Sunday, June 10, 2007

Downshifting the 21st CM Way

A few days ago, I gave a little nod towards the subject of downshifting and regular readers will have already seen a few related links appearing in the side-bar.

Downshifting can mean different things to different people, but the Wikipedia definition describes it as the act of moving from a lifestyle of greater consumption towards a lifestyle based on voluntary simplicity. One of the best sites to find out more is which was set up by Tracey Smith. Tracey also has a video on YouTube about Sustainable Living and wraps it up in a nutshell, where she describes herself as a "Contented Downshifter" where the less money she spends the more time she has to spend with the people she loves. Consequently, the less money she has to earn.

If you're new to the concept of downshifting, you might be mistaken that it's not relevant to you and is a bit "new-agey", but that's not true at all and, as an example, Tracey's website has a list of things that an individual can do easily to change their lifestyle, without having to change their character or profile.

I would describe myself as a "downhill-shifter", someone who is on the way but not yet fully there, but who wants to commit more to the principles. I try to be more sustainable and cycle wherever I can in my local area. I belong to a local bartering group.
I make jewellery for friends instead of buying presents (which saves a lot of money). When we have a family day out, we tend to enjoy the great outdoors away from commercial temptations. We have a compost bin in our garden as well as a water butt and try to incorporate edible plants into our small suburban garden. Here's a tour of our little patch of land:

Here you can see our potatoes which we planted in a tub. You might even be able to make out the black compost bin behind. Next is the well-disguised non-intrusive water butt (honestly it is there, behind the bay tree). Again
st the fence is our blackberry plant and further along you'll see the rhubarb.

You don't need a greenhouse to grow tomatoes and here is our seedling tray on our windowsill, followed by tomatoes grown in a pot outdoors. We have a bay-tree hedge as well as herbs in pots.

We even have a grapevine, which only has two bunches of grapes, but it's a start.

On the expenditure front, it has taken me quite a while to try and get used to not shopping so much and I go through bursts of enthusiasm, which is why I am still only a "downhill-shifter". But I am going to try harder. I might even be brave and put an "expenditure meter" on this site.

I am trying my hand at more and more home-made food. My latest achievement is my recipe for a semi-burnt quiche (here are the "before and after" shots):

One thing that is for certain, by having given up traditional work, I get to spend more time with my children and I also have more time to volunteer in community projects. I also earn pocket money from doing fun things instead of serious stuff.

Even though I don't have time for an allotment or space for chickens, I hope that one day in the future we will be able to organise this. In the meantime, I would love to get involved in a chicken co-op (excuse the pun), if there is such a thing, where I could help out in exchange for some fresh eggs.

There is a lot to be said for slowing down in the way that I have and I am a lot more relaxed about things these days. If you are interested in having a go your own way, a great start is the free e-book on Tracey Smith's site. Also, have a look at some of the new links in my sidebar. Make sure that you don't miss Melanie Rimmer's Bean-sprouts site. It is very inspiring.

The book which started me off on this journey was "Downshifting: the bestselling guide to happier and simpler living". I picked it up in Borders in 1998, when I worked just off Oxford Street in London. It planted a huge seed in my mind, that there could be more to life than heavy commuting and the push, push, push of career development. Coupled with later ideas about portfolio working, I was well on the way to laying the foundations for what is now our family life in the 21st Century.

Who would have guessed that we would be in beautiful Suffolk, as a family of four, enjoying a slower pace of life (with me becoming the not-so-perfect housewife). All we need now is for me to spend less and less money, my husband to give up his very responsible job and allow him to indulge in his passions where will we be in ten years time I wonder? Isn't the future unbelievably exciting?!


Melanie Rimmer said...

Aww, thans for the kind comments about Bean-Sprouts.

Don't worry about being "not there yet". One of things I realised as I began down-shifting is that you never "get there". Nobody has "got there". It's all one long journey. The trick is to have fun and enjoy the scenery. You'll get very bored and disillusioned if you're focused on arriving at the destination, because it won't ever happen. Happy travelling!

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Melanie, thanks for the encouragement and I love your philosophy btw. It is a great journey isn't it and the scenery is great ;-)