The Importance of Finding Your Tribe

As I strive to embrace simplicity, turn my back on mindless consumption, and form positive habits in my daily life, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle every day. All around me, friends, family, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances question why I want to live this way.

Why don’t I want to eat a bag of Cheetos and a box of cookies every night?

How can I possibly be satisfied with a 3 year-old cell phone and a 5 year-old TV?

Why don’t I want to go to Wal-Mart?

How could I even consider giving up such a “good job” at the post office, when I’ll be “all set” with a pension for life if I just “hang in there” until I’m 60 years old?

Why don’t I want to make more money?  

Why am I giving away half the clothes in my closet?

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I even start to ask myself those same questions.

Then, every once in a while, I meet someone who gets it. Or I listen to the latest episode of The Minimalists’ podcast. Or I read a new blog post from Leo Babauta or Joshua Becker or Courtney Carver. And I remember that I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. I just want to do things a little differently. I want to live my life a little more deliberately.

If you’re following this blog, then chances are, you’re interested in living a simpler and more purposeful life as well. Some of the people around you probably don’t understand. But remember that there are plenty of us out here who do. Those are the people you have to surround yourself with. They are your inspiration and your allies.

Thanks for reading, and for being on my team. I hope we can continue to help and inspire each other to follow our own paths to meaningful living. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding.

~PEACE~

Quick Update on my June 2015 “Stuff” Challenge

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I can’t believe how much stuff I’ve gotten rid of so easily, and also how much more I can still part with and not even miss it!

I’ve purged approximately 300 items from my house so far (goal for the month: 465).

I started off following the “1 item on day 1, 2 items on day 2, etc.” formula, but I quickly found that when I really dug in, I eliminated many more things than the date called for. So I simply carried my “balance” forward a day or two until the numbers evened out and I was back on schedule.

My husband helped boost my numbers last weekend by cleaning out the basement and dumping a bunch of old magazines, albums, and countless other objects. He’s a bit of a “collector,” but he admitted that he enjoyed eliminating some of the overflow. It felt great to finally get him on board with my goal and relax my assault on my own stuff for a few days. I didn’t get an exact count, but he claims to have removed at least a hundred items, so I’ll take him at his word. He’s definitely redeemed himself since the steak knife incident in my previous post.

On the “down side,” my uncle sort of moved in with me this month, and brought with him a whole bunch of his own stuff. My pantry closet is now stuffed with junk food! While this presented a bit of a setback for my “Stuff Challenge,” I’m really enjoying having him around, so it’s all good. Family before stuff. Always.

I’m looking ahead to the last week of the month and wondering where to start, but I have hundreds of books, magazines, and CDs that I haven’t even touched yet, so I’m optimistic!

~PEACE~

 

June Challenge Update

I’m one week into my de-cluttering experiment, following The Minimalists‘ formula for getting rid of one thing on the 1st day, two on the 2nd day, three on the 3rd day, etc. for an entire month. Here’s a quick day-by-day summary of my progress so far:

  1. Tossed out a freezer-burned bag of blueberries.
  2. Put a jar candle and candleholder in the “Yard Sale” pile.
  3. Got rid of 3 bras that were no longer fulfilling their purpose.
  4. Shredded 4 old job-bidding cards from the post office.
  5. Gave a small crock pot and Dremel tool to my friend for her new jewelry-making hobby, and added a plant pot, laundry bag, and pitcher to the yard sale pile.
  6. Picked 2 suits, a dress, a jacket, a pair of pants, and a purse out of my closet for the “Donate” bag.
  7. Trashed 7 expired food items from my pantry shelves.

Most articles so far fit into the following “disposal” categories:

  1. Donated
  2. Trash
  3. Gave to a friend
  4. Sold (via yard sale or Craig’s List)

The donated and yard sale items haven’t gone anywhere yet, but are forming two piles in my bedroom, awaiting their final destinations. By the end of the month, I plan to have several bags of clothes to donate, and multiple boxes of items for our yard sale.

As soon as I started this challenge last Monday, it became clear that I would have to take it to the next level by not only getting rid of old stuff, but also by NOT acquiring anything new this month. That means no new clothes, household items, electronics, etc. (Still waiting to buy that iPad!) Consumables like food, and personal care & cleaning products are OK, as are electronic purchases that don’t take up any physical space, like Kindle books and iTunes.

I also realized that I would have to get my husband on board with my mission when he came home Friday night with 5 steak knives that he picked up at a yard sale! SIGH. Five steps forward, one step back.

By the end of the month, I’m sure I’ll be scraping to find 30 items to eliminate, but this early in the game, I’m having the opposite problem. It’s hard to stop at one or two things. Inertia is a strong force! De-cluttering one area leads to another, then another. In addition to the list above, I also found myself shredding 53 debit card receipts that I’d stuffed into my checkbook, and eliminating the pile of junk mail and catalogs that had accumulated on the table by my front door.  I’ve got big plans for the piles of unread magazines in my office, but they’ll just have to wait until week 4!

These days, I definitely derive more satisfaction from having less stuff and holding on to my money than I ever got from spending money and buying new stuff.

My, how I’ve evolved!

~PEACE~

 

 

How Do You Define Downshifting?

Since I started this blog, I’ve learned from quite a few people about what downshifting means to them.

  • For one friend, downshifting isn’t about cutting back on work hours, but rather streamlining his home life — selling his house now that the kids are grown, moving to a condo with his wife, decluttering, relaxing, and eliminating unnecessary time obligations.
  • One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Woodpecker at A Good Day To Live, strives to minimize his work commitments in order to have more time to travel and enjoy leisure time with his wife and young children.
  • My best friend dreams of living in a camper trailer after her teenage children are on their own, with less stuff and more time to pursue her passions and hobbies.
  • Another favorite blogger, Green and Thrifty, longs for a small farm where she can grow her own veggies and raise her kids, along with a few chickens and other critters.
  • My husband looks forward to retiring and downsizing our home, cutting back on yard work, and possibly moving to a warmer climate where shoveling and plowing snow will be a distant memory, and daily walks on the beach with the dogs will be our new routine.

My own definition of downshifting continues to evolve. I often dream of quitting my post office job, and simply sitting on the front porch with my laptop and writing. But you know what? As much as I hate to admit it, job security is an important piece of my downshifting puzzle. Since I actually like my job, and I was recently able to cut back my work schedule from 41 hours a week to 35, I guess I’ll stick it out for now. I suppose I’d get bored sitting on the porch all the time anyway. 🙂

I occasionally fantasize about doing some really radical downshifting, like selling everything, living in a tiny house on wheels, or a camper, or a yurt, growing my own food, and living off the land, and off the grid, without an income. I admire, OK envy, people who live this way. But at this stage of my life, I have to admit, that’s just not for me. I LOVE the IDEA of this kind of extreme minimalism, but I believe that my ideal balance lies somewhere between that and where I’m at now. I want less stuff, but I like clothes. And books. I appreciate reliable indoor plumbing. And high-speed wireless internet. I like to go out to eat and have a cocktail once in a while. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so.

We all have our own ideas about what downshifting really means. It’s all about finding the right BALANCE. And that balance is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. No personal definition of downshifting is wrong. We all have different priorities and different situations. I work in the public sector, my husband is self-employed. We live in a rural area, and have a small mortgage. We have no children, just two dogs. Our goals and priorities are going to be very different from people with high-level corporate jobs or huge mortgages, who live in expensive cities, or have other dependents to factor into the equation.

Most of us are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can even think about seeking balance and personal fulfillment. We have the luxury of choice. Many people in this world don’t have the options we have. I have a college education, a high credit score, and retirement savings. My income is more than enough to cover my basic needs. I’m not worried about keeping a roof over my head or wondering where my next meal will come from. I have ENOUGH. But I know plenty of people who are not so blessed. I try to remind myself of my good fortune whenever I start to get discouraged about my life path, or feel like I’m not downshifting fast enough.

We have the power to make our own choices about how we want to live our lives. Don’t take it for granted, or waste the opportunities that lie ahead. We can do whatever we want, and live however we want to live. We just have to figure out what we want. Sometimes that requires separating our true desires from what other people (parents, government officials, marketing executives) have told us we should want. It’s a challenge, but if it’s the biggest hurdle we face in the course of a day or a week or a year, then we should consider ourselves lucky.

What does your dream life look like? What are the steps required to get from where you are now to where you want to be? Your goals probably aren’t as far out of reach as you think. It wasn’t until I first heard the term “downshifting” a few years ago that I realized I’ve been on that path for over 10 years! As I continue to make mindful choices and gradual changes, I feel my life becoming more balanced, my soul more fulfilled. I have ENOUGH. And on a really good day, I think, “I’m THERE.”

If you’re looking for guidance or inspiration as you develop your own definition of downshifting, check out some of the great blogs I follow, listed here on Downshifter’s Journal. Visit my Resources page for helpful books and websites where you’ll find advice and real-life stories of people from all walks of life who have made mindful choices and found their ideal equilibrium on the downshifting scale. Why shouldn’t you join them?

~~PEACE~~