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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

How much do you want to know about small business owners?⠀
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It is something that I ponder about a lot. It’s a balance between oversharing and ‘just’ being a business on here. This Instagram account is officially a business one but there always seems to be a lot of me in it. ⠀
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There is also the effect on the actual business to think about. For I am not the whole of Snapdragon. ⠀
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For example - at the moment I’m on holiday for a few days, yesterday’s post made that clear and my Insta stories have been given over to Venetian scenes all weekend. ⠀
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But the business continues as normal - this embroidered herb cushion went into the shop, Valerie is packing up the final boxes of this quarter’s Studio Box subscription, Fiona is making and dispatching orders. ⠀
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When I went to Myanmar in February business went dead - with more orders and emails in the 24 hours after I got home than in the 3 weeks I was away. It is something I need to address. ⠀
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So do you like to see what business owners/makers/designers/writers get up to in their time off? Or would you prefer social media was temporarily abandoned or handed onto someone back at base? ⠀
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(As an aside this isn’t about working on holiday -as most business owners will recognise the integrated nature of a small business life means that stress doesn’t come from posting a photo with a coffee in the morning or making notes of a new idea or taking the time to read a great business book)
Today it is my 50th birthday. ⠀
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I’m celebrating it in Venice, feeling happy, loved, incredibly lucky and very, very much looking forward to whatever the next decades bring. ⠀
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Euan took this photo on the water bus  yesterday headed out to Torcello for lunch. ⠀
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It is a portrait of a woman anticipating good things. ⠀
What flowers have you seen bees on this year?⠀
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I spent half an hour a couple of days ago sitting watching bees work themselves around the cirsiums - this is one of the first non bulb perennials to flower in our garden so particularly precious for insects⠀
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There were also masses working in the wallflowers next to it - and in the broccoli that we left to flower. ⠀
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Next year we will hopefully be getting a couple of hives to put down in under the apple trees behind the cabin - a beautifully sheltered spot. ⠀
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I grew up with hives - taking them up to the heather in the car - and now that I don’t need to protect a crop of flowers from pollination (for once a flower is fertilised it fades so can’t be sold), we are finally able to get our own. ⠀
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I have 4 of these cloches. They were originally from the show stand that I made for the Country Living Fair In Glasgow in 2005. ⠀
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The event that really started my business in many ways and certainly changed the way I thought about what I’m capable of. ⠀
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The event that taught me that being small is an advantage, not a handicap. ⠀
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Now they are covered in moss- an effect that would have looked amazing on that original stand. ⠀
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It looks like another beautiful sunshiney day out there. I am getting ready to write my Friday newsletter which is all about designing the garden and not being too pretentious. X. If you aren’t on my list already you can sign up via my bio.
What do you take with you to pass the time on journeys?

I’m travelling a bit over the next few days so have been packing my handbag with things to do- knitting, kindle, phone, headphones, purse. 
What would be in yours?
”When the gorse is out of flower, kissing‘s out of fashion”

There are always a few flowers on the gorse, bright against the grey - but now is peak yellow in the hills. 
It is a plant that fascinates me. So prickly, so dense and yet its history is so domestic. 
The wood of choice for bakers’ ovens as it burns hot without making much ash. 
Planted next to Scotland’s West Coast crofts for drying linen - the barbs holding the sheets better than a washing line in the gales. 
And then there is the smell - which genetically I cannot discern - but which I am told is pure pina colada.
We bought this house because of bluebells. ⠀
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We spent a quarter of an hour in the house, small rooms, low ceilings, aluminium windows, swirly carpets. ⠀
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Then we spent an hour in the bluebell wood that slopes down to the burn, sun green through the alders, blue haze at our feet. ⠀
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A few years ago extremely heavy rain caused a land slip - the ground turned liquid and an acre of mature trees slid, along with the bluebells at their roots, down into the torrent and away. ⠀
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This year, finally, it is beginning to reestablish - new alder and willow saplings have their roots down, bluebells are forming a haze of blue. Still too fragile to walk in but getting there. I watch from the top of the slope.
Today marks a year since I began this Instagram account.⠀⠀
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I normally don't post a photo on a Saturday but read the papers instead, but I wanted to come on and say thank you to everyone who comes by and chats with me here.⠀⠀
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I also want to say a big thank you to Kayte @simpleandseason who encouraged me to give Instagram another go when I despaired of it.  You were right Kayte, there are real people here!⠀⠀
I started posting here of course because I run a business, and it’s important for me to find a non pushy way to talk about the things I sell, but the community I have found on Instagram is why I stay.⠀⠀
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What I'm interested in is real, everyday lives - and though people say to me that Instagram can feel really fake and salesy, that isn't how I find it at all. ⠀⠀
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I don't really follow any big 'influencers' because I find them a bit distant, instead I follow people who chat about what happens day to day, what they think, what they feel, how much they love their cat. ⠀⠀
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Instagram is my watercooler.  Thank you for meeting me here.⠀⠀
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This photo was taken by @katieannglen a year ago too.
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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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