WHAT DOES SLOW AND UNBUSY LIVING REALLY LOOK LIKE?

Slow living isn't about lying around contemplating your navel all day, it's about finding balance and living life at a pace that flows.

WHAT IS SLOW / UNBUSY LIVING?

Some of my most popular posts have been about choosing to be Unbusy now that I'm in the second half of life. Retirement gave me even more opportunities to slow down the pace of how I was living each day and to be more intentional about how I use my time. I've become a huge advocate of the Slow Living and Unbusy movements, but what does it really look like in my actual day to day living?

Slow living means different things to different people. For those who are living full-on busy lives, they see it as a cop out. Those whose self image is tied strongly to their productivity find it impossible to understand how others can step away from a fast paced life that's packed full of to-do lists, bucket lists, and action plans. It is an antithesis to them......and you know what? That's just fine, because it comes down to "different strokes for different folks" and there are many other people out there who love the idea of having more space in their lives to slow down a little and to pace their lifestyle at a more moderate level....and I've become one of them.

IS SLOW LIVING A LAZY COP OUT?

Carl HonorĂ© and his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed shares some thoughts that are really helpful when it comes to defining the idea that living slowly isn't about being lazy or copping out of "real life". He says:

The Slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. Nor is it a Luddite attempt to drag the whole world back to some pre-industrial utopia. On the contrary, the movement is made up of people who want to live better in a fast-paced, modern environment. The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word: balance. Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto — the right speed.

So, it's not about lying around contemplating your navel all day, it's about finding balance and living life at a pace that flows. It may fluctuate from day to day, but there isn't a sense of being overburdened or stressed because a busy day is balanced by a less busy time. It takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed and replaces it with a more gentle rhythm that leads to a very pleasant way to live your life.

HOW SLOW LIVING CREPT INTO MY LIFE

I'd always been a bit of a control freak. I lived my life in a very structured way that revolved around parenting, working, family commitments, volunteering, housework, church, and whatever else was on my schedule for that particular week. I was younger and I had more stamina in those days (and I didn't know any better way of dealing with life). So I was always pretty busy - and I was proud of that and all I accomplished in any given week, it gave me a sense of self-worth and achievement.

Then things started to slow down a little, first the kids left home, then the work days reduced, then I quit my job and stayed home. Lockdowns happened, commitments changed or were re-worked to fit into my life better, and I discovered that I had a lot more time and space than I used to. And you know what? I loved it! I wasn't bored, I wasn't itching to fill my days with busy-ness, I wasn't feeling the need to prove myself to anybody.....I just allowed myself to breathe and to see what happened next. Life smoothed out, I discovered what made me happy, what I wanted to spend my time doing, and how I wanted to fill my days.

Being Slow means that you control the rhythms of your own life. You decide how fast you have to go in any given context.  Carl Honore quote

WHAT SLOW LIVING LOOKS LIKE IN MY LIFE

I don't work anymore (that's an area I've covered many times here on the blog) I retired early and unexpectedly, and my life changed. I wondered how I'd fill my days, who I was without a job title, and what the next few decades would look like. It was a bit of an upheaval on several levels, but the outcome was that I chose to live a more gentle life, and the benefits have flowed from there - to the point where I think this is the happiest and most content I've been with my life for a very long time. The stress, the pressure, the performance, the responsibilities, the people pleasing....that's all fallen away and been replaced by things I love.

So what does slow living look like for me? My life these days consists of a pleasant mix of things I enjoy. There are still the household chores but they are shared with my husband and quickly completed, I read, I blog, I volunteer one morning a week, I have coffee catch-ups with friends, I walk twice a day for exercise, I go to church and to a discussion group that meets there, I chat with my husband (who works from home), chat with my kids by phone, I'm free for them to visit when they choose to and to have sleepovers with our grandgirls. I can cancel any of my weekly commitments with very little notice or inconvenience - that's such a change to when I was working! And I've also discovered my creative side with colouring, calligraphy, and collage - some of my recent collage journal pictures are below:


WHY CHOOSE SLOW LIVING?

If you've reached a transition point in life where you're tired of always feeling stressed out and under the pump, if you've reduced your work commitments, or if you're just looking for a change, then choosing to slow down the pace a little might be something worth considering. Many people commented on how much they appreciated the opportunity to breathe that our time in lockdown offered. They couldn't do all their usual activities and found staying at home and having fewer commitments made their life a lot simpler and very satisfying.....but then it was back to normal again after that.

Maybe it's time for a new normal - time to slow down and smell the roses. Maybe you'll discover that you don't need to earn as much money as you thought because slow living costs less. Carl HonorĂ© also says:

Spending more time with friends and family costs nothing. Nor does walking, cooking, meditating, making love, reading or eating dinner at the table instead of in front of the television. Simply resisting the urge to hurry is free.

I've certainly found that we're not financially inconvenienced by me no longer working. We spend less because we need less - contentment is not a costly commodity. The sheer joy of living life on my own terms far outweighs any financial cost that came with the process. 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you feeling swamped, overwhelmed, fatigued, or constantly unwell? Are you filling every waking moment with busy-ness? If you are and you like that way of living then go for it, but if you're looking for a change then maybe slowing down a little, re-thinking your priorities and commitments, and taking a little time to breathe and find your balance could be the beginning of a whole new (and better) way of living. I certainly found it was.

RELATED POSTS


Slow living isn't about lying around contemplating your navel all day, it's about finding balance and living life at a pace that flows.

JUST A FINAL NOTE:

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Cresting the Hill - a blog for Midlife (Middle Aged / 50+) women who want to thrive
Slow living isn't about lying around contemplating your navel all day, it's about finding balance and living life at a pace that flows.
Slow living isn't about lying around contemplating your navel all day, it's about finding balance and living life at a pace that flows.
Spending more time with friends and family costs nothing. Carl Honore quote
people who cut their work hours often take a smaller hit financially than they expect. Carl Honore quote
The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections. Carl Honore quote
When people moan, “Oh, I’m so busy, I’m run off my feet, my life is a blur, I haven’t got time for anything,” what they often mean is, “Look at me: I am hugely important, exciting and energetic. Carl Honore quote
The Slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. Nor is it a Luddite attempt to drag the whole world back to some pre-industrial utopia. Carl Honore quote

31 comments

  1. Thanks for this post! I didn't know there was a term for this approach to life, but I've been slowly (no pun intended) moving toward it for awhile now. Work still keeps me busy, but when I'm not working, I try to keep my time unstructured so I can choose my own tempo based on how I'm feeling. It doesn't always work--I still put a lot of pressure on myself, especially related to my writing--but I'm getting better.

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    1. Hi Janet - I discovered the Slow movement and simple living a few years ago. It ties in so well with how I want to live my life. I'm SO tired of rushing and basing my self worth on how productive I am. Now I want to do things by going with the flow of what feels right for me each day. Some days are busy, but most go at a gentle pace - and I just love it. If you want to read more, my UnBusy menu tab has lots of info links.

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  2. Hi,Leanne - One of the things that I love most about retirement is the ability to set my own pace. Like you wisely state here, the ability to go fast when that works best for you, and slow when you feel like going slow. For me, even my busy retirement days are so much slower paced that my work days that they all feel luxurious! For this I am incredibly grateful. I look forward to catching up soon.

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    1. Hi Donna - I'm beyond grateful too. I love that I'm the "mistress of my own destiny" these days - not dancing to anyone else's tune but my own. It just feels right and I honestly feel I'm in the best place I could possibly choose to be - retirement is turning out to be my sweet spot! And yes, looking forward to seeing you too xx

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  3. This was so interesting to read Leanne. Since cutting down my work hours I’m nowhere near as busy as I was when working. I still seem to be chasing my tail a bit trying to get everything done. The difference is that I’m now busy doing fun stuff. You seem very content in your life these days and that’s really great. So many are not content these days. I feel very sad for them but it is a choice.

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    1. Hi Jennifer - I think being busy with stuff you enjoy and that brings joy to your life is a pretty good way to live. I like that I can stretch my interests out over the week - not cramming them into my days off like I used to. I also like that every day is different and every day is on my terms - marching to the beat of my own drum. I'm glad you're coming to enjoy this stage of life too.

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  4. Hi Leanne. I think some people have a hard time slowing down, because they feel the pressure to be what society considers successful. I think we need to re-define success and to balance it with what makes us happy, as individuals. I love my life, and we may not have as much money, as we did when we were working, but we have enough.

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    1. You put it perfectly - society glorifies busy-ness and those who run themselves ragged to be seen to be all things to all people. I just don't want to be part of that mindset anymore, it's fine for those who thrive on it, but I like having low stress levels and the headspace to balance my days without feeling rushed or under pressure. I've also come to see that money shouldn't be the driving force in life - it's a killer and never seems to bring satisfaction to those who are always chasing it.

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  5. I moved into an area of slow living a few years ago; believe it or not it was much more relaxing and less stressful homeschooling my boys than it was trying to work and have them in school. At least I was able to set the pace, make commitment that meant something to us, and allow us all to live life on our own schedule (well, aside from my husband who worked extra to let the rest of us be home together). We love our slow and unhurried life!

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    1. Hi Joanne - I totally get what stepping out of an over scheduled life feels like. Juggling kids, work, commitments, chores etc just does your head in after a while. I think we do it (and do it well) because it's expected of us, but when we take a step back we find this whole new life waiting for us - and it's a lovely one indeed. :)

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  6. Lockdown was enforced slow living. First one we sort of reveled in but the second one took it's toll. Now I seem to waste a lot of time. I don't know where it goes. So I need to get a little more busy to be productive, I think. My routines seem to have gone out the window but what's replaced them isn't so good for me.

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    1. But I have a friend who seems constantly stressed by life and she probably needs to read this (Her stress isn't from life's dramas, just if you ask her out she says yes or seems keen but then gets stressed about going because her kid has a catch up the next day or something (which to me seems totally unrelated but for her one activity seems to impact the other...). So she's learning to say no and slow down for her enjoyment.

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    2. Hi Lydia - I can't even begin to imagine what that second lockdown would have been like to live through. I think that slow living works for me because I do my life on my terms - I really struggle with being dictated to (hence lockdowns really get on my nerves after a fairly short while - esp when they seem a bit OTT). I just really love having a life that's not locked into a multitude of commitment boxes - I'm still active and out and about, but on my schedule and with time for just chilling too - it's a good balance for me and I'm sure you'll have yours back before much longer x

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  7. Slow living as you describe it Leanne is great. I'm not one to sit about but finding that right balance can be tricky. My WOTY was SELF and not letting things or people drain my energy. I'm not sure I succeeded but I have read lots of books so perhaps I am slowing down a little. #lifethisweek

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    1. Hi Sue - I think it's all about balance and finding a life speed that feels like a good fit. Some people do more than others, but when it's on your terms and it's stuff that you love doing, then it's not stressful or overwhelming.... When it gets out of whack you feel the overwhelm and that's when it's time to pick up a book and chill :) x

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  8. Life has a way of throwing us curveballs and like you leaving your job suddenly, I was made redundant (5 years ago now) and have found the balance in my days to suit me. Some days I love being busy doing things I enjoy and other days I sit and reflect on things, read or do fun things in my own time. I'm no longer dictated to as you describe in your post and I enjoy being in charge of how I get to spend my days. I'm never ever bored! Look forward to catching up soonish!

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    1. Hi Deb, I think when we're thrust into a new way of life there's a lot of adjustments to make - both in our headspace and in how we approach our daily life. Once we come to terms with everything and start making choices based on what works for us, the balance starts to come back and all the positives spring to the surface. I'd never go back to what I had before - life is just too good the way it is now (and yours seems to be too) x

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  9. To me that sounds like a beautifully balanced life. As you know I'm quite frenetic - not necessarily by choice but because what I truly enjoy comes after the things I have to do. I do, however, completely embrace the whole idea of slow cooking lol. Seriously though, my ambition is to be in a position to go with more flow at some point. Being in charge of your days is my life's ambition.

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    1. Jo, your pace of life blows my mind - but you always seem so relaxed about it all. I don't know how you keep all the different balls in the air - and do it so well. I'll admire your achievements while I sip my coffee and put my feet up!

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  10. Hi Leanne - Right now, my schedule is quite hectic. You can see that: my blog posts have reduced. And I am missing others' posts too. I don't have much options now. So, I am sticking with this for some time. I like the work I do. Things will get a bit better next year.

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    1. Hi Pradeep - liking your work makes a big difference, but it's also sad when it takes you away from some of the things you love, and from balancing work life with leisure time. I hope 2022 brings that balance back again and we see you hammering away on the blog a bit more often. Merry Christmas!

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  11. Leanne, what you are describing is 'freedom' and I think it can be achieved at any stage of life if you have the right mindset. I personally don't think society needs to redefine success, I think each of us needs to determine what that looks like for ourselves and find the confidence to live according to our own desires and core values. We can all find balance if we make it a priority. Malcolm and I forfeited a lot of financial gain in order to live a more peaceful, stress-free life of our own design sixteen years ago when we sold our business. We have never regretted that decision and consider ourselves to be living a full and 'successful' life.

    Quitting your job and creating a life based on your own terms took courage, conviction and an abundance of self-knowledge. It probably felt like a leap of faith at the time, but it is your on-going dedication to the process that has made it work. Being happy is truly an inside job and you should be very proud of yourself. I know we are. Cheers to happiness and contentment.

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    1. Hi Susanne - you're so right, I think I'd like society to value a slower pace of life a little more and to not always be lauding those who are busy, busy, busy. It encourages a mindset where our value gets tied up with our productivity. The good thing though is that we each have the choice to step away from that and make our own decisions about what a good life looks like.

      I'm so grateful that we had built a life that could be sustained on a limited budget, and that we have enough put aside for a rainy day. Being able to live life on our own terms and to dance to our own beat is truly a blessing indeed. You're so fortunate to have discovered it much sooner than I did.

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  12. I remain someone who still tries to be both busy and productive. In my genetic make up but I am aware I can choose to slow down more and I make time for that more than ever. Recently I went on the boardwalk with B again and noticed he walks slowly (he has multiple reasons physically) and I was going 'faster'....and felt I needed to be with him. I mentioned it and he said "I just want to take it all in". Lesson for me there. I am loving your creativity as you know. So pleased for you!!
    Thank you for your wonderful support of my blog’s link up Life This Week in 2021.
    Yes, there is one more week to go, but if you are already taking a well-earned break, I will see you again in Monday 4 January 2022.
    May you be well, may you be safe, may you be content. Denyse

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    1. I think the whole concept of 'being in the moment' and about 'enjoying the journey' and not rushing through to the next stop along the way is key to living a stress free life Denyse. Nobody's life is perfect, but if we get the balance right and drop the pressure we put on ourselves, it's a very pleasant way to be.

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  13. I love the idea of a more gentle flow to life and being able to choose what that looks like in any given moment. Of course, as you pointed out in a previous comment, being in that moment and truly experiencing it are key. One of the challenges of a busy life is you are always looking forward to the next task, the next goal, the next experience...often to the detriment of the current experience. My life has slowed some already with the children, and now the grandchildren, growing older. The next big change for me will be retirement. I've thought about how I want that to look, but I'm also not committing to anything right away. I want to leave room to see what happens to experiment with this phase of life without too many preconceived notions.

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    1. Hi Christie - I'm finding that retirement keeps flowing into new and interesting days for me. From fighting the idea, to acceptance, to discovery, to creating, to just chilling out and being present in the moment. It's taken me a while to refine things down to what feels right for me and I'm loving this stage more than I ever expected to. It's different for each of us, but when you finally have the chance to do things exactly how you like, it's an amazing joy.

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  14. Hi Leanne, I'm glad you've found the right balance that works for you and you're enjoying it. The freedom to live and enjoy life at my own pace is the best. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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    1. Hi Natalie - I don't think I realized how important balance was until I finally started settling into a life that suits my pace. I think I was born to be a retiree!

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  15. Hi Leanne,
    Thanks for putting these insights together on slow living. I was fully engaged in slow living with our extended four month Sydney lockdown. However, that's officially ended and we have two teenagers at home and while I might've opted for the slow lane, they're doing the reverse wanting to make up for lost time.
    I am working towards a lifestyle focused on the heart and being more caring. I have always been more of a Mary than a Martha but Mary is frequently misunderstood and if you're not busy doing something visible, you're discounted. There is a difference between been humble and invisible.
    I hope you have a Merry and blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

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    1. Hi Rowena - I don't think you get the chance to truly slow down and live at a gentler pace until you get kids/teenagers/young adults.... out of your house and start being able to focus on what feels like the right speed for yourself first. As mothers we always put our own needs second to everyone else's - so hang in there because one day you'll be home and living the Mary life full-time and you'll be in your sweet spot. A merry and blessed Christmas to you and your family too. x

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