Working Simple

For various reasons, I am about to go back to working from home. I have spent almost four years at Progress Centre in Ardwick, Manchester, but things have changed. More on that another time, when the dust has settled.

In my previous existence, before Manchester, I always worked in spaces where there were other people, often houseshares where space was at a premium. I enjoyed the simplicity, the no frills minimilism, that I couldn’t buy anything that wasn’t practical or consumable without it having an impact. I don’t need a shiny shop front, I don’t need high street therapy. And to be honest, I am at that end of the market where keeping costs down is imperative. I have no problem with this. Being mindful about what you consume and what you put back into the world, is a very good thing.

These days, and only very recently, I have been very fortunate to have been able to move into my own place. It’s been 20 years since I have lived alone and I needed this change desperately. It may seem like a luxury but it’s become a necessity, at least in the short term. I have implemented my ethos there as well. I am careful with water, I recycle, I never throw food away. This also gives me flexibility and freedom and almost immediately back in April when I made that move, I began to wonder about the potential of working from home again. I will never get in someone’s way, or make too much noise in the evenings or at weekends. Whilst the decision to work from home again, hasn’t been entirely of my own making at this point, I am genuinely excited about what it has to offer and the freedoms it will bring me.

It is also financially very advantageous. I am no longer paying two rents, two electricity bills, commuting costs nothing and I can work when I want as well as being more flexible in my personal life. It does mean I have to put more effort into my social life – I don’t have day to day contact with fellow business owners anymore – but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I can change my current exercise routine, mix things up a bit. I can be more spontaneous and take time away from Manchester more often and when I want. I do not do the 9-5. I find routine very dull.

I already enjoy a streamlined and less cluttered way of life, which, in fact, I entered into back in 2012 when I left my last home behind and moved permanently into houseshare accommodation. Almost everything I owned was sold or given away. But it requires a strategy when you are running a business that requires equipment, stock and reels and reels of cotton! For a time I pillaged and borrowed spare rooms from friends, getting clever with underbed storage and shelving to maximise what I had. Truly, I loved it. And I am falling back on those old instincts now.

The move from studio back to home working has involved sacrifice from a working point of view because of course you expand to fit your space. I have enjoyed a 270sqft unit since I moved to Manchester in January 2015 and everything that survived the clear out now fits into a 100sqft room. My 9ft pattern cutting table is my biggest loss, simply because I used it all the time. But I managed before it and I’ll manage again afterwards. I used to use the floor, and I have several of those here. I’ve also sacrificed rails and stock. I refuse to give up my industrial sewing machine or overlocker. These are the things that hamper my mobility but they are the tools of my trade to a certain extent, and I need them to make good products and be cost effective enough to make a living.

I enjoy the tiny life in my own way and if I could reduce everything further I would. Now, you may look at where I live and wonder what on earth I am on about. I have a two bedroom flat. It isn’t empty. But nearly everything in it was gifted or at least second hand. I buy almost nothing these days. Why would I need to buy anything apart from food and pay bills? It makes it easier to part with those things again and over the years I have enjoyed the process of decluttering, reducing my outgoings and, most importantly, detaching emotionally from material objects. I came across a podcast not so long ago, by One Part Podcast with Cait Flanders and much of it resonated with me. Emotional detachment from material things is an essential part of my life because it’s not always been like that. It look a lot of learning but it’s now one of my better skills.

I rarely write about this side of my life but not because I think it would be detrimental to my work. In our modern age we need to be thinking of clothing and fashion in terms of sustainability and ethics. But not the tag that every label has jumped on to make a quick buck. When H&M talks about its recycling schemes to help save the environment, you know it’s just another way to make money. The true message is long lost behind the drive for end of year targets.  You know when someone like Stitched Up talks about it, it gets to the heart of the ethos.

I don’t want to play the fashion game anymore. I don’t want to do it their way. I don’t know why I even tried to fit into it. It’s not me and it’s not what I create. I want to enjoy making again, not worrying about how much money I make, or how many times I posted to Twitter or Instagram this week because ‘you’re only as good as your last post’. I don’t enjoy the hardsell, I don’t enjoy marketing. If you want to buy what I make, I hope you will find it organically, not because I forcefed hashtags down your throat until you eventually stumbled upon my page. The bigger the internet gets, the less people search for things and the more we sit back and expect someone else to do the work. The more convenient life became, the lazier we got and I don’t want to battle against that.

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2 responses to “Working Simple

  1. Thanks so much for your real and honest insight into the trials and tribulations being a self employed clothes designer/creator. Using your home as a base definitely sounds like the way forwards and I wish you loads of good vibes for this next step :-) working and living at home is very practical – but make sure that you get out at least once in the day for a short walk as space from working also nurtures your creativity. Good luck. Kim

    • Thank you for your words Kim. Yes I’ve fallen into some of the traps of working from home before and I don’t want to go there again, that’s for sure. I need to pay particular attention to getting out of the house but I’m hoping that my lifestyle has changed sufficiently to give me some structure to work from. I am looking forward to being more compact again and wondering if it will help to make me more creative. I’m not sure that having the studio, whilst giving me room, particularly helped with that.

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