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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

Later this morning I am going to be talking about change and business at The Good Life Experience⁠⠀
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The working title for my talk is '5 things I've learned from trashing my business' and its a pretty honest account of what the last 2 and a half years have meant to me.⁠⠀
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The talk is 11.30 in the drawing room of Hawarden Castle - do let me know if you are here and able to come and say
We are promised an Indian summer this weekend - sunshine through seedheads, cool evenings wrapped in blankets.⁠⠀
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I am very glad as we are off to camp at The Good Life Experience tonight - four days of amazing food, ideas, creativity and dogs (ours are staying at home so I am at liberty to fuss everyone else's)⁠⠀
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What are you doing this weekend?
I've always been drawn to women who create homes that feel welcoming.  I believe it is a wonderful skill to welcome people in, to have them relax, to talk properly, to feel safe and listened to. ⠀
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Some of the homes where I've pulled up a chair have been calm and considered, perfect curated spaces that seem to slow down time, others have been full, layered, with piles of things going on and a whirlwind of noise.  I love both.⁠⠀
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My own house veers wildly between the two - occasionally calm and spacious (a friend remarked yesterday how much bigger the kitchen seemed now that I actually have shelves for stuff), more often caught mid-project with piles of books and fabric everywhere.⁠⠀
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What about you?⁠⠀
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This week I am meant to be doing a bit of a recruitment drive for Snapdragon Studio Membership - the price goes up from £10 a month to £15 a month for anyone who joins after 18th September. ⁠⠀
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For anyone who is a member by 18th we are freezing the monthly membership at £10 until the beginning of 2021.⁠⠀
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So if you fancy discounts (these Autumn apothecary jar essential oil soy candles are only £6.13 for our Studio Members for example), a year long Grow Your Own Cut Flowers online course, my Tuesday emails with essays, nature notes, free downloads, as well as a hard copy magazine . . . . well this would be a very good week to join!⁠⠀
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You also get a welcome pack lovingly put together by Valerie.
I fear that this may be the last properly flowery windowsill from the garden - frosts are hovering around the edges. 
One morning soon I shall wake up to a soggy, collapsed and blackened garden and I’ll be hunting in the sheltered corners for undamaged flowers and praising the robustness of sedums. 
But in the meantime I’ll feast on the delicacy of cosmos purity and the single dark, sugar spangled, scabious.
Do you buy new or second hand? Oxfam’s campaign #secondhandseptember is really about clothes but it got me thinking about buying generally - and the way we've put together our home.⁠⠀
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I grew up in a house of antique dealers - my Mum had a market stall, and then a shop, which my brother continues with today - so buying second hand has always been the default.⁠⠀
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We also moved into a 1980s bungalow instead of the old property I had dreamed of and deliberately added in layers of history with reclaimed doors and furniture and floors.⁠ I think that the only new things we have bought may be the beds. ⠀
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This dresser was from Glasgow Architectural Salvage Yard - it was originally in a primary school (which is why it has wonderful chipped and jammy red gloss paint and a strip of plastic bumper tape on the corners!)⁠⠀
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I particularly love the curve of the shelves - they look like they have put in a lot of hard work.
How do you feel about dinner plate dahlias?  I've really struggled to enjoy them - the lollipop-on-stick look of them, the way the stems aren't long enough to make a balanced arrangement without plastic cones.⁠ The way that they collapse inelegantly as they age. ⠀
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Last year I dug them all out and gave them to @Katgoldin to feed her goats.  This year I accidentally ordered a whole load more.⁠⠀
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I've solved the problem by cutting them short and propping them about the place. ⁠⠀
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This is Dahlia Islander in an early C19th rose lustre cup - lounging on a dresser shelf by my Great Grandmother's tea set.⁠⠀
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(It also means you can't see the way the back petals go scruffy before the rest of the flower)
What have been your favourite flowers from this year?

I’m making a list so that I remember what I loved, what I want to make sure I plant for next year.

There is also a list of plants I found disappointing - so that I remember to walk on by and ignore the hype. 
What would be on your lists?
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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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