I like the good things in life – I’ve always been fussy about the quality of things and rarely like to compromise. So if you’d told me 3 years ago that I’d be living a life with less than 50 items in my wardrobe and had willingly taken a substantial pay cut, I wouldn’t have believed you. But slowly over the past couple of years, I’ve been living with less and less and have never been happier.
Less income but more money to spend….on worthwhile things
Moving from London to Dorset meant a couple of things financially for us. Firstly was selling the biggest financial asset we had in our London home. This was something that really took some time to get our heads around – it had always been a nice security blanket for us (despite the big mortgage). Oh well, if all else fails we can sell the house and downsize elsewhere. And secondly, taking a big hit on our salaries. Johnny’s take-home pay halved and mine reduced by 30% so our household income dramatically dropped too. This has taken some adjusting but I’ve kept in mind the bigger picture in all of this. And weirdly, we feel more comfortable financially than ever before. There’s no big mortgage (although we still have one I might add!) and I’ve broken the consumerism cycle of wanting more.
We are mindful of our spending (particularly as we are planning to renovate our house in the next year) but we still enjoy eating out and activities in Dorset come pretty free! I’ve also realised how much money used to be wasted on convenience eating – not necessarily unhealthy food but rather, buying day to day and splashing out on treats. We’re a lot more planful with our meals now and I avoid buying anything I can make, so no more shop bought cakes/biscuits etc! The result is more money in savings and planning for our future.
My new philosophy is going to be put to the test when we renovate our house. I am such a home bird that justifying purchases for the home comes quite easy to me as I gladly spend so much time and enjoyment there. Cait Flanders’ book ‘The Year of Less’ made me stop and think with this. She found that, during a year-long shopping ban, ‘stuff’ did not equal happiness or influence the enjoyment of life. When we extended our house in London, I was in my element and found it very difficult to compromise on more budget friendly purchases (until I had to…..) This time we have a finite amount of money set aside, we can’t be borrowing more (and don’t want to) and so we are going to have to be so careful on where we spend it. I am dreaming of an Aga (I think that will give me years of enjoyment and warm hugs in the mornings!) and whilst the jury is still out on that, I have been researching and researching how to achieve the look / finish we want overall at the most cost-effective price. Time will tell and I’ll let you know how we get on but ultimately, to spend your money on something worthwhile, you need to scale back elsewhere. This has been a bit of an exercise for me but I am slowly getting there and there is a new found joy in discovering something that fits your Pinterest board without breaking the bank.
Reading ‘Spark Joy’ by Marie Kondo was quite a life-changing experience for me. This sounds dramatic. But finding a copy in my favourite homewares shop in the beautiful Lake District and devouring it in front of the fire one evening was a big light bulb moment. I realised how much ‘stuff’ I had which I either felt compelled to hold on to for sentimental reasons or because of its original value. I proceeded to have a huge declutter and must have seen at least 75% of my clothes donated to charity or sold through eBay. Likewise for other belongings that were hanging around and taking up space. I felt lighter and freer with less. Jessica Rose Williams’ capsule wardrobe workshop in February last year was another turning point. She has helped me to curate a selection of clothes that I really love and which all complement each other. This satisfied my need for good quality as it was justified for items that were meant to last and now I find myself with no desire to purchase any new items of clothing. Because I love everything I own now, feel like I have enough choice – and getting dressed each day is so straight forward.
More time to enjoy life
We have so much more time to enjoy life now as we’re not frantically working or rushing around to get on the tube as early as possible or finding the quickest thing in the supermarket to cook for dinner. Everything is at a much calmer pace and so whilst we have less money from our jobs, they are so much less stressful than they once were and the trade-off is worth the drop in salary 10 times over. When I mentioned to my brother that moving here hadn’t been without compromise – e.g. a big drop in salary, he replied ‘I’d take that hit if it meant living somewhere like this’. Although I don’t need validation that we’ve made the right decision as it’s definitely been the best thing we’ve done, it was also nice to have some level of understanding that we hadn’t gone totally mad!
More time to breathe
The busyness of our lives in London started to take a toll on my health towards the end of our time living there with such severe palpitations they would haunt the majority of my day. Doctors were sufficiently concerned that I had a full cardiac assessment. There was no cause found for them and they were simply put down to a stressful and overwhelming way of life. Since moving to Dorset I haven’t had a single one! Our evenings seem to stretch out somehow rather than being over in the blink of an eye from watching something – anything - on TV. Part of this might be to do with the fact that we decided to live without Sky (and also don’t have a working aerial!) when we moved down here to see if we really needed it. We were spending over £120 a month on Sky services and pretty much only used it for catch up. Our TV comes with iPlayer and Netflix – so if there’s something we’ve heard about that we’d like to tune it to, we do but the TV is not the default it once was. I’ve read more books in the last few months than I have in the last few years.
More time with loved ones
One of the over-riding changes in our lives in Dorset has been the time we have together. We have less stress, shorter working hours and short commutes (aside from the days I’m in London, mine is a 5 minute drive to take Rufus to nursery). We have more time together as a three at the beginning and end of the day. We sit down to breakfast most days which feels like such a treat after years of eating on the go. Whilst there are still days when I wish I didn’t have to work so I could spend it with Rufus, it does help that we’ve already had time to play and read before he goes to nursery. It just feels like work (and therefore nursery) no longer dominates our lives. At the moment I work 4 days/week and Johnny, 5 – in an ideal world this would be 3 or perhaps for us to both work 4 days and each have a day dedicated to Rufus. This is something we are thinking of and working towards but compared to where I was even just 7 months ago, the lifestyle adjustment has been huge.
And…less time tidying!
Tidying for visitors used to see me manically rushing round trying to cram everything in to cupboards that were already fit to bursting. I don’t think we have excessive belongings but they were definitely more than we needed. Putting dried washing away was a stress in itself and would see the bottom fall out of our chest of drawers on occasion! And this was for the majority of stuff that was rarely worn. Marie Kondo says you should be able to tidy the house in half an hour if everything has a place and is easy to put away – it’s not quite that but it’s certainly a lot quicker than it used to be. Leaving more time for fun and to enjoy a calmer home.
So yes, whilst saying that your household income has reduced by 40% and that you have a selection of clothes which all fit comfortably in half a wardrobe and one drawer (with space left over) might come as a shock to some, it comes with so many benefits! Try living with less – I think you’ll feel freer, calmer and more content :)