down·shift verb To voluntarily change from a work-focused lifestyle in order to simplify life, prioritize passions, and seek a fulfilling, balanced life
Last Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. I set off on foot from my house in the Rosedale neighborhood of Austin, Texas, headed for an appointment at my gym. After a productive workout I stopped in at a local coffee store, filled up my coffee bin with a pound of fresh roasted Italian espresso beans and headed off home again. Along the way I walked the hike-and-bike trail along Shoal Creek, took photographs of trees and bushes that I found interesting, and enjoyed connecting with my environment and neighborhood.
By 10 a.m. I was in my little office space in the former garage at home on a conference call with my co-worker Richard. Throughout the day, in addition to engineering tasks for my paid work I did various household tasks such as laundry, yard work and cleaning. Late in the afternoon, I rode my bicycle to the grocery store to buy a few more ingredients, then walked the dog and prepared dinner while waiting for my husband and son to get home. All-in-all it was a fairly productive and satisfying day.
Just a few years ago my day would have gone very differently – rushing to carpool my kids to school, fighting rush hour traffic to and from my full-time job downtown, driving kids to after school activities – always on a deadline to get someplace, or already late. I was stressed out by Austin’s awful traffic and usually arrived home wondering what in the world I was going to buy and/or make for dinner. Life was full of anxiety and there was always an element of guilt for any family appointments or household crises that required taking time off from work. At home there was never enough time to devote to cleaning, organizing, and upkeep.
Something had to give, and for a variety of reasons it made more sense for me to make a shift than Rich, my husband. I dropped my work hours from 40+ hours a week to 30 and became an hourly contractor. This did eliminate some of the burden of tasks and responsibilities . My time was just as occupied as ever with family activities, but at least I didn’t have to feel guilty about missing work time. So I downshifted my work, in a sense, but life didn’t get any slower and I didn’t really “upshift” any other aspect of my life.
Enter Fall of 2015 and my first child went off to college, followed a few months later by my second child (finally!) earning his driver’s license. Wow! Life is changing. I sometimes have “free time”. I don’t have to drive all over town – in fact, most of the time I don’t even have a car. And I have realized that my temporary downshift will be permanent. My career is still a satisfying creative and intellectual pursuit but it doesn’t feed my soul. My heart wants to be at home.
At the top of this post I have made a stab at defining what downshifting means to me. This is my downshift. I am working fewer hours, working from home as much as possible and focusing on new priorities. I want to make sure that we are conserving resources and protecting the environment, spending our money wisely and being good stewards of all that life has given us. I aim to serve healthy, real food and remove toxic chemicals from our home. And above all I hope to create a slower life that we can enjoy at home and with friends.
The purpose of this blog is to share changes and experiences as I explore interests in sustainable living, organic and native plant gardening, homemaking, decluttering and minimalism, life in general, and, above all to have fun!