Downshifting Basics

If you’re interested in downshifting, here are some strategies to get you started:

1. Soul Searching.
The first step in simplifying is self-reflection. Take out pen and paper and ask yourself the following questions:

• What matters most to me?

• When do I feel most at peace?

• What brings me the most fulfillment?

• How do I define “success?”

• If I knew I had only six months to live, how would I spend my time?

• And some very philosophical queries: What do I think our purpose is here on earth? Why are we here? What are people for?

The answers to these questions will reveal your most precious beliefs and values.

Soul searchers can also turn to the Web site, sponsored by Seeds of Simplicity. Presented with a list of values, visitors select those that are most important to them, adding them to their “shopping cart.” The site then provides a printable “life meaning statement” based on those values.


2. Values and Beliefs. Once you’ve done your soul searching, it’s time to ask another question: Am I living my life with those things that are most important to me – my highest values and beliefs – at the forefront? Can I do better? Simplifying is all about doing away with the distractions, whatever they may be – the pursuit of acquisitions, status, etc. – and focusing on the things that really matter to you.

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3. Research. Do your homework to get ideas on how you might simplify. Read books and articles, visit Web sites or join simplicity organizations (see Resources).

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4. Take action. For many downshifters, particularly grandparents who are still employed, the first practical step is figuring out how to work less, freeing up time for those valued activities. By consuming less – that is, cutting back on expenditures – downshifters discover they can live on less income and consequently work fewer hours, perhaps even retire early.

10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Help on cutting costs can be found in numerous books, including Your Money or Your Life and The Complete Tightwad Gazette (see Resources).

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Some Financial Downshifting Tips

10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Make mindful purchases. Ask yourself: Do I really need this item? If not, why am I buying it? Is this purchase in sync with my values?

10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Adopt the Depression-era motto, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Buy used whenever possible.

10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Do it yourself – this includes everything from homemade meals to housing repairs.

• Comparison shop and get several quotes on large purchases.

• Develop low-cost interests like bird-watching and volunteering.

• Borrow – and share! – rarely-used items like specialized tools, crowd-sized punch bowls, and trucks for moving days.

• Quit trying to keep up with the Joneses.

– Marie Sherlock