know my lousy energy levels have played a real part in me learning to prioritise and stop feeling guilty about needing to rest.
      I haven’t heard of Flow, and missed the post on your blog. Off to investigate now! x

      • TheDaydreamerDiary

        The difficulty is highly increased -at least in my case- by the fact that I am surrounded by people who nurture the guilt if you do not show up at work while being sick, with a broken leg etc. They call it “dedication”. This shows just how values have shifted and how easy it is to brainwash your entourage (be it personal or professional) – and the extent of the ensuing damages (I am paying for it as I type, but that’s another story…).

  • OhHay!

    I definitely think in these times we’re living in people are so damn busy doing everything and anything that they forget about the little things that can just make life brighter and better. Everything seems to be about making this, that and the other quicker but what’s the need?! Those folk at supermarkets that aren’t taking there time and start getting annoyed when self scans don’t work but the reason they aren’t working is because they’re trying to do TOO much at once! We need to step back and be in the moment more, we’d probably appreciate it better in the long run!

    Lauren // OhHay Blogs!

    • Sara Tasker

      So agree and relate, Lauren! It’s like speed and fitting as much in as possible is the aim of life, and whoever crams the most stress in will be crowned busiest and most important. There’s no way this can lead to happiness! x

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  • CaliMel

    To me, it’s not buying into the “workaholic” syndrome. It’s relaxing at home and not talking about work, or taking work home with me. It’s not booking myself solid for every single day of the week. I feel like also part of slow living would maybe be talking on the phone more, because if cars were scarce, people wouldn’t SEE each other that often, so they would have to communicate by letter or phone more. and I do that with some friends, but not all of them. There is more but I’ll have to mull it over some. Still trying to figure out how to slow down my life too.

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  • Kizzy

    I’ve just started my slowly lived lifestyle which I am writing about on my new site. I think we get so caught up in keeping up with others, well I did, that we forget to actually be present in our lives. This is the reason why I am slowing down and being more intentional.

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  • :: danielle ::

    Sweet Sara, I just re-read this post and was touched that you added the Slow Living Project to your PS. thank you!