Here are a few ‘expanded’ explanations of some of the actions suggested in our 3 lists.
If you are serious about your intentions to slow down and green up, take a few unhurried moments to read through it and you will stand a far higher chance of achieving long term success.
And don’t forget to download and print off our 2008 Downshifting Manifesto (below) – it’s a sure fire way to chart your success and inspire those around you!
1) Analyse your time and finance budgets.
Are you stressed out and stretched to your limits? Do you have all you materially desire, yet still find yourself unhappy? Do you want to spend more time with the ones you love?
These are some of the common driving factors prompting people to consider a form of downshifting.
Whether it’s a nibble at your time orfinance budgets, slowing things down a gear can pay back with remarkable benefits.
However, before you dive in and change your ways, you should make time for contemplative reflection. Try to understand the root of your problems, or you may end up only treating the symptoms of your stress and not tackling the root cause of your worries.
Remember too, everyone has their own comfort level of downshift; what suits one may not suit another.
Dip your toes in gently, find the right level for you and use our Downshifting Manifesto to help chart your success!
2) Cut up a credit card.
Cutting up ‘a’ credit card is not only practical, but also powerfully symbolic. The very act itself offers an instant and positively liberating effect.
Living within our means is something we’ve forgotten how to do. Children today think money simply appears from a hole in the wall! It’s no wonder, with extended credit, loans regardless of your true income, buy now and pay on your death-bed, all thrust at us daily, through all forms of the media.
It’s time to get back to, ‘If you don’t earn it, don’t spend it!’ It worked well enough for our grandparents and they had rations and wars to contend with.
Cut the temptation and you automatically cut the stress, but the real release of pressure will arrive as you come to terms with embracing this philosophy and your new downshifted lifestyle.
In the short term, cut up that horrible plastic!
3) Donate a bag of clothes, toys or useful items to a local charity shop, refuge or recycling centre, or Freecycle them.
Exercising charitable behaviour, doesn’t just mean flipping a coin into the box of a worthy cause. It can be even simpler and not cost you a penny.
Have a thorough house and garage clear out, look at what you are considering throwing away and see if it could be of use to somebody else. If so, donate it to a local good cause.
Or, if you are on the web, find your local Freecycle Group and give it away there. At the time of updating this list, there were over 4,338,000 members worldwide, all giving their stuff away! Be part of that great organisation and de-clutter your life – see www.freecycle.org/group/UK/ and find a group near you.
Downshifting encourages you to look at every aspect of your life and apply this ‘reuse, recycle, renew and rethink’ policy.
Donating items to people who have a need for them also helps reduce our landfill problem and can give you a great sense of self-worth, a well-needed moral boost and of course, it does the recipient a good turn too.
4) List your usual weekly purchases and eliminate 3 non-essential items.
Now we are really getting to grips with things!
It’s time to ditch a few of those impulsive, pick-me-up purchases you usually make to cheer yourself up.
Consider this, if you have a happier disposition and are less stressed, you won’t need to buy them!
The downshifters who trim back their spending budgets, will immediately feel the benefits of doing so, in their pockets and their pride.
5) Plant something in the garden to cultivate and eat and start a compost heap.
Another great lesson on the ladder to achieving downshifting contentment, comes in the realisation that not all food comes from the shops!
A little bit of self-sufficiency goes a long way and whilst I’m not suggesting you go out and plough your back yard, you could easily cultivate a couple of simple tomato plants in the garden, or herbs on the windowsill and even spuds in a dustbin!
Growing a few organic fruit and vegetables is not only delicious, but it breaks that dependency from the supermarket and opens your eyes to taking the chemical-free route too. Another natural step on from this, is developing your first ever compost heap.
Make a free one in the garden from disused pallets, or buy a discounted one from your local council (around £4.00) and start throwing in teabags, coffee grinds, peelings, toilet roll middles, the list goes on and on.
The benefits are simple, you will find yourself a pile of ‘black gold’ compost for next year’s planting and your bin men will be delighted too!
6) Cook a meal using seasonal, local ingredients, preferably organic.
It’s so easy to get to the end of a hard week and say, ‘I’m having that take-away because I have worked hard and I deserve it’. The same motivations can also encourage you to buy ready-made, pre-packed options at the supermarket.
However, in a great many cases, it takes you as long if not longer to heat through these chemically enhanced, over-packed delights, as it does to cook something far more delicious from fresh.
You could save a fortune cooking simple recipes from scratch, using quality, raw ingredients and you don’t have to be a chef to put together a few basic, wholesome meals.
Soups can be really quick to prepare and consider using ‘normally’ shaped vegetables from local farm shops, not the perfectly shaped ones the supermarkets claim we ‘demand’.
Food miles are very important. If it’s been harvested locally, it’s probably fresher and more nutritious than something that has travelled half way around the world.
7) Enjoy the enormous benefits of keeping a few chickens, preferably ex-battery.
Following recent high-profile television broadcasts, there cannot be a person in the country that isn’t aware of the plight of the battery hen.
Fantastic people like my friend Jane Howarth at the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, liberate thousands of these delightful birds. If you offer a home to a couple of ex-batteries, you are not only giving them a wonderful chance of a real life, but you will decrease your stress levels by untold amounts by simply spending a little time watching them in the garden.
Of course you also get to enjoy the delicious benefits of fresh, free-range eggs every day too.
They’re very simple to look after, you can build a run on an absolute budget and you’ll be giving Jane another great reason to do her next rescue.
8) Hand-make a simple card for the next birthday or event on your calendar.
This is a shocking exercise. You’ll need a pen and paper.
Write down the number of your immediate family members. Multiply it by 2 (representing their birthday and Christmas). Add at least another 12 (representing one a month for birth, death, anniversary, driving test etc). Multiply it by £2.50 (average cost of card and postage).
What’s the figure?
Now, do bear in mind you’ve not allowed for a single friend, or chums of your children, or neighbours, the list goes on and on.
You can save a fortune by making your own greetings cards and you will create far more of an impact with the recipient, because you have taken the time to create something personal.
Made in batches, you can do a dozen at a time quite easily and they are also a great way to get the family around the table for a giggle at your ‘Blue Peter’ efforts!
9) Tonight, turn the television off, switch the radio on and play a few games and talk.
Family mealtimes are fragmented affairs these days. Many are spent with a tray on a lap, watching a bit of ‘relaxing’ telly and are very rarely spent as a complete unit talking to each other.
Make tonight different!
Here are the rules. Start off with a simple meal, everyone firmly invited to attend at the same time, involve chairs, a table and place settings for all!
No TV allowed, even as background noise. The silence will either deafen you, or inspire you all to start talking about your day. What have the kids done today at school, who is going out with whom, what are the plans for the weekend, what might be nice to plan as a family? The topic list is endless.
After dinner, pop the radio on and get a game out. Scrabble, cards, monopoly, hangman, it’s not important what you play. This exercise is simply about pulling the family back together, getting some dialogue going and realising there is more to life than the telly!
10) Book a half-day off work to spend entirely with someone you love.
The concepts behind downshifting are simple.
The more money you spend, the more time you have to be out there earning it and the less time you get to spend with the ones you love.
Once you’ve grasped unlimited potential of slowing things down a gear, you’ll soon feel the benefits of spending ‘proper’ time with the important people in your life.
On your half-day off, you should indulge a special relationship; that doesn’t mean go DIY shopping together either!
Make up a few sandwiches and a flask and go for a nice walk. Enjoy the elements and each other’s company and remember why you fell in love with them in the first place.