Sunday, September 28, 2008

Downshifting revisited - the tipping point

Words to Live By: Believe by Debbie DeWitt
Words to Live By: Believe

January and September generally are months in which I reflect on the directions we take and look back on what has happened.

The economic climate at the moment is a difficult one, almost like a house of cards tumbling down. As an individual there is very little I can do about that apart from watching in the sidelines and staying strapped in on the roller coaster of events. If you have recently been made redundant remember it is not personal, do not feel a victim but use it as an opportunity to change track.

What follows are some of the principles that guide my decisions:

1. Stop buying - it sounds almost too easy but one of the major changes in this household has been to establish what our buying patterns are, why we buy, what we buy and how we can simplify that scenario. Example, I had a fetish about black trousers. 15 pairs were in the cupboard and at the same time I would still go and buy more. I had no idea I was doing that but I now own 3 pairs and rotate them. When one wears out I can buy another one. No impulse buying. Buying also does not mean new, it could be freecycled, second hand, eBay and new as a last resort if all other options fail. This action means you don’t need to earn as much, to buy as much, instead you can focus on living. Before you buy anything check whether it is in line with your downshifting goals and values.

2. Figure out what you can do now - can you develop your garden, declutter and sell stuff on eBay, get an allotment, can you afford to work less than 5 days a week, can you explore the library, start cycling, or learn a new skill? Look at what you have, what you need and address the balance.

3. Change what & how you eat - start supporting local markets and farmers. Better nutrition leads to less dependency on sugar and quick fixes to keep energy levels stable. If you visit the library you can read up on the subject and make changes. A food diary helps to establish why and what you eat. Our motto in the village shop is to encourage local producers and sell as much as we can that is locally produced in the county.

4. Change how you travel - can you reduce the amount of time you spend in the car? Check out alternatives : walk, cycle, share transport, get a bus, or more drastically check why you are travelling in the first place.Live locally and explore what is happening within 5 miles from your home, or whatever distance you can cover on foot or bike.

5. Imagine what people did 20 years ago and try to bring in some of those same activities and ways of living into your home. Write letters, visit people in person, join the library, go for walks in the park, grow your own vegetables and fruit or help someone who has a large garden and share the produce, play cards, play board games, read books, knit, sew and learn skills from others, have a social drink at your local pub and get acquainted with the your neighbours.

6. Look at what you need and redefine what you want. Create a plan of where you want to be to enable you 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. If that is not the case for you or not possible in the economic climate, redefine what space you need, how much it will cost and whether you need to change location to make it happen. There are huge price differences within the UK with regards of property prices, rentals, jobs etc. If that applies to you ;do your sums, what do you need, how long will it take?Maybe share your space with others and create an income that way. Share resources.

7. Think about what you want to do when you downshift and learn how to do it now. Do you want to be a self sufficient smallholder, then volunteer at a farm, even a city one. Start gardening, using any spare time you have to invest in yourself and the skills you may need in the future. Do you want to make all your presents and gifts? Then start with what you can do and sign up for a class if you need to; you will meet other people and share enthusiasm and skills. Many classes are subsidised.

8. Don’t try to change too much too soon. Take one step at a time, the small impact leads to other more natural steps. There are people who moved jobs, countries etc in a very short period and found it very hard. Try to downshift at home, where you are now and explore possibilities. It took 2 years for us to realise that there was no need to burden ourselves financially, that we could live in a different way and then made plans to make that happen.

9. Do what you need to do while in the city or while in your country while you can. It may not all be immediately possible but you can take charge or your home, your health, your well being. your nutrition and live differently.

10. Downshifting can be more that just moving. It is about personal growth, changes within you, a change of direction, a change in what you thought you were doing and what ultimately what you want to do in line with your values and expectations. It is about changing yourself so that the changes you make can be reflected in the world we live in. If you stop buying factory produced chickens then ultimately, they will produce less and look at alternatives. The reason currently banks are collapsing is because they shared the belief that property prices would rise eternally and that the risks of lending to people who could not afford it would give them a win win situation. The people would be paying over the odds and then when the house was repossessed, the banks would cash in. It was about profit.

This is the real tipping point, we have been downshifting voluntarily and now need to share what we have learnt with those who face it head on as they are forced to deal with the crisis heading their way.

Believe that it is possible and you will find crumbs on your path to show you the way.


Anonymous said...

Some timely and helpful reminders here!

from Barbara in Georgia USA, where we have, in addition to the major economic problems, an area gas shortage because of Hurricanes Gustave and Ike.

Anonymous said...

Very good advice - it also feels so empowering to do all these things even if we have extra money to do otherwise. What ever happened to saving for a rainy day. Take something broken in your house and repair it and make it better that new even if you have to learn how to do it. I am planting two apple trees this fall and am learning to make soap out of simple ingredients - not a big outlay and great for gifts to daughters in law who are all very green. Hope the shop is going well.
lizzie in chicago