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Reflections on Slow Living [Episode 22]

In this episode of The Simply + Fiercely Show, I’m reflecting on slow living in my current season of life. From new hobbies to creating community, these simple shifts have made a big difference.

In This Episode:

  • why being less busy doesn’t always equate to slow living
  • what we lose when we focus on productivity
  • the simple ways I’m finding more presence in everyday life

Featured In This Episode:

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Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.

Reflections on Slow Living

Hi, everybody, it’s Jen here, and welcome to another episode of The Simply and Fiercely Show. 

Today, we’re chatting about slow living and I think this is something that is universally appealing at the moment. 

Life is busy and hectic for so many people and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I have been craving more of those feelings of slowness. Those little pockets of life where things just feel more peaceful and at ease.

So I wanted to record an episode to chat about this because one thing that I’ve noticed in the past decade or so that I have been experimenting with minimalism and simple living, is that quite often doing less and being less busy is not the solution. 

What I mean by that is yes, having less in your schedule, less on your to do list, etc., of course, is an important part of slow living, but it’s not the only thing. 

For example, think back to one of those moments where you’ve had a bit of free time for yourself. Maybe it’s a half hour before you have to pick up the kids from school and you sit down to relax with a cup of tea, but you just can’t fully turn off. You don’t have anything that you need to be doing right at that moment, but on the inside, you still feel busy and stressed, as opposed to peaceful and at ease. 

This is something that definitely happens to me, and again, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone there. So in this podcast, I want to share a few things that have been helping me with that lately. 

These are not necessarily tips so if you’re listening to this and you’re expecting, ‘three tips on how to slow down and simplify’, it’s not that kind of episode, it’s more of a reflection. 

I’ve gone ahead and titled this episode Reflections on Slow Living because it’s really just me sharing some personal observations. Some things that I’ve noticed recently that are really helping me tap into those pockets of joy and bliss, and showing up in some fairly unexpected spots so I wanted to share them with you.

Lifelong learning is a flowy moment. It’s busy but it feels slow.

First, I want to backtrack a little bit and let you know that one of my core values is lifelong learning. 

The reason I’m sharing that, and why I think that’s important, is because I think that when we are acting in alignment with our values, even if we’re doing something, we’re physically busy and we’re not resting, it can create that feeling of slow living.

When we’re really aligned with ourselves, like the saying ‘when you’re in flow’,  you may be busy doing something for a couple of hours, but it feels slow and you feel really present. That’s what I’m talking about here. 

For me, lifelong learning is part of that so when I’m doing something new I really get that kind of flowy moment.

Jen’s new hobby – gardening

With that being said, about four months ago, I created my own new source of flow and that is a newfound love for gardening. 

Now, as some of you may know, I live in a very tiny high rise apartment, so it’s not exactly gardening in the traditional sense, I don’t even have a balcony. I have this really weird space that my landlord says is a French balcony which is basically big sliding windows. But the balcony space is only a foot if that but I can put some little plants there. The whole reason I’m bringing that up is because I feel kind of silly to call it gardening, but I guess that’s what it is. 

I cannot tell you how rewarding this hobby has been for me. Again, going back to what I said, lifelong learning is huge for me so growing plants is perfect.

Prior to a couple of months ago, I always considered myself a bit of a black thumb. I didn’t know anything about plants and yet I’m laughing now because I’ve become a bit obsessed.

I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of time reading about plants, watching videos, propagating them, and taking care of them. Probably a little bit too much time but honestly, I cannot remember the last time I felt so present and it’s been truly wonderful. 

So even though I’m busy doing things, when I’m caring for my plants I feel like I’m experiencing what it feels like to embrace slow living. 

One of my morning habits now is to get my cup of coffee, and then wander all around our teeny tiny house and check on all of my babies and it’s so grounding. I find myself noticing all of the little changes like new leaves popping up, or how the leaves kind of shift up all of a sudden. 

Overall, the whole experience reminded me that there’s so much value in having a hobby that you truly enjoy. For me, that’s something I haven’t had in a really long time. 

As some of you may know, in addition to this podcast, I have a blog called Simply and Fiercely that used to be my hobby when I first started it back in 2015. 

Over the years it has evolved and is now my full time job. The whole brand of Simply and Fiercely is my business. 

While I love my work, I love helping people declutter and helping people simplify, and I am so grateful that I have a job where I get to indulge in all of my passions. I will say that when I’m writing and creating for work, it feels different.

Whereas when I’m dealing with my plants, it is purely for joy. 

I do grow a few herbs, but most of my plants are not edible. They are simply beautiful and I grow them purely for my own happiness.

My kids and my husband may look at them and think they’re beautiful but I’m not doing it for them. It’s not a hobby I’ve started so that I can do something with my kids, it is purely for me. 

And again, I want to reiterate how important that is because I think in today’s world, it is so easy to feel like everything you do has to be productive or done for a reason.

A new habit of reading books through an online app

For example, until recently, I’d really gotten into the habit of only reading nonfiction books and I told myself that I chose to do it because I love learning, which is true. But, if I’m completely honest, it was starting to feel like I had to. 

If I was going to be sitting down and spending an hour, two hours, or much longer reading, I had to be getting something out of it. I had to be learning something that I could apply for my blog, or my podcast, or just to improve my business skills. 

I got to a point where I felt guilty about reading fiction, about reading just for the love of reading. When I was younger I loved reading for the joy of it. But I talked myself out of it for so long, feeling like everything I had to read had to be productive.

I will add here that one thing that has really helped me is this amazing app called Libby, L I B B Y. I’m probably late to the party, but I’m sharing it because I recently discovered it and it’s amazing. As long as you have a library card, you can link your library card up on the app and it lets you check out books on your phone. 

I know that might sound sacrilege to some people who really love holding physical books, but I’ve got to be honest, I have gotten into a bad habit of scrolling on my phone too much lately so having novels on my phone has been brilliant in terms of swapping a bad habit out and replacing it with a better habit. 

That was a little tip I wanted to share because I’ve been loving the app so much. 

And reminding everyone how important it is to do things purely for the joy of doing them. I think that is really what slow living feels like as opposed to doing nothing, which is what I used to think it felt like.

Another reflection on slow living – walking

Moving on to another reflection of slow living, there’s something else that I’ve been doing lately that’s been absolutely wonderful in terms of helping me feel more present and at ease in my life. 

That is, I’ve been walking more. 

If you go back a few episodes, I recorded a whole episode about our decision to sell our car and go car-free. And while we did get an electric bike that we are using a lot, I’m also walking more now that we don’t have a car. 

And, again, this is one of the things that’s not mind blowing. We all know that walking more is good for us, but for me, it’s been especially impactful because as I said, I have this new gardening habit so I have suddenly become much more aware of plants. So every walk outside my house is not just a walk, it’s like this eye opening journey. 

I should say that I am really fortunate to live in a mid-sized city of Brisbane, Australia. So even though I live in an urban area, I’m in an inner suburb. It’s not like living in a big city like New York, there are still lots of green areas here plus it is subtropical. 

So now that I started walking and paying more attention to plants, honestly, it’s wild. It’s like living in a botanical garden. 

It’s one of those things that we all know that we should take more time to notice the beauty in everyday life but I’ve really been doing it and it hasn’t felt forced, it has felt natural and it’s been such a joy. It has really helped me slow down and has been so deeply satisfying on a soul level.

How Jen is now spending a lot more time interacting with the people in her community

Another one that I wanted to share is a direct result of my walking more. 

A quick side note, I didn’t plan this, but I think it’s really interesting how everything I’m sharing in this episode is building on each other. 

My new plant hobby is helping me feel more present while I’m walking and now that I’m walking more, the third thing that I want to share is how I’ve been spending a lot more time interacting with the people in my community.

How that feels to you might really depend a lot on your upbringing. For me, for example, since I became an adult I’ve really felt a lack of community. I haven’t really known my neighbors. In the past, I would have known my co-workers and I have friends, so that’s always been my community. But when I’m walking around my neighborhood, there’s no sense of connection. 

For some reference, I grew up in the 80s and the 90s in America and my grandparents had a small restaurant inside a shopping center. I pretty much grew up there. As a kid, I knew everybody in the shopping center and it felt like the whole area was a community looking out for me. It had this lovely community feeling that I haven’t had in literally decades. 

Since I’ve been walking more, it has been really amazing. I didn’t even realize how many small businesses were around me. 

There’s this Thai restaurant around the corner that we’ve gone to occasionally and they wave at us when we go by and they say hi to my kids.

There’s a corner shop below my house and we’ve built a friendship with the gentleman who owns it. 

I feel like I’m sharing things that are probably so obvious to some people, but for me, I felt like I had lost touch with some of these things. 

So I’ve been going back to basics and doing some of the things that I know I should be doing. Things like cultivating hobbies, making meaningful connections with people, and slowing down enough to say hello. 

I’m not doing anything new or mind blowing, but I’ve been paying more attention to these things in my life and I’m feeling so different. That’s why I wanted to hop on this episode and share them with you.

Why a slow-living episode?

You may have heard this idea that slow living has almost been commodified and it feels like sometimes we’re trying to force it. 

I know for me, slow living can often feel like I’m trying to force myself to rest or force myself to do nothing and I struggle with that. In reality, slow living doesn’t always mean just sitting on your couch and having a cup of tea. 

Sometimes it’s doing something that might even look like hard work. Like when I’m repotting 10 plants and making a giant mess in the living room. But it feels slow because it’s doing something for myself and it just feels different. 

Thank you so much for listening to me ramble for a bit. I hope that some of these ideas inspire you to slow down in a way that feels aligned for you.

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