You might think nothing could possibly have got slower than 2020; the year in which a walk to the corner shop became the new going out-out. But this time we’re decelerating for the right reasons. Because the truth is, we’ve needed to slam the brakes on certain areas of our lives, long before the pandemic struck.
As we feel the heat of the climate crisis and grapple with our app-addled brains, it seems clear that life can’t go back to its old frantic pace. In a world full of hares, we need to take a few more tips from the tortoise. From shopping and travel to friendship and love, here are all the ways we’ll be switching to the slow living lane next year.
You’d have to be slow on the uptake to have missed this news: fashion is a hot mess. With a colossal carbon footprint, inhumane supply chains and 350,000 tonnes of clothing waste going to landfill in the UK each year alone, we have to halt the juggernaut before it’s too late.
So, let’s shop less. Smarter. Go #secondhandfirst before buying new, and try swapping and sharing via apps like Nuw or chic new rental brands like ByRotation and HURR Collective, who are making ownership look passé. Elsewhere, subscription services such as Onloan will lease you statement pieces for a month at a time.
But the best look of all is good, old fashioned patience. Made-to-order brands like Birdsong London, Mary Benson and Olivia Rose The Label minimize waste by only making what has already been purchased. So yes, you might have to wait a few weeks – but the upside is beautifully crafted, perfectly fitting, clothes that you’ll want to commit to for the long haul. As Mary Benson’s starry tee reminds us, Good Things Take Time.
Even while we mourn this year’s cancelled holidays, there’s a new spirit of adventure in the air. “2020 has forced us all to slow down and change a lot of our habits,” says Tom Dixon, co-founder of luxe glamping business Canopy & Stars. The company has enjoyed the most successful summer in its 10-year history, thanks to our newfound appetite for fresh air and British staycations. “Now more than ever, guests are looking for breaks that support their personal wellbeing, but also to give a greater understanding of our natural world and how we can look after it a bit better,” he says.
In short: no more hopping on a bargain flight to top up our tans whenever the mood takes us. "I think we'll see a return to an older way of travelling, and travel might be richer for it,” says sustainable travel writer Anna Hart. “In 2021 we'll rediscover destinations that we can travel to by ferry, car or train, and we'll go away for longer, less often. International flights will become a rarer fixture in our plans. And we'll really, really care where we spend our money – because every pound we spend is an investment in the travel landscape we want to see in five years' time." And hey, if it spells an end to the four-figure hen weekend, we’re happy.
Soon society will be divided into two camps. Those on a dopamine detox, and those who have yet to watch The Social Dilemma. The chilling Netflix docu-drama has confirmed the truth we’ve scrolled past for far too long – that social media is a deeply problematic fave. From altering our brain chemistry to spawning radical echo-chambers and political unrest, all that free validation comes at far too high a cost.
A beginner’s guide to ‘good digital hygiene?” Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock. Set a scrolling curfew. Experiment with deleting your apps for a week, or join activists Venetia and Max La Manna’s #Offline48 challenge, which is as simple as it sounds. Give your phone the weekend off and embrace two, blissful, days off-grid. We promise, you won’t miss a thing.
Our phones have gamified our love lives, too. While the idea of eyes meeting across a crowded bar now feels as quaintly retro as… well, a crowded bar, the relentless swipe and thrust of modern dating is doing nobody’s self-esteem any favours. As anyone who struggles to choose a lunchtime sandwich knows, too many options can be overwhelming – and leave us feeling perpetually dissatisfied. What with ghosting, benching, breadcrumbing and other toxic traits we don’t have fun words for yet, app fatigue has us craving the slow burn of an analogue connection.
According to a survey by Bumble back in May, 55% of the app’s users are seeking “more meaningful relationships” after lockdown, with 43% saying they intend to spend more time chatting with people before initiating that IRL hookup. Of course, with IRL hookups off the table for god-knows-how-long, tech will still have a role to play as matchmaker – but with video ‘pre-dates’ soaring in popularity, we’ll be getting to know each other properly rather than ending up in another messaging stalemate. And there’s always French dating app Once, which limits matches to one person a day. “Quality over quantity,” they say. How very chic.
For many of us, the lucky ones with time on our hands and food in our fridges, cooking became the silver lining of lockdown. Having time to flip through a recipe book and actually caramelise an onion was a luxury that made us realise just how rushed our relationship with food had become. Meanwhile the global food industry is in urgent need of a slowdown, with one quarter of the planet’s carbon footprint generated by what’s on our plate.
So on the menu henceforth, we’ll be striving for more local, seasonal eating (extra smug points if it’s fresh from the allotment or windowsill), and cutting back on food waste (thanks to initiatives like Oddbox, which rescues the fruit and veg deemed ‘too ugly’ by supermarkets). Plant-based eating is only going to get more popular since Sir David Attenborough urged us to quit meat for the sake of the planet, while the rise of ‘gut-friendly’ fermented foods like kimchi, miso and kombucha proves that delicious things come to those who wait. Better check on that sourdough starter.
‘Slow work’ might not have the same ring to it as other trends – for you or for your boss – but there’s a lot to be said for reassessing the way we approach our nine to five. Or our dawn to midnight, as the case may be for some.
“The impact of 2020 – the virus, the recession, working from home, and the lack of childcare for so many working parents – has sharpened many people’s priorities,” says Cate Sevilla, author of the forthcoming book How To Work Without Losing Your Mind. “Career progression and the next work milestone are no longer the key focus. Our physical and mental health and our relationships are.” If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s not to choose hustle over happiness. Also, that not every craft project warrants an Etsy shop.
“The key to slowing things down is to not only 'set' stronger boundaries around your time and energy, but to actually enforce them,” advises Sevilla. “Speaking up, saying ‘no’ when necessary and stating our needs are all huge elements of challenging hyper-productivity.” So, no more Sunday night emails and no more using ‘omigod so busy!’ as a badge of honour. The only thing that should be burned out next year is our bath time candles.