Monthly Archives: February 2014

Slow Home Essentials: What Exactly IS a Slow Home?

Slow Home Essentials - What is a Slow Home, Exactly?

You’ve no doubt heard the old adage, “home is where the heart is”. I don’t know if I’ve ever explicitly explained it, but that thought is central to this blog and my wider philosophy on life.

To me, Home is not just a house. Home is an ever-changing combination of:

  • family
  • relationships
  • the apartment, house, barn or tent you currently live in
  • memories being made
  • outdoor spaces
  • creativity
  • your kitchen and the food prepared in it
  • religion or spirituality

Home is at once all-encompassing and constantly changing. It is everything that is important. It is everything that makes up the essence of you.

The official Slow Home Movement was founded by Calgary-based architects, John Brown, Carina van Olm and Matthew North. And while that movement provided me with my first look at the idea of creating a slow house, I have since redefined it to something that covers my own expanded version of Home. The one that you can take with you, regardless of where you’re currently living.

Home is not just four walls and a roof. But what typifies a Slow Home?

To me, it’s a fluid combination of being:

If you look at each of these elements separately (and I plan to, over the coming months) they are all really positive traits to have in your home. Combine them – even some of them – and your life and home will benefit more than you can imagine.

OK. But what does a slow home look like?

Does a slow home have a vegetable garden and a chicken coop? Sure!

Is it a tiny home on wheels, able to shift around when the mood for change strikes? Why not!

What about an old cottage soulfully renovated and filled with happiness and memories? Of course!

The point is, a slow home looks and feels different for everyone. It’s less about features of the home and more about your approach to life. It is true that a slow home is less centred on stuff, and it is harder to create a slow home if your house is a 5-storey sprawling mansion (because cleaning), but anyone, anywhere can create a home that works – I mean truly works – for them.

It’s just a matter of priorities.

Tell me, what does a slow home look and feel like to you?

Slow Home Essentials - not all about backyard chickens and vegetable gardens

Slow Home Essentials - What is a slow home?

This is the first post in a new ongoing series called Slow Home Essentials, where I will look at different elements of creating and maintaining a slow home. If there’s anything you’d like to know specifically, feel free to leave a comment! 

Declutter Your Opinions

Travel is food for the soul. Take kids. (And other 8-word opinions).

Seth Godin once said, “If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position.”

There is so much freedom in this idea. Not only are we free to express ourselves succinctly and without fear, but we can also let go of needing to have an opinion on everything.

If your opinion on something begins with, “Well, that’s a difficult one…” then you’re 5 words in and no closer to a position. This is a beautiful thing – it’s mental simplicity in action.

If you have one, fantastic. But if not, feel free to let it go and save your thoughts for something you care enough about. Alternatively, take the time to form a position.

If we had an opinion on everything, we would not only be annoying, but we would speak in very short, concise and heavily thought-through sentences, every word being weighted just so.

No thanks.

There are a lot of issues I don’t have a Seth Godin-style position on, but I do have opinions on some things.

  • Travel is food for the soul. Take kids.
  • Gardening is an incredible pleasure, try it.
  • We are privileged, make it count for something.
  • Living with less allows room for more.
  • Happiness is always a choice. Not necessarily easy.
  • Our stuff doesn’t hold memories. We do.

Share one of yours if you’d like. I’d love to hear them.

Say Yes

Say Yes

We are overwhelmed and overcommitted. Our calendars overflow with meetings and after-school activities, volunteering and committees, parties and gatherings and BBQs and playdates.

Many of us, rightly so, nominated 2014 as the year we say no more.

I dig this. In order to slow down and lead a more content and balanced life, we need space and time. A lot of life happens in that space and time. And after all, saying no to one thing means you are free to say yes to another, more essential thing. Or, in fact, to nothing at all. 

But no matter how liberating saying “no” can feel, it can also feel…limiting. So today, and this coming weekend, why not think about saying yes?

Say yes to an outdoor stroll (unless you’re currently snowbound. In that case, drink something warm.)
Say yes to watching the clouds.
Say yes to play.
Say yes to cuddles.
Say yes to a smile.
Say yes to jumping in puddles.
Say yes to a good book.
Say yes to a phonecall with an old friend.
Say yes to candlelight.
Say yes to turning off the computer.
Say yes to family movie night and homemade popcorn.
Say yes to wandering aimlessly.
Say yes to an impromptu picnic.
Say yes to baking something delicious.
Say yes to a lingering conversation over tea or coffee. Or wine.

This weekend, say yes to the opportunity to slow. right. down. Even just for ten minutes.

 

(watercolour image: chiaralily on Flickr. adaptation by me)

Hide and Seek

What I learned about play.

I’m a little afraid to admit this, but I’m going to anyway. I think giving some light to this failing of mine, and how I plan to improve it, might help myself and others.

Here goes: I’m not particularly good at playing with my kids.

No-one tells you how hard the simple act of play can be. Or maybe they do, and it just doesn’t register, in the way that, “Get as much sleep as you can now, because there will be precious little given to you when you have a new baby,” didn’t register with me.

And just because I’m not very good at play does not mean I don’t do it. Because I do. A lot.

But I’ve recently realised two things about play:

  1. I put the “need to do” tasks first. Tasks like laundry, vacuuming, tidying the kitchen and folding clothes.
  2. When I play with the kids, I’m not always there. Sure, I’m there with them, squeezing the playdough or cutting and gluing and crafting. But often I’m not engaged with what’s happening.

Instead I’m thinking about the laundry that needs doing, or the emails I have to answer. I think about the process my afternoon will follow as I tidy up, get dinner ready, run through showers and books and bedtime rhythms. I’m not there.

And not only does this steal my attention from the kids, but it robs me of energy and joy.

For so long I would put off the kids’ requests for hide and seek, until I would eventually acquiesce and play half-heartedly for 10 minutes. But I began noticing the sheer joy they got from playing – with me, no less – and suddenly it no longer felt like an imposition. It felt like a privilege.

So I have renewed my effort to really be in the game, whether it’s hide and seek, snap, puzzle-playing or playdough-making. And the day that I asked our four year old if she wanted to play hide and seek? Well, that was priceless. It was also humbling.

So I think we need to learn to adjust our thinking on what needs to happen. Does the ironing need to happen? Or does your child need to feel like you want to spend time together?

And yes, the laundry does need to happen. And the dinner and the sweeping and the seemingly endless tasks involved in running a household. But what if – sometimes, at least – these happened after play? What if they weren’t the number one priority all the time? What if we said yes to play first?

Grow your account balance.

I can’t remember where I read it, but there is an idea in parenting that I have found incredibly helpful when making these sorts of decisions and working out my priorities for the way we want to live.

The idea that we have a ‘bank account’ with each of our children, and playing with them, reading and nurturing and reacting with kindness and compassion all deposit into this bank account. These actions help to grow your balance.

When things like errands or cleaning or phonecalls or work need to happen, even when the kids want to play? These are withdrawals, and they shrink the balance.

The idea is, of course, to keep the balance as healthy as possible, while also recognising that withdrawals are normal and something that our kids have to get used to.

How this affects my decisions.

Instead of going to the default way of thinking (ie. get the work done first so that the play can come later) I can instead picture what the balance of each bank account looks like and make a better, more well-rounded choice based on that.

So I’ve been saying yes to hide and seek so much more. And do you know what I’m seeing? The kids are happier not only when I play with them, but they are also more content to then play together for much longer. Part of that is simply the ages they’re at, but I also think it’s a reflection of our choice to engage more and to mindfully choose to spend quality time with them.

Side note:

I know the pleasure and the frustration that is full-time stay-at-home parenting. When your kids are at a certain age all they want is you and your company. They don’t care if you need to do the laundry. They don’t see that dinner needs to be cooked and that you’re the one to do it. But your role includes those mundane, house-keeping duties just as much as playing hide and seek with your little ones. This results in (I can only speak for myself of course) a deep frustration.

I understand this, and am saying so because there are days when you will not be able to play endless games of hide and seek. Nor can you bear the thought of pulling out the playdough and the ensuing cleanup, because you’ve just mopped the floor.

So I get it, and the last thing I want is for what I have said above to be misconstrued as criticism or a veiled attempt to shame anyone for not doing enough. You know what needs to happen in your own life, so please read this as a support, not a criticism.

To conclude, the core idea of this post is one that could really apply to most areas of our life:

On those days that we can, I think we should.

 

Can I ask, do you feel a tension between play and work? How do you manage it?

When life hands you coffee…

When life hands you coffee... drink it while it's hot.

Oh, the irony. You may remember our much lauded French press from my post last week? You know, the one that allowed me time to stretch and welcome the day with energy and joy?

Not 24 hours after I hit publish on that post did the damn thing fall apart. A screw went missing and do you think we can find it anywhere? Chances are it went down the drain when I was washing it.

Isn’t it the way though?

You comment, “Oh, my baby is sleeping so well now. They hardly ever wake during the night!” Cue: hours of screaming and crying and general misery. (And that’s just the parents.)

Damn you, Murphy, and your ridiculous law.

Needless to say, Ben and I had quite a hearty chuckle at the expense of our French press and then rapidly moved on to the inevitable question – what to do about coffee now? I know it’s a decision you await eagerly and I will certainly keep you posted.

 

Winners of ‘Notes from a Blue Bike’

On a far more interesting note, here are the five lucky winners of last week’s giveaway. The five lucky ladies below will soon receive their copy of Tsh Oxenreider’s wonderful new book, of Notes from a Blue Bike.

I have emailed each of you, so please get back to me with your address and we can get your copy in the mail:

Sharon, Maria C, Verity, Veronica and Elissa. Congrats, ladies!

 

In the meantime, let’s have a wonderful weekend and try not to take life too seriously!