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Downshifting – or the Art of Doing Less

photo by Ian Britton

© Ian Britton

I am a wife, mother and very happy downshifter. Back in 2002 I traded a comfortable yet unfulfilled city existence for a tumble down 200-year old farmhouse in rural France. It needed more DIY projects than a week of daytime television. I am now more than happy to bring my work home. In fact, the family Smith is positively immersed in it, growing our own fruit and vegetables and rearing chickens, ducks and guinea fowl for their eggs and ultimately, the table.

As a downshifter, I embrace the environment far more than ever before, recycling, reusing, making not buying, all becoming second nature. Also, when you have more time, the appeal of things like growing a few organic veg, rather than taking the pre-packed options at the supermarket, can become quite irresistible! Then of course, you discover the joys of seasonality, eating things in their prime, which can move you onto reassessing your whole shopping regime, pulling away from ‘boxed’ food and cooking more from fresh. One thing seems to lead quite naturally onto another and you realise that the changes that benefit our own health and well-being are also fantastically positive for our environment.

My main aim as a evangelical downshifter is probably to make people slow down enough to eat better. With healthier, freshly prepared food, including free-range eggs, people sit together to enjoy food. It gives everyone more energy, sparking debate and conversation in families around the dinner table. And that leads on to other good things. Also, ditching pre-packed food options gives people more money in their pockets (not to mention the green side effect of less rubbish in their bins), which means they don’t have to earn as much money to live. Which is so important, as the biggest source of stress is probably financial. When you take life down a gear by reassessing your spending and making positive changes to your budget, they do ease.

There is no simple solution to achieving downshifting success. All changes need to be thought out and it takes time, effort and commitment to enforce positive changes that will benefit individuals and the environment. There are, however, simple changes that can be made to everyday living and spending, but it is a question of really changing our attitudes and pre-conceptions. For example, I buy pretty much every item of clothing from our local charity shops and am proud to do so. I save an absolute fortune of course and help the charity out too (I also volunteer which gives me a great buzz), but many folks have never set foot in one to donate, let alone to make a purchase.

Ultimately, the less money you spend, the less you need to earn and the more time you can spend with the ones you love ­ that is downshifting in a nutshell.

So there you have it. Downshifting is good. For more info, encouragement and ideas, go visit DownshiftingWeek.com or the very wonderful magazine The Idler. Plus check out Tracey’s online column at FrenchEntree.com

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