I am sharing this solo episode on both my podcasts – Daydreaming Wolves and the DIY Small Business podcast because it feels relevant to both projects. I came across the expression voluntary simplicity this week and it’s been intensely on my ever since. While I never resonated with “voluntary poverty” there is so much freedom and pleasure in keeping things simple.
So in this episode I am exploring how I am valuing simplicity in my life – in the home I bought, the ways in which I allow my business to stagnate and rest, in how I try to get better at letting things be what they are and be led by my values rather than dominant narratives. I am asking what it can look life to be right sized in the space we take up, to find our own kind of success and am also giving a little update on smartphone free life, in case you’re interested.
Let me know what you think!
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My Embodied Business podcast explores what it means to build a small business with integrity, joy and anti capitalist values. I interview other small business owners and offer solo episodes in which I am answering questions around tech, strategy, more ethical marketing and creative livelihoods.
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Hey, everyone, my name is Yarrow and you’re either listening to the Daedra wills podcast or to the DIY small business podcast. I wanted to record a solo episode on exploring simplicity, because that’s been on my mind a lot this week. And I thought it was relevant to both these podcasts and projects, which is why you might be listening on one of them. And this is also reminded that I have two of you are a listener of deja vu is it just to do a business podcast, consider checking the other one out, I hope that they are both fun and maybe have something to offer for you. So I want to begin by just talking a little bit about what I’m enjoying at the moment before I dive into the topic. I’m nesting and baking so much. And that’s kind of feeling really rooted at the moment. I’m recording this on the 18th of October and the numbers of COVID infections are going up really rapidly here in Europe. So we are facing a very uncertain winter, there will be major lockdowns, there will be lives lost businesses closing. And that’s pretty hard. And so yeah. It feels nice to stay in conversation through the podcast. And just to kind of share what’s on my mind and also listen about other people’s experiences of the situation. I have committed yesterday Oh, no, the day before yesterday, I mean, what even is time on Friday, on the new moon in Libra to doing 100 days of tiny creative acts. And I’m very excited for that on Friday, I did my first ever cyanotype print. Yesterday, I painted my walls. And today I’m not really sure what I’m going to make yet but I will, for 100 days just do tiny creative things and document them. I’m not going to share them every day, I might occasionally share something on the podcast here on my Instagram. But generally it’s just for myself, I want to try new things and really allow myself to claim being a creative person and work with my imposter syndrome. And also make sure that every day through winter, I have moments of not doing something and ackwards productive or shiny or whatever, you know, I just want to play I think that’s really important. To podcasts that came into my world this week that I want to share. The first one is the beyond QA podcast by dev Nick Hahn, who is a really cool artist and has very good questions. And the second one is reflections from my ad table by Mr. Freeman. And Mr. has actually recommended the beyond podcast to me. And yeah, like I said, I think this is a really beautiful medium this time to hear about other people’s experiences. So I’m excited to share those. I’m also running the dream programme at the moment and I wanted to share that’s going with I’m really enjoying it. So it’s a six week programme where every Saturday we’re meeting for 45 minutes to ride together. And every Friday, I’m sending an email out with some some journaling prompts for the week. And then people can kind of drop into the space on Saturday. And the lighter candle we do just a few minutes of meditation in the beginning. And then we do a check in and the beginning and the end. But mainly we just quietly sit together and write. And that’s been really beautiful. Like, I think I really needed that accountability to make sure that I’m pausing and reflecting and have a bit of togetherness in all of this because I live by myself. And if you do too, I’m sending so much love and solidarity. Because I feel Yeah, this is hard. And we don’t really know how much longer we’ll be by ourselves in this way. So I’m because I’m enjoying the session so much. There’s been three so far. I’m considering running them through winter, and anyone who’s a patron can join them so you can become a patron. Starting at $3 you get access to my scenes to other courses that I’ve recorded two workshops, you get a free copy of my book rituals. And then you can come to the Saturday sessions if you like. And I really hope that that will be a supportive space through winter. And well, I will keep sharing those kind of journaling prompts. You can also come on work on anything you like it could be like an embroidery, or a drawing or whatever you want to make creatively. I think it’s just about being
together and having some company and making sure that we are expressing ourselves in some way and kind of working with what is so yeah, would be great to have a few more people on there. So So now actually to come to the topic of today, which is voluntary simplicity. I came across this expression in a podcast recently, and I sadly can’t remember which one it was. And who said it, which I really wish I did. But it’s been on my mind so much since I first heard it. And I heard it heard about voluntary poverty before. And I don’t know a tonne about it. I want to be super honest. No, there’s a religious context. I don’t know which era this kind of came about, and what it’s really at this core about. But I think just her hearing that term to me always felt a bit like not really relatable, to be honest, because poverty is violent. And poverty is rarely People’s Choice. And I, I have experienced, you know, food insecurity, housing insecurity growing up with and with a single mom. And so this is not something that I would take or say lightly to say I’m choosing poverty does really doesn’t feel right to me. But there was something so liberating and interesting about saying, What if I choose voluntary simplicity for my life? And yeah, so I wanted to dive deeper into that, because it feels so good. And some of the things that came up for me around that was like, this idea of leaving open space for new things to come in, and for all things to deepen, and not to always consume a lot of stuff, but also information and education and relationships, and just this kind of sense of stuffing our lives, versus keeping it really simple. And then I also really like this idea of asking what it means to be right sized in the world, like, looking at our lives, and the tech the space that we take out the privilege that we have, the power that we hold, and how we share these privileges, and access and power and resources with others. And are we right size. And obviously, I think that’s something really important for us too, as as white people, but really, for everyone, as we’re kind of going through this crisis together and thinking about how we’re going to rebuild communities and being together when this is over, or being together through this, as well, like, what does that look like? And yeah, like there’s real sweetness and the idea of keeping it really simple and, and nurturing environments in which it’s safe to be generous, and honest, and vulnerable, and kind. That’s something I really want. And I listened to an episode on the beyond podcast by dev Nick home, which I mentioned the beginning and someone called Jess devoxx, said, you know, people will say to value x, but there’s two ways in which he can really see what they truly value, which is how they spend their money and how they spend their time. And that was another thing this request, like, Whoa, yeah, how do I spend my time and my money? And I’m, I’m not sure that I would say that, how we spend our time. And money is always a direct reflection of our values. Because I think, due to stress, and I mean, yeah, mainly stress, lack of time, lack of space to explore, so many of us make those day to day spending decisions, and completely unconscious ways. I know I’ve, I’ve often done that. And so that’s not in alignment with my values. It’s not truly then a reflection of them, right. But how can I bring these things in alignment? And yeah, I think incentives are such a good example. I really value intimacy. I love having a small but really committed Friendship Circle and really trying to be present and trying to really listen. And it’s so much harder than, yeah, it’s so much harder to do than to say, and when our own kind of minds are racing, and we want to listen, but there’s so much going on and so much to hold this year.
So I’m gonna go through the different kind of areas of my life and explore like, what would voluntary simplicity look here or not just what it would it be? What it is, I think in some ways, I have already really embodied that and want to go deeper with that. But I think in my life more broadly, and I mentioned this in my last episode, I feel so much joy about this home that I bought and I’ve been wanting to have a forever home for ages. I never grew up in like a family home. That was stable kind of all my childhood or that my parents never owned their homes and And so we were moving around a lot renting. And I’ve always been dreaming about buying my own home. And a few years back, or actually many years back, I donated x, and I helped someone else start a family, which I really love, I am so happy I did that. And the parents I donated to provide me some money to buy some abandoned farmland in Portugal. I bought that about three and a half years ago. And that was a big dream. And I thought, you know, I had arrived in a sense and wanted to put down roots there eventually, but for different reasons that never came to be one of them is that because of Brexit in the UK, I can leave the country for more than 90 days a year without losing kind of my chance of having settled status here and eventually, citizenship. And when that happened, I really realised how much I love the people and the old friendships I have here. And the new ones as well, of course, and just kind of how how it’s really people for me, that make me feel rooted. And I’ve always really been curious and excited about Scotland and always wanted to visit and then last winter, I wasn’t, I was having a hard time otherwise. And I was like, I think the time has finally come like I’ve been talking about this for ages. Why don’t I keep it really simple and go and check Scotland are great. And then last summer I moved here, it was a really quick decision, and really the right from for me and so many levels. And and then yeah, I’ve been renting the beginning kind of looking around. I am I’m still living on the east coast of Scotland, which is kind of an hour away from Edinburgh and Glasgow. And so it’s not a city. But this access to both cities and to the queer communities that are which I really value. And it’s good enough for me, you know, like, that’s again, I think, coming back to simplicity, like I don’t need to have a queer bar down the road, every day of the week I am I’m okay just kind of going in, maybe like every week or every other week to see friends and to go to a bookshop or see an exhibition or something. I mean, that’s all outside of a pandemic anyway. But that was kind of my thinking. And I’m noticing as I get older, that really what I need every single day is to be in nature and to be able to take my dogs to the forest, or a river or the lake here, or a beautiful park. And those things really are what makes my life what made my life beautiful. And what feels nourishing. And so it makes total sense for me to live more in the countryside in a small town where it’s so much more affordable, and, and so much easier to kind of feel grounded here for me, at least. And this town that I moved into now has an ad centre as well where I can take evening classes after the pandemic. There’s lots of other artists, there’s actually a surprising amount of careers, which I didn’t expect. And there’s cool independent shops who I really hope will make it. There’s good foods, I feel. Yeah, so happy that I trusted my dad, I trusted myself to make this work because I have moved to New countries so many times in my 20s. And, and in my early 30s I I think I kind of slowed down I was like, well, this is tiring, like I want to know where I’m going to invest myself for my 30s and 40s. And hopefully beyond. And I want to make a choice here. And I had to admit to myself that Portugal was a beautiful idea. And I love this region and I had all these permaculture dreams and the land was really cheap. And I was halfway through paying it off to the people that I had donated X to but I sold it this spring. And I’m really happy for the person who bought it because I think it’s just much better for her and I can see how this is going to be a beautiful part of her future and what he can contribute. There. And for me it was good to
to let it go and to acknowledge like also how much my body loves the landscapes and the season here. I know. You know the winter is really harsh in Scotland. I always joke that like winter in Scotland is when you apprentice with diamonds and you learn what really matters. Like that’s definitely how I felt last winter. It’s not easy because there’s so little daylight there’s only seven hours around the winter solstice and you have to be so intentional with how you spend your time and how you make sure you’re getting daylight and you go outside and you keep moving and you keep warm inside. So, but I love it. And it really resonates with my whole body, my being to be here, to not be in a city to not have these like really hot summers. And to have more quiet and more space for myself and to have such an affordable home. So coming back on this lone wolf or to my opening here, like what does voluntary simplicity look like in my life? One thing is that I bought this home, which is a small one bedroom flat and the mortgage is 250 pounds a month. And that’s really opening up so much space for me to question how I want to spend my time, what kind of work I really want to do, what kind of learning I still want to do, like, I’m back at university now studying philosophy, because I’m so curious. And it’s possible because I have shifted my priorities, I’m spending much less on some things, I’m spending a bit more on education again. And it’s really affordable here. It’s really not comparable to other places, so. And I think, yeah, this simplicity also really feels present in my relationships. Like I am someone who can be really anxiously attached, I can also be avoided, and I can be very disorganised and I’ve let go of of a friendship this year, to be more honest with myself. And that’s really good, because I was noticing how I was bumping up against it and just not feeling seen and comfortable anymore. And how is yearning to just be truly myself, like my whole self, including my values and my dreams. And what I feel is important in life. And letting go is hard sometimes, but I think it also makes space for new things. And they can kind of like clear something that we very easily otherwise forward stuff that might not feel quite right. So I think there’s simplicity and letting people be who they are, and letting ourselves be who we are. And also really thinking about what we can actually hold. And what we want. Like how do we want to spend this limit time and energy that we have. Another piece for me was giving up my smartphone, which I also have talked about before, but when I go a little bit deeper into it’s been about, I think five or six weeks now and fucking had so good. I have a Nakia 800 TAF, which is like an old style button phone with a very small screen so I don’t sit in bed sky for the news anymore. I don’t check my phone first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, because nothing exciting is happening on there. It does have WhatsApp, which is good because that’s what my parent grandparents know how to use. And I didn’t want to ask them to kind of like switch to a different app. But But texting takes ages because it has actual buttons. So I mainly record videos of voice messages now. And I you signal on my computer. And that feels really good. Because I think for me at least there’s so much that always gets lost in translation and a text message. I mean, sometimes it’s super straightforward and fun. And I’m not against texting at all. I’m just saying, for me, there’s so much more depth in voice messages. And and I think they feel like a happy medium between texting and meeting on zoom, which, which owing to the fact that I already work on my computer every day is sometimes not something I always have capacity for. But just kind of pressing the button and letting my voice speak and sharing what’s up and inviting people to share the same that feels really good right now. And, and its simplicity, like going back to the basics of a phone like a basics of a phone is texting and calls. And that’s it. And we had that for a really long time. And like now, it seems like we we’ve come to a place where we can imagine our lives with our smartphone. And I want to say here like I really respect that. This isn’t possible. And for many people, especially disabled people, smartphones are a really important way to stay connected. And I honour that and I think if
Yeah, like there’s definitely been times in my world that was true for me as well. And just now that has shifted a bit and I find it’s actually more connected for me to not have a smartphone because I feel so overwhelmed by it. And that kind of overwhelm takes away from my capacity to actually feel intimacy with people and be connected. And so the only logical consequence for me is to let that go and to keep it really simple. Yeah, and then I’ve also been thinking about what this means in my business and and Approaching my sixth birthday now, which I’m very excited about. And, as I’ve said many times, and never thought I would get this far, I had so many different jobs in my 20s, and felt so ashamed for not finding my thing or like being flaky. And I thought I was not committed, I think I just wasn’t in the right space, like I wasn’t, I wasn’t suited to working in an open plan, business, often is that really busy and like, being part of a big team that’s always shifting and changing was really feeling super chaotic for me, and being able from home now I can, I can contribute in ways that feel good and meaningful to me. And I’m so grateful that I got to do that. And obviously, there’s privilege in that as well. And while I have a lot of education, I had a certain amount of practice around media and social media. And if you want to phrase it that way, I had social capital, when I was starting out, I had no financial capital, but I, I had experience in certain environments that really helped me make this work for myself. And that matters. And so yeah, so I am going to say that I’m really grateful that I even have a chance now, you know, to sit down and think about these things. Because when I was working full time, and, and really underpaid jobs, I know that it’s really hard to even find headspace to think about these things. But now that I’m in this place, and I and things have become so much easier, I’m asking myself, like, where do I go from here and like what feels beautiful in a really simple way. And it’s so much about freedom and choices and working creatively, and doing care work with pride and joy? Because I think part of the narrative that often annoys me of what we think is success is that we begin to kind of hire our dis things that we don’t want to do, or you know, just don’t enjoy. And, of course, sometimes that’s totally fine. You know, we don’t have the same skills, and some of us enjoy some things more than others. And then, and then we trade in some ways, and that’s fine. But I think there’s so much to say around how we value feminised labour and and I think, for example, like to be a successful woman, we often say, Oh, you’ve made it if you have a cleaner and someone looking after your kids, because you can have it all and you’re this cool business person. I’m like, No, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go to the team, I want to do my own damn housework. Because I have the privilege of having an able body who can do that. And I love it. I love nesting so much. And and I actually what I want is to work, less hours feel less pressure or feel less like I have to be performing in some way. I really value being able to be myself and to work with people who don’t need me to be anything else, basically. And I think an important question is also when thinking about success, like I think so often we think of abundance as just accumulation of more stuff and like more money in a bigger house. But what would happen if everyone on the planet lived the way we do, we would even quicker run out of resources. And I’m just kind of so over this over this narrative of like, bigger is better. And like everyone should aim for a six figure business and then you have an assistant and and you’re automating everything and just running the self study courses on autopilot. And you’re basically creating all this like digital baggage that people don’t really have the capacity to engage with bridges. Which is strange, right? Like, it’s, I’m not sure that that’s helpful.
So, yeah, those are my thoughts. I feel I’m at a point in my business, which is, like I said, such a beautiful blessing and a privilege to say, if it stops growing here, this is enough. I’m happy to do what I’m doing right now for the next 30 years or whatever. And we just want to play and and keep being creative and trying different things. But it doesn’t necessarily have to grow from here in a conventional sense. Does I have secure housing now I can afford food. I can afford to get sick. I have insurance. That’s good talk snorri which is also one of the simple joys in my life, I think. Yeah, those are some rambley thoughts about what voluntary simplicity might look like in business. And yeah, I’ve I feel like and so I think one thing that can feel really overwhelming and busy and building a business is like, there’s so many decisions to make, and so many stories and so many possibilities and options, but can we bring it back to what simply feels right and good and is aligned with our values. And I think the cloud is something so peaceful about looking into the future, and not always thinking about the next big thing. I think writing a book this year was a really big dream of mine, I really want to do that. And I’m writing the next and it’s exciting. But I’m not necessarily looking to write a bestseller next raid, like I just want to do the thing that I’m doing and see where it goes. But I’m not thinking about Yeah, I’m not thinking about best seller. I’m also not thinking about flipping my home and like, how could I? How can I like make the most of this salad with a profit and then buy a bigger one. I just want to be here for a moment and like pause and allow for stagnation because that’s part of cyclical living and nature as well. Just letting things be and, and allowing ourselves to enjoy really small and beautiful things. Maybe that was a TV note to end on later on, though. And yeah, I think all of this was such a long ramble. But I got so much positive feedback like more actually than ever before, after my last rambley episode, so I thought I would do another one on what’s on my mind at the moment around simplicity and really choosing that as a way of being and engaging with the world and each other. So thank you so much for listening. I would love to hear what you think v enjoy either of the podcast, please leave a review. That really helps a lot and I so appreciate it. Thank you