What is Slow Living?

Why you should think beyond decluttering + how to bring balance back to a hectic life. 

 
what is slow living

QUICK DEFINITION

In the simplest of terms, Slow Living is a lifestyle emphasizing mindful and intentional approaches to elements of everyday life. In a modern society which values speed - fast food, fast conversation, fast business, and fast money - Slow Living calls for us to linger over the aspects of our life that get passed over in the quest to “do more, quickly.” It’s a call to focus more deeply and intentionally on our family, friends, food, home life, and most importantly ourselves. 

Researchers have already begun to record the negative impact not slowing down has had on our health, environment, and culture. For instance: 

With all of these mounting concerns, Slow Living has emerged as a solution to reconnect us with what it means to actually live. 

HOW DID SLOW LIVING START?

The slow living movement first popped onto the scene back in the 1980’s and 90’s as the Slow Food movement. It was a reaction to fast food companies expanding globally from western culture, most notably in Italy, and how it negatively impacted traditional food production processes. Now the concept of “cooking slow” to preserve culinary traditions has expanded to the idea of maintaining a “slow” lifestyle in order to bring balance back to an increasingly exhausted society and environment. 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SLOW LIVING AND MINIMALISM

Many minimalists practice slow living, but not all people living a slow lifestyle are minimalists. The goals of both movements are similar: move away from consumerism, focus on a healthier pace of life, place value on people vs. things... Most writers on the subject of minimalism teach that to reach those goals you should declutter to live with less stuff, so you can enjoy more of what matters to you. Slow living takes it several steps further by placing emphasis on the concept of being sustainable and investing in your local community.

People practicing minimalism can live with less stuff, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they care about buying local/organic products, food, services, etc. - although most definitely do! 

An easy way to think about minimalism, or even simple living and zero waste lifestyles, is to picture each as an important facet of the Slow Living movement. To live slow means you care about minimalism, simplifying the way you live your life, and also reducing your carbon footprint on the world. It's the whole picture versus focusing in on one area of concern. 

Still confused? Then you should check out my article about the different simplicity lifestyles. I explain in more detail the principles behind each, plus there's a simple quiz to help you figure out which approach matches you best. 

"S.L.O.W." ACRONYM + HABIT FIXES

Another helpful way to understand and join the slow living movement is to break the word "slow" down into the following acronym: 

what is slow living

S = Sustainable: low environmental impact

The word sustainable gets thrown around a lot, which has unfortunately made it somewhat tarnished. The truth is our current lifestyle habits are not sustainable - for health, environmental, and economic reasons - so to use that word almost seems inappropriate. We don't really want to "sustain" most current aspects of our life. Instead, we need a complete overhaul and reprogramming of how we do things. Keeping in mind the environmental impact of the choices we make throughout our day can dramatically improve our health and the environment.

Habit fixes:

  • Consider switching from conventional household cleaners to ones using natural, non-toxic ingredients. You can even make your own, which saves money and is better for you and the Earth
  • Use public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk whenever possible. 
  • Visit The Nature Conservancy's website to figure out your carbon footprint (for free!) so that you can make informed choices and adjustments to create a more "sustainable" life.

L = Local: within the community where you live

Most people like the idea of shopping and eating locally, but few actually commit to doing it for a number of reasons. The top three are (1) "it's too expensive", (2) "I don't know where to find a local business", and (3) "it's easier to go to the big name store down the street." However, if you take a closer look at the positive benefits of going local, the pro's end up outweighing the con's. For example, purchasing from locally owned shops and stores gives a boost to the local economy by keeping dollars circulating close to home. When you spend money at a remotely owned corporate chain store, money leaves the community with every transaction (mostly ending up in other countries). Going local is also environmentally friendly, because items and food aren't traveling far distances to reach you. 

Habit fixes:

  • Purchase local organic produce from a farmer's market or locally owned natural grocery store. To find a market near you visit www.localharvest.org and enter your city or zip code.
  • Consider paying a few extra dollars on items like custom furniture, handcrafted dishware, or handmade beauty products from local small businesses. The quality of these products is far superior to its cheaply made counterparts. You pay a larger upfront cost, but the product will last longer meaning you don't pay more money to replace it in a few short months or years.

O = Organic: not mass produced

Things like "fast fashion" and furniture websites offering cheap prices and free shipping are taking a toll on the environment and our society. In the instance of fashion, we are told to recycle old clothes by either donating or selling to a consignment shop to avoid filling landfills + give people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to have quality clothing at an affordable price. The problem? Many secondhand stores reject clothing from "fast fashion" chains because the clothing is poor quality and there's too much of it. The same goes for household items and furniture.

Habit fix:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Instead of filling your closet with 15+ cheap outfits from a trendy big name fashion store, start by shopping at your local consignment shop or invest in only a few more expensive, higher quality, timeless pieces from a reputable (and preferably eco-friendly, local) store. This principle can also be applied to household products and furniture.   

W = Whole: minimal to no processing

It's easy to go down the rabbit hole when looking at the health implications of over processed foods and products in our lives. It seems like almost every aspect of our life - beauty products, foods, carpet, upholstery - will eventually give us cancer. It's overwhelming to the point where people are concerned about health and the environment, but no one cares about the environmental movement. What are we supposed to do? Get rid of everything we own? The good news is that there are small changes you can make today that will positively impact your life for years to come, sans rabbit holes. All you have to do is visit a few of the links below to get started. 

Habit fixes:

NEXT STEPS

If you've made it this far, congratulations! I know it's a lot of reading and can easily feel like information overload, especially when the point is to try and reduce stress, be healthier, and feel like we have less on our plate vs. adding more.

All of the habit fixes mentioned in the previous section are not meant to be accomplished in a day, week, or even within the next few months. These habit shifts should happen organically and when you are ready to take the plunge. It may be that you only commit to buying local or maybe you use an eco-friendly cleaning product vs. your conventional one... and that's OK! Eventually over time these changes will make you feel healthier, which in turn gives you more energy, and a more positive outlook and approach to life.

Want more? Figure out which simplicity lifestyle is right for you and be sure to subscribe to The Mulberry Patch's monthly newsletter for bonus content + conversation.