Who else had high hopes for 2021, and then the first week of the year had other plans? While we are all thinking about our plans for this year and bettering the last, I want to share my 5 tips for slow living in 2021.
Let me admit; I was one of those persons that didn’t mind 2020. The year sat me down, and I needed that. In 2017 I made attempts at slow living. In September a hurricane decided to come through and blow my entire island to pieces, literally.
I picked myself up and attempted again in 2018. I did reasonably well. At the end of the year, I went back to political PR, which torpedoed slow living in 2019.
Then 2020 came, and I and the rest of the world had no choice but to take it slow. Amid lockdowns, washing our hands, and learning to be socially distant, I’m thankful for the quiet time we’re forced to have. Last year made all of us realize what was essential in life.
With the lessons of my previous attempts of slow living behind me, I wanted to have a game plan for a2021. I began planning early for carving out time, shedding a few things, and creating a plan of action to take is slow.
Then the first week of the year happened. In case you live under a rock and only come out to read my blog, the Cliff Note is – delusional Trump supporters and white terrorists decided to try their hand at an insurrection and siege of the US Capitol Building. Much to the world’s surprise, it did happen and lasted for a few bizarre hours.
While I know my love for news and politics is enduring, I’ve made a conscious decision not to engage in the downward spiral and mental anxiety that a 24-hour news cycle brings. For me, the entire episode knocked me off my game plan for 2021.
While your vice might not be news and politics, whatever it might be, embracing slow living is a great way to manage anxiety and choose a more balanced way of living. Slow living means being intentional with your time and how you engage with the world daily. It does take some planning to help you successfully navigate the day. Here are five areas of daily living that I believe are important to ensure that your slow living journey is manageable and achievable.
1: Declutter Your Home
I am passionate about decluttering, and my family is probably sick of me, encouraging them to get rid of more of their things. But as I’ve experienced, less clutter means more space for energy to flow, your creativity to be activated, and a clear canvas to design the life you want.
Last summer CNBC reported that in the US, there are more storage facilities than – get this – Starbucks, HomeDepots, Walmarts, Dunkin Donuts, Dominoes, Costcos, McDonalds, COMBINED. That’s a lot of things being stored that, honestly, some people don’t even come back to! Let’s also remember money spent on those items and the cost of storage.
I will be the first to admit, decluttering is hard work. The payoff, however, is worth it. I like to do a good two rounds of decluttering each year. With a little one, I find myself doing so every quarter as he moves from stage to stage, outgrowing clothing, and other items. This ensures that his space and our home isn’t filled to the brim or becomes storage for unused items.
For me decluttering is also essential for good mental health and to support my journey of a slow and sustainable lifestyle. It’s very easy to accumulate things, and before you know it, you are busy cleaning, putting away, moving, and taking care of those things instead of actually living the life you’ve envisioned for yourself.
Two helpful resources that started me on my journey are the documentary, The Minimalist, and Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The two helped me find my slow living style, which is a cross between minimalism and Kondo’s organizational method.
After my big declutter a few years ago, I started to be more intentional about my purchases. I’m embracing slow fashion and investing in multi-use pieces. To maintain a decluttered space, I evaluated home items such as the furniture (choosing function over ornamental) and even how I go about grocery shopping. Is it easy? No. But it is worth it to do the work towards creating a space that inspires my life. It’s still a journey for me, and some weeks and better than others.
2: Organize How You Work
A wise man at a beach bar once told me, “don’t confuse being disorganized with being busy.” And isn’t he right? Whenever I encountered this gentleman, he had a quiet unrushed disposition. I suppose owning a beach bar would do this to you, but he also had a pretty hectic business consulting in a high profile arena.
What was his big secret? According to him, it was merely organizing his allotted hours of work with integrity. The word integrity is key – being honest about what you can do with the time you have.
Many of us consider a busy schedule as a fact of our lives, and that’s just the way things will be. But how much of that is genuinely a packed schedule versus thinking through our commitments and coming up with a realistic schedule that honors our obligations, honors our time, honors our capacity to be productive, and importantly, honors the life we want to live?
One of the reasons I love entrepreneurship is freedom and flexibility. While it is not always as dreamy as it’s portrayed on social media, being an entrepreneur does provide the opportunity to organize your work around your lifestyle, for the most part.
With that freedom and flexibility, for me, it looks a bit like scheduling days in the week where as much as I can, I’m locked in trying to complete a few major tasks. On the other days, it is planning intentional time away from work to avoid that perpetual cycle of always working, working, and working.
If you’re not an entrepreneur and don’t have the freedom and flexibility to work on your terms, my best recommendation is to show up for the hours that require you to be there with your A-game. Go all in. Get to work with the energy and enthusiasm to get the job done well and protect your time and space outside of those working hours. Use your personal time to take care of yourself and recharge your energy.
3: Make Time to Read
Competence is a central part of my value system. Central. I like to be informed, and I have a healthy dose of nosiness about people in general. I love learning about who they are, how they see themselves, how they came to be, and about the instances and people that shaped their perspectives. It helps me in my life to learn from their experiences, but it also allows me to slow down and appreciate the views of others.
I also like to be informed on the issues and topics important to me and my perspective, whether politics, culture, or sustainability. I have my own experiences, but the work of others who have researched complex issues, sharing their findings and opinions adds to my knowledge and the quality of the information I share.
How can reading help you embrace slow living in 2021? Well, it’s about being intentional about how you spend your time and choosing something that will add value to your life. Reading provides an opportunity for a hard stop to unplug and intentionally focus on one thing.
This year on my reading list, I have my usual mix of biographies, reference pieces, topical reads, and some fiction. Previously I depended heavily on Audible to help me keep up on the go. I still use Audible and love it.
But I also very much want to get back to turning more pages and my book rituals – reading the last paragraph first, marking my pages, and the final closure once I’m done. For heavier books that I want to get into, take notes, and keep for my library, I get hard copies.
Reading can also provide a few minutes, hours, or even an afternoon of escape, get lost in a different world, and even recharge your energy to tackle your world. It is a chance to slow down and be present with the words and perspective you’re reading.
These are my top 5 books I’m tackling this quarter:
- A Promised Land by President Barack Obama
- The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Mr. Money Mustache
- Edge of Chaos by Dr. Dambisa Moyo
4: Spend Time Outside
I live in the Caribbean, and while it’s summer all year round, you would think that most of us spend all of our time outside. I must confess, I am one of those persons that have been spoiled by this year-round beauty.
During our two lockdowns last year, my husband and I started clearing a portion of our property to do some backyard gardening. My slow living journey will find me spending some more time outside and learning more about gardening. Helpful for the obvious benefit of growing your own food, but also for some exercise and getting doses of Vitamin D. So far, I managed to grow okra, sorrel, celery, and my kale and collards have been struggling.
Whether you choose to garden, run, walk or hike, being in nature reminds us of our connection to the earth. It reminds us of the part we play in our ecosystem and exposes us to the wonder of the earth. Throughout it all, it also moves us to respect the delicate life of nature and hopefully encourages us to live life a bit more sustainably.
We are still very much amid a global pandemic, and I believe there are many benefits of safely spending time outside. Our stress levels are high managing work and life during this COVID age. Spending some time outdoors is great for your mental and physical health.
5: Get A Hobby
Getting a hobby may sound simple, but having a hobby means that you are, intentionally putting aside time for something that brings you joy.
Many moons ago, I was a letterpress printer. I stumbled upon this art form when I was planning my wedding in 2008. I loved and still love the art of putting words on paper, in writing and printing. So when I learned about letterpress and had the opportunity to see and feel those impressions, I was instantly in love.
Months after the big day, I scoured the internet to learn more about the printing process. I read and watched every video I found and still wanted more.
I eventually found an Adana press that was in the UK. Somehow I worked out the details to purchase and ship my new gadget to me in the Virgin Islands and began a small, short-lived press.
I loved the art of printing. Somehow I always found the repetitive nature of printing stacks of stationery therapeutic. I would spend whole afternoons lost in getting the right impression, mixing colors just right, hanging pieces to dry, and the simple joy of cleaning down my press after a satisfying run. It was a feeling of making something with your very hand.
That’s why this year, I’ve decided to unpack my press and do a few runs just for the fun of it. No pressure, no stress of sales. I still send handwritten notes and letters, and it’s going to be great writing again on cotton paper with simple personalized impressions.
Whatever that thing might be that you enjoy doing for the fun of it, exercising, gardening, dancing, cooking, sewing, painting, carve out some time to do it. Hobbies are great stress relievers and are another way you can be intentional about spending your time.
I hope these five tips for slow living in 2021 gives you a few practical suggestions on how you can break away from a busy life and begin to embrace a slower pace. It is a continuous journey, but I trust that you will find, being intentional with your time will bring more balance and peace to your life. I would love to know; what other ways you are slowing down for 2021?