Okay, so you know we used to live in a big house and chucked it all for a better lifestyle. And I believe I mentioned that our cottage in Saba is 750 square feet, right? Just try to imagine yourself living your current life in 750 square feet. Then imagine two people working at home in 750 square feet. Got the picture?

Downshifting – Toward A Simpler Life
Does it make you start to sweat? Yeah, we did too as we were trying to decide whether we could make it work. See, the thing is, I LOVE this cottage. It’s in the perfect location for Saba – close enough to downtown for the conveniences (e.g., if you forget something at the store, it’s no biggie to go back and grab something) – and yet far enough away to still be idyllic and peaceful. Ocean views – and views of the town of Windwardside. There’s nothing like sitting on our porch as it changes from dusk to dark – the houses light up the winding hill across from us, just like a storybook.

The truth is, while we looked for a bigger house in preparation for living here, I didn’t want to be anywhere else but in our cottage. See, our cottage caretakers have always said, the bigger your house is, the more work it is. Hmmm, essentially they are saying that to live a simple life, keep it simple.

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Little Big House
You’d be amazed to know that we are both working and living comfortably here. We only sent a few essentials from the US, everything fits nicely and our work spaces are great. We are lucky that the cottage is laid out in a way that is conducive to our work at home arrangements – two bedrooms separated by a big living room-kitchen area. This means we have plenty of quiet space for our work. It also makes the house feel bigger than it is.

Less Can Seem Like More With:

  • High Ceilings – this cottage is similar to our log home in the US, although it is only 1 floor. It has high ceilings and is painted the traditional white throughout. This makes it feel light and airy – and big!
  • Plenty of Windows – bring a lot of light into the house. With constant sunshine, it is always bright and beautiful here. Guess what – no screens! Since the island has virtually no mosquitoes and few flies, there are no bug issues.
  • Indoor/Outdoor Living – the weather is almost constantly perfect, with a breeze that makes temperatures very comfortable. We leave the doors and windows open most of the time. We have an area outside where we can eat or have guests for dinner. In Saba, you can sit outside for hours and never be bothered by bugs. It’s better than being in the US in the summer or spring!

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid
Yeah, yeah, so while I mastered this in my corporate days, I hadn’t tried to apply it to my life. Somehow, my life kept getting more and more complicated before I really started to pay attention to the beauty of simplicity.

I look back now on all of the things I had and can’t believe I ever thought I wanted or needed those things. I admit it, both Joel and I bought into Madison Avenue’s advertising tricks and really THOUGHT we needed all the stuff we had. I would shop for clothes and never have anything to wear. We’d buy electronics with no plan for whether we really needed them.

It’s kind of like an addiction. Once you stop the cycle and see what you are doing, you realize you never really needed a great deal of what you had. Just try it for a month and see what happens to your perspective.

Your Turn

  • Take a look at all of your stuff.
  • How does it feel? Does it feel good?
  • Are there some things that “weigh you down?”
  • Make you nervous (paying bills, not keeping up with others, etc.)?
  • Frustrate you (all those junk drawers waiting to be organized)?

What do you really need vs. think you need? Clothes, shoes, jewelry, house stuff, cars, accessories, electronics, etc.

  • Ask yourself, do I really need this? What do I need it for?
  • Will it make my life better?
  • Will it make things easier? In what way?
  • Am I buying this for an emotional reason?
  • Experiment with doing without it for awhile and see what happens

See if there are other ways you can simplify your life. Maybe it’s just a shift in perspective about what’s perfect. Have fun and experiment – share your thoughts!

The Downshifting Trend – We’ve Only Just Begun
We’re seeing it happen in the U.S. — sometimes spurred on by a mid-life crisis, burnout or just wanting to follow our dreams. In the UK, the term downshifting is used. Check out these sources:

Celebrate Downshifting Week (4/22/06 – 4/28/06) with the UK – focusing on simpler, happier lives and respecting the environment. Kind of like Earth day with a twist of self-care.

Great Article on Leaving the Rat Race Forever

BBC Article – How Europeans Are Opting Out of the Rat Race

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