We are thrilled that the wonderful Jen from Little Birdie is joining us this month for our A Simple Path interview series. Jen is a freelance writer and photographer, originally from Scotland but now living in Yorkshire with her husband and son. Her work encapsulates all we are trying to do on this blog: celebrate a slower, more mindful way to live, whilst acknowledging the realities of everyday life.
Jen’s work is honest, beautiful and authentic. She understands the pressure we can all feel to have the ‘perfect’ life and tries to support and encourage rather than portray an unrealistic version of her world. She loves to write about, and photograph, nature, food, her gorgeous home and the simple, slow moments in life. Reading her posts is like being surrounded by a waft of fresh air. We think you’re going to love this interview.
Welcome, Jen. Thanks so much for being here.
Can you tell us what you do and how you came to be doing it?
I’m a writer and photographer based in West Yorkshire. I’m originally from Glasgow but I met and married a Yorkshireman and I relocated to Leeds over twenty years ago. I write mostly about slow, simple and seasonal living on my blog Little Birdie and I also contribute features to independent magazines. Over the years I’ve worked in a variety of jobs, from bookselling, theatre management to market gardening but writing has always been my passion and I decided to take the plunge three years ago and try to make a living from it.
If you had one piece of advice or wisdom to pass on to your younger self, what would it be?
Follow your own path and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Instead, go with your gut instinct and fight to make your dreams happen.
What is it about slow living and the simple life that you find appealing?
Working in busy, stressful jobs and juggling being a mother to a young child, I felt completely overwhelmed and permanently guilty that I wasn’t doing well at either of them. After seven years of working in theatre management, I was desperately unhappy, and I realised I couldn’t go on maintaining that lifestyle. After a lot of tearful conversations with my husband we decided that I would leave my job. Fortunately, I was lucky to find work part time at a local market garden. Being outdoors, listening to the birds singing, sowing and planting seeds and then harvesting the homegrown vegetables made me appreciate nature so much more. As a family we had a lot less money, but it didn’t matter as that wasn’t what I needed to make me happy. Living slowly and simply has made me calmer, happier and patient and I’m a better parent and partner as I’ve realised those are the most important things in life. I’m a big believer that it doesn’t matter where you live or what you do, we can all choose a simpler, slower path by making small changes that fit with your values.
How can we counter the pulls of content-sharing and curating images of our lives with the need for being in the moment?
I don’t really plan my content at all! I’m always inspired by the seasons and that determines my focus for a blog post or a shot for my Instagram feed. I only post something when I feel I have something I genuinely want to share. I spend a few minutes in the morning and once again in the afternoon scrolling Instagram or replying to comments and messages. I don’t tend to do Instagram Stories or watch them very often as I don’t want to spend my day looking at someone else’s life when I could be just living my own!
Who inspires you?
Brooke McAllary of The Slow Home Podcast has taught me so much about living simply and slowly. Her honesty, humour and knowledge ‘nugs’ have been life changing for me. I discovered her podcast and blog a few years ago and her story of how she found slow living is inspiring. Her weekly podcast is one of the highlights of my week and I always come away after listening to them with something new to think about or put into action.
What are your essential homeware items/ things you couldn’t do without?
Our home is a small end of terrace on the outskirts of the city, so I like it to feel like it’s somewhere I can retreat to from the busy world. I love to use natural fibres; linen and woollen blankets on my bed, candles made from essential oils by local artisans, houseplants that help improve with indoor air pollution and little bits of nature – dried wildflowers and seed pods or bunched herbs gathered from the garden. My biggest indulgence though is books, especially cookery ones as I love to eat!
What would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?
Writing and taking photographs hopefully! Our ten-year family plan is to move to the Yorkshire Dales as it’s our happy place. My husband and I both love to walk and it would be great to have that beautiful countryside right on our doorstep.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
Probably moving to Yorkshire when I was only twenty-two to be with a man I hadn’t known very long! Everyone told me it wouldn’t last but twenty-three years later, we’re still together and happy. I knew he was the right one for me.
Thanks so much for sharing your insights and inspiration, Jen!