Saturday, 6 June 2009

Small changes really do add up!

By Frugal Trenches

A little more than 6 months ago, I was a city girl living in London, working around the clock (often leaving my flat at 6am and arriving back sometime after 9 or 10pm), I was frequently flying for the day to Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh or taking trains across the country for meetings. I had a never ending list of things to do that I simply didn't have time to do. My weekends were often spent trying to get some work done from home, meeting a friend or two and simply crashing. The weekends were when I tried to recover, only in reality you can't really and truly recover from a 80 hour work week when confined by walls, in a city that doesn't sleep and when you know you have at least another 10 hours + of work to get done before Monday morning at 5am rolls around.

The last six months have involved a lot of changes, it was as if I knew where my destination was, but I wasn't so sure of the steps to get me there. I knew I needed to leave London, I knew I wanted to live back near family in another part of England, I knew I wanted to work on my health, stop being so exhausted and really live but I really didn't know how. So I started small and blogged through it all. Slowly I learned how to knit, began reading more. These two small steps brought me enjoyment and forced me to leave work at work and enjoy an hour or two in the evenings of a hobby that brought me so much enjoyment. I won't let you know how terrible my knitting skills still are 6 months later, but I live in hope :0). I joined a book club and helped form a knitting club. I worked out with my employer a different work schedule (part time) knowing that it was simply buying me time to leave. A couple of health difficulties and sick time really gave me the push to put myself first now rather than later. I had saved up 6 months worth of expenses so knew I could take the plunge when needed. I began swimming again, something I'd spend many hours of my childhood enjoying. I met a great group of early morning swimmers who while 50+ years older than me, are a great source of inspiration and determination. I resigned.

Many people questioned what I was doing. What I was doing was finding my life and learning how to live it. Instead of a complex, career & money driven existence I was embracing a simple, green and frugal life - a life filled with new experiences (growing veggies, making my own shampoo and soap, learning to make things), volunteering, helping others, working in order to live not living in order to work. I let go of the illusion that I needed my own house (I don't say home because a home is anywhere you feel at home and at peace) and decided more than that I needed balance in my life in order to live fully. I cut my expenses by 75% in the areas of housing, bills, travel, food. And I learned to live and love life.

I feel that by embracing simple, frugal and green living (and yes I still have a way to go!) I found myself. I awakened something inside me that lay dormant when only focused on following the herd - working full time, climbing the career ladder, building up my pension and owning a house. The reality is we need money, but my reality is needing money will no longer interfere with every other area of my life. It will no longer be the reason I do something, instead it will be 1 or 2 pieces of my puzzle. The reality is I'd rather have a lot less stuff and more experiences, I'd rather be true to myself, I'd rather have the time to help others and contribute towards a better earth so really the choice is simple.

Had anyone told me I'd be capable of these changes I would never have believed them. They didn't happen over night. It was a year long journey that in many ways is just starting. I didn't turn into a green thumbed, domestic goddess overnight and yes I'm still far away from reaching some of my green goals but now I have no doubt I'll get there because I have not only the motivation but the time.

I thought I'd leave you with this quote that really sums up the learning I've experienced:

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, "Wow, what a ride!!!"

I'd love to hear from any of you who have made big changes, where did you start? How many little steps did you have to take before you realized just what you'd accomplished?