What lockdown has taught me about simplicity

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When I first embalked upon my simplicity journey around 4 years ago, I described how this wasn’t only about being able to let of excess ‘stuff.’ Back then, becoming minimalist was also about letting go of a sense of obligation, of constant busy-ness, and stress.

Our time in lockdown has taken me back to that time of living more simply and letting go. We’re now on Day 75 here in the UK. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease (for good or ill – no pun intended), I feel it’s worth reflecting on what this time has taught me so far.

Lockdown lessons

First of all, let me say if you’re a key worker or frontline care giver/medic/clinician, then I cannot begin to imagine what this time has meant for you. No doubt, you’re still in the thick of it. One of my neighbours (a consultant obstetrician gynecologist) told us a bit about the PPE he had to wear to perform his role; that in itself was remarkable).

Likewise, if you have lost someone to Covid-19, then I’m truly sorry for your loss. This post isn’t going to be for you. So, feel free to click on by.

Rather, this post is for those of us who’ve simply being told to sit on the sofa and stay put. It’s for those of us who are – and continue to be – keyboard warriors. It’s for those of us who have been at home, some of us with family members or even with a cobbled-together ‘Covid family,’ as friends (or even colleagues) have gone into lockdown together to wait for the storm to pass. It’s for those of us who’ve had the privilege of being able to work from home while spring has unfurled its fresh, green leaves and birdsong was all we could hear when traffic levels dropped to levels not seen since 1955.

Letting go

Now we’ve go that over with, here’s what I think.

Let’s not ‘go back to normal’. Let’s move forward towards a new way of being that sits more comfortably with who we want to become. But how do we do this?

Here’s where I return to letting go any sense of obligation. Let go of the things that don’t serve you or bring you joy. It’s your life, so when the world around you starts to pick up speed again, remember that you get to choose what stays and what goes.

I’m not trying to suggest that you’re not bound by work objectives or by responsibilites that sit rightfully with you as a colleague, partner, parent or good pal. Whatever we do, we should still desire to do the right thing. But if spending time at home has caused you to reflect a little and to take stock, consider these questions:

  • Who do I want to spend my time with?
  • What’s really important to me?
  • What really matters?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What do I love doing and which makes me feel alive?
  • What would I do, if I knew I couldn’t fail?

What (or who) will you allow to ebb away?

I spent a couple of hours last week with a friend (2m apart, as per government guidelines, sitting in the sunshine alongside the riverbank close to her home). She described the relief she had felt at not having to see people she didn’t want to see, or go to places that she preferred to avoid.

In an interview with Reece Witherspoon, writer and activist Glennon Doyle says that the lives we lead ‘must be the truest, most beautiful lives we can imagine. Don’t settle!’ So, what would your truest, most beautiful life look like, if you could re-craft it from the start? The questions, above, might just help you consider this.

The ‘To Do’ List

One of the things I seem to have let go of naturally is my personal ‘to do’ list. My work action plan is typically well-structured, but I’d previously brought some of that hyper-organisation into life at home. What I’ve been able to do in lockdown is go with the flow. Weather’s good? Go and potter in the garden! Feel like sorting out a few papers? Do that.

Somehow, letting go of the never-ending task list is a release. Jobs still get done. And it doesn’t actually matter if they don’t….

On occasion, this has also meant letting go of things that I have always righteously claimed as my own, such as meal preparation. Knowing that there is plenty of food in the house to produce simple, nutritious dishes has enabled me to let go of being Head Chef.  Making a meal need not always be my job. On Sunday, after 5 hours in the garden, I came back into the house to find our 18-year-old had found a recipe via BBC Good Food, assembled all the ingredients (adding a few that she fancied) and hey presto! we had lunch.

The ‘do‘ List

Being in lockdown has given me some new-found (or rediscovered) joys; little moments that you can enjoy in your day. Check them out:

  • Nichola Joss’ facial massage on Instagram (weekday evening at 20:00 BST) and mornings, too
  • Online book clubs (authors going live include the fabulous Marian Keyes on Facebook (Mondays, 17:00 BST  next one 15 June)
  • Online yoga – I attend my own teacher’s online class (Living Your Yoga) but check out others including DoYogaWithMe.com

So, do what you want to do. Live life on your own terms. And let go of anything that doesn’t allow you to be your best self. And don’t forget the lessons that lockdown taught us.


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What we’re eating in lockdown

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I’ve been on annual leave this week. So, instead of working remotely from my little study, ‘holidaying’ at home has been my experience. Here in the UK, the government’s daily mantra is Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. So, staying at home we are.

On the whole, the nation is respectful of the reasons why we’re being asked to do this and fiercely proud of our NHS and grateful for all our key workers. Just now, the UK has been told we must remain in lockdown for at least 3 more weeks. But I must add that this is no hardship in this particular corner of the world. In the past few days, it feels as though we’ve been watching spring gently unfurl, as ripe clematis buds burst into flower and leaves on the silver birch and sycamore trees begin to reveal themselves a little more with each passing day.

Food is now at the forefront of people’s minds

A recent post on our town’s local Facebook group caught my eye:

Current family weekly budget in lockdown 💵

Petrol – £0
Meals out – £0
Useless purchases – £0
Groceries – £2467.90

It certainly feels like we’re spending more on food, although a check of my April Dual Account Budget Spreadsheet suggests we’re on top of our budget, which is pretty good considering there is no eating outside of the home whatsoever.

Apart from the obvious changes to daily life (we are told that traffic levels are at their lowest since 1955), a regular topic of conversation is food.

How to obtain essential provisions, what we’re eating, where to find key ingredients and top tips for getting an online delivery slot are key features of our neighbourhood WhatsApp group chat.

A new favourite podcast of mine, Table Manners, has also considered how we’re feeding ourselves in lockdown. Check out Episode 10, with the fabulous Emily Maitlis or go back in time to 2018 to the episode with my favourite cookery writer, Nigella Lawson.

Au revoir to online shopping

One big shift we’ve made is the transition from regular online shopping to sourcing food from a variety of new places.

Our local farm shop is providing a fabulous service: place your order online, then wait for them to call you so that you can make payment. Drive up, then they’ll come and place your food straight into the boot of the car. Simple! And rather good. Today, we’ve enjoyed locally-produced salad leaves, milk from a dairy just up the road and a rather splendid chunk of chocolatey rocky road (shopper’s perk).

We even managed to buy a bag of plain flour, a grocery item that has been in short supply, as families have begun baking together during the pandemic.

Yesterday, my daughter and I spent a pleasurable hour in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies from Sally’s Baking Addition.  These have the most wonderful chewy texture, are utterly delicious and worth the extra devotion required to achieve such perfection. Thank you, Sally! (UK friends, we used baking powder instead of ‘baking soda’ and light muscovado sugar for the brown sugar).

There’s certainly something very soothing about the quiet discipline of weighing, sieving, mixing and shaping ingredients into the ultimate comfort food. I must also mention the simple, humble but oh-so-delicous flapjack.

Cook

One source of pre-cooked frozen food is Cook. While the neighbouring butcher and deli store in Leamingon Spa had people queuing round the block (at a socially acceptable distance), we were able to place our order to cook online, then arrive on the specified day to collect our order with no waiting time at all. Plus, Cook‘s meals for two feed three of us happily – and very tasty they are too. Our family’s all-time favourite is Cook‘s meatballs in tomato sauce, but the chicken pie (on the menu tomorrow) may yet beat it into first place.

Making an honest crust

Our local artisan bakery, Crustum, has also solved the problem of how to manage during lockdown. Customers can now pre-order and arrive at a specific time to collect their bread, which is only ever available 3 days per week. I’ve just placed an order for Saturday, so can enjoy a legitimate trip out on my bicycle, whilst satisfying my current craving for some of Crustum’s famous chelsea buns.

My mother, who lives 90 miles away in Yorkshire, has also described how food suppliers local to her have become inventive, offering home deliveries rather than their usual weekly presence at the market.

I wonder how we’ll shop and eat post-pandemic? It was certainly heartening to see a BBC report that, in France, essential stores include those selling bread, cheese, groceries and chocolate. At times such as this, des Chocolatiers are indeed providing an essential service.

Looking inwards

So, we’re certainly keeping an eye on the outside world, whilst our focus has necessarily been more inward-looking, as food is cooked and eaten, cupboards get a sort out and old paintwork is refreshed. It’s been really lovely to get on top of jobs that would otherwise be crammed into busy weekends.

And, in spite of having maintained a minimalist home for 4 years now, there have still been some items we’ve assigned to the ‘goods out’ pile, ready for when some kind of normality returns. Living with less still gives me a thrill.

Get uncluttered

Whilst writing, have you noticed that Joshua and the team at Uncluttered are offering the spring online course for just $59? Use my discount code of FF25 and you’ll also get a further 25% off, so there’s no better time to join if you want to declutter during lockdown. The discount ends on 22 April, so do take a look if you’re curious about what Uncluttered can do for you.

So, stay safe, friends. And let me know what you’re eating in lockdown. I hope it includes something comforting.


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