June 8, 2016

On Fostering Slow & Simple Living

In a constantly distracting world full of ads, trends, consumerism - full of societal pressures of checklists and keeping up with the Joneses - it is no wonder why searches for things like: decluttering my home/life, how to live simply, minimalism, tiny homes, etc. are becoming so pronounced. All of these relentless bombardments are intrusive, exhausting, and anxiety-inducing.

As I'm looking to attempt living alone once my roommate moves out this summer, money is going to be very tight, so I'm focusing a lot on how I can make changes that help me be less extravagant and still get more out of life each day. I am not yet a pro at simple, slow living (I'm not one of those spatially-gifted Instagrammers at least)... but I have had some time to mull it over and realistically introduce it into my daily habits.

One of the easiest ways I find to pause and savor the moment is to create rituals - to allow time for rituals. Now, I may have been raised a cradle Catholic but I'm not just talking about sit, stand, kneel and carry out spiritual customs that have been around for centuries. I'm talking about individually.

Whether they're daily, weekly, annually: create rituals.
Call them traditions if you like. Call them habits. Make a morning coffee ritual - an allotted time with your favorite mug in a welcoming, calm space. Give yourself a skincare ritual - that 10 step Korean skincare routine may seem a bit much (an awful lot of product purchasing & stressful to remember all the steps and repeat every day - and stress is the opposite goal of having rituals), but the idea of slowing down and pampering yourself with a face mask pre-scheduled a couple of times a week is the ultimate feeling of self-care. Caring for ourselves and meeting our own needs have become afterthoughts in our society and are more important than ever.

A goal of mine is to make a ritual out of Sunday hikes - it doesn't matter what your rituals are. It matters that you take them seriously and and commit: make a point of pausing for them, no matter the circumstances.

Yoga Deza at Tri Cycle Farms!
It is quite easy to fall into habits of mindlessness after a long day at work. You know what I'm talking about: whether it's Netflix, Reddit, Pinterest, video games, or whatever your guilty pleasure may be, it's an easy default. And it should happen! However, what's more important is making sure you're also penciling in mindfulness.

Whether it's reading insightful books, meditating, journaling on gratitude, yoga, or whatever gets you into your state of flow (art, chess, see more here), don't stop feeding your brain after your school years are older.

The practice of mindfulness is all about being in the present. There's really nothing more important to simple living than this. Let's practice being aware of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.

Nourishing Your Body: 
Michael Pollan says you can eat anything you want if you make it yourself, so I did ;)
I'm not here to vouch for any kind of diet or indoctrinate you into growing your own food (although the latter is invaluable for a great number of reasons) - but I will say you should do your research if you haven't already and choose a "grocery" lifestyle that compliments your belief. There are arguments to be made over organic, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, keto, etc. diets. The most important thing is that you believe in what you're doing and can commit to however much time, money, and effort is involved. If we want to savor life, surely we want healthy, hydrated bodies to do so.

With that said, one of the easiest ways to slow down is to make your food from scratch. Whether it's starting with yeast and kneading your muscles into homemade bread or maybe even just cooking up your ingredients and freezing your own batch of burritos instead of buying prepackaged bags, connect with what you eat. And use ingredients that are in season! They just taste better - and it's one more way to connect with nature even from inside your kitchen.

It's not just food, though - things like water, sleep, and exercise are obvious, necessary, and neglected ways of nourishing your body. Make sure you get plenty of each so your temple of skin is functioning at it's highest capacity.

Ahaha, this one Christmas, I made my mom this hideous bear.
And I'm pretty sure she still has it.
Food isn't the only thing you can make from scratch. Another way to become very connected with the "things" you interact with in every day life is to make them from scratch, whether it's your own cleaning products or the furniture on which you sit. I know people who don't have it if they don't make it themselves or support a community member who has.

While this could be indulgent if your craft means purchasing lots of supplies (which can be countered by making your own craft plans with unused things already lying around), it doesn't have to. Besides, we spend a lot more enjoying cheaply fabricated items forged by underpaid workers. Try slowing down and making the objects you use every day: a bowl, a skirt, a shelf. Commemorate memories: make a scrapbook to look back on, or if you can't throw out those ticket stubs, make a memory display for them all to tuck inside of.

I will never understand a person who doesn't appreciate a homemade gift unless it's made by a kid. Provided you aren't spending three minutes on a washable marker drawing that looks like it was drawn by a child, nothing shows love more than putting thought into what you do (i.e. let's avoid gift cards). Your creations don't have to be for yourself - share your work with the world.

Bottom line: have some kind of craft where you produce something. It doesn't have to involve yarn or wood glue, but it does have to involve your effort and dedication. It doesn't have to be one thing, it can change once a month. Simple living means taking life back to the good ole days... before you could drive down the street to a Walmart Supercenter.


Isn't this an incredible feat by the Live Springdale team?
You know that "I don't want to be an ant" scene in Waking Life? Even if you don't, I know you'll know this script:

"Hey, how are you?"
"Good, and you?"

Common courtesies are great (and let's be real, a big relief for those with social anxieties), but they allow us to be on such an autopilot that we forget to be genuine and connect with others. I'm probably guiltier than you, but we've got to start chatting in the elevator. We need to be less out of sight, out of mind and remember to continue kindling the flames our relationships are built upon.

One of the easiest ways to stop spending money by spending time on things like shopping, dining out, movie theaters, etc. is to support our own communities by attending local events. Often times these events are free (or even if they're a few dollars, it's often to keep the events going or to support a good cause). I'm fortunate to live in a town big enough to put events on, but small enough to foster relationships. If you live in or are visiting Northwest Arkansas be sure to check out things like Pint Night, First Thursday, Last Saturday, Farmer's Markets, My Open Mic, The Syc House, TriCycle Farms, TheatreSquared, and so much more.

With that said, getting involved with community often means helping others, volunteering for events, and more... don't over-commit. These experiences are priceless but never bite off more than you can chew less your life get less simple real quick.

Consider donating to the Little Free Pantry or your local DCFS office!
You didn't think we could talk about simplifying life without getting rid of the baggage first, did you? Whether you profit from a garage sale or donate to a local shelter, get the junk out. If you never use it, or you never wear it, or it's just in the way and has no meaning, it has no business taking up room in your home. Make your home a sacred space for yourself - each part, even the bathroom, do whatever you need to make each part rejuvenating after a long day out in the world.

Once it's clear, don't build it back up - buy only the things you need, or the things that make you feel strongly. Better yet, make them yourself. Reduce, reuse, recycle (use washable cloths instead of paper towels, or reusable bowl covers and snack sacks). Besides, all that money you normally spend building your hoard can be spent instead on experiences, which we know makes us happier.

Most importantly, don't try to do all of these things at once - you'll just overwhelm yourself and that defeats the purpose of what you're trying to accomplish. But like I said, I'm no pro... what would you add to this list for simple living?

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