Living Lighter

Living Lighter

Today’s brilliant blue skies and cool breezes are sure signs that autumn’s right around the corner. You can almost smell September in the evening air. And as the sun settles over the rooftops on the other side of the street, the whirr of locusts is replaced by the gentler rhythms of cricket song. I love the sound of it.

Though it’s been years (okay, decades) since September literally meant “back to school” for me, I always experience a back-to-school state of mind this time of year – a sense of joyful anticipation of new beginnings. This year, it’s anticipation of a simpler, lighter way of living. In the past month, our house has emptied out, with Eric moving into his own apartment and starting his first job out in the real world, and Hannah off to Africa. We’ve pared down to one car, and only use it when necessary. We’ve trimmed nearly every category of household expenses. I’ve simplified my schedule and radically reduced my workload (some by choice and some through the vagaries of the down economy).

The mailman just slid the Fall issue of Yes! Magazine (Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions) through the mail slot in our front door. One of the cover stories is “Less Work, More Living: The Upside of Downshifting.” The article, by Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College and author of True Wealth, suggests that, “working fewer hours could save our economy, save our sanity and help save our planet.” Her basic premise is that if people with jobs were to work fewer hours, those who are currently unemployed could fill the gap – which she describes as “a key step toward solving the unemployment crisis.” She also says that those who cut back on work hours (and hence reduce their income) will move toward becoming more self-sufficient, growing or otherwise obtaining more of their own food, and building or creating things they might have previously paid someone else for. She reminds readers that reducing our collective consumerism also reduces our impact on the planet.

Schor has spent over a decade researching economic justice – including how we spend our time on work and leisure, and corresponding trends in how we spend our money. In the Yes! article, she proposes this formula: “Earn less, spend less, emit and degrade less.” Though she acknowledges the challenges and fears that can accompany a reduction in income (especially when it is involuntary), she highlights the benefits of working fewer hours, saying that, “The more time a person has, the better his or her quality of life, and the easier it is to live sustainably.”

Like cricket song on a cool autumn evening, I love the sound of that too.

Question of the Day

What voluntary steps could you take toward “less work, more living”?

SOURCE: Schor, Juliet B. (2011, Fall). Less Work, More Living. YES! Magazine, (59), 32-35.

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa peace sustainability

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