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If you have just lost work, had your hours cut, missed out on getting work or unable to work, you will need to build a new lifestyle. A do it fast. How do we gracefully downsize?
Most people talk about their work as a major part of their life. It consumes most of their day-time thoughts (and sometimes nightmares). It provides most of their social interactions throughout the day and it fills their dreams at night. Some people think a bad day at work is better than a good day of unemployment. It all depends on what is causing the bad. If it is unrealistic expectations from management, poor training, over-work and other stresses, then plan to get out. Plan to get re-skilled, be sharing and less wasteful and find a more productive life.
Create A New Status
To have a high paid job may mean you have “golden handcuffs”. Many people have their status and self-esteem regulated by how much they earn. Yet some of the richest people are very frugal and choose to have only the same consumption as the average person.
We have two choices when we are faced with a major pay cut. 1. we can go into debt further and hope that all will come good. This is simply a form of gambling and can risk your health and well being. 2. we can play safe and downsize and create a change in our thinking, we can create our own status. When we stop defining ourselves by our job-description or formal qualification we can become someone different, we get a chance to learn more about ourselves and what we can do for ourselves and others. Less than a hundred years ago it was cool to be “a woman/man of independent means”. Alternatively we can describe our new work-life as a portfolio career (meaning we do lots of different roles or odd jobs).
How You Can Downsize:
If you have a car, sell it, or at least leave it at home and lock the keys away from easy access. If the family has more than one car, sell all of them except the one in best condition and cheapest to run and maintain. You can either sell or lend the car to someone else. By removing the car you automatically stop buying petrol and parking fees and start investing in public transport which means you are investing in your community’s future. By selling the car you cut registration, maintenance, insurance and interest on repayments.
If the cost of staying where we live is too great we have two main options: to move or to share.
- Moving – we can look for cheaper housing. If you are no longer working and want to retire or change your work role, consider moving to a small country town that is connected to family and medical services by reliable public transport. Many country towns are in desperate need of work-age residents and will welcome you. Some people work all their lives to be able to move out of the city when they retire, now could be your opportunity.
- Sharing – If you are in financial trouble, there will be many others in need. If you want or need to stay in your home you can take on lodgers or boarders to help pay. You might even be able to retro-fit your home so you can rent out a section and stay in another part with a separate living space. The people you choose to share with might be friends, relatives or students. It will make life more interesting and you can easily go back to living alone later.
Get More Productive At Home:
- Start cooking more. Share meals with friends instead of meeting them at resturants. When we cook from basics you will have many of these basic items left over to make another meal. Don’t waste money on pre-made or expensive additives but search for fresh local produce. It is harder to use pre-processed leftovers, they cost a lot more and they are often less nutritrious. The risk for people on low-incomes is malnutrition. More often this is the result of poor food choices not a lack of food. Many people in the so-called developed world are feeling worried, overweight, sickly and lacking energy. Look after your health by eating healthy foods, walking to the shops, to work, or to public transport.
- Support live local entertainment ideas in your neighbourhood.
- Start a garden-club, a book-club, a small singing group, a drumming group (you can make your own drums). Have local parties outside with a fire in a drum (unless you are in the inner city and living with fire bans).
Sell items you haven’t used for years but be careful not to sell items that could be used to earn money.
- Get out your unfinished projects or hobbies and do them,
- Make items that you can trade and put up a sign out the front to sell these items. You might be good at fixing bikes or machines, sewing, growing plants, cooking items for sale.
- Sell some stuff. Be careful to work out what stuff is procreative and what is degenerative (simply put – work out what makes money and what cost your money). Most residential areas allow you to sell to the public once in a while (like once a month) if it is called a ‘garage sale’. Otherwise, services can be advertised year round: these include home-cleaning, painting, pet grooming and walking, tutoring kids, cooking, baby sitting, massage, organising and promoting events, sports coaching etc. Trade and swap locally. Join LETs or simply trade with friends. The only way to oppose a consumer driven society is to become a producer.
Grow food, it is very easy to grow tomatoes (simply save the seed from those you buy to eat).
- Be less wasteful. Start composting and don’t throw away so much food.
Restrict energy use. Cut your hot water heating hours, e.g. move to off peak, or if you have solar power hot water with a booster, turn the booster off and shower when the water is warmest. Reduce heating and cooling in the house by actively stopping excessive sun entering the house in summer (use shade covers) and preventing warmth from leaving the house in winter (use heavy curtains). Use less rooms and put up dividers (large heavy curtains can be made with blankets or secondhand curtains) in open spaces. Make sure you have all drafts and windows sealed and covered.
- Reduce consumption of items such as new clothes (buy recycled), haircuts (grow it long), beauty products, gadgets, and have just the occassional treat. E.g. if you walk to town, you can buy something special that would have cost the amount of the petrol for the car.
- Give more. The more we all give, the more costs will stay low and the more we will value each other. Some people have their houses full of items so it would be physically difficult to downsize. Become active in Freecycle. What is the true cost of keeping your items? Most houses have only a few people but lots of stuff. Be free of your possessions, not driven by a requirement to house them.
- Smile, a happy person has more friends. People with friends get connections, people with connections get work. There are a lot of friendly happy people in the world who could never afford a computer to read this article.
In the ancient folklore of European Man, metal (more specifially iron) was known to kill or repel fairies. Iiron and metal was a significant technology to cause the downfall of many more peaceful cultures. Metal was and is a powerful weapon. But it is now an integral part of modern life. Life without metal today would be much harder than life before the invention of metal. Before the invention of metal our population was low, forests far more abundant and we had skills to harden, bend, and join wood, and technologies to make domestic pottery, wooden pegs, dowls, ties, leatherwork, bone, stone, receipes for natural glues.
Why is metal today better for the planet that plastics? Typical plastics, made of petroleum, are toxic to every life form on the planet. They break down into tiny particles which 1. are poisons in their own right 2. can attract heavy metals and combinations of elements which are toxic 3. fill the stomachs of animals instead of real food – thereby lowering their nutritional intake.
Alternatives include modified (e.g. shaped or hardened) wood, modern degradable plastics, glass, and ceramics, layered and lacquered leather. These are all excellent resources but not any of them can build large bridges, carriages, boats, railway track, communications wires and towers, solar panels, nor tanks.
Metal degrades, is easily reusable on site, cleanly recyclable and in some new steelworks, it is necessary for the starting up of the manufacturing process. Modern steel technology has been developed to run on significantly lower energy inputs.
In a permaculture design metal is ideal for cages, tools, stoves, trolleys, wood storage bins, animal food storage, tanks, barrows, buckets, fencing wire (especially to deter large unwanted animals such as feral deer). Next time I get a scratch from the wire, I’ll blame my gloves, not the metal.
A lot of people wonder where they can settle to build a more sustainable lifestyle.
Most people think that it all depends on climate and soil quality.
Here are some permaculture Ideas for the selection of your new home
The priorities for choosing a site:
- A likeable community with whom I could feel a useful and valued part. Choose a site within a community that values its natural environment.
- Good climate preferably Subtropical or temperate site with minimal frost, preferably in good rainfall area unless you enjoy a dry climate.
- A slope that faces the morning sun or you will be faced with many more problems than you may bargain for (including hot wind, hot sun, slower plant growth etc).
- Good soil or at least clay soil.
- Bonus EXTRAS would include: An existing canopy of fruit trees, as in our system we bought an old orchard (though this could harbour hazardous chemical residues, check the soil first). A site that is not too far from other people, specialist services such as health services and public transport so you can start reducing your reliance on a motorcar. Most other features including improved soil by good water management, you can build yourself.