When we decided to downshift our busy lives, it was hard. We had become so trained to cram as much as we could into each and every day that we had forgotten how to live. Slowing down to 'Stop and smell the roses' was something that we hadn't done for such a long time, and in actual fact we no longer knew how to unwind or relax. With our minds constantly racing with our 'to do' list, even sleep had become difficult. The busy things we thought we were doing for the good of our Family actually ended up destroying it.
The catalyst for our life change was the very sudden death of my Mum in 2006. As she lay on her death bed, her only regret was that she didn't get to retire and have the time to take her Grandchildren down to Clacton Pier for an ice cream. As she told me, I could see the panic in her eyes and sadness she felt that she had never got to spend much time with her Grandchildren. It suddenly dawned on me that there was much more to life than spending it running around doing pointless things and wasting precious hours on 'nothing'. It took us another twelve months (twelve months of hell) to actually take the plunge and change our lives. We didn't know how or where to start, but a move to a smaller property in the Devon countryside was a very good start.
So, the first thing we did was downsized. We no longer needed bigger and better. We just wanted Happier. In order to downsize we needed to de-clutter our house, a house that was bursting at the seams with too much stuff. Stuff we didn't need. It all went. Into the skip, to the charity shop or sold on ebay. It was the biggest clear out of our life. Removing the clutter immediately had an affect on me. I began to feel free, my mind clear, I felt positive, enthusiastic and energetic.
The next thing we did was de-clutter our Friends list. One of the things that put pressure on our previous busy life was doing too much for other people. As I left my old life behind and began to enjoy my slower, more simple lifestyle I began to analyse my old life and the reasons why I had got myself into such a stressed out mess. One of the things I often did was, never say "No" to Friends. I would babysit their kids (a hell of a lot), yet on the very rare occasion I would ask them to return the favour they would make excuses. I would help clean their houses, gardens, decorate, build furniture, go shopping for them late at night. You name it, I would say yes. But if I ever needed help with anything, no one would be available. How did I not notice at the time, that they were sucking the life out of me?
Over the past few years I have gradually reduced my Friendships. I no longer have anyone in my life who sucks out my soul. My time on this earth is precious, so very precious and I need to spend it wisely and by doing things that are meaningful and with genuine people. Sadly, I have realised that I had accumulated a lot of people in my life who were negative, toxic and only 'out for what they could get'. It has been a painful process, with many tears along the way, but my easy going nature had let too many people take from me and manipulate me. In order for me to be completely happy, my toxic friendships had to end.
'Make do and Mend' has become my new motto. We still buy new stuff. The kids still have all the modern gadgets that their Friends have and we sometimes have certain items that could be described as luxuries. The difference is that nowadays we manage not only our time better but our money too. We cut back, scrimp, thrift and build. For example, instead of spending a fortune on a new fence, we built one from pallet wood and we have also built furniture from driftwood. We grow our own vegetables, keep chickens, and generally save where we can.
Everything we do is now is done on a budget. I buy good quality items that I know will stand the test of time. I check online sales, ebay and charity shops, first before buying new. I plan for Christmas all year and we pay for our family holiday weekly.
The way we were living before was bad for our mental health. It was dragging us down and we not enjoying the things that we were working so hard to get. The more, materially that you strive for in life, the more dissatisfied you feel as you begin to compare what you have with everyone else. Your happiness can not be bought. Real happiness does not have an economic value or financial status, it is contentment, inner peace and a sense of self worth.