I first heard of the term S.L.O.W. Living when I was paging through a coffee table book called Still: The Slow Home by Natalie Walton. My eyes were opened to the pillars I had been trying to center my life around.
It is easy to apply these to food and that is a wonderful place to start. It’s where I started. It’s where my devotion to the farmers market began. Then, slowly (pun intended) I brought these pillars into other areas of my life.
The process required an actual slowing down. I noticed that if I wanted something like, say, toilet bowl cleaner. I could pull up my phone and order it (my previous go to) or I could take the time to leave my house and go buy it. Ideally from a locally owned hardware store or bodega. I could work really hard and try to find a sustainably made toilet bowl cleaner but we’re not going to get a 4 out of 4 with everything. Buying it from the local hardware store helps my community and helps me connect with my community.
It isn’t about perfection. I have friends and neighbors who live a way cleaner, lower-waste lifestyle than we do. We’re working our way there. Over the course of our S.L.O.W. Living journey I’ve developed broader definitions of the elements. That’s what I’m sharing with you today.
The dictionary definition of Sustainable is
able to be maintained at a certain level, able to be upheld or defendedadjective
strengthen or support physically or mentallyverb
As a word nerd (side note, do you follow Merriam Webster on Instagram? It’s a hoot) I started with the dictionary definition of Sustainable. Because in today’s lexicon sustainability carries a heavier load. A product or service is deemed “sustainable” if it has economic viability, is protective of the environment and is socially equitable.
That’s a lot of pressure.
So for me, I made it simple; Sustainability in my life represents progress without depletion. Add to that the thought that our only nonrenewable resource is our time. And sustainability became clear to me.
It is about setting boundaries. Single tasking. Which is near impossible with kids underfoot. Modern women are pulled in several directions all day long; self, partner, parent, employee, sister, friend, neighbor. We embody all those roles at the same time and sometimes we have to be all those roles at the same time. At the very least we bounce between them all day long. This is tough. This is mentally taxing. Add to this that you’re trying to complete a task and you’re ready to tell me to shove my S.L.O.W. Living ideals right back up my you-know-what.
I get it. And I get there. A lot. (Remember how I said I wasn’t perfect, and, hint, no one is)
My three focuses for bringing Sustainability into my daily life are
- Not over scheduling or building rest into my schedule
- Single Tasking
- Tuning in to your emotions
Rest will look differently for everyone. Maybe it’s reading a book in the middle of the day for 20 minutes. Maybe it’s a bath at the end of the day. Maybe it’s early morning exercise. The trick is to make it something you can commit to and do over, and over, and over again without burnout.
Single tasking is much easier said than done. My mind has 50 different tabs open at all times so I bounce around from idea to idea often. But when I read this quote in the spring cleaning section of Magnolia Journal I was hooked.
Beautiful right? I could totally get used to that.
Tuning in to your emotions is all about knowing your limits. Setting boundaries requires bravery because without the courage to protect your resources (time and energy) you’ll get depleted. And I get it, depletion happens. When it does do you know how to restore? For me, in a pinch a shower does the job, it feels like washing the slate clean. If I have more time I like to go run an errand alone and not take other’s needs into consideration for that small part of my day.
The goal is to not get to total depletion so by tuning in to your emotions you can learn to see it coming. You, and your loved ones, can know the signs.
My definition of sustainability boils down to maintaining my mental capacity to make good decisions for myself and my family. And, more often than not, preserving that mental capacity allows me to make “Sustainability” friendly choices.