“Niamh Traynor’s e–book, My Journey to Simple, Sustainable Living, is filled with stories from bustling city life to the Austrian hills, from shaky beginnings to the present day. Spanning a period of twenty years it shows the steps leading to Fairyland Cottage life, a life consisting of less waste and more calm … in the book she shares her journey to simple, slow and sustainable living in the Irish countryside. Read on for Rose Mason’s review” —Susan
Niamh Traynor is the creator behind the YouTube Channel, Fairyland Cottage. Fairyland Cottage is the name given to the rural home she shares with her husband in Ireland and the lifestyle she has within it. That lifestyle being one of simplicity and sustainability.
We recently interviewed Niamh on her journey where she explained how her travels in India and connections with Native American people informed her of a different way of living. She observed how different cultures appreciate nature and experience spirituality. These fresh perspectives developed Niamh’s own outlook on life and she begun to implement simplicity and sustainability in her daily routine.
After much hard work, she has translated her thoughts, knowledge and advice into an e-book; My Journey to Simple, Sustainable Living.
The book alternates between anecdotes and storytelling of Niamh’s own life, with things she’s learned and advice on how to implement sustainable changes in your life too. She begins by defining what this lifestyle really means. ‘Simple’ and ‘sustainable’ are words with many associations, so what does this truly mean for an individual?
“Seeking a simpler way of living; one that uses less resources and is gentle on our body, mind and planet”, ridding ourselves of the “internal and external baggage” that we accumulate in this modern world. The e-book makes it clear that Niamh truly cares about “living with nature rather than against it”.
When referring to the modern world and external baggage, Niamh is referring to the hundreds of products and commodities we are persuaded to consume, many of which exist for the purpose of making our lives more convenient. Yet with more material possessions, we produce more waste and we actually have more to deal with and more stress. I particularly like something Niamh states in this defining chapter; “We have a tendency for convenience in order to save time, yet ironically a common complaint is how little time we have to spare every day”.
Anyone working from home during this current time may have experienced an onslaught of new apps and online platforms aimed to make your work time more convenient and productive, yet from my experience of working from home as a writer, this clutter does the complete opposite. The less tabs and windows open, the more I focus on one task at a time, the more productive my time is and my work is of a better quality too. This is just one tiny corner of an experience of external and internal clutter affecting stress, but Niamh’s insight is relatable on many levels. You only have to go to Amazon, a site invented with the pure purpose to make life more convenient, to see how this apparent convenience sucks your time and leaves you more confused and overwhelmed than when you started.
Many people struggle with a work life balance that is at a constant tipping point. The Fairyland Cottage book provides advice into how to prevent this from being a constant reality. The obvious reservation that most readers may approach the book with is that not everyone is lucky enough to live in a beautiful rural cottage, which undoubtedly enables Niamh to live simply with nature. However, Niamh does address how she begun her journey when living in the city, and both realities provide their own niche opportunities to live more sustainably. For example, life at Fairyland Cottage allows Niamh to grow herbs and vegetables and heat her home with firewood, however where she lives there is no zero waste shop nearby. If she wanted to visit one she would have to drive a significant way, which comes with a negative environmental impact of its own. In the city there are a wider range of shops so you can choose to support places that offer plastic free alternatives or have sustainability as their core mission. There is also far more access to sustainable transport methods such as public transport or cycling. A rural location demands more fuel use and time spent driving to the city if it’s necessary to go. Each situation has positives and negatives when it comes to sustainability, and when life comes with its spectrum of challenges, not everyone will have the capacity to adopt sustainability as a priority either. We can only try our best, which is a consideration Niamh has explored through her writing.
On zero waste, Niamh provides valuable insights on how the approach makes more sense than what society generally considers to be ‘normal’. Generations before us used to live plastic free, with plastic itself only coming into everyday use in the 1960s and 70s. Cultures across the globe live with nature, not against it, such as the Aboriginal Australians who have sustained a simple lifestyle in a culture that is estimated to stretch back around 50,000 years. There is a lot to learn from civilisations across the globe but also right where we were born with our parents and grandparents. In the simplest ways, we too lived far more sustainably just decades ago, like eating everything from our plates and handing knitted jumpers down from one child to the next.
Our approach to items and their use now is shocking in comparison. Single use is completely normalised and people generally have no awareness of where the things they throw out truly go. Even in my own life as an advocate of sustainability, reducing waste where I can, I still find myself filling the rubbish bin in my shared flat every week with plastic and other single use waste. Niamh includes a wonderful quote from Annie Leonard; “There’s no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw something away it must go somewhere”.
My personal belief is that change must occur from higher up in the chain, at the level of production. Zero waste was not a term invented for individuals, it was intended for the corporate and industrial level. Reducing plastic and other personal waste is not easy when there are other priorities to consider, such as cost and ease of access. Having said this, reducing your personal impact does bring a great sense of pride, and calmness too. In decreasing the waste she produced, Niamh explained that she “discovered a great sense of calm” and “cleanliness” in her home.
Niamh’s book has advice on the following;
- Decluttering and minimalism
- How to get started with zero waste living
- Curating good habits for physical and mental health
- Sustainability in the garden
- Simplicity in daily life at home
And one of my personal favourite chapters…
- A simple and sustainable wedding!
The Fairyland Cottage book is autobiographically written. It solely focusses on Niamh’s personal and unique experience and story, not on environmental science, climate change statistics or the surrounding global and political issues. If you are interested in this educational side or you’re curious about why sustainability really matters, I’d recommend reading There Is No Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee [click here], This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein [click here] or No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference by Greta Thunberg [click here].
One thing Niamh has successfully achieved in her e-book is to establish the connections between everything to do with sustainability and compiled it into an approachable and accessible lifestyle. From the reduction of waste to living simply and calmly, it all interlinks under the umbrella of sustainable living. Niamh emphasises that this lifestyle begins as simply as it aims to be, with a desire to change. That really is all you need. If you are reading this and you’re curious about this growing and bubbling movement of simple sustainable living, I recommend reading up, watching a Fairyland Cottage YouTube video or downloading her e-book.
The Fairyland Cottage lifestyle is one example, but there are many ways that sustainability, simplicity and calmness can be implemented in everyday life from the smallest scale to the largest. It’s always worth exploring new perspectives and taking an interest in the way others live their lives to benefit their own mental health. There is always something new to discover, and if there is a potential to feel calmer from living simply, what’s the harm in giving it a go!
“Simple living is about getting to the root of who we are. It’s not about adding anything to our life, only subtracting what we don’t need or doesn’t serve us anymore. This for me is truly sustainable living, grounded and free.”—Niamh Traynor
Niamh Traynor is an Irish content creator on YouTube, via the channel ‘Fairyland Cottage’ with 15 million views to date. She makes videos documenting her daily life and routines in her beautiful rural home, plus tips on living more mindfully and sustainably. Niamh lives and works in County Wicklow [click here for FairylandCottage website] in Ireland, a nurse by training she is widely travelled and has experienced life in cultures such as India and North America, informing her worldview. Connect with Fairyland Cottage on Instagram [click here]. Read more here in Rose Mason’s interview with Niamh Traynor.
Rose Mason is a writer on a whole host of topics, from sustainability, to politics, to chatting about her daydreams. She studied BA Culture and Media Studies in Leeds and now lives in London and is committed to spreading a positive message though her work: “At its core, sustainability is the ethos of maintaining and sharing what we currently enjoy.“