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Should You Downshift Your Life?

Prepare for International Downshifting Week by working less, earning less, and spending less

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the . In our fast-paced environment, going from the speed of the hare to the crawl of the tortoise may be quite a challenge, and it may not even be a realistic move at this point in one’s life.  But if you are yearning for more free time and less financial burden then there is a movement accessible to everyone that aims to help with just that: downshifting.

Downshifting is a choice we all have. It’s the choice to make slow gradual changes to result in more leisure time, less work and less stress. The first step to downshifting is assessing your priorities. 

What is more important to you: Spending time with your loved ones or being able to afford the luxuries of life? Working on personal goals or climbing to the top of the company ladder? Downshifters have assessed their priorities and found they would rather have more free time spent on personal endeavors and with family than bring home a bigger paycheck or buy unnecessary items.

I am not saying that one has to give up Option A for Option B.  Downshifting is about finding the comfortable balance that feels right for you.

Downshifting is a lifestyle choice in which individuals choose to become more independent from consumerism and obsessive materialism. Downshifters may choose to work less hours, make less money, and/or spend less money to have more leisure time. 

Materialism puts a stress on us all. Society is constantly telling us that we need better and more of it. So we work more to earn more to spend more. Downshifting puts the focus on pursuing life goals of personal fulfillment, relationship building, and community interaction instead of the all-consuming pursuit of economic success.

Downshifting encourages us to make moderate changes in our lifestyle to reduce stress. And what better time to start downshifting than International Downshifting Week? It’s just around the corner, Saturday, April 23 to Friday, April 29 this year. 

Founder of International Downshifting Week, Tracey Smith, offers some advice to those starting out on their downshifting journey: “Downshifting to a better work life balance should be a slow and well-considered affair. For the best results and long-lasting effects, the process should consist of a gentle migration… if you do it all overnight, it might just be the kiss of death to a very good plan.”

Here are some downshifting ideas to get you started:

Cut down your work hours.  Of course this is the most obvious suggestion, but it is up to you if you want to cut down one hour a week or 10+ hours.

Cut your credit cards. Financial debt keeps you working more and for a longer period of time because you are not only paying for the expenses of today, but also the expenses of last month and maybe even last year.

Do it yourself.  Stop paying people to do things that you can do yourself.  Google is a great tool for learning how to do just about anything.  This will save you a considerable amount of money.

Make a list of weekly purchases. Examine where your money is going and eliminate any non-essential items.

Utilize your local library.  Nowadays you can rent popular movies, music, and even laptops from libraries all without spending a dollar, just remember to return them on time.

Eat out less.  Eating out may save you time but definitely not money.  Cooking can be a fun family activity and with the proper planning you may only have to do it once a week or even once a month.  It’s also fun to choose where you get your food from.  If you have the space, grow your own garden and visit local farmers markets. 

Change the way you grocery shop. Coupons, sales, and discounts go a long way in the savings department.  Stock up on frequently consumed items when on sale and always comparison shop.

Make a list of free activities.  But don’t just write them down because they are free, write down things you actually enjoy and get excited about doing. Ex: Game Night, hiking, bike riding, picnic at the park, etc.  Look in your local newspaper for free events as well.

Conserve energy.  Use less electricity, gasoline, water, and any other resources to help reduce your carbon footprint and save money.

Have fun and be creative. Find new ways you can save time and money.  People downshift because they want to have fun and enjoy life outside of work; don’t make downshifting a chore.

This year Tracey is encouraging participation in the Community Blanket Project.  Knitting is a dying art and it is up to us to keep it alive.  On the International Downshifting Week website you can find instructions on how to organize and construct a community blanket.

It is obvious that being overworked has far reaching effects on our health and happiness.  Numerous studies and surveys confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the top source of stress for American adults.  This stress drives us right into doctors’ offices and hospitals and significantly decreases our life expectancy. 

To begin your downshifting process, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

I hereby pledge to slow my life down a gear, for the benefit of my health, my well being, my environment and for those around me whom I dearly love.

—Tracey Smith, The Downshifting Manifesto

For more information visit www.downshiftingweek.com.

Carrie Holmes April 19, 2011 at 05:27 AM
Wow. I am exhausted after reading this thread. Just to confirm I definitely didn't have politics in mind while writing this but I can now see why things took a turn in this direction. I am not speaking to the wealthy with this article. I am anything but wealthy in financial terms. I make just enough money to pay my bills, buy groceries, and maybe go out to eat a couple times a month. And when I heard about Downshifting it rang true in my life, I am overworked, stressed and would love to try something to help. I fully acknowledge that there is a lot of suffering and unemployment in our country and across the globe. Many are being forced to downshift, yes. But I cannot take responsibility for that. Should I not write an article about the option to downshift because there are people in our country with no job and no home? We, as individuals and as a nation, with jobs and roofs over our head should be volunteering our time to help such people get back on their feet. There is tremendous power in community. I've seen communities come together and conquer just about anything. So maybe it's a good idea for some to downshift making room for others to upshift. We all play different parts at different times. What's important is that we work together. We all want the same things; we just differ on our opinions on how to get there.
Mark Story Jenks April 19, 2011 at 07:50 AM
Carrie, I enjoyed your article. It is unfortunate if it rubbed some people the wrong way. In the list of "ideas" for one to possibly get started "Downshifting", the first one was: "Cut down your work hours. Of course this is the most obvious suggestion, but it is up to you if you want to cut down one hour a week or 10+ hours." I'm sure that statement inflamed some people. For many, there are not enough hours available to pay the bills as it is. But from what I could perceive from your article, it was about learning to try and get the most from the least and to take time to smell the flowers while doing so. For the last 3 years my income has been next to nothing due to illness. I couldn't afford to keep a dog or a cat. But I have a small flock of chickens. They are very entertaining, cheap to have as pets, and even provide me with breakfast. Plus they keep insect pests to a minimum in the yard and garden. They don't need to be licensed, and they don't bite anyone. I could no longer afford satellite tv. So I hooked up a cheap antenna and get free tv over-the- air. The old fashioned way. I can't afford to drive. So I ride a bicycle and take the bus. It's a lot cheaper then driving. I grow vegetables in the garden, and get fish and crabs from the river. It helps keep the grocery bill down. Do those sort of things qualify as downshifting? Is that sort of what you meant?
disgusted homeowner April 19, 2011 at 11:51 AM
Mark, i sympathize for your financial situation, but with that being said, how could you possibly afford the proposed tax increase in brick; given your current financial situation?? Do you in fact live in Brick? You have found some good financial alternatives which is good, but with rising taxes they may not be enough to carry you. The one about tv i have thought about doing for years. Cable companies are outright crooks.
TP April 19, 2011 at 12:43 PM
We need to come together as a community and vote out the politicians that have created the environment of unemployment, high taxes, high gas, food prices etc. Since Mr. & Hope & Changes was elected gas prices have doubled. As citizens of this country it's our duty to educate ourselves and keep tabs on our "representatives". Most just ignore them and say "there all the same". No, this is different, the purposeful transformation of this country is different. Ignore at your own peril. In NJ the entire legislature that created the most corrupt almost highest taxed state need to be replaced. By like sheep we just follow along and do nothing. Until the government gets out of our way no amount of community togetherness is going to fix this problem - that's more pie in the sky "bleep". I for one would need a bicycle built for 6 to transport my peeps in the Obamaworld.
lets go giants April 19, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Gas still isn't as high as it was under GWB..Why didnt't you revolt back then?
Mark Story Jenks April 19, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Thanks for your thoughts, d.h; but don't have sympathy for me. There are persons and families far worse off then I am. I do in fact live in Brick. I am as much a local as anyone can be. My "financial alternatives" were financial ultimatums. I can't afford the tax increase, on top of the recent reassessment. My home is the old family homestead, passed down through generations. It's paid for. It's riverfront. (many of you will resent me for that) You can easily look up what I pay in property taxes. We did have some success with a recent appeal. The only luxury I've hung on to is Comcast for internet. That will be going soon, too. That's reality, but I'm not complaining. Being from a family of eight children can make a person familiar with compromise.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Yes booger, I remember driving to work 74 miles a day (round trip), summer of 2008 and gas was right around $4. per gallon. I actually considered retiring because I didn't know if it would end. Here we are again. As far as politics, it doesn't matter what political party any given current president is from, the oil rich countries know they have us by the nads and they use that fact. Rather than exploring for "new oil," we need to explore "new energy." The big oil companies don't want that to happen and they pay big bucks to stop it.
EmptyWallet April 19, 2011 at 02:32 PM
O followers would follow him into a gas chamber no questions asked - the worse he does the more they stand up for him - unfortunately all of us suffer for their ignorance. One party had the courage to primary their career politicians and those candidates that were elected are now attempting to stop the spending spree although they will be crucified in the s0-called media for standing in the way of O's plans. When he is reelected he will be unrestrained - maybe then the "sheeple" will wake up?? It'll be too late then.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Career politicians, you must be talking about the Bush family (big oil there). Remember who bailed out Wall Street! Your reply is precisely why the price of gas will continue to rise! Enjoy the increases! :-)
Ryan Wetter April 19, 2011 at 03:34 PM
@ Carrie - This is what you call success. Over 70+ comments, people arguing in the comment thread, etc. You should be proud that even though you didn't intend to start a debate, at least it's proof that your work is spreading. DO NOT take anything to offense in the comments. These people, who do not know you, are fed up with how things are run and are using your article as an opportunity to voice their opinions. Great article.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Ryan you are right on. I don't believe anyone was attacking Carrie, some simply are sensitive due to the current economy. While I understand that and have stated so, no one was attacking Carrie. You're so right and I agree, it is a great article.
Tom Dunphy April 19, 2011 at 04:16 PM
A reminder for our users: According to Patch.com Terms of Service, use of profane or vulgar language and personal attacks in our comment sections will not be tolerated. Continued violation of the TOS may result in the suspension or deletion of your account. We encourage an active and open dialogue between users, but remind you to remain respectful towards the opinions of others.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Just so you know, I don't make this stuff up abpout the Tea Party. I do not believe most of the Tea Party know this, but the Tea Party needs to be seen for who and what they are. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100517074206AAixdyl Now, whether the Republican party wants David Duke or not, a whole lot of Tea Partiers do want him to run.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 04:36 PM
"as was said previously you people would follow this punk "O" into a gas chamber" Are you making anti-semetic remarks now? Be careful, you're sounding an awful lot like Tootie (comment deleted), it's in your tone and it's not very becoming. Have a Great Day! :-)
Larry April 19, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Typical liberals still blaming everything wrong in this country on Bush. Guess what folks, it's getting old now. The man in charge is the most INCOMPETENT empty suit this country has ever voted in. IT has nothing to do with his COLOR either. The country is heading in dangerous territory..... socialism is heading our way. Do your own research. Unemployment is close to 10%, foreclosures at a record high, food and gas prices skyrocketing, utility bills increasing.... , the USA is 14 trillion dollars in debt. WAKE UP....the liberal mindset and progressives have really done this country Wrong.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 06:10 PM
I was referring to the "GAS CHAMBER". Re-read your own post.
Mare April 19, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Amen! Sadly, it doesn't look as if it's going to change anytime soon.
lets go giants April 19, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Well, the people voted GWB in twice. Sounds like same old same old..Clinton, Reagan, same old same old
Mare April 19, 2011 at 06:41 PM
You continue to personally attack me. You need to find closure for your issues and find someone else to attack. Your "racist rants" and "gas chamber" comments are not something I take likely and do not continue to misquote me. If this is your game, simply ignore your comments or learn how to read. You are adding things that are not in my posts and obviously missing my message. Get help.
lets go giants April 19, 2011 at 07:06 PM
You are right Helen..Everything was peachy 3 years ago..Now go watch Rush to formulate your next opinion
lets go giants April 19, 2011 at 07:41 PM
I know the gas was under a dollar. The economy was booming and we had absolutely no debt..In your world
lets go giants April 19, 2011 at 07:44 PM
GWB in his first term said we need 1200 new powerhouses in this country..Where are they? After the bridge collapse in Minnesota(?)..We are 2 trillion dollars behind in just our bridge maintenance(repairs)..Well? What happened.. Talk about an empty suit
Sean Conneamhe April 20, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Thank you, Carrie Holmes. A good program for a healthy and happy life. A simple and free life as exemplified by Jesus of Galilee, Francis of Assisi, and many other good people. Cheer up, commenters! Do not get grouchy listening too much to polticians and pundits! Listen, instead, to the prophets. Happy Passover and Easter to all.
Mare April 20, 2011 at 01:15 AM
If someone doesn't agree with the "Tea Party" on here, they are immediately attacked by the tea partiers. You need to simply ignore the comments you don't understand or have the patience to respond to in a reasonable way. We tolerate you? You have repeatedly attacked me and others on here. We believe that you are unreasonable and dilusional also, but we're not attacking you.
Mare April 20, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Wonderful post! Happy Passover or Happy Easter to you as well, whichever you celebrate! Either way, it's a glorious time of year.
Mare April 20, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Amen!
Lisa Frankenfeld April 20, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Good post, John. "We share the same biology, regardless of ideology..." Sting
Jenna April 20, 2011 at 03:14 AM
We are being forced to "Downshift" our lives because many people are working less due to high unemployment. My family depends on overtime, which my husband is no longer getting, therefore, we are spending less, due to the fact we are only spending on necessities. My husband has not had a raise in 2 years now. Inflation is already happening....just go to the grocery store, the food prices are going higher & higher each week. Our government continues to spend, spend, spend & take all these lavish vacations on the taxpayers dime, while middle class Americans are losing their homes! OMG....Obama Must Go in 2012!
Mare April 20, 2011 at 12:55 PM
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100517074206AAixdyl This is why the majority of people reject the tea party. If they actually cleaned up their act, I'd be there. I was there in the beginning, but I won't have anything to do with the likes of David Duke. There is no denying what he stands for. Now tell me again the tea party doesn't embody racist overtones. Remember, Mitt Romney has socialized healthcare in MA, it's working out fine there and he's a Republican. Why not vote for him? I'm sick of paying the healthcare bill for people who sit on their kiesters all day with their hand out. I do everything I can to help those who cannot help themselves, but most of those collecting welfare sit in front of a computer. If they can do that, then they can do something to make a living, even if it's part time. Wake up sheeple.
Tom Davis (Editor) April 20, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Thanks, everyone, for commenting on this story. We do not tolerate offensive language, particularly those made by anonymous people. Statements such as "empty headed college morons, minorities" are offensive and racially insensitive. We are shutting off the comments and deleting those that we consider personal attacks and offensive, or espouse so-called facts that can't be verified.

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