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Journal

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

I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
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I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
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This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
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It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
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When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
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The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
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The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
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My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
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Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
Abundance.⁠⠀
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And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
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My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
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So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
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I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
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I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
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It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
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My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
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Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
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Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
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But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
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This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
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This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
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White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
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The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
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Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
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We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
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Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
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Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
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It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
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Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
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Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
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So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
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An attempt to keep momentum.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I 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.

 

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