The Minimalist Approach to Slow Living

By Leziga Barikor

Being a minimalist in many ways can become a narrow goal until you incorporate the idea of slow living. Minimalism and de-cluttering are challenging pursuits, but if you’re committed you can get them done. But once they are done, it can hard to keep up the motivation to maintain your minimalist space.

This is where slow living comes in.

What is slow living?

The pursuit of slow living is very close to simple living and has been going on around the world for ages. Some people point to lives of Jesus or John the Baptists as examples of minimalism by living nomadic lives with few possessions. From the church to secular philosophers, the idea of living simply is hardly a new concept.

I think one thing that has become slightly new is the trend of minimalism as its own pursuit. Marie Kondo’s highly successful book was merely the tip of the iceberg brewing in the blog-sphere surrounding minimalism and tidying up. But the idea of minimalism was never meant to exist outside of a broader perspective of changing your lifestyle holistically.

A slow living lifestyle is the difference between minimalism to get your house clean or as interior design and minimalism to change the way you live and consume products. It is choosing to live with less in every area not to deprive yourself, but as a way accepting and acknowledging you don’t need a lot. Especially in Western countries, we all have so many basic needs provided for so why do we keep buying more?

Slow living invites people to live in constant awareness and thankfulness for what we already have. In contrast, living in constant pursuit of more, bigger and better means consuming faster than we even have time to appreciate.

How do you slow down your lifestyle?

Once you can see slow living as the natural foundation to practicing minimalism, it then becomes a question of how does slow living apply to my life besides minimalism?

First slow living requires assessing how you currently live your life in the areas of time and attention. How much time do you spend thinking about what you don’t have or what you want? How much attention do you give to things that don’t matter to you or the life you’re trying to build? Do you even pause to reflect on the type of life you are leading? Basically the first step is practicing mindfulness in your daily life.

Slow living can also be called intentional living. Then it’s no surprise that from Henry David Thoreau to Bon Iver that time spent living in simple conditions leads to much introspection and fantastic art. You can’t passively live your life with intention. So ask yourself some hard questions. Maybe a good first one is how busy are you?

It may be hard to see yourself as passively living your life if you always think of yourself as busy. But even when I was at my busiest working, studying at college and volunteering, I still had a lot of time and opportunities I let go by passively. A free moment spent on social media or money spent on snacks I didn’t need. Nothings wrong with those things in themselves, but their only purpose was to pass time. Filling time just for time’s sake isn’t intentional, it’s just wasteful.

Minimalism for slow living life style blog green graphic with tree on green wall

The minimalist and simple living

The connection between minimalism and simple living are so close it can almost be seen as interchangeable. To live simply is to apply minimalism to your largest asset in life — time.

You may have heard it before, but it can never be overemphasized that life is short and unpredictable as we’ve all learned with the recent world events. Outside of your adolescence, you are given more and more control with how you use your time. How long would you want to keep scrolling through social media if you knew your tomorrow wasn’t coming?

Maybe that’s a bit dark, but on the opposite side of the spectrum what would you be pursuing if you had all the time and resources in the world? I still don’t think you’d be aspiring to hit refresh just one more time in that scenario either.

Using minimalist practices on your time is the best way to get close to achieving even a little bit of the goals you may have for yourself. Can you turn off your phone for a few hours? Pause your latest TV show binge? Or maybe you don’t even know where to begin finding all the time you don’t think you have?

One of the best ways to see where your time actually goes is to track it. You can find many time trackers online that go from hourly to every 15-30 minutes. Time tracking is the minimalist equivalent of taking all the items from your rooms and cupboards to see what really belongs and what you can do without.

Now the best time to time track is going to be when your life is most “normal” so possibly on a Monday through Wednesday during a regular week. Not during an appointment filled week or holiday season. Even in this social distancing time period, you’ve probably built up a routine within this madness that’s similar to your usual routine. I think it’s easy to try and save this for a “Saturday project” when you have more time, but what you really need is a fresh record of how you actually lived your life in at least a couple of days.

Now doing an honest time tracking sheet is important, but don’t get mad at yourself about it. Spending three hours watching “The Office” isn’t always a bad thing and does not make you a bad person. More likely you’ll find that your free time is filled with activities that you find quite satisfying in the moment. For me that can be a lot of YouTube videos. The next objective isn’t to simply get rid of everything you do enjoy, but to leave space for change.

For deciding what to cut out of your schedule, take the time to think and reflect over what you would like to do with your time. Maybe it’s easier for you to just attribute a positive or a negative sign to an activity. Or if you want to go deeper about your habits ask yourself these questions and maybe journal about it:

  • How is this benefiting me?
  • Is this in anyway harming me?
  • How do I feel after this activity?
  • What’s something I’ve wanted to do but never felt I had the time to?
  • Why do I spend time on this?
  • Is this to avoid boredom or silence?
  • Do I like even like this?

Consider what activities you want to still be a part of your life and make a new schedule that includes that in much smaller doses. What I recommend is going through your time track sheets and calculate loosely or specifically how much time is spent on unnecessary activities (not work or basic life necessity related). Then see if you can dedicate at least half of that extra time to one new hobby and more intentionally spend time with your usual hobbies. What to do with the other portion of your newly found free time? Here’s an idea — nothing.

Well not just nothing, but especially for people who feel constantly busy and may not have that much time even with cutting down on activities they find to be a net negative it can be really freeing to see time in your schedule for you to do nothing.

For other people, you may categorize a lot of the activities you filled your time tracker with as habits that you may not want to continue or engage in with more moderation. Maybe you’ll find limiting some habits give you more time to accomplish things you usually don’t get around to doing. Simple living in itself is a habit that needs to be developed and honed to start doing more of what you actually love and less of what you simply tolerate.

Now in all honesty, I know this applies much differently for people with families especially with young children. But there’s still plenty of slow living resources out there, if you’re interested in finding out how to make that work for your specific situation.

What does living simply mean?

Another major component to living simply is gratitude. Minimalists realize that when you are appreciative for the things you currently have, you no longer desire to purchase more things.

The best benefit to simple living is a higher sense of gratitude for your daily life. Living in constant pursuit of the next weekend or vacation isn’t much of a life. Simple living allows you to maximize your days, so that they don’t feel wasted. An hour spent doing something you really enjoy versus doing something mindless will have immediate benefits to your day.

And by pursuing slow living, you are committing to a process on the journey of life. It makes minimalism less of a monthly chore and more of a reflection of the person you are. You don’t just have less things, you enjoy what you do have more. It’s not something you’ll get perfect overnight, but that’s okay because you’re changing slowly.

If you feel like you’re failing, it’s okay I’m failing too. But once you get started, you’ll be surprised to see how much you can accomplish. I hope you keep reading, so we can make progress together.

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