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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.

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 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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