If there is one blessing I will take away from lockdown, it’s the chance I have had to forge some slow, and meaningful relationships that I truly believe “in the busyness of life” as it stood before, I wouldn’t have had to the opportunity to foster.
From bread baking, to gardening, nature walks and family time, to realising the importance of living in a home that truly “feels good” and prioritising our friendships, the restrictions we have all faced this year have forced many of us to “live slow”, and to take stock of the things that are truly meaningful to us. My lovely friend Niamh, (pronounced: “Neve” for those unfamiliar with Irish names) is a very calming influence, and somewhat of an expert in slow and sustainable living, perfect for this “new normal” - I’d love for you to meet her!
Niamh and her husband live in rural Ireland, in a small 300 year old cottage with whitewashed walls and sweet woodwork painted in the happiest cherry red. You’d be forgiven for thinking it a fairytale dwelling. Nestled snugly in the woods, from this amazing location, they enjoy early mornings listening to the birds sing as the sun rises, take frequent walks in nature, and are blessed with a now daily visit from a very charming wild cat, one that I have jokingly named “Dave”, (but who goes by ‘Professor McGonagall’ to the regular Fairyland Cottage audience).
“Fairyland Cottage” is the cottage Niamh and her husband have called home for the past six years, and the namesake of their YouTube Channel. With some 275,000 subscribers and counting, viewers get to share in their calm quiet days, sustainability recommendations and low waste ideas. It’s a restful, inspiring, and simple lifestyle. A true rarity among “real life” itself, let alone the majority of social media households in this day and age.
It’s a world away from the white noise of other influencers on social media who constantly push agendas of high consumption and the pursuit of more. In fact Niamh encourages you to make do with less, which in turn, opens up the opportunity for better, and far richer living, free from the trappings of modern life - always in favour of slower, old-fashioned ways. You know that gets my vote!
I asked Niamh to sit down with a cuppa and a keyboard so I could pick her brain on the subject of homemaking, and the beauty of simple and sustainable living.
Welcome to The Darling Academy Niamh, it’s such a pleasure to have you here! For those who are unfamiliar with your content, please could you tell us why you decided to set up your channel, Fairyland Cottage, and what it has added to your life?
Thank you for having me Alena. I was finishing up caring for an elderly lady in my community and my husband suggested I share my love of healthy baking with the world. He works in the film industry so he had an old camera and microphone which I used to film the videos. I used a piece of wood in our tiny kitchen as a table and shared some baking and cooking recipes. Creating YouTube content for Fairyland Cottage has added variety and creativity to my life. Every week I upload one short video that takes a whole week to film and edit. As the years have gone on my husband has invested in new cameras, microphones, and films and edits most videos. It works so well because he is freelance so he has time to work on the fairyland videos and we really enjoy making them.
Your videos seem to really celebrate taking things slow, and learning to appreciate living with less. Is it as liberating as they say, living with a “minimalist mindset”, and do you ever feel the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”? I know lots of women love makeup/fashion/new home decor etc – was that hard to say goodbye to? Do you ever feel tempted?
Liberating is a good word. I was never really into ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in fact if the Joneses had something then I knew I didn’t want it! I like being different to the mainstream and doing my own thing. When I feel tempted to dive into hair, make up, or home decor, I remind myself that life is short and we all die so it is a waste for me to place so much energy on external things. I like looking nice and having a nice home but I have a strong desire for simplicity which overrides the need to have more stuff.
What are the differences you have noticed in your own wellbeing (mind, body and soul) since deciding to take life at a slower pace?
I have noticed that I am calmer now in life. My anxiety has reduced and the need to achieve has diminished. I don’t get sucked in by the rat race and I find I’m happier within myself doing the simple things in life.
How about finances? I know it’s rude to ask about money, but does living like you do really make a positive impact on your bank balance? The zero waste/green lifestyle seems an expensive way to go about things! Especially when the less eco-friendly option is so often the cheapest.
Living in the countryside is definitely cheaper than city living. We save an incredible amount of money because of the simple life we lead. True sustainable living is using up what you already have rather than buying fancy zero waste products. It’s an attitude of knowing that you have enough already and don’t need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ in any way. Sometimes we can buy stuff that we don’t need to impress people we either don’t know or even have in our social circle.
What things are you still looking to achieve with your own homemaking and sustainability goals?
I would love to become more self sufficient and ‘off grid’ This would entail a compost toilet and using a natural resource like water to generate electricity.
If a busy housewife such as myself was looking to start making a difference in terms of homemaking sustainably - where would you recommend they start?
Always start with where you are at. Everyone’s circumstance is different so it is very personal. Spending a week or two sorting out your rubbish, and your belongings is a great way to see what areas need attention. Another idea is to use up all the products in your bathroom and kitchen before buying more. It took me many many months to go through my bathroom cabinet and use up all the products I had stashed away!
Material possessions aside, what do you think truly “makes a home”?
Love is the main ingredient for making a home. If you look at pictures of luxury houses they can be cold and sterile until love enters. No matter how much money we have it won’t substitute love.
What little routines, or mindful daily moments would you recommend for a housewife who wants to shoehorn a little “slow living” into her busy day?
I start the day super early with meditation. This starts my day on the right track. I also make time during the day to sit down and have a cup of tea. Traditionally in Ireland having a ‘cuppa’ was a way of relaxing during a busy day. There is always time. Prioritising our health and wellbeing will benefit all around us so I know it’s a must I spend time looking after myself. Getting fresh air is another way to slow down. It’s a great time to focus on breathing. You’d be amazed at how we can forget to breath deeply during the day.
Do you think people, especially influencers, can take things too far with the sustainability/minimalism movement? As in feeling smug, being competitive, or judging and upsetting other people for their lifestyle choices. Have you experienced this in your own journey so far?
I haven’t experienced that. I believe everyone can do that regardless of their lifestyle choices. I know what is sustainable for me and I’m happy with where I’m at. There will always be someone else who is more sustainable. When you choose a certain lifestyle it can be easy for others to focus on what you’re not doing rather than what you are. I make a point of only focusing on what I’m doing and never criticising others for their choices. I have a firm belief that if I am kind to myself I will be kind to others, and not the other way round.
I have a firm belief that if I am kind to myself I will be kind to others, and not the other way round. Niamh, Fairyland Cottage
I believe that slow living and traditional living are deeply rooted in one another, and following your example is a nice way to go about living a more traditional lifestyle. Aside from an obvious improvement in sanitary conditions, do you think the traditional ways are a “better” way for us to live peaceably with the earth and each other? I’d love your thoughts on this. Did Grandma really know better?
100 percent grandma really did know better. Life has gotten more complicated over the last few decades and our anxiety levels worldwide have increased considerably. I find it is easier to live peacefully with one another when focusing on a simple traditional life. Instead of competing with one another we are helping one another and living together in a community
If you had one day left to live, how would you choose to spend it?
Doing my spiritual practice and feasting with my family and close friends. I love Indian food so I would prepare an Indian feast with all the flavours and tastes. Sharing food with friends and family is something I love to do. It’s all about the association that counts, especially if I have one day to live.
I would tell each person what I respect and love about them and ask for forgiveness if I ever offended them in my life. I think if you are dying it is good to let go of everything and choose love.
A visit to Fairyland Cottage
If you are interested in slow and sustainable living, and would like some inspiration on how to achieve a similar lifestyle. Niamh can be found over on her YouTube Channel Fairyland Cottage. Or catch up with her daily on Instagram.
She posts new videos every Sunday which are just so peaceful, a real joy to watch. The perfect way to mark the end/start of the week.
Niamh’s audio & ebook “My Journey to Simple Sustainable Living” is available to purchase here, and I highly recommend it! I have now listened to the audio book twice over, popping it on while I’m cooking is my favourite time, it’s not only inspiring, but very meditative too.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed meeting one of my loveliest internet friends today.
Happy simple homemaking!
All content and images in this article are copyright of The Darling Academy and are not to be shared or reproduced without our express permission. Affiliate links have NOT been used in this post. Image rights belong to Fairyland Cottage.