A slow living manifesto

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My philosophy is slow, seasonal living. But what does that actually mean? My definitions and explanations when I talk about slow living are by no means exhaustive or exclusive, and I know that others have different versions - indeed, there are probably as many definitions of slow living as there are people who write or talk about it.

I’ve talked about having a slow living manifesto, and how to create your own, in more depth in Episode 1 of the podcast.

Understanding what I mean when I’m talking about slow or seasonal living (I use the terms fairly interchangeably) will hopefully give you the grounding you need to understand my own ethos, and to begin to create your own version of a slow living manifesto.

 
 

And if you want a little help, I’ve created a free download to get you going (and you don’t even need to give me your email address). You can grab the download here. But before you get cracking on it I hope you’ll take a moment to read the values contained in my own slow living manifesto, which I think will help you build your own.

Connection

I suppose this is the key concept, the one which underpins our entire way of living as a family. I want to feel more connected primarily to my husband and children, but also to my wider family and friends, to my core values, to my living space, and to the wider world around me. Feeling connected, whether that’s with people or my surroundings, means focusing less on doing, on ticking off lists and charging through the day to get everything done, and more on being - literally stopping to smell the roses, looking the person I’m talking to in the eye instead of down at my phone, surrounding myself with beautiful colours and natural textures that reconnect me with my surrounds. It’s connecting all my senses with whatever is going on in my life right now.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life having checked off my To Do list every single day, but having done very little actual living, and I think connecting with the people and places around me provides the antidote to constantly focusing on the ‘busy busy busy’ mantra of modern life.

Home

For me, this is the space I surround myself with for a fair percentage of my waking (and sleeping) hours, where I retreat from the world, where I laugh and cry and celebrate and commiserate, and just simply spend those days which might feel nothingy at the the time but are so important in giving our lives texture and meaning. Having a space that I love is enormously important to both my and Adam’s wellbeing, and I genuinely believe it has a huge impact on our children too.

My ideal home is a space which is clear, calm, warm, and full of natural light, natural materials and beatiful colour and texture. It fulfils its many and varied functions as smoothly as possible, and emphatically isn’t cold, uninspiring, over crowded or badly laid out. I work at home 90% of the time so this space really matters to me, but actually it matters to all five of us.

Side note: we’re actually undergoing a massive renovation of our home this year, so expect this topic to keep cropping up.

The seasons

I suppose in reality I mean something even wider than the seasons - I mean the planet around us, animals, the beauty of the natural world, the whole kit and kaboodle. How that manifests for me though, is an awareness and a passion for the seasons I see outside the window. It’s savouring each new season as it arrives, marking the changes through the year, getting outside in it but also bringing it inside in the form of flower arrangements, wreaths and centrepieces, or as candle scents or the table linen we use.

Anything I do that connects me to what’s going on outside really increases my sense of connection with the world around me, makes me feel more grounded and more complete, and basically makes me a happier and nicer person to be around. It is perhaps even more true of my children, none of whom are wildly sporty but all of whom are far nicer people when they’ve got a good dose of nature.

I think alongside this concept, and the primary idea of connection, runs a parallel theme of respect for the planet, and of the limited resources it provides. This naturally leads to conversations about sustainability, waste and minimalism, all of which I intend to tackle in the future. And also respect for the people on this planet, and the limitless diversity contained within the entire human race. This is a journey which I am just at the beginning of, and I feel very young and new to it, but I plan to explore it more by myself and in this space.

Creativity

This is enormously important to me personally. Until about a year ago I don’t think I would even have described myself as a particularly creative person. I would have said something like, “I knit, and I sew, and I make stuff and I write a fair bit, and I’m not bad at interiors or flower arranging, but I’m not properly creative. I don’t make art or anything.” I know exactly where this feeling comes from - as a child I was told, more than once, that I was a terrible artist (I don’t draw very well, and don’t particularly enjoy it) and from that I extrapolated the conclusion that I was wholly uncreative. Which just goes to show how much you can influence a person’s entire make up with a few badly chosen phrases - for years I shut down this side of myself, with a real sense of ‘that’s not for uncreative people like me’ before rediscovering and nurturing it over the last couple of years, and finally allowing myself to base my business on it only late last year.

For me, creativity is expressed in a multitude of ways; through writing, the things I make, the photos I take, the activities I do with my children, the way I lay out our home, a thousand different ways and means. In fact, sometimes I overcommit myself creatively to such an extent that actually I stifle it by not giving any one project enough time and space (both of which my own creativity needs in abundance), so I have to consciously be aware of choosing to do fewer things but to allow myself to get more deeply into them, which can be tricky when I want to do everything. This is another reason for keeping the initial seasonal collections for Ochre & Flax small - I want them to be excellent, and I want to explore my creative range gently this year rather than pressuring myself to churn out high volumes.

I don’t know if this inbuilt need for creativity is true of everyone, but I think that everyone has creativity inside them, and in so many of us giving it room to breathe and grow can bring huge doses of joy and fulfilment to our lives.

Quietude

If connection is the taproot that grounds this whole process then quietude is, I think, the treetop canopy; the beautiful result of the process of slow living. Adam thinks my use of the word quietude is enormously pretentious, but it so neatly encapsulates what I experience when I honour all of my slow living principles.

Quietude is defined as a state of stillness, calm or quiet in a person or place, which I think is the perfect way to describe someone who is truly at peace and living in the moment, rather than feeling the need to dash forward to the next thing or hanker for something which has already been.

But here’s something important

I don’t want to be dictatorial. I don’t want my version of slow living to be the version you feel you have to adhere to in order to do it ‘right’ (there is no right and wrong here, I am certain), or that you are unwelcome here if your version of slow living is a thousand miles from my own. I would absolutely love to hear more about your version of slow living or how you hope to achieve it - come and share your thoughts over on instagram or email me at jo@ochreandflax.co.uk.

I hope all of this gives you a clearer idea what I mean when I use the phrase slow or seasonal living, or a more connected life. I look forward to developing these ideas further as I begin to learn more myself through plain old living it, and through running a business which is underpinned by these values.