Downshifting: The Art of Living Better with Less

Downshifting: The Art of Living Better with Less

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By Blas Cubells Villaba

It all started when these yuppies began to realize that they made a lot of money, but they worked too much, putting their health in danger, robbing hours of family life and sleep, and suffering all the stress that life entails.

But the case of the yuppies, although it is the most striking, is not the most representative, since the movement has penetrated many North American citizens who are not senior executives, but ordinary people who have become aware of what they are doing with their lives, and by extension with planet Earth.

The main supporter is Duane Elgin who with his book "Voluntary Simplicity" has given rise to an important movement (with political aspirations) called "Voluntary Simplicity", or as they are often called, VS. But that book has been followed by others, and others, by different authors who collect the ideological universe of this new trend.


And yet this attitude to life is far from new. They themselves recognize the ancient Stoic philosophers as their main inspirers, especially Epícteto, the updated compilation of his thought "The art of living" is one of their pillars.

“The value we place on money, status and competition poisons our personal relationships. Happy life will be impossible as long as we don't simplify our habits and don't moderate our desires ”.


There are many ancient and modern philosophers who could prescribe similar things to us. Christianity said, more than 2,000 years ago "Oh Lord, grant me neither poverty nor wealth"; Taoism claimed that "He who knows what is enough is rich" (Lao Tse); Plato gives us with his phrase "In order to seek our own direction in life, we must simplify the mechanical from the ordinary, daily life"; and Buddhism has always proposed "the middle path" neither poverty nor meaningless wealth.

We can also mention Erich Fromm when he says: "Human beings have everything, but they lack themselves". And yet, as Alex Rovira says in one of his books: "Living costs very little, but we can complicate it as much as we want".

In this sense, the words of Mario Benedetti are very clear: "If there is no change, we walk towards destruction and suicide, all caused by power, money and the tendency to consumerism and frivolity."

”Simplicity in living, in consumption, in our relationships, and in all spheres of our daily life; the voluntary simplicity movement advocates eliminating everything superfluous and unnecessary in our lives, to free up time and resources, to live a more conscious, free and fulfilling life. "

Duane elgin


That the world is needing to find new formulas, such as downshifting, to live in society and respecting nature, is something that no one escapes, but the socio-economic machinery carries such a rhythm, of needs and obligations, that there is no one to stop it. On the other hand, those who spend it "hard" to pay their mortgages cannot think of working less, because that is equivalent to earning less, for them downshifting would be a joke in bad taste. And yet it is possible to practice it, as evidenced by hundreds of citizens around the world. Without pretending to fall into the extremism of the German Heidemarie Schwermer, a psychotherapist for more than 60 years, who has managed to live without money, here are some guidelines that can help us all to practice, to some extent, Voluntary Simplicity.

Some of the 101 commandments of downshifting:

  • Cancel all but one credit card, saving it for emergencies.
  • Have a single bank account and always pay in cash.
  • Keep an expense book up to date.
  • Doing the home repairs yourself.
  • Give up the car or buy a second-hand one.
  • Use public transportation or carpool with coworkers.
  • Live as close to work as possible, so that you can eat at home and walk back and forth.
  • Organize work to do 30 hours or four days a week.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Lose weight.
  • Reduce stress as much as possible.
  • Don't wear a watch if you don't need it.
  • Become a member of the library so as not to have to buy, if possible, books or magazines.
  • Go shopping only when necessary, and compare prices with other stores.
  • Buy second-hand clothes and furniture.
  • In general, give up superfluous expenses.
  • Spend the summer at a campsite while you rent your own house.


This new lifestyle would provoke in each one of us, and in the environment, a whole range of very desirable and necessary benefits. For example: spending more time with family and friends, participating in volunteer help activities, working to develop one's potentialities, a feeling of connection with the earth and nature is awakened, concern for social justice, consumption It is done in a more responsible way and by boycotting unethical brands, a preference for less processed and more natural foods is generated, life becomes simpler by not accumulating unnecessary possessions, there is a tendency to seek a livelihood that at the same time contributes to the welfare of the world, sexist roles become less important, and there is an awakening to non-verbal forms of communication such as looking, hugs, silence ...

If all this were true, we would be facing one of the possible solutions in order to face many of the complicated evils generated by our lifestyle. Let's not lose sight of downshifting!

Blas cubells

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