What is it and how do you do it? For most, slow living means the incorporation of one or two processes which bring great pleasure to daily routines, and a way of living life which aims to counteract the pressure of the unrealistically fast pace which modern day life can place on us.
Slow living began in Italy; a response to the astronomical takeoff of fast food in the 80s and 90s. As many people revelled in the novelty of convenience, speed, and someone else doing the work for them, a small community across the country turned back to tradition; to pasta and bread-making in the home, to tending small kitchen gardens, to long, leisurely dinners, to making do and mending, to learning how to create and make and bake and do all that they could themselves, and, all the while, savouring the process. As society has continued to become more and more convenience-driven, with everything done in haste and our schedules ever-more crammed and frenetic, slow living has become a form of salvation for many across the globe.
Slow living looks different to everyone who practices. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a mobile phone, or partake in the occasional spell of doom-scrolling or running around like headless chickens, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we have bountiful free time or the resources to live in an eden of craftsmanship and self-sufficiency. For most, slow living means the incorporation of one or two processes which bring great pleasure to daily routines, and a way of living life which aims to counteract the pressure of the unrealistically fast pace which modern day life can place on us.
The global Covid pandemic almost forced a lot of people into slow living. We were all asked to stay at home; unable to distract ourselves with cinema trips, nights out, meals cooked by others in restaurants, holidays to new and stimulating places. Left to our own devices at home, we were faced with a choice; go stir crazy, or make the best of things. And so, we started to turn to the simple things in life, just as the Italians did decades ago. We eased our panic at the supermarket shelves being bare by planting vegetables. We learned to make bread - when we could acquire the flour from said bare supermarket shelves, that is. We took up crafts - within weeks of lockdown starting, Hobbycraft reported a 200% boom in online craft supply sales. People learned new instruments, or a new language. We started working out at home, trying yoga, attempting a Couch to 5k running regime. We painted, we baked, we sang, we planted; and not always successfully, but it didn’t matter, because we were recapturing the joy of doing. Many people didn’t take up a hobby or learn a new skill; they just existed, for a while. Isn’t it funny how strange it feels to sit down, in silence, and just exist? Collectively, all over the globe, we took stock, slowed down, and reconfigured; which is an equally noble and arguably far more important thing to do than perfecting a croquembouche.
For Gordon, his primary focus - alongside single-handedly shipping orders, designing watches, and juggling fatherhood responsibilities - was to get fit. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle, going on a voyage of culinary discovery (you can read more on that here) and undertaking a new exercise regime meant that he was soon seeing changes and feeling better than ever. The enforced routine and time at home meant that he was able to give it the focus and time that it had never been given before - jumping on the trampoline with his wee girl for hours was more about reconnecting with her and seeing her belly laughs in the process, than the physical exercise. We all know how important exercise, movement and a healthy diet are but the reality is that real life gets in the way; we feel we don’t have the time, nor the equipment, nor the knowledge or willpower to do it right, so we put it off and put it off. The pandemic gave many people a safe space and the time they needed to find the right mental state to begin; to take that first step. Intimidating gyms were closed, and, in the privacy of our sitting rooms, with the likes of Joe Wicks and Yoga With Adrienne on the TV encouraging us along, many of us fell back in love with movement for the fun of it. We rediscovered our local areas on our daily walks, took in the fresh air, spent time tinkering on bikes in our sheds and, slowly but surely, began to incorporate fitness into our lives in a manageable, natural, unpressured way.
Slow living looks different to everyone who practices. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a mobile phone, or partake in the occasional spell of doom-scrolling or running around like headless chickens, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we have bountiful free time or the resources to live in an eden of craftsmanship and self-sufficiency.
For Oliver, a long-term habit - the weekly loaf of sourdough bread - grew arms and legs. Very rarely did any video-call go uninterrupted by a shrill ‘sourdough alarm’, alerting Oliver - and everyone else in the meeting - to the need for the sourdough to be lovingly turned and tended to. Crusts were perfected, starters bubbled and breathed like never before, and the weekly loaf turned into a daily offering; a moment of calm and ritual amid the stresses of working in isolation, running a business, and fathering a toddler. The phenomenon of frantic bread baking during the pandemic is fascinating. There’s something primal about bread; it’s been baked and broken and shared since humanity’s early existence. Just a few simple ingredients can come together to create something to be shared and savoured, or simply to sustain. The process of kneading, rising, forming, and - of course - eating bread is therapy itself, which so many of us needed during the fear, loss, financial pressures and uncertainty of the pandemic. Slowly brewing a coffee in your kitchen and experimenting with different beans instead of grabbing a to-go from Starbucks, or baking a loaf to toast and enjoy with runny, un-set but delicious home made jam; these small acts of defiance against the modern world can save the day.
For me, slow living seemed a way off as I was navigating motherhood for the first time, isolated from family and friends and the usual support network which one would have with a newborn baby. My partner was, for a spell, working down in England, unable to return home due to the lockdown, and I had no schedule nor sleep to speak of; the only thing which was slow was my addled brain. I was in survival mode, and I detested Covid for robbing me of the traditional early motherhood experience. And yet, as the months passed, I came to realise that I, too, had gone back to basics; without baby classes, coffees with mum friends, the normal stream of visitors or the ability to go anywhere, I was enjoying a prolonged ‘fourth trimester’ with my daughter. I got to know her in her purest form; and I was mothering in its purest form, because I was her whole universe. While at first I mourned the maternity leave that I’d dreamed of, and felt that I was somehow failing her by not taking her to interactive children’s classes or magical days out or exposing her to different environments, I realised that it didn’t matter; some paper to rip, a game of peekaboo from behind a blanket, dancing to music, our daily walk to the park, to wave at others from afar and laugh at dogs playing and the geese flying above; that was all she needed, and it was magical, in its own way. I truly believe that we have the bond we have today because of our enforced hibernation together. The radish seeds she plunged into the ground with her little fists are starting to sprout, the paintings she did are displayed on the fridge (and carpets, and walls…) and the games, songs and rituals that we enjoyed together are just as important to us now as they ever were. She is incredibly sociable, unaffected by being a lockdown baby, for which I am eternally thankful. Her little universe is expanding day by day; but we choose to continue finding pleasure in the simple things; partly because we had to, and partly because we’ve seen the world through her eyes - and it’s beautiful.
A windowsill herb garden or a thriving acre of vegetables and fruits. A flat scone or beautifully risen souffle. A gentle jog or a new marathon habit. A wobbly knitted scarf or a beautiful embroidered quilt. The scale and the mastery of each craft doesn’t matter; what matters is the process, and the release, the relaxation, and the clarity that it brings. Here at Marloe, we have always centred our world around craftsmanship and taking the time to do things properly; and the last year or two have really driven home why we do things the way we do them. From hand-stamping cards, honing our packaging and unboxing process and poring over the minutiae to taking the time to chat to our community around the world and to share what delights us; slow living permeates the daily life of the business, because we bring those habits in from our homes. We hope that you have found, or will find, a little corner of the world which offers some respite from the daily grind - and that you’re proud of what you create. When you spend time on something you enjoy, it’s always going to be time well spent.