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 color-coordinated outfits, and it doesn't need to involve baking bread or growing vegetables either. If you spend any time perusing #slowliving, 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 stove tops surrounded by beautifully aged chopping boards, artful lattes, and crumpled bedsheets 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. Organized 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 how 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 sunrises and the uncertainties. The love and the anger and the joy and the envy.
So while this book opens by telling the Joneses where they can stick their version of a perfect life, it actually has very little to do with them and everything to do with you. Because your important stuff is almost certainly not the same as mine—or theirs.
This is not a quick-fix book. I won't guarantee results in days or weeks. I've been making changes to my family's life for more than six years, and we're not there yet.
Because there is no there. This isn't a race with a start and a finish line. This is slow, imperfect, intentional, and evolving.
So that's why you're here. That's why I'm here. And I'm glad of it.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Just as there is no one right way to live a happy, fulfilled, values-based life, there is no one right way of moving from where you are now to where you'd like to be. Please don't waste your energy comparing your path to that of a friend, a sister, or the author of slow-living books. Comparison is a losing game, and I'd much prefer to see you run your own race.
I began the process of slowing and simplifying my life by dealing first with the excess of stuff in our home. I was far too emotionally bruised to subject my soul to much searching six years ago, so I tackled the least taxing area of my life by letting go of things we didn't use, need, or even want.
It was slow, invigorating work that gradually shed weight from our home and my head. But only after months of decluttering could I even begin to examine other areas of my life that needed simplifying. That's when I started to consider my thoughts, my calendar, my opinions, my systems. Over time, I learned how to practice mindfulness and to create rhythms for our home life. I incorporated simple-living ideas into parenting and travel, changed the food we ate and how we prepared it, started yoga, and began cutting back on single-use plastics. It was a clear case of my psychological state gradually mimicking my physical environment, eventually leading my family to an entirely new way of living—and for us, it was the best path.
One of my dearest friends lives a very similar philosophy to me these days. She embraces slow living, growing much of her own food, advocating for adventure and unplugging and making her own, and being a present and wonderful mom. And she came at it from the exact opposite end of the process, learning to meditate after a serious car accident nearly cost her both her life and that of her unborn baby.
Not until years later did mindfulness begin to make itself known in other areas of her life, when she began clearing out the stuff left behind by her dad, who passed away when she was young. That stuff had been an important family link for a long time, and it took many years to even consider examining it. And yet she did. On her own timeline. When it worked for her.
Opposite experiences. Similar destinations. Different goals. Similar outcomes.
There is no one right way, and the only one that matters is the way that works for you. So take some time to read this book from beginning to end, giving yourself insight into the different elements of creating a slower, simpler life.
And when you're finished, I ask only one thing of you: come back to chapter one and work through the questions posed there. After that, it's up to you. Where to begin, what to let go of, and how fast (or slowly) to move through the process.