Simplify your life with International downshifting Week – Saturday 19th to Friday 25th April 2008
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People across the globe are gearing up, or should that be gearing down, for International Downshifting Week. International Downshifting week takes place from Saturday 19th to Friday 25th April 2008 and it’s your chance to have a go at slowing down the pace while greening up your life.
Inspired by the wonderful and beautiful Tracey Smith, Downshifting week encourages us to live more sustainably and strive for a good work / life balance.
This weekend a friend of mine came to visit. She bought her two children and I had a visiting child from another friend at the house. One of the girls asked to help me in the kitchen. I had lunch to prepare for seven of us, but she was so eager to help.
By (a very late) lunchtime, she had made a cake all by herself, some gravy and mashed the potatoes. The look of pride on her face was worth every second I had spent with her.
My friend looked at me and said ‘I wish my daughter would help me in the kitchen like that.’ I said ‘Doesn’t she? I can’t keep Little Miss Green out of here most days.’ Then the ‘confession’ came out. My friend replied that in all honesty she didn’t have time to spend in the kitchen with her child. She had too much to do.
I looked at her with that look my mother says could kill from 100 feet and asked her to think about what she had just said. He daughter is approaching that wonderful age of transition from childhood to young woman and her Mother isn’t there to see it, to really see, experience and be a part of it.
I gently asked my friend whether a newly decorated house, two holidays to America a year and a Mercedes on the drive were a good price for not having time to bake a cake with her child. She just looked at me and sighed, with a look of ‘I have no choice’ on her face.
My heart really went out to her. Like millions of other people in this country my friend has trapped herself. The idea that going out to work brings us freedom is something I question. I wonder whether ‘work’ is simply a case of legalised slavery!
It feels as if it is designed to trap us. Designed to turn us into good consumers. We’re like dogs after a treat. We’ll beg, wag our tails, put our paws in the air, perform tricks and do what we are told, regardless of whether it resonates with our soul purpose or not in order to get a pay cheque each month. We Conform to something that is not our own through fear and through it we believe we have found security.
I’ve been there, done that, and thrown several t shirts in the landfill in my time. We all do. From the moment we enter the school gates on our first day, we are sucked into the sausage machine and spat out at the other end when we’re eighteen. All primed and prepped and ready to live the life of a consumer.
We believe that to buy things is power and the more we have the better life is. Our status and self esteem often have a direct link with the stuff we have.
As the world starts to show signs of destruction we have to reconsider our thoughts on this. To be honest, most of us never stop and actually think or question about the lies we have learned. We just go on earning more money and believing that the next car / house / hair cut will make us feel better. We soothe our emotions with purchases and empty goals of ‘bettering ourselves.’ Of climbing the proverbial ladder to success.
As I get older and since I’ve had the privilege of becoming a Mother, I question this all the time and ask myself what it is I feel would be most empowering for my daughter. I am eager that her sense of who she is comes from within and is not defined by her possessions or job title.
How many of us have bought a computer or TV only to find out that in 6 months time you can buy twice as much for half the amount of money?
It’s deliberate! Technology deliberately holds back a few months so that we can never catch up. We can never have the latest because there is built in obsolescence from the moment we leave the store. The same with cars – drive a brand new car out of the showroom and 50 miles up the road, you’ve lost half your money. It’s insanity at its best, yet we keep falling for it!
With it comes the feeling we can never quite get there, that we are not quite good enough, but the carrot is dangled and we believe that if we work a bit harder / earn a bit more money we will achieve what we want to achieve. Believe me, it is a bottomless pit and one that is unattainable all the while we strive after the newest and the best.
The irony is that within six months of a few purchase most of us are bored with it or have had an argument with the person we are supposed to love in our lives and we go out and fix our emotions with yet another purchase. it brings to mind the image of a hamster spinning in a wheel.
Right now, with the state of the world as it is, I want my daughter to be able to grow food, forage, cook, nurture her relationships and ‘make do and mend’. These are the skills that I feel will equip her for life! Maybe, one day, in the not too distant future, there will be nothing that money can buy anyway. Better to have a good relationship with Mother Nature and your neighbours in my opinion!
There are already food riots in West Bengal and Mexico as prices soar at a record high for basic staple foods. The Haitian government has been bought down and we’ve only just scraped the tip of the peak oil crisis. It is immoral that we force other countries to grow food so that we can fuel our cars and still have our long haul flights to take us on holiday. Absolutely immoral that we take another food and rape their land so that we can continue with our Western way. It brings tears to my eyes to even think about it.
We have to find other answers and stop our own greed. It’s time for us to remember that we are ALL connected. Our actions impact people on the other side of the world, and it is NOT a case of out of sight, out of mind.
International Downshifting Week then gives us an opportunity to explore these issues in our own lives. What can we do that will make a real difference in our own lives and to the lives of others?
Downshifting isn’t about deprivation, it is about bringing meaning and reverence into our lives and hopefully having a BETTER standard of living. We need to get away from the mindset that the quality of our life is reflected by our stuff. It’s a myth!
How many people on their deathbeds wish they had attained a better car or spent more hours in the office? How many of you can actually remember the gifts you were given for your last Birthday?
How many of your fondest childhood memories revolve around things that money bought?
How many of us feel trapped on the consumer / work treadmill and can’t see a way out of it? We have to remember, as harsh as it may sound, that we DO have choices. Even when it seems that we have none, We can take control of our destiny and create the life we want. As any advocate of ‘The Secret‘ or any life coach will tell you. What we have to do is be prepared to put in the hard work, face our demons, redefine ourselves, risk relationships in the process and step outside our comfort zone.
It’s all about baby steps that stop us from hitting a state of overwhelm. It’s not an overnight decision to put the house on the market and live in a tent foraging food. (unless you want to that is).
If you need inspiration, look no further than Mike and Julia Guerra, who have totally transformed their garden (it’s tiny, at the back of a ground floor maisonette – just 75 square metres if my memory serves me) into a food producing paradise. What wonderful and resourceful people they are. Whatsmore, they have such a great system in place, utilising ideas from Permaculture and Forest Gardening that they can produce 4-500lbs of food per year with just two hours gardening a week!
Some questions for you to ponder on in the lead up to International Downshifting Week might be:
Imagine your income was cut by half – what would you do? Where would you cut corners? what would you grow instead of get from the supermarket? What would you give your friends as presents at Christmas time? What would you make instead of buy?
We were born creative and resourceful beings, so allow your creativity and ingenuity to shine through to answer these questions. Then you might like to start taking some small actions:
Do you need to buy food every lunchtime at work or could you take your own?
Do you need to belong to an expensive gym or could you start walking and put your gym money into a saving account / use it to up your mortgage payment?
Do you really need that new haircut / item of clothing / DVD or could you do without?
Do you watch so much TV that you can justify spending money on a TV license?
Could you shop at Farmer’s markets instead of the supermarket?
Could you buy your next needed item of clothing from a charity shop?
Do you need an expensive holiday every year or would it feel better to put that money towards your debts / green improvements in your home?
Other actions you could take would be to look at the skills you have, join your local LETS scheme and your local Freecycle group, begin to grow a few things in pots or in the windowsill if you do not have a garden. Sell things on eBay!
eBay fascinates me; I look at people selling things for a pound and I used to laugh at them. Next I look at their feedback scores and see that over the past 8 months they have sold over 2000 items. The maths isn’t that hard is it? They are the ones laughing and good luck to them all!
Then the most important step of all. Look at your mindset. Give gratitude for all that you have, send blessings of abundance to the Universe, believe that you are worthy of the lifestyle you choose. Choose happiness and happiness will find you. The more you are grateful for what you have, the more the Universe will send you to be grateful about 😉
Have a wonderful day dear friends, laugh a lot, love a lot, dance a lot and remember to look for miracles………….
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