In praise of pottering about and tweaking things

One of my favourite things is to spend time pottering about and tweaking things. Usually, I don’t have a plan, I will look around and rearrange things, maybe go into the garden and pick some flowers or seed heads, or have a tidy-up. This may not sound like the most productive undertaking but I assure you when I reflect on my days spent in this way, I always feel a great sense of achievement.

From my childhood, I remember my mother spending her days off from work cleaning the house from top to bottom and getting very stressed on a Sunday as she slaved in the kitchen cooking the traditional roast dinner. Of course, we appreciated her efforts and enjoyed a lovely home and wonderful food, but at what personal cost for her?

When my children were small, it became evident that my mother’s actions had become my learned behaviour and, despite having a job outside the home and studying part-time, my weekends were often a whirlwind of activity with little time for rest and recreation. I reflect on this seeming pursuit of perfection and wonder who I was trying to impress.

Slowing down

Recently, I have been reading and thinking about slow-living, taking a step back from the fast pace of modern life and living in a more conscious and mindful way. In some respects, this approach is what I have thought of as pottering about and tweaking things.

It’s not just what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Rather than rushing from one task to the next, barely thinking about what I was doing, I notice that the pace at which I do things has slowed. I concentrate more on what I am doing at the moment.

A couple of years ago, my very fit and a healthy husband was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse, a condition that meant his heart was not able to pump efficiently. What we thought was an exacerbation of asthma required open-heart surgery. Thankfully his surgery was successful and he has made a good recovery but it certainly left us thinking about life a little differently.

As a consequence, earlier this year, while taking a walk and chatting about life, the universe and everything, we made an impromptu decision to retire from our day jobs. Thankfully, we are of a generation that has been able to contribute to adequate pensions, but we also knew the reduction in income would mean making some major changes.

Intentional living

I now realize this conscious decision has effectively meant joining a movement — of slow and simple living. It is a lifestyle choice, also known as voluntary simplicity or downshifting. We are now able to spend our time doing things that are important to us and ignoring, or at least de-prioritizing, almost everything else.

It may have taken me a while, but my focus now is on living intentionally and in the moment. This change was kindled by the realization that I don’t know how many moments remain for me or, indeed, for anyone. But how lovely the thought that whenever possible, I will spend them doing what I want to and in my own time.