My plan, the point of all this, is to downshift. Downshifting to me is a very loaded term. Some people think it means you have to move and instantly change, others manage to downshift while living in their same home and same city, for me downshifting is a lifelong journey, not a race. There are many people who downshift – leaving city finances behind, who then get into the same rat race in the country – who bring the competitiveness from the market into the village school. This isn’t true downshifting.
I’m on a journey that will eventually include moving to a smaller, rural place. A place where I’ll have hens and rabbits, grow my own fruts & veg and live as much as I can off the earth. It may take a while to reach my destination and many people ask me what I & they can do while not yet at their intended place. Here’s my list of what we can all do now:
1. Stop buying – sounds silly, but honestly one of the biggest shifts that will allow people to downshift, is to stop buying. This means you don’t need to earn as much, to buy as much, instead you can focus on living.
2. Figure out what you can do now – can you get an allotment, can you afford to work 4 days a week, can you join a book group or learn a new skill?
3. Change what & how you eat – start supporting local markets and farmers.
4. Change how you travel – can you reduce the amount of time you spend in the car? Can you walk or get a bus or train instead?
5. Imagine what people did 70 years ago and try to bring in some of those same activities and ways of living into your home. I’ve stopped buying books and joined a library – I went from going to the library 4-6x a year, to going 1-2x a week. I’m learning how to make everything from scratch and I’ve started writing letters again.
6. Look at what you’ll need to be able to reach your downshifting goal. Some people are lucky, they bought when the market was lower and have enough value in their home to downshift significantly within a short period of time. For those of us for whom that isn’t the case – do your sums, what do you need, how long will it take?
7. Think about what you want to do when you downshift and learn how to do it now. Do you want to run a small holding? Then volunteer at a farm, even a city one. Do you want to hand make all your presents and gifts? Then sign up for an arts or craft class now.
8. Don’t try to change too much too soon. I know many downshifters who moved jobs, countries etc in a very short period and ended up going back. First try to downshift without being in a different country from your friends, then do a more radical move.
9. Do what you need to do while in the city or while in your country while you can. I have a friend who downshifted after she adopted a beautiful baby girl. She needed to be in England for the adoption, but downshifted a year later.
10. See downshifting as more than moving, it’s about changes within you that you are capable of. It’s about making the changes in your life that you want to see in the world.
I live in London and I’m downshifting, right now this means I:
- don’t buy things I don’t need
- walk everywhere or take the bus
- am learning new skills
- sponsor local farms so that I can help care for animals
- have worked hard to become happy within myself
- started writing letters again
- stopped gym & swim memberships and started walking
- started making things from scratch
Eventually my downshifting plans are so much greater, but for now, I’m pretty happy with what I have achieved. I’ve gone from thinking “oh I wish I could afford that” to thinking how sickening it was at a friend’s baby’s 1st Birthday party when she was surrounded by about 40 new plastic toys that were gifts from people. All I could think about was not only the waste, but the process by which they were made – I was imagining who made them and what conditions they had to work in. I left the party feeling sick and vowing to make sure I bought fair trade, organically sourced items. I’m working hard to be the change I want to see in the world and loving it!
What about you? Do any of you have plans to live off the earth, to try to leave consumerism behind?