Recently I told one of my friends about our downsizing plans, and she said “Wow! That’s out of the blue, where did that come from?”. It made me wonder if we were making a huge life changing decision rather hastily (although we have not, as yet, done anything too irreversible anyway!), but later on I got to thinking about our life together and the path it has taken since we met 13 years ago and realised … actually, we have been heading this way all along, just doing it in small stages! Here is a brief history of our previous downsizing …..
Downshift Number 1: Getting out of London
When we first met, I was working for an financial firm in London and hubby (or fiance as he was then) was working in Hampshire. We moved to Commutersville halfway between the two so we could commute off in different directions every day; me by train, him by car.
This was, it’s fair to say, horrible. We left the house at 7 am and got home around 7 pm. We did this for about 6 months before we had a major heart to heart about how our lives were going and realised, hey! What’s this all about? We never see each other! We’ve just got engaged, we want to spend lots of time together, but every night we are too tired to do anything but eat and sleep, and weekends are taken up with all the chores we don’t have time for in the week. And so downshift number 1 was decided: I would quit my job in London, get one near him; we would move there and chop our daily commute down from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. Extra free time = approx 10 hours per week. Woo hoo!
Downshift Number 2: Going self-employed
Moving back from London was a huge improvement to our quality of life but after a few more years of the 9-5 grind we started to re-evaluate again. There was a point after I qualified when my charge out rate went up to something ridiculous like £75 per hour and when I worked out my hourly pay it was under £20 per hour. I know employers have to allow for costs of rent, holidays, etc but it made me think, hang on – if I worked for myself I could keep the whole £75 and work considerably fewer hours for the same money! So in 2003 we both left our jobs and set up as self-employed working from home. Looking back, I can see the seeds of our current attitude there – most sensible couples would have gone with one partner staying employed for a few years to mitigate the risk, but we just jumped in with both feet! We took around a 50% pay cut to do this, and reined in our spending quite considerably, but it was well, well worth it. Working from home was great and we never looked back. No commute meant so much more free time, and also the flexibility to arrange our time as we wanted. A huge improvement. Extra free time = at least 5 hours per week. Which brings us to 15 in total from where we started. Result!
Downshift Number 3: Becoming a fitness instructor & working fewer hours
Working from home was brilliant, but financial work was not exactly thrilling me. It paid the bills very nicely, but I always said that if we won the lottery I would give it up without a second thought and become a fitness instructor (I was really enjoying classes at the local gym and had been for a few years). Then it occurred to me that actually, I could still train as a fitness instructor “on the side” so that’s what I did. I guess it doesn’t count as proper downsizing, but it was a shift of time away from “something I don’t enjoy but pays the bills” to “something I do because I love it”. I now teach 3 regular classes a week, mostly in evenings so it doesn’t really interfere with the “day job” but still, it’s 3 hours a week where I earn peanuts compared to what I could earn if I spent that time doing “proper” work. So I’m counting that as downshift number 3. We have also gradually reduced our “day job” hours since we set up as self-employed – we probably work an average of about 30 hours a week. So to add that to our running total, I reckon extra free time from where we started is probably at least 20 hours a week. We’ve salvaged half a working week of free time!! I look back now and wonder how we ever lived like that …..
Downshift Number 4: ???????
And so, here we are, at the verge of our next – and probably final! – downshift. We’re not sure exactly where we are going with this one yet! We want to live a simpler, more natural life; we want to be in the countryside, not the city; we want to work fewer hours. What, you say, even fewer than the measly 30 hours we already work??!! Well, yes. I feel kind of greedy for wanting more spare time, when we are very lucky to have so much already, but life is short and as the heading says, you only get one of them. Every hour that I spend sitting at a desk doing something boring or pointless is an hour where I could be walking my dogs, snuggling with my husband, chatting to a friend, dancing, reading a good book … well the list is endless. If we can find something that pays the bills in even fewer hours a week, brilliant. And if we can find something that we can do together and provides us with more job satisfaction too, well that will be the icing on the cake.
So, that’s where we are. On a long a slippery slope towards becoming total slackers. Oh yeah 🙂