Do You Wish Life Went More Slowly?

Do You Wish Life Went More Slowly?

The question Do you live slowly? was posed the other day at Simple Mom by founder Tsh Oxenreider. When she wondered if living slowly was even possible anymore, it got me thinking.

Shielding my children from the complicated, catch-your-breath pace of modern life is a feat, but I feel that I have somewhat succeeded so far. But I haven’t done such a great job in protecting my own life from being hectic.

How We Live Slowly

Here are a few ways I have managed to keep life mellow and simple.

1.  We walk almost everywhere we need to go.

Yes, we had to spend more for a house in a walkable neighborhood, but that was okay because walking was important to us. My car sits in the driveway all week, until Friday when I take Virginia to her one after-school activity. (For Sofia, I found a ballet class so close that she can walk the two blocks from her school.)

2.  I don’t do errands.

Sure, I occasionally have to stop by the pharmacy on the way to and from walking the kids to school, but I don’t go to Target anymore, or drive out to the big box stores, or even go grocery shopping. I order household supplies along with my groceries online, and I don’t drive around trying to find speciality items like gourmet food or craft supplies. As a Prime member of Amazon, I just order what I need and get it shipped free in two days or less. Besides conserving energy and saving time, staying out of stores helps me tune out the noise of marketing as well as those urges to buy stuff I don’t really need.

Do You Wish Life Went More Slowly?

3.  Our weekends are free to spend as we like.

Because we don’t have soccer games and swim meets (I was so bad at soccer when I was a kid, I couldn’t do that to my own), we usually don’t have much on the schedule. Aside from the occasional party or school event, we are generally free to do whatever we like. We do laundry and clean on the weekends so it’s not like we’re lolling around reading and eating bonbons, but our kids have tons of time for imaginative play (helping them find productive activities takes less energy than driving them around, and it’s certainly less expensive), and we can work in the garden, have a picnic in the park, or invite someone over for dinner.

4.  We live frugally so only one parent has to work.

Perhaps the biggest lifestyle choice we have made — and which was a conscious one from the beginning — was to live within the means of one income. So much of our resourcefulness is fueled by my desire to be able to stay home with our kids, take care of the house, and fix dinner every night.  I am so grateful for this freedom to do what I love.

However several things that we do are counter to a relaxed life:

Fast Things that Keep Me Running

1.  I turned a hobby into a career.

Taking a passion and going professional — or trying to gain money or fame from what was once a hobby — is exciting, for sure. But it is not slow. External and worldly markers of success — such as Twitter followers or website traffic or advertising income — are much more complicated than the simple joys of self-achievement, or creating something for family and friends. And anyone who owns their own business knows that there is no end to the amount of work you could do to improve your business.

2.  I use technology like email, social media, and digital cameras.  

Do You Wish Life Went More Slowly?

Anything digital is not slow. Things that can be created, copied, and transmitted this quickly and inexpensively cannot be slow. One email can be sent to hundreds of people in a split second. We can take boatloads of photos in a single afternoon. We are connected to thousands and thousands of people through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

And since we are on the subject, I confess that I have so many digital photos that my computer groans under the volume, and I avoid taking pictures because I can’t even manage the ones I have. I barely visit Twitter anymore, and if you’ve sent me an email recently, I apologize. Until I can figure out a system to manage the flood: call, send smoke signals, write a letter (now that’s nice and slow).

3.  We bought a house that needed renovating.

I love our house and owning it gives me a deep sense of stability and well-being. Maybe that’s why my stomach knots up when someone drives a drill into it (and I’m paying them to do it). Just maintaining the structure and systems of a house would be a part-time job, time that I used to spend on organizing cookouts or babysitting co-ops.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.”

It’s fun to mold a house so that it’s just right for you; but so is renting and spending more time tickling kids, decorating cupcakes, traveling, and eating long dinners with friends.

How to Get a Little More Peace

Do You Wish Life Went More Slowly?

What I’m realizing is that one of the biggest hindrances to living slowly is ourselves. I admit I find complexity fun and exciting. And I keep taking on more projects and challenges — or they come my way, and I don’t say no.

Here are some things I could do to slow down even more:

1.  Keep focusing on what I love (not what other people want)

Isn’t it when we are racing to someone else’s timer that we feel the most harried?  I need to keep returning to the questions, What do I really want to do? What am I good at? What do I find deeply fulfilling? How can I mold my work to fit these things?

2.  Make sure my goals are not contradictory

Who was it that said, “You can have it all, but just not at the same time”?  At the beginning of the year, I set goals about our house and garden, but (thankfully) I stopped before I mentioned anything about writing a book this year. I must remind myself, there is a season for everything.

3.  Learn to live with the imperfect

So our house is not going to look like a magazine spread any time soon, if ever. I am learning to live with unfinished, with ugly, and uncomfortable. In today’s world where you can order up any rug, lamp, or couch you want online, it’s hard to have restraint. But when I take it more slowly, I am not only more relaxed, but I’m happier in the long run.

4.  Continue to limit and tame technology

I need to resist solving problems with technology, because it often ends up creating new problems. Some people think I’m weird because I write down my appointments in a paper agenda, I don’t use a cellphone, and I don’t watch TV. I think I’ll keep being weird for now, because I can barely keep up with the technology I do use, and I’m not convinced that easier is better.

What about you? Do you wish life was more slow? What do you think makes life frenetic? Let me know in the comments.

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  • Frugal Foo June 1, 2012, 6:38 am

    What this post highlights to me is how it is in fact possible to live a life of finer quality experiences by slowing down, living within your means, buying less stuff and taking time to rediscover your own personal values. It’s not something you achieved overnight requiring both long term thinking combined with everyday decisions you make. It was a brave decision to buy a more expensive house in the right location which needed renovations. The frugal side of me would have been at odds with that. But you have shown that it pays off being able to walk to places and live more simply overall. I’ll certainly take that on board next time I buy a home.

    • Amy June 1, 2012, 10:21 am

      Hi there Frugal Foo,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, I agree, that we all make decisions that others would not make. Being frugal does not mean never spending on anything expensive; it means making careful choices and putting your money where your heart is.

      For us, walkability was a big priority. It really does help us slow down, get to know our neighbors, commune with nature, and help keep the air clean, just to name a few. It’s a lifestyle choice we enjoy every day, and will for a long, long time.

      Take care,

  • Emily (CityBaby Living) May 25, 2012, 10:51 am

    Great post! I left my 50+ hour a week job just about a year ago because life was just TOO FAST! I felt like all my daughter (who was 3.5) heard from us was “Hurry up” “we’re going to be late” and “let’s go.” Weekends were full of things we couldn’t get done during the week, and we wasted money on items of convenience instead of using it for things we needed. One year in at home and I’m so happy with my decision. My daughter gets to wake up slowly, go through the day without a million things to do and we can stop and paint a picture whenever we want, or go for a walk, or lay in the grass and look at clouds. It’s not all rainbows, and money is tight, but I know in my heart that her life is being enriched and changed because of it…and so is mine.

    • Amy May 29, 2012, 10:13 pm

      Hi Emily,

      Thank you so much for your inspiring comment! You bring up a huge point: two parents working can often mean stress and rushing around, even on the weekends. You are testament that it can be done on one salary, and that yes, there are sacrifices to be made. But the payoffs can be huge. I love your depiction of your slow life with your daughter. It sounds so sweet — I remember those days with fondness.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective with us. And p.s. I love your blog: great concept!


      • Emily (CityBaby Living) May 30, 2012, 2:48 pm

        One of the best, unforeseen benefits is that my husband has much more relaxed weekends that are family based – or re-charge time for him.

        Thanks for your kind words about my blog – I’ve just jumped in and it feels like a big world out there! Feedback from someone other than my mom is fantastic.

  • Cynthia May 22, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Excellent post Amy! We manage to lead a similarly slow life as expats abroad, with the very major exception that we cannot walk anywhere- our neighborhood is too suburban, and there are the security issues too- and I do have a cell phone instead of a land line. Otherwise, over here there isn’t the same advertising pressure, the ability to consume and purchase awesome stuff 24/7 as in the US, and there also isn’t any of the travel soccer team, put kids in a million activities pressure. And it’s a sweet life- there is a lot of reading, playing, preparing really nice dinner parties, and also time to think about what we can do for someone else that day. Whenever I tell people that when I plan to maintain this lifestyle even when we eventually move back to the US, they ALL tell me I am dreaming and that it is totally impossible. So thanks for proving them wrong!

    • Theresa May 31, 2012, 3:39 pm

      Our family moved back to the U.S. three years ago after many years abroad, and everyone said I would have to get a job, that it would be impossible to live in the Washington DC area on one income. I found just getting moved in, settling 3 kids into 3 different schools and running a household was work enough, and I don’t know how anyone does it and works full time too. I DO run my kids to lots of sporting and musical activities, but I don’t spend a lot of time at the store paying for overpriced things we don’t need, and we have managed ginr. It is all about priorities.

  • Samantha @ Digital Zen May 21, 2012, 11:48 pm

    I love this post! I’ve been thinking a lot on this topic. Especially your last goal – limit and tame technology. My husband and I named the everyday tech blog we write together “Digital Zen”. We’ve both built our careers in technology, but we don’t believe technology solves every problem. The Zen part is really a daily effort to mindfully edit and limit what we use. I think this topic is so relevant today because perhaps we as a society are experiencing the law of diminishing returns – that this effort required to tame technology (or anything) is becoming greater than the rewards we get from said technology. On many fronts I think this is true.

    Thank you for asking this important question and sharing the ways your family tries to slow things down. Three cheers for online groceries and Amazon Prime!

    • Amy May 22, 2012, 11:07 am

      Hi Samantha,

      You bring up some really thought-provoking points. The idea that technology has run away from us — to the point where it’s controlling us, and we are not controlling it — is something that I think about too.

      Ideally I would dip into technology and dip out, using it for just my purposes, and then exiting to live my real-world life. However, as we all know, it’s not that simple. And truthfully, technology like email and digital photos help me achieve some of my most important goals: keeping in touch with family and friends. Yet… maybe I should just pick up the phone more often.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts — especially coming from a tech pro like you.

      Take care,

      • Samantha @ Digital Zen May 24, 2012, 9:49 am

        Remember that a phone is technology too! Through history each new technological advance helped us keep in touch with more and more people, and ever faster. As the social network expands, so does the busyness. I think this is part of the reason why the expat life feels so much slower, and I experienced this myself living abroad. You’re disconnected from your network. People don’t expect to hear from you as often. You get an automatic out for every social obligation, 100% guilt free. To me it felt like being in a cozy little cocoon. Having lots of friends IS wonderful… I thrive on it… but there is a practical limit to the number of meaningful relationships you can maintain.

  • Jen @ Jen Spends May 21, 2012, 10:14 pm

    My lifestyle is fairly similar to yours I think, and although I get frustrated at times that I haven’t reached certain goals or don’t have some of the things other people have, I’m pretty happy with the decisions I’ve made. My son will be four in July and I can’t imagine life moving any more quickly than it already is! Before he was born I was always trying to do everything for everybody, but after he was born my priorities gradually changed. It’s much easier now to say no to things that would take time or money away from my family.

    • Amy May 22, 2012, 11:02 am

      Hi Jen,

      It’s true that it is very easy to compare ourselves to others in our same city or income level or career field, and that’s where sometimes the urge — to take on more, go faster, buy more, earn more — comes from. Sometimes it can be so hard to separate what we really want inside from what we think we should want.

      It’s true that children help keep us grounded. Even though it makes me all teary to think about it, I think those questions about what you will find important and worthwhile when you look back on your life are helpful. Then all that worry about status and respect and changing the world melt away. For me, it’s all about family.


  • Marian May 21, 2012, 9:51 pm

    I hate to be the messenger, but even at 70, this post is still relevant. And I hear the same thing from my friends. I think part of the problem is that if we have a lot of ideas, interests and goals, it doesn’t really matter if we use technology or drive a car or live in the city or country. We can still get incredibly busy and find ourselves wishing we could stop the clock.

    • Amy May 22, 2012, 10:53 am

      Dear Marian,

      It’s fascinating to hear your perspective. Maybe the fastness is more about human nature and the number of projects we take on. It takes real discipline and conviction to know your limits — or when fast will get overwhelming — and learn to say no, or “later.”

      Thank you for your thoughts,

  • Kristen | The Frugal Girl May 21, 2012, 9:29 pm

    Great post! Like you, we do a lot of things to keep our lives slow-ish, but even so, I often feel busy. I can only imagine what it would be like if we didn’t try to more slowly!

    • Amy May 22, 2012, 10:51 am

      Hi Kristen,

      I know what you mean. If our slow-and-frugal lives feel fast, I can’t imagine how fast life can really get!

      I think it’s also a matter of what fast things we choose: blogging or Blackberries, remodeling or business travel. Thankfully we don’t have to do it all!

      Thanks so much for writing in, Kristen.