Simple Living is a movement to de-clutter our lives, making time and space for things we really value: like Wild Time. Julia Koskella is a blogger, social entrepreneur and volunteer at The Wild Network. She’s building a Simple Living movement in the UK, kicking off September 27th with the Simple Living Gathering. Here, she breaks down the barriers to Wild Time, and shares tips and solutions from a Simple Living perspective.   

The more I speak to people across the UK, the more I hear one resounding complaint: how did we get so BUSY? Our lives have become so complex, busy and burdened, we’re not living the lives we wanted.  We’ve been swept up into unhealthy habits, and inundated by more stuff and clutter in our homes than we could possibly use.  Surely we didn’t choose to make life so… cramped?

There’s a big shift happening now: people are waking up to the fact that we can choose quite a different outcome.  By making small, thoughtful changes in our lifestyles, we can make things much simpler, and free up time and space for what really matters.   With Find Space, I’m helping bring people together to make those changes in a fun and social way. We’re questioning how we spend money, how we spend time, and how we use technology, to build more wellbeing. 

For example while volunteering at Camp Bestival this summer with The Wild Network, I asked kids and parents: “Do you spend as much time outdoors as you would like?” Most people answered no. So why don’t we spend time on the things we love and value? They cited barriers such as packed schedules, failing to prioritise outdoor time, the weather and technology. Below, I’ll unpick each of these barriers and share top tips for change.

How can we make space for the wild outdoor adventures adults and kids crave?

Stuff is Distracting

With 3,000 adverts hitting kids’ eyes every day, it’s no wonder that we reach for more toys, tech and material goods to cure boredom. But Wild Time is free, and its value for our happiness can’t be under-estimated. Nature fosters creativity and offers endless play opportunities. Plants, animals and landscapes change every day of the year, even if it’s just your local urban park. This diversity is naturally satisfying to the senses, improving our wellbeing if we remember give it our time and attention.  At Camp Bestival, we brought groups into a small plot of woodland, spent five minutes observing its sound, feel, smell and look, and then wrote stream-of-consciousness poems for another  5 minutes – an easy activity to try at home.  We also gathered wild materials to sculpt clay “blobsters”, creating an explosion of creativity (see photo below!)  Spending time outdoors helps you gain perspective, in a society where it’s all too easy to get swept up in the frenzy of e-mails, new products and endless to-do lists.

  • Find Space tip: try putting all your toys, clutter and distractions into a big box for a few days. With less tidying, sorting and mindless distractions, what activities have you been freed up for? Were you more creative in designing your own games? What objects did you really miss and value? Consider giving away the rest; it may be detracting from your life.

We Have Packed Schedules

“It’s easy to fall into a rushed lifestyle.” It’s hard to pinpoint why we feel busier today than ever before.  The Simple Living movement is about reclaiming our schedules and buying habits to make room for more living – and that includes more wild time. Many kids also assumed they weren’t allowed outside unless their parents were available with them. Try encouraging your kids to go outdoors with their siblings or friends – or bring that paper you need to read along to the park and let them get to it. 

  • Find Space Tip: Try keeping a time log of where your week goes.  Kids can be over-booked too. There’s pressure at the school gates to enrol in all sorts of classes, but freeform play time is just as important for independent thinking, confidence and creativity.

The Time-sap of Tech

 “I think it’s technology that gets in the way. It’s about habits.” This was a popular answer especially among parents.  They felt that in the 21st century, spending time on the laptop or iPad was a default mode, while going outside was not. An average American spends half their waking hours staring at a screen, with similar rates for the UK. For kids, many told me they liked playing Minecraft, but they openly expressed that it got in the way of their other interests and was overly addictive. If tech is just too alluring to say no to, try combining smartphones with walking by going Geocaching. 

  • Find Space Tip: Try a digital detox every Sunday. This is part of the Simple Living Challenge: a 31-day challenge starting October 1st. Sign up to get inspiration, feel supported, and change your habits for good – you won’t be alone!

Get it in your Routine

The rural families I spoke to each said they managed to get lots of Wild Time in: they walked dogs, did sports, played outdoors, and going for a nature walk was a normal part of the weekend. So what can city-dwellers learn from that? We need to get wild time into our routine. Get it booked in the diary, and help kids develop a love of nature that will endure through their tough teen years (the teens I spoke to were self-admittedly the age group most deprived of wild time). 

  • Find Space Tip: Gently re-wire some of your routines. Try walking the twenty minutes to school rather than driving. Re-route your journeys so you can pause and soak in some wild space on the way. Learn beginner foraging skills and go outside to pick your dinner greens!  And practice saying NO to some of your commitments – prioritise what is really important.

Fair-weather Friends

A lot of people mentioned bad weather as a barrier. But I equally met young people who said they loved braving the rain, and a teacher who had set up a year-round outdoors nursery. Maybe a bit of toughening-up would be good for us all. And don’t let “we’ll get too messy” become your excuse (yes! People cited that one!) Mud easily washes off of clothes in the washing machine.

  • Find Space tip: Search out life’s simple pleasures.  With the right raincoat, nothing beats splashing in a puddle, walking in the rain, or yelling into a storm. Make life your own adventure.

Kids and adults share their top tips for more Wild Time:

  •  “I jog and exercise outdoors now instead of the gym”
  • “Pick up litter as you walk along, even if it’s not yours, so you have a mission.”
  • “In London, I walk a lot between places”
  • “I love playing at the end of my garden, it’s a bug den”
  • “Remember to leave technology at home, unless you’re Geocaching”
  • “My NCT group goes for walks outdoors together”
  • “It helped when mum took Minecraft off the iPad. Before that we always argued about who could use it. Now we have more time to go outside. The best thing is building a den”
  • “We built a dinosaur world in a box, with miniature trees and a mud volcano”
  • “People think they need to spend money to go out in nature, but it’s free! The National Trust’s 50 Things to Do before you’re 11 3/4s is great for ideas of what you can do”

What’s stopping you from getting enough #WildTime? Share your #FindSpace tips and stories below or on Twitter!

The Simple Living Gathering is coming up Sunday, Sept 27th, 12:30-4:30pm in Brixton, London.  Reserve your free ticket here on EventBrite. Can’t make it? Try out Simple Living by joining A Month of Space, a 31-day Challenge starting October 1st. Email Julia@find-space.org.

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[Header image credit: Theresa Moody]


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