Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.

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In search of the simple life

in search of the simple life

I have been mulling over the term 'Simple Life' a lot this week - trying to pry apart the layers of what I mean by it, trying to work out what exactly it is that draws me to the idea of simple, why I feel driven to simplify.

As I wrote in this blog post, I think that a lot of it is about deciding what is 'enough' in my life so that I can get off that conveyor belt of striving. I think though, that it divides into different sections.

1. Stuff

A brave place to start perhaps for someone who makes a living running what is in part an online shop - but I am not a natural shopper.

I really don't like the dissatisfaction that is often the pre-cursor of consumerism, the anxiety over whether I made the right choice, the come down when the 'new' wears off.

I grew up in a family antique business and, in contrast to everyone else in the family, I hated the stress and adrenaline of auction sales - the wanting something, the research, the bidding and the (often) losing out.

I am, it seems, without the shopping buzz - and part of simplifying my life is looking at how, what and when I buy.

My home is pretty full so I am trialling having a 'one in one out' system - even for those cookery books. Not decluttering per se, but a deliberate stand against re-cluttering.

I have taken the option for single click shopping off my phone and I now add books to a wishlist until I have read the ones I already have. When I found myself attempting to buy a book I already had I decided it had got out of hand.

What this seems to be doing is to take that 'scarcity' anxiety element away from shopping - it can wait, I need to choose a sacrificial thing to get rid of, I can buy it later, I'll think on this. I will see whether I already have enough.

Of course this is exactly what retail tries to stop us doing as shoppers - all those flash sales, the last minute discounts, the absolute final chance - they are simply there to make us feel we need things and that we risk missing out, we risk not having enough.

I'm trying to eliminate this from this website as best I can - some things are limited editions because I can only make so many, but we are now corralling them into monthly updates so hopefully there will be less of a 'buy now or you will miss out' vibe about it. And as these will be every four weeks there will always be another chance.

The notification of an update is in the Friday newsletters, Studio Members get an email first, and then it goes 2 hours later to my general newsletter.

2. Time

In my experience time is a slippery thing. My ability to let time drain away is legendary - my favourite procrastination technique is thousands of tiny, unimportant jobs that prevent me from doing the actual thing that I want to do, need to do, will benefit from.

And yet, when I focus, when I actually get down to it - I can achieve far more than I think I can in a set time.

My approach to simplifying my schedule to create free time is twofold. Firstly it's saying no - no to all the social and business engagements that I don't want to go to, no to getting involved in other people's drama, no to energy vampires.

It is trying to say no to social media (so hard - I am getting better at having a post dinner curfew now).

Secondly it is scheduling tasks - something that I rolled my eyes at for years, because . . . you know . . . I am a creative . . . I need to feel the creative spark!

So Monday is sorting the week, outreach, writing my next A Seasonal Day e-course; Tuesday embroidering and product planning, Wednesdays team meetings and product photography; Thursdays writing my newsletters and this blog, Fridays gardening, designing and all the good things.

And it has made such a difference.

Apart from knowing what I'm meant to be doing each day, it has really helped with saying no to all those time sucks previously outlined - because when you see my schedule . . . it is clear that I am actually really, really busy already!

3. Aspirations

This one is really close to my heart. I used to think that to be a proper business woman, to prove myself, I needed to grow my business bigger and bigger. From kitchen table and farm gate to workshop, from craft fairs to 10,000 orders and a Royal Mail pick up, from just me and my cats to a proper workforce.

Then, when I got there, when I ticked off all the goals on my list, I found that I had been chasing something just to chase it. It was the Wizard of Oz - with apologies to Gertrude Stein - "there was no there there"

And a bit part of my moving towards a simpler life is getting rid of all aspirations that are to do with bigger . . . more . . . higher - Seth Godin, the slow marketing guru, talks about finding your 'minimum viable audience', the smallest size of audience that will allow your business to thrive. And actually that isn't that many people - about double the number of members that we have now - but perfectly doable and certainly not something that would need hustle or compromises.

Snapdragon Life, as it stands now - and with all the plans in the pipeline for the next 6 months - is much smaller, more connected, more feel good than the larger, old style business ever was. And I love it so much more.

4. The wider world

Rolling news, social media reaction, drama, polarisation of opinions - it has all made me feel very overwhelmed over the last year - there is so much want and sorrow, so many natural disasters and injustices that I felt myself being pulled and pushed so fast in so many directions that everything I tried to do to help was too little, too fragmented, too token.

I decided to radically simplify the political and world issues that I respond to - perhaps heartless, but I believe way more effective.

My personal interests are in funding creative education for young people, supporting female entrepreneurs in developing countries, and campaigning against enviromental destruction - especially through the reducing the use of single use plastic.

It isn't that I don't care about all the thousands of other issues out there, it is just that I can't keep up and I really want to make a difference with action, rather than end up just virtue signalling with an instagram reshare.

I am hoping that this allows me to feel less overwhelmed, more effective, more informed and to actually be useful in my activism.

It is all an ongoing process, I would love to know what you are doing or have done to simplify your life, what worked, what didn't?

Tags: life

Comments: 1 (Add)

_callie_ben on April 27 2019 at 14:35

This is something I find myself reflecting on in my life too. It’s very much about having the courage to stand on your own values and not worry about being counter-cultural. Yes to scheduling and saying no and focussing on what resonates with you personally in trying to make a difference. The great thing about blog and Instagram posts like yours is that you realise you’re not alone and we can all support each other in doing things differently.

Snapdragon social

Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

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