These days, it feels like almost every conversation begins with a statement of busyness:
“I’m good thanks, just busy.“
We hear it so often that it doesn’t even feel like a complaint anymore. It’s almost as if being busy has become synonymous with being fine; we’re no longer concerned by the admission. Instead, we nod our heads in agreement because we feel the same way—doesn’t everyone?
Sadly, I think so. Most of us have accepted that never-ending to-do lists and jam-packed schedules are a normal part of modern life.
But what if that wasn’t the case? What if instead of embracing exhausted and overwhelmed as cultural norms, we all decided to take small, intentional steps in the opposite direction? What would a slow, minimalist lifestyle look like?
While I won’t pretend to have all the answers, I think there are ways we can actively work towards creating a culture of slow living—a society where our collective self-worth isn’t defined by how much we do and how much we consume.
Here are a few ideas that I’m exploring and I invite you to join the conversation too; how can we work together to choose simple and slow over cluttered and busy?
CREATING A CULTURE OF SLOW LIVING
WHAT WE SAY MATTERS TO SLOW LIVING
As I’ve already mentioned, talking about how busy we are has become a cultural norm. It’s often the first thing we say in greeting and it sets the tone for the conversation—so I think it’s an ideal place to start.
As a community, how would our lives be different if we stopped putting busyness at the centre of our conversations? And while we’re on the topic, what if we stopped using mindless complaining as our main form of connection?
(Have you ever noticed how complaining about something is often the easiest way to break the ice in a room full of strangers? I’m definitely guilty of this.)
It might be the easiest option but I think we deserve better. Mindless complaining drains our energy and adds to the mental load of those around us without providing any value in exchange.
This isn’t to say that we should never talk about what’s bothering us—of course, it’s important to have honest conversations with people! But there’s a fine line between a having a meaningful discussion and mindlessly complaining (which is usually done out of habit or motivated by boredom).
I think that collectively, we all need to question how what we’re saying brings value to the table. Are you making a genuine contribution or simply making noise?
This feels especially relevant online. Have you ever replied to a Facebook comment just to have your voice be heard? I’ll admit that I’m tempted to do this all the time and that often, I have to actively stop myself by questioning my motives.
To be clear, I do believe we can have meaningful conversations online or on social media (obviously!) but I think we need to be especially mindful about it because it’s an easy place to lose yourself.
Finally, if we want to welcome slow and simple into our lives, then I think we need to get comfortable with silence. Silence creates the space we need to reflect on our thoughts—so that when we do speak, we add value and not mental clutter.
Another essential element of slow living is establishing, maintaining and encouraging boundaries. Boundaries also create space: space for rest, space for reflection, space for meaningful relationships and so much more.
Boundaries are how we make sure that there’s time, energy and money for the things that matter most and without them, it’s easy to end up exhausted and overwhelmed.
Still, despite the many benefits of maintaining boundaries, many people resist the idea.
For some, it’s a decision made out of fear. Many have internalised the belief that being “good” (good parents, good employees, or good friends) means being available at all times. As a result, they view boundaries as a sign of weakness, evidence of failure, or perhaps even as morally wrong.
I’d like to argue the opposite. I believe that it’s our responsibility to create boundaries and lead by example.
When we value our time and honour ourselves by creating boundaries, we are giving others permission to do the same. It might sound silly but in a society where busy and stressed has become “normal”, establishing boundaries can be a radical act of leadership.
I can remember a former manager who only answered emails twice a day; perhaps not “radical” by any stretch of the imagination but at the time, it shocked me. This simple act gave me the courage to push back on the relentless demands of my work life and to create the space I needed for my own wellbeing.
Keep in mind that if we’re serious about creating a culture of slow living then it’s not just about making changes to our own lives—we must also invite others to do the same. This is both a generous and selfish act because as you may have realised, it’s not easy to live “slowly” is a busy world.
Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together.
Related Post: 10 Ways to Slow Down a Busy Day
SLOW LIVING + OUR ENVIRONMENT
Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear that I think decluttering is a crucial part of slow and simple living, but let’s unpack this idea a bit further.
For many, a decluttered home is about achieving a certain aesthetic and while this is true, for me the real value of a decluttered home is how you feel in your living space.
Does your home invite you to sit and rest? Does it encourage long, lingering conversations with friends? Do you feel calm and at ease?
In the words of author and professional organiser Christina Scalise, “Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.” (Oof. How’s that for a truth bomb!)
What this means is that a home full of clutter is practically a living breathing to-do list, constantly reminding you of all the things you’re putting off doing.
Even if you’re not following through with the implied actions, you’re likely to feel busy and overwhelmed—and so will the people you invite into your home.
Of course, our homes are personal and I don’t think it’s our responsibility to present them in any particular way but as the saying goes, it all starts in the home. Most of us spend a lot of time there and if our homes support slow living, we’ll carry this feeling with us throughout the day.
If you need support decluttering your home, you might be interested in Mindful Decluttering, my free decluttering guide and workbook. Get your copy by subscribing below or click here to learn more.
WHO WE SUPPORT
Finally, another way we can create a culture of slow living is by voting with our dollars. Let’s be intentional in making choices that align with our vision for the future.
This will mean different things to different people but it might look something like:
- shopping less (quality over quantity)
- eating local and seasonal food
- supporting companies who take care of their employees (paid leave, health benefits, etc.)
- buying secondhand
On the surface, some of these choices might seem to contradict slow living because they require an investment of time, energy and often money.
They might even make us busier, at least in the short term. (For example, shopping secondhand usually requires more time and effort than shopping at the mall.)
However, I think if we’re serious about creating a culture of slow living then we must be mindful about how our choices impact society as a whole.
Buying secondhand might take longer but it saves resources. Supporting ethical businesses might cost you more but you’re giving someone else the gift of sick leave when they need it. Are these tradeoffs worth it? I think so.
Start where you are and do what you can. Some can do more than others because they had more to begin with (more time, money, energy or even power). Just do the best you can with what’s available to you.
The same goes for everything on this list. I truly believe it’s the small decisions we make every day that matter most. Everything from taking the time to truly listen to a friend, to saying “no” when you want to, to shopping less often … it all adds up.
Related Post: 20 Ways I’ve Simplified My Life
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SLOW LIVING
Obviously, this post is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that I could say about creating a culture of slow living (particularly about how what we say matters) but I’m mindful that this post is getting quite long!
I don’t want to unwittingly veer into “noise” territory, so I’ll leave you with this final thought: if you want to embrace slow living, celebrate slow living.
Look for tiny opportunities every day—space to enjoy life—then let your joy be seen and watch what happens. ✨
OK—I know you’ve must have some ideas to share! Let me know your thoughts in the comments. What are your thoughts on rejecting busy and creating a culture of slow living? x