by Poppy Szkiler | The Sunday Times, December 03 2023
In the gallop of the festive season, with so much to do in the run-up to Christmas, it’s important to find peace and quiet.
As the founder of Quiet Mark, I spend more time thinking about how to find your quiet than most people. Our certification mark can be found on products and appliances that have been scientifically proven by our acoustics team to reduce noise pollution, in addition to supporting the important work of the UK’s Noise Abatement Society, which was founded over 60 years ago.
Making an effort to separate yourself from the noise and clatter of everyday life so you can sit quietly in reflective mode is often the key to becoming more creative and productive. Taking myself away to think in a tranquil space, I can suddenly envisage my to-do list in a whole different way, sometimes deleting items or delegating them in my mind, and then a new perspective begins to emerge.
Broadly, I have found that quiet comes in three ways. First, there’s carving out wonderfully quiet spaces to concentrate or recharge in — the fewer bleeps and beeps the better. This doesn’t mean it has to be technology-free. There are brands making quiet dishwashers, tumble dryers, hairdryers, blenders and washing machines, to name but a few products around the home that can cause a ruckus. We created the Quiet Mark so consumers can easily choose products that create a relaxed home environment.
From a comprehensive data set, we approve between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the quietest, best-performing products and each one is re-evaluated annually to reflect new models coming on to the market.
Insulation is also key to finding quiet at home. This doesn’t have to be an expensive or intrusive process. There are special doors, window and wall coverings, heating systems and materials you can use to reduce the impact of footfall and sound reverberation as well as exterior sound. You can find out which of these we’ve approved on our website, where we have an Acoustics Academy that has recommendations for every room. We’re also working on accrediting products that mask sound, such as water fountains in an urban garden that offset the noise of a nearby road.
Once you’ve replaced a noisy extractor fan with a silent model, the next step is to make the right decisions amid a stressful environment. Pausing for a moment and reflecting helps me to hang on to my quiet where otherwise I could be pulled in several different directions. Practically speaking, this means minimising distractions by, for example, making sure laundry spin cycles do not coincide with Zoom calls.
Lastly, there’s finding a true sense of quiet within yourself. Some friends play musical instruments. My brother goes for cold plunges in the sea. However you do it, finding that precious place of connection is key. Instead of racing headlong into the day, I ring-fence a prized time of quiet at about 7am. Sometimes it is only ten minutes, away from people, animals and addictive devices and alone with a coffee, exercising discipline not to look at urgent messages. There, in a shaft of silence, lies a precious experience of realignment.
During this time I try to be thankful and get my attitude right, offloading pressures in the process. I often chat out my problems: I ask a question then listen for an answer. If I can sit still and be patient enough, a great solution sometimes arrives. The rest of the day seems to flow more seamlessly compared with days when my quiet time doesn’t happen.
This time of year can be overwhelming, but a simple way to find your quiet in the midst of it all is to sit still and listen while sitting in an armchair. See what you can hear there; it could change your life for ever.
Poppy Szkiler is the chief executive and founder of Quiet Mark
Find Quiet Mark certified products for your home and workplace at Currys, John Lewis, Argos or quietmark.com. Enter the Quiet Mark prize draw to win the Hebridean Sea Safari trip of a lifetime worth over £25,000 at findyourquiet.co.uk.