Downshifting means working towards simple living by making conscious choices to leave materialism behind and move on to a more sustainable lifestyle. It does not mean simply cutting back and trying to live the same life only with less money. Downshifting requires prioritizing, an adjustment in values, and a totally different mindset… not just a change to a more frugal way of living.

People decide to downshift for a variety of reasons. Many want to get away from “living competitively”… job stress, consumerism, and feeling they have to live up to someone else’s expectations. Other people downshift because of a life changing experience, health reasons, or a crisis in the family. Often downshifting comes out of a wish to conserve natural resources. Whatever the reason, downshifting isn’t limited to any age or income level.

Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)

Once the decision to downshift has been made, then comes the question of how. Usually the first step is to create more free time for yourself by working fewer hours. This may involve something as simple as cutting down on overtime, or it may involve changing jobs or deciding to work at home. There is no one solution that fits every circumstance because everyone’s situation and needs are different. Taking your time to analyze your own options will prevent you from making any hasty spur of the moment decisions that you might later regret.

Hand in hand with a change in the number of hours worked is the need to consume less and therefore spend less. As you prioritize your true needs and wants, you will find that many of the “things” you used to spend money on no longer seem important. You will also discover that a more balanced life will feel very empowering because your new simple living changes will result in actually having more options and access to more discretionary money even though you are earning, spending and consuming less than you did before.

Here are some downshifting ideas to get you started, but keep in mind that living a simple life is not about self-denial… you should not give up something that is really important to you.

  • Limit the number of services you purchase. Anytime you can do something for yourself instead of paying someone to do it for you, you can save considerable amounts of money.
  • Eat out infrequently, if at all. It is easy to get in the habit of stopping for a quick meal instead of taking the time to cook dinner, but this is one area where there can be really big savings, plus the real food you cook at home is always much healthier.
  • Change the way you shop for groceries. Comparison shopping and buying to restock your pantry and your refrigerator when items you use regularly are on sale results in huge savings.
  • Live green. Recycle, start composting, and limit what you throw away. Conserve gasoline, electricity and other resources to help reduce your carbon footprint.

Over the last several years there has been a huge change in attitudes and values and for many people a change in the definition of real success. Personal growth, an enjoyment of life and feeling a real connection to family while keeping a healthy balance between work and free time have become more important than titles and big incomes. More and more people now believe that even one person can help change the world. Downshifting can be that first step!