THE VERY FIRST time I came across Slow Living as a concept was when an ex-mountaineer I was interviewing (and who was about to turn 60) told me he was using mindfulness as a tangible way to slow down and savour the years he likely had left.
Slow Food and mindfulness I was familiar with, but this was the first time I’d actually heard someone articulate the idea of consciously trying to slow down their perception of time passing.
His basic plan was to determinedly live as present and aware as he possible could for every moment of the remainder of his life.
He didn’t want to sleepwalk through any of his waking life; he didn’t want any of the minutes and hours and days and weeks to flash by in a mindless frantic blur.
He’d led a rich, engaged and rewarding life up to that point as a medical practitioner and an adventurer and was determined to apply as much of his focused attention to slow living as he had to doctoring and climbing mountains.
This is probably eight years ago — and I haven’t seen him since so I don’t know how he’s gone with the go-slow — but I reckon you could count him as one of the early uptakers of a movement that’s now in full swing.
There’s been an explosion of popular interest in Slow Living and Simple Living in recent times — both spawned as a backlash to the speed and complexity of contemporary life.
At the popular heart of the Simplicity movement is a set of hugely successful bloggers — led by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits (which boasts a million readers) — and who take a mainstream anti-clutter, pared back approach to ordinary life. The movement tends to be young and urban and cool and it has a growing set of adherents looking for bite-size practical advice on how to edit their lives.
The Slow Movement, on the other hand, is a little bit more difficult to categorise, is sometimes a little bit more concerned with issues with a more determinedly ecological or sustainability bent.
It umbrellas everything from home life — usually family-oriented and homespun — to Slow Food (which kicked the movement off), Slow Art, Slow Business, Slow Travel, Slow Photography, Slow Education, Slow Journalism and more.
There’s sometimes a bit of an overlap between Simple and Slow Living but the messages and aims of both are fundamentally the same — the pursuit of happiness by combating life’s incessant busyness, mindlessness, clutter and speed.
The Slow Movement owes its beginnings to Slow Food invented in Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini as an antidote to fast food. It is all about sourcing local and seasonal ingredients to create traditional and regional cuisine. It is pro-organic and pro-small-scale, anti-pesticide and anti-agribusiness. It’s about home gardening and local markets. It’s gradually becoming ever more mainstream and continues to grow.
It was also the first established part of the entire Slow Movement (and remains at its core) but the single event that probably lit the touch paper on the Slow Movement was when Carl Honoré’s book In Praise of Slowness was published. The book topped all the best seller lists and sold in truckloads. It is now available in over 30 languages.
- Carlo Petrini is the founder of the Slow Movement. Before Slow Food became his brainchild, he reached notoriety for being a key part of the campaign against McDonald’s opening one of its fast food outlets at the Spanish Steps in Rome.
- Geir Berthelsen is something of a pioneer in the field, founding his World Institute of Slowness in 1999. A physicist by trade and with a Masters in industrial organisation psychology, he consults for large and small corporations (teaching them how to apply slow principals to business) and says his “favourite challenges are around tackling today’s ‘fire fighting culture’ and corporate mindsets that are ‘long on quantity and short on quality. He talks about slowness being the ‘forgotten dimension of time’
- Carl Honore wrote the book on Slow Living, In Praise of Slowness.
- Carrie Contey, and Bernadette Noll are a partnership with a passion for all things Slow. Contey is a psychologist and Noll a writer. Their Slow Family Living offers a series of classes, talks and workshops to “help families find ways to slow things down, connect and enjoy life together”.
- The Slow School of Business is an unconventional Australian business school “dedicated to building purpose-driven and prosperous businesses that make the world a better place.
The Simple Living aficionado don’t have Slow at the core of their manifesto, Simplicity is the label they’re happier with, and they fundamentally believe in being super selective as to which bits of modern life they apply their attention to. They’re not quite as anti-conspicuous consumption as their Slow contemporaries; but are more interested in being a more selective (rather than conscious) consumer. At its extremes Simplicity is often categorised as Minimalism (the two tend to blur a little). The movement has grown big and popular thanks to the efforts of a welter of bloggers/personal development coaches who have simplified their own lives and share tips on how others can too.
- Leo Babauta‘s Zen Habits is the daddy of all Simple Living blogs. Babauta is a self-styled writer, runner and a vegan. He produces a couple of articles per week — read by a million+ people — on “simplicity, health & fitness, motivation and inspiration, frugality, family life, happiness, goals, getting great things done, and living in the moment”. He’s also published a handful of bestselling books and his personal development course is called the Sea Change Program.
- Another of the pioneers in the Simple Living blogosphere is Colin Wright and Exile Lifestyle. Wright got rid of everything he owned in 2009 (apart from a few things that fitted in a carry-on bag) and hit the road (moving every four months) recording his life on Exile Lifestyle and asking his readers where he should head next.
- Wright is a prolific author and runs an independent publishing enterprise, asymmetrical press, with Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who are The Minimalists, another two of Simple Living/Minimalism’s most successful bloggers. Millburn and Nicodemus also give blogging advice and created the Wordpress theme tru with Spyr (monkey flower adores this WordPress theme and it’s the one we use — so thanks a million to The Minimalists for making it available and sharing!)
- Joshua Becker is another of the godfathers of the Simple Living blogging community. At Becoming Minimalist Becker writes about his family of four and their “journey discovering the abundant life is actually found in owning less”. He too has readers reputedly counting in the million+.
- Courtney Carver‘s Be More With Less, like her other Simple Living success stories, makes a living with her how-to simplify books, courses and speaking engagements.
Hourglass image by Alexander Boden (cropped), Feather image by Jim Champion. Both from Flickr.com and reproduced under a Creative Commons license. Stones image by Jenny Spadafora (cropped) from Flickr.com and reproduced under a Creative Commons license.
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