How to Start Your Slow Living Journey Today

First we had the aesthetic “Cottagecore” movement, which had many of us embracing our inner farmhand as we dreamed of a simple life away from the hustle and bustle of the world. Then came “Slow Living,” which was more focused on the principles of cottage living rather than the aesthetics.

Personally, I’m a fan of both.

The idea of slow living can mean something different depending on who you ask. For some, it might come with an old-fashioned way of life: gardening, canning, mending, and the like. For others, it’s more of an aversion to fast-paced society, social media, and “the grind.”

Again, I’m a fan of both.

If you’re like me and wondering how you can simplify your life to start living slowly and intentionally, try a few of these tips to see if they work for you. You don’t have to delete all of your social media or throw out all of your fast fashion right this minute. You can simply start slowly.

Aesthetic books, a vase of flowers, and a slice of cake.

Ask Yourself These Two Important Questions

Before you start browsing possible homestead sites on Zillow, grab a journal or notebook and ask yourself these questions. First:

“What do I want my life to look like?”

By asking yourself this question, you can customize slow living to work for your life rather than the other way around. Try to focus on the bigger picture and don’t be too idealistic. Instead of writing something like, “I walk outside, barefoot, to my well-tended garden of fresh vegetables,” try writing, “I want to grow my own food and buy fewer processed snacks.” Other goals that would work well with the slow living movement are wanting to spend less, waste less, feel less stressed, live in the moment more, and connect with friends and family more.

The next question you need to ask yourself is:

“What do I need to do to make that happen?”

This question will force you to think about the logistics of your slow living plan, which is a good thing. Plenty of us can daydream about a quiet, idyllic life but unless you have concrete plans to set things in motion, that life will remain a daydream.

If you wrote, “I want to grow my own food,” for the first question, you might write something like, “I will need to learn as much as I can about gardening, find a place to grow my food, buy supplies, and take care of my garden every day.” If you wrote, “I want to wear ethically made clothes from sustainable brands,” you might consider writing, “I will need to stop shopping at fast fashion stores, research ethical brands, and create a budget.”

Start Managing Your Time

Now that you have an idea of what your slow life looks like, it will be easier for you to identify things in your everyday life that don’t fit this lifestyle. Think about how you spend time every day and how each activity will help you reach your goals.

You don’t have to start waking up at 5 am every day or plan nightly meditations, you simply need to evaluate your behaviors and do less of what conflicts with your slow living goals. 

If your goal is to feel less stressed, maybe you’d feel better if you replaced two hours of scrolling through social media with a walk in nature, journaling, or reading a good book. Maybe scrolling through social media actually helps you unwind. Again, your individual results will vary.

Be mindful of how you’re spending your time. The first step, and arguably the most difficult, is to recognize when you’re doing stuff that conflicts with your slow living goals. Start there.

Create a Second Brain

The idea of creating a digital productivity system might seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. 

As a writer, as much as I’d like to log off, unplug my computer, and break out a typewriter, I need to work for a living. As a creative person, I get lots of ideas for projects, things I want to do or research, stuff that inspires me, etc. As a person with ADHD, my brain has two speeds: 200 km/h in the wrong lane or stalled on the side of the road. 

So how does my smooth brain keep track of articles I need to write, creative ideas I want to explore, important dates, things from my to-do list, and other important stuff?

It doesn’t.

My “second brain” aka Notion, Trello, and a few other apps, keeps track of my life. In the words of productivity consultant David Allen, “Your brain is for having ideas, not for holding them.”

A productivity system, in my eyes, is not for doing more. I use my productivity system to keep track of all the things, so that my tiny brain can feel less overwhelmed and more at peace.

If you want to learn how to create your own second brain, try looking up Ali Abdaal’s YouTube videos on the subject.

Do a Digital Detox

Put that phone away, it’s time to do some self discovery today.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my phone is controlling my life. Sometimes I physically feel like I can’t stop scrolling. Other times, I desperately want to put my phone down, but an important email will come through or a text from a friend. Lastly, I might set my phone down to do some work, only to find myself checking it for notifications just a few minutes later.

If you can relate, I invite you to quit that bad habit cold turkey.

A digital detox doesn’t have to be a big thing with lots of planning involved. You can take your phone, turn it off, and go put it in another room right this minute if you want. You can choose to be away from your phone and/or other digital devices for a few hours or a few days. 

Remember that slow living looks different for everyone. No amount of time away from your smartphone is too much or too little. Some people will benefit from regular digital detoxes and some won’t. But if you struggle with spending too much time on your phone, a 24 hour digital detox is a good way to jumpstart better habits.

A woman reading about slow living practices (probably)

Choose One New Lifestyle to Research

As I mentioned, slow living consists of a lot of things: growing your own food, making your own clothes, living more sustainably, etc. With so many facets, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

As someone with ADHD, I love diving into new hobbies head first. When I started collecting used manga, I grew my humble collection of four or five volumes to over 100 in a matter of weeks. When I learned to sew, I chose a fancy machine with an embroidery function and slapped down my credit card.

So yeah, I’m specifically telling you not to do that.  

I invite you to choose one thing about slow living that really appeals to you and research it. I also challenge you to spend zero dollars as you do so.

How much can you learn about gardening, canning food, making and mending clothes, decluttering, mindfulness, self care, journaling, reducing stress, cooking from scratch, living sustainably, knitting, and more for free?

Quite a lot, actually.

The answer, my friends, is simple: YouTube.

For double slow living points, go to the library. Seriously, what’s more “slow living” than spending a day at the library researching mycology (the study of mushrooms) or how to keep chickens in your backyard? As a person who lives in Japan and can’t read 90% of the books in her local library, I’m begging you to let me live vicariously through you.

If you’re wondering how you can start living slowly as soon as possible, the answer is to pump the brakes a little bit and do some research and planning first. I know firsthand how strong the desire for action is, but without some thoughtful planning, you risk landing yourself in an even more stressful situation than when you started. Can you imagine trying to explain the credit card bill for a $500 pressure canner and the closet full of mason jars to your significant other? Yikes.

By taking some time to journal about important questions, evaluate how you spend your time, create a productivity system to minimize stress, spend time away from your phone, and research just one aspect of slow living, you’re setting your journey up for success. When in doubt, take things slow.

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