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Feeling Overwhelmed? Downshift Your Life

Learning to enjoy your life, not just simplify it

Photo: Christopher Machicoane-Hurtaud on Unsplash

I followed all of the minimalist advice — hadn’t I?

I studied the classics: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less by Dominique Loreau.

So why did I feel like I was missing something?

I’ve been reading through several other books on minimalism, too, and they all seem to agree on one point: Get rid of your stuff, don’t buy more, and you will feel content and free.

I did get rid of my stuff, but I don’t feel that much has changed in my life. I still get the urge to shop, though I do it much less frequently now. Why, I thought, didn’t I feel free?

Recently, I was attending a party, and the conversation turned to how everyone spent their free time.

Free time? I thought. Apparently it’s not normal to work full time, take classes, and then write as much as possible on top of that.

I just listened and played along. “Oh yeah, I have free time and watch TV. Yep, totally.”

A few days later, it hit me. I’m always trying to avoid the Diderot effect, in which we buy something and then feel like we have to buy more. (New fridge? Now we need a new microwave to match!) But I need to be a minimalist with my time.

I’m cramming my schedule with commitments, when I should be downshifting.

Downshifting involves simplifying your life, getting rid of stressors that keep you from enjoying yourself.

In my case, instead of enjoying my side hustle of writing, I was letting it take over my life.

Rather than relax on weekends, I was always working. Instead of being present, I was always looking for ways to earn more money.

I don’t want to quit my job and live on a homestead, like some downshifters, but there are certain things I’d like to do:

  • Spend more time exercising
  • Take more time off work
  • Focus on improving myself, not impressing others
  • Feel more accomplished at the end of the day, not stressed

Why am I working so hard? To make money to buy stuff that I don’t need, of course.

I constantly feel that I need to improve, so that I can impress people. But I can improve to satisfy my own goals, on my own terms.

By giving myself a break from constantly writing, I can spend time exercising (and maybe get an idea for an article— though I won’t worry if I don’t).

I can still write a few articles a week without breaking a sweat, but one every 1–2 days is too much for me.

By focusing on what I want to accomplish, I can fall asleep satisfied that I’m working toward my goals.

Minimalism and downshifting should complement each other. By buying less, we can (in theory, at least) spend less time working.

When we work less and enjoy life more, we don’t need to buy more stuff to feel better.

Now that’s a cycle I can get behind.