Do All The Good You Can
One of the great leaps we made in our downshifting journey was to examine our values and beliefs, our drivers and how they have shaped our lives.
As a child I cannot remember feeling poor or lacking in anything. My parents encouraged me to get well educated and with that grew expectations; that I would get a degree, that I would marry well. I envisaged a lovely house, a few children and a rosy future without lack. As the stories go, to live happily ever after.
There was no understanding of peak oil; peer pressure and media encouraged us to have new things, to throw the old ones away in sharp contrast with my grandmother who made do and mended. I have to thank her for the skills she passed onto me. She taught me how to knit and most of all how to undo my knitting, my projects, wash the wool and make something else out of it. Jumpers I outgrew, were unravelled, then became another item with stripes combining colours. As I got older I did not really appreciate the stripey socks that came my way but the essential skill of recycling and making something unique and new out of available resources stayed with me.
As the world seemed to speed up and demand consumption of convenience goods and foods through lack of time, the skills seemed no longer necessary. To repair an item became more expensive than buying it new and little repair shops went out of business. Mending clothes was unnecessary as new ones saved time and made us feel better. 'Better and convenient foods' made our waistlines expand and with it a demand for a new set of clothes.
Owning a house was a must, renting seemed somehow second best. With every possession we acquired, came the need to finance it, maintain it and then replace it, fuelling consumption. The lifespan of a washing machine in our household seemed to be about 3 years as washing was a constant daily grind. Every corporate job I held demanded a ' look' a haircut, a car, a manicure, and I was definitely keeping up with whoever. With that increasing debts meant an increasing desire to earn more, to have less time, to spend more etc etc etc until one day.......I picked up a book by John Seymour and found out that it may not have to be that way.
It is probably unbelievable to you that after all this time downshifting I am still decluttering freecycling or simply giving it away. A few things have changed though. We now plan our purchases in line with our downshifting goals.
Our reality has changed and instead of being surrounded by debt, mortgages and a deep unhappiness that is satisfied by a shopping trip, we earn less, we spend less and we save. That in itself is a miracle.
Most of all I make do and mend in many ways. I know my needs and wants change regularly but as I get older and the longer I walk on the downshifting journey, the more likely I am to invest in seeds, bulbs and plants than to buy fresh flowers.
National growth may be down, recession may be looming but only if we view it through glasses of unrealistic growth and ever expanding consumption. If on the other hand, we look at what we need, how we can best use our resources, a natural contraction of consumption happens until it finds a balance, and aligns itself to a realistic level. What we lose in growth in convenience foods we are likely to see counterbalanced by an increased demand for allotments, seeds and plants.