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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: slowlife

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

A few years ago I grew lots of dark, deep, sumptuous flowers - it was purely fashion, the way that seeing things repeatedly works its way into your brain so that you begin to order lots of seeds with 'night' and 'black' and 'midnight' in their names.⁠⠀
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Navy, Burgundy, Royal Purple, I planted them all, thinking of a vibrant Persian carpet of plants, and then couldn't work out why my garden looked so blooming dull.⁠ ⁠⠀
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It was the sunflowers that made me see the error of my ways - their deep burgundy petals sinking into the surrounding green, invisible at dusk.⁠ ⠀
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Because everyone knows that sunflowers are meant to be yellow. ⁠⠀
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These ones are Vanilla Ice - pinched out to flower at waist height with lots of soft yellow blooms, a lovely cheerful thicket in front of the sweet peas.⁠⠀
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(I'm sure that many people will violently disagree with me, maybe it is the Scottish light . . . maybe it was my combinations or the lack of low sunshine through the main borders . . . but they never ever glowed from inside as I had hoped)
One of my aims in life is to encourage people to make things with their hands. 
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Simple things, simple skills - I believe that it helps us connect something in our brain that consuming electronically never will. 
This eco-beauty knitting kit is back in stock (click through profile). Everything you need to make facecloths and makeup wipes and teach yourself to knit along the way. 
If you already have cottons and needles then there is a pattern for a more complicated face cloth back in my blogs (search the tag eco making!).
One of the things that I’m gradually getting better at is planting the plants that actually want to grow here, rather than cajoling along ones that really would prefer to be growing in the south. ⠀
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The raised beds went into our productive garden in April - so really only a few months ago - and already it is full of blooms. All are hardy annuals, easy, beautiful, generous plants - sweet peas, calendula, ammi, cornflowers. ⠀
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Sometimes people are snobby about them - because they are simple to grow I think. ⠀
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I’ve written a blog post about how to keep them blooming all summer which you can get to via the link in my profile.
Did you see Gardeners World on Friday evening?  It was all about meadows - a whole hour of life affirming beauty, interesting people making a difference and encouragement to let the edges of your lawn grow wild. I loved it. 
One interesting thing was that there are seemingly 23 million gardens in the UK, many more than I had thought. So much potential. 
We are now planning to create a strip of annuals along the edge of the lawn, in front on the box hedge that bounds the productive garden. 
Anyway it inspired me to get out my old floristry things - these were the kinds of arrangements I did most when I arranged wedding flowers - lines of upright meadow flowers - though obviously they were in water (most often small plastic pots hid by mossy rocks or sods of long grass, high up on church windows.)
These particular flowers are now safely in bottles on my windowsill.
Yesterday morning, first thing, I took this photo of my bedroom windowsill, pale pink roses saved from the rain.⁠⠀
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Their colour made me think of instagrammer @andreacolvile and her love of beautiful pastel flowers.⁠⠀
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Over breakfast I heard of Andrea's death. ⁠⠀
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Andrea was such a light filled person, I loved chatting to her, she was so committed to capturing the beauty around her. ⁠⠀
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Her photographs of her children are joyous, her images of flowers exquisite, all her photographs instantly recognisable as hers.⁠⠀
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A Just Giving page has been set up in Andrea's memory to raise money for research into Liver Research - you can get to it via the link in Andrea's profile.
Are you a binge tidier or someone who manages to keep things looking habitable all the time?⁠⠀
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I am definitely the former.  I am the messiest person in our house and, as I work from home a lot at the moment, the whole place just slides and slides until I crack and tidy it all up.⁠⠀
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Yesterday I was putting together a how to blog post about making alternatives to kitchen towel - and it meant that I needed to set up somewhere for the clean cloths to stay and the dirty cloths to be put and suddenly it was clear that the kitchen was full of things that shouldn't be there.⁠⠀
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So I tidied it up and in that calm moment, in that half half hour or so before the guddle began to build up again, I wished I was naturally neat.⁠⠀
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I'll press publish on the blog post next week assuming that my prototypes stand up to the job!
I lay in bed early this morning listening to the rain. We have French doors in our bedroom and at night they are usually open so that the animals can come and go without waking us up. ⠀
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I could smell the roses, the scent gently drifting in - not these roses which are in the productive garden, but a pink David Austin rose.  A rose that sulked for years that it wasn’t growing in a Sussex garden and then decided last year just to get on with it and bloom. ⠀
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This week is a week of taking things easy, designing new things, working out plans for the next six months, pottering, making rose lip balm. ⠀
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At one point it would have been our busiest week of the year - up early and in the workshop at 7, making hundreds of teachers thank you gifts. ⠀
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I think I prefer just having time to smell the roses. Especially because I have always believed that the best gift from a child is one they have made.
Plastic free shopping is something that many of us are striving for.  I’m really encouraged by how many plastic free options are beginning to appear - we have one coming locally which will be amazing. ⠀
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Produce bags have been the product that I have been asked most for (by miles) this year. ⠀
I’m not convinced that we should really see #zerowaste as an opportunity to buy more pretty stuff though. ⠀
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Instead I’ve put together a step by step tutorial in how to hand sew your own produce bags from recycled fabrics- a perfect gentle activity for in front of the tv. ⠀
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You can click through to it via the link in my profile. ⠀
And then you just need to remember to take them with you when you go shopping. ⠀
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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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