It’s a Small World - The Gloss Magazine

It’s a Small World

Think small to get big results. Set micro goals. Enjoy the little things. The Next Big Thing is Small, says Susan Zelouf …

Back when coffee culture began its seduction of a country wedded to its pint and cup of tea, at the dawn of the age referred to as the Celtic Tiger, I wandered into a Temple Bar cafe, attracted by its shiny new espresso machine. I asked for a ristretto, a short shot, using my index finger and thumb to mime the intense half-inch of sweeter, stronger, more concentrated coffee I preferred, having lived in Rome. The counterman-cum-barista pulled a thimble-sized syrupy serving. Shaking his head as he pushed the toylike cup across the counter, he waved me away as I went to pay, unsure if/what to charge for such an insignificant brew.

If there’s one thing the virus has taught us, it’s that size (each teensy-weensy viral particle measures 0.1 microns in size) is relative, a concept Father Ted tried, and failed to explain to Dougal, using toy cows, comparing them to real cows across the field: “Small, far away”.

The Universe is incomprehensibly big and ever expanding, like waistlines during lockdown, but bigger doesn’t always mean better; restrictions limiting our movements forced us to pause, to look inward, to stay close. The luckiest among us found ourselves utterly bored, yet utterly changed, surprisingly charmed by our suddenly smaller worlds. Staycations supplanted foreign holidays; walks in the park knocked us off the treadmill. And for all of us, the smallest occasion, whether marked or missed, took on outsized significance. Time with beloveds never felt so short and as sweet.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Italian actress/model/producer Isabella Rossellini explains why she decided to transform neglected acreage on Long Island into an organic farm and loved-up retreat. Inspired by agriturismo (Italian farmhouse escapes), Rossellini’s Mama Farm is an idyll of biodiversity, with a Frette-sheeted three-bedroom boutique guesthouse, designed to soothe stressed guests with earthly delights, then send them packing, whistling “Give me the simple life”, toting handmade willow baskets filled with fresh eggs, heirloom vegetables and @mamafarm honey. Her motto? “Make America Small Again” by building community and promoting environmental stewardship, hosting family-friendly musical events and starry popup farm-to-fork restaurants to promoting circular fashion collabs. It’s no wonder she punctuates place settings at communal tables with STABLE of Ireland’s heavyweight Irish linen napkins in oyster.

And for all of us, the smallest occasion, whether marked or missed, took on outsized significance. Time with beloveds never felt so short and as sweet.

Consider this equation: supporting local producers sustains community; investing in more labour-intensive things to eat, wear and live with gobbles up less resources, leaving a smaller footprint. Less is less, and also more – a little of what we fancy does us good. Small change adds up; small changes change everything – no need to go big or go home. When fashion editor Diana Vreeland (Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue) advised “The eye has to travel”, she wasn’t just referring to faraway places; her influential point of view embraced small flourishes she noted in people, places and things. Good things come in small packages: think rings, newborns, puppies, nutshells …

Sometimes, enough is too much and we feel overwhelmed. A tiny part of the brain called the hypothalamus triggers the release of stress hormones: deconstruct stress and you’re likely to notice a plethora of smallish things that loom, causing anxiety, depression, even despair. Narrowing our focus may help address the scary big picture; thinking about one thing at a time is a useful hack.

Better yet, think big and start small. A smaller house means less to clean. Small cars use less fuel, creating less emissions. Small changes in our diet can lead to big losses. Small savings add up. A small hotel can be cosy, the scale encouraging guests to explore the great outdoors. Small pleasures are a big deal, according to, cultivating deep happiness: “Eating a fig, having a bath, whispering in bed in the dark, talking to a grandparent.”

Our interconnected lives, lived via social media, offer a peek into other people’s big moments, blinding us to our own modest, yet significant triumphs. Unplugging pocket-sized devices may yield outsized benefits, according to a Forbes article “8 Reasons Why You Should Unplug One Day a Week”. Time away from screens encourages deeper connections to our authentic lives, a practice purporting to improve productivity, reverse insomnia and plump a thinning brain cortex, not a body part any of us consciously aim to reduce.

Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” reminds us that our time here is small: “Goodbye to clocks ticking … and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths … and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realise you.”


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