Monday, May 24, 2010

Slow Down!

As a person who multitasks yet constantly feels like I'm being spit off the back of the treadmill of life, I found this article really interesting.  I try to simplify, yet I also find myself doing things that complicate.  Blogging, for example.  Web surfing.  Various garden projects.  Isn't it just easier to buy stuff at the store?  Faster.  Wait - that's the point.  A lot of my projects (which can be overwhelming in their number and scope, especially for my life phase, as I mother little ones) are simplification projects.  Growing food is a slow process, a labor of love, a developing oneness with the food.  And yet it is also watering, weeding, planting, composting -- translation -- time.  It is slow.  Yet it is also a time sink.  One in the same, I suppose.  There is this tension between wanting to get things done so you have time to move on to the things you want to do vs. just slowing everything down and enjoying the process.  Being mindful. 

Where do I waste time?  Web-surfing, email, reading news.  But is it such a waste?

We don't really watch TV, so the time isn't being sunk there. 

This article points to agreement about increased speed of life now.  We get places faster (cars, airplanes) and get information faster (internet, phones), so why aren't we overwhelmed with leisure time?  Doesn't that sound nice?  Being overwhelmed with leisure time.  Yet I don't know anyone who feels that way.  Why not?  Longer hours at work?  Greater expectations for ourselves and our families?  More scheduled activities for kids?  Multi-generational care across suburban (and global) sprawl?

Some of the ways we try to simplify in our home are:
- almost no TV
- minimal cell phone use (so we aren't getting calls everywhere we go)
- growing some of our food
- preserving some of our food (but again, is this just complicating things?  It would be faster to buy a jar of applesauce than make it.  But I guess that's the point - SLOW DOWN!)
- I don't like to run errands all the time, so I postpone trips like going to the grocery store (in the article he discusses the merits of skipping a bookstore trip that he doesn't really have time for anyway).  But this ends up with less frequent trips.  The ones I do make are time-consuming and feel like a marathon!
- intentional reduction in consumption.  Freecycle and Craig's List are not only cheaper, but also greener - by reusing stuff.  They are more of a process - than the quick accomplishment of just buying something new.  So does searching for a pressure canner for a year on Freecycle, Craig's List, garage & estate sales, and thrift shops count as "slowing down"?  Or is it just a complication and I should have just bought a new one and got it over with?

I'm afraid that I'm a long way off from having the answers.  I'm open to suggestions.  How do you simplify your life?


  1. I've been thinking all day about what you posted. I don't have any answers, but some comments. At work, people's lives literally depend on me, so I try to be perfect. For everything else, I try to be "good enough". As in, my housecleaning, such as it is, is good enough, but not perfect. It's not even my best. I don't even move the furniture when I vaccuum! Hah! And my kids...they watch TV! Dan and I try to keep them nourished with healthy food, but Aaron gets occasional happy meals. If we keep all our projects in a scope we can realistically accomplish, it all stays a little saner. I think if browsing Craigslist and such for the canner was a pleasurable activity, then great. But if the goal was to get canning, and you spent a year waiting for a used one to pop up on your radar, well, it may not have been worth it.

    When we decided to have one parent stay home, we made a major commitment to slowing down,which has paid off, but we often get lost in the details. Hang in there!


  2. Thanks so much for the comment, Julie. Good food for thought.

    Part of the canner search example, involves the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction in something done the "slow" way. But of course, if we do everything the "slow" way we won't get much done. Balance, I suppose. Like your nutrition goals and occasional happy meals. Another example that is common in my home is having great fresh product available that we frequently don't use as much as I'd wish at busy weekday breakfasts. Instead frozen berries get pulled from the freezer and served to the kids. Fast nutrition. If I'm really good it is something that I bought in season locally and froze. If I'm not good, it is was packaged in Timbuktu and shipped with gallons of petroleum all around the globe in freezer compartments. And I console myself that at least they are real berries.

    Does anyone really move the furniture when they vacuum on a regular basis? And by that I mean, more than once a decade? My compromise is: if I happen to be moving the furniture, I try to vacuum.

  3. Rachel, I find I ask myself the same questions day in and day out. While there are, as we've been repeating, no quick and easy answers, the consensual objective seems to be BALANCE. We can't be perfect, at least not all the time. Trying to be, especially in the society we live in, can be enough to drive us insane. But we can do what we can, and when we have to make compromises, try not to beat ourselves up over it too much.

  4. BTW, I actually do move the furniture when I vacuum. But I'm a slight perfectionist. (Still trying to practice what I preach, in terms of not beating myself up over compromises...) ;)

  5. Jessica - Thanks for the comments. I've definitely had to let go of perfectionism.

    You actually move the furniture when you vacuum!? Good grief! You are a better person than I!