My grandparents were poor people.
They made their living off the homestead they had in rural Romania. Luckily they could rely on my grandfathers’ income as a bus driver, since very few villagers had any incomes at that time.
So they did what their parents did before them and what was natural and normal at that time. Cultivate the land with corn and wheat and grow a vegetable garden that took most of their times. Then they had livestock: always had chickens, geese, one or two pigs, buffaloes to help plow the soil and pull the wagon and sometimes a few goats.
Rarely did they buy vegetables, meat or eggs.
When she was little, my mother told me she would go to the only grocery in the village and get candy for eggs. But what she’s told me they enjoyed most as kids was when fruits would go ripe.
Cherries would ripe first, marking the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.
And then apples, pears, wild apricots, wild berries (they gathered themselves from the forests around), grapes, green walnuts. Ripe fruits were their simple joys. There wasn’t much, but that was enough for them.
Land was their most valuable asset.
When you had land you were considered rich. But what they never actually had was debt. Even now in the rural areas of Romania, people look at money loans as the worst thing one can do, almost equal to putting an end to your life.
They had a strong bond with the cycles of nature, a deep respect for what they would put on their tables and most of all, they had freedom.
Most people today have more than what my grandparents had, but what they don’t have is the freedom to enjoy their lives. It’s like the joy of having money comes down with more responsibilities, less peace of mind and less freedom.
Still, freedom of being is a natural and basic human need.
This is why today we see more and more alternative ways that support living more with less. Here are the most important few trends that point to downsizing being the key in order to sustain our life, happiness and well being.
So here they are.
Living more with the minimal less
Minimalism could be the umbrella for all the movements we know today, that speak downsizing. It’s the forefather of downsizing.
The trend has gained momentum over the past decades due to the unsustainable path the modern society has taken.
People started to see through the mirage of the “American dream”, that actually having more stuff doesn’t equal being more happy. They want to enjoy their lives with less stuff, less clutter and more enriching experiences.
I had this insight one day while riding the bus, that people go to jobs they don’t like to make money and buy cars to get them to the jobs they don’t like. It’s somewhat the same with people buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have.
Why choose this miserable life when you have the opportunity to live more with less?
And enjoy a better life with less stuff that drag you down, financially, emotionally and mentally?
Light is the new trend.
If you’re interested in learning more about minimalism, there is a great documentary that I kindly recommend “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”.
Here is the trailer.
Also, if you feel minimalism sounds about right for you and you need more inspiration, I invite you to read our article 3 Good Reasons to Become a Minimalist.
2. Tiny House Movement
Better living in 400 square feet (37 m2) home than in debt and miserable.
Also referred to as the “small-house movement”, this growing trend has gained a lot of popularity in the US especially. The reason is that the size of the American houses has almost doubled since the late 70s. With it, the level of debt and mortgage.
Soon enough people have started to look through the mirage and understand that owning bigger homes is not leading to their happiness and peace of mind.
As to now, there isn’t an exact size guide for a tiny house, but whatever falls under 400 quare feet (37 m2) is generally considered a tiny house. If you wish to downsize, but this is too small for you, there is the small house option, whatever measures up to 1,000 square feet (93 m2).
Most tiny homes today are also equipped with wheels, to allow you to move from a place to another, and have more freedom. They are like more sustainable caravans on wheels for a travel and living lifestyle.
Tiny houses are:
- Ecologically friendly
- Easy to build yourself
- Travel & living all in one
There are tons of videos on YouTube of people who’ve built their tiny house themselves from scrap materials. Which means if you have the time at hand, you can do it yourself.
They can also be used as additional dwelling units in the backyard, for accommodation, home offices or guest houses.
If you’re looking for a more modest living with an eye on self-sufficiency, more freedom and environmentally friendly, then a tiny living may be an option to consider.
YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House is very resourceful if you want to learn more about the Tiny House movement. Here is an idea for you:
3. Zero Waste
Reducing your carbon footprint to the maximum by throwing less to the bin.
The principle of zero-waste has become a mainstream movement after a few eye-opening books were published.
“Refuse, Reduce, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order) is my family’s secret to reducing our annual trash to a jar since 2018”.
Considered a great example of circular economy, the zero waste movement is a journey in itself, not a destination. A way of sustainable living, for ourselves and the planet. It is something that we all can incorporate little by little in our lives.
While it may look too difficult for most people to reduce your annual waste to fit a jar, there are small steps that everyone can take in that direction.
Zero Waste for Starters
- Buy less packaged products
- Reuse paper or plastic bags
- Use glass bottles instead of plastic
- Opt for DIY personal hygiene and cleaning products
- Buy recycled
These are just a few good ways to start.
Waste Is Not Just Physical
To me, it is also energetic, mental and emotional.
Paying more attention to our energies, to what we put out in the world, what we give to the community is also a very important aspect to zero (energetic) waste.
As Pope Francis was saying:
“We live in a wasteful culture in which, we not only waste stuff, but also people”. In very many cases we start with ourselves first.
People are becoming more aware of what they put out in the world, both physically and energetically and this is such good news for the planet. This also means that now we have the power to make better decisions for life. My food for thought? Be more and use less or what is useless.
Lauren Singer‘s speech at the TEDx Talks shows a glimpse of the life of a “zero waster“. Take a look:
4.Urban Gardening Movement
Using the green urban areas to grow food instead of lawn.
Perhaps one of the most fun, practical and everyone can do movement to downsize is the urban gardening trend.
I sure hope that this trend will soon enough go global because there’s only positive aspects to it.
So basically people have figured out that the green spaces around their flats and the lawns before their houses, make great farming lands.
Green Urban Spaces for Growing Locally
This is a great thing for people who live in urban area and don’t have the means to enjoy fresh produce.
Growing our fruits and vegetables give us more control over what we eat and and the pressure off big agriculture companies to overproduce, indifferent of the means.
Urban gardening is an amazing approach to food security and financial security for large city inhabitants.
But how is this a downsizing movement?
Well, by growing most of your food automatically implies that you spend less on produce that can also be of a lower nutritional value than what you can grow, depending on the farming style. Buying less and produce more is automatically downsizing by consuming less industrialized and more naturally grown.
Urban homesteading is also a growing trend
Its goal? To make urban living more self-sustainable through frugal living.
From my perspective, there is also the nature bond factor as a positive aspect of urban farming. We all know that big city life alienates people from their nature, and growing your own food from the soil reconnects you to the calamity, love and bounty of nature.
In addition, urban agriculture is also a great social movement that brings community together. Growing organic and sharing it with your fellow neighbor at the local farmer’s market is a great community bond too.
Urban gardening is exactly what we all need: bond with nature, connect with others and also with ourselves.
This short documentary about Detroit’s urban farming community can be very inspiring:
5 Nomadism (Digital & Grey)
Working anyplace in the world, traveling, exploring, experiences, freedom.
The less things we have to pin us down, the more freedom we have to experience life as we wish. Nomadism used to be a lifestyle for many peoples in the world back in the days.
Nowadays, we see a different kind of nomadism, that is digital nomadism and grey nomadism, as the most predominant.
Digital nomads, popular by now, are people who’ve chosen jobs they can do from any parts of the world.
Their only requirements a good internet connection and a laptop. Most of the times they have jobs they love, they are passionate about. Photography, filmography, web design, video production, online teaching, you name it.
The trend has been definitely supported and made popular with the help of YouTube.
A lot of these digital nomads have YouTube channels that help them make a living out of their hobbies, and teaching the world that you can indeed follow your passion, no matter where you are in the world. And this is cool.
Here is what digital nomad lifestyle looks like:
Now the grey nomads.
Consider them the grandfathers of digital nomads.
Retired after a lifetime of working and wanting to live a more simple, basic lifestyle, grey nomads are a growing population in Australia, where it all started.
They travel independently for extended periods of time within their own country in a caravan, RV or motor home.
For extra income or in exchange for goods or parking space, grey nomads help around by offering their labor in gardening, house-sitting or making use of what they know.
Living simpler lives, with more freedom and enjoying the experiences that come along is what keeps grey nomads always on the road to new adventures.
Most of these downsizing trends used to be the norm a few decades ago. The modern man has been set astray by the illusion of wealth, and riches of the big city life.
Today most people have figured out that the mirage can only last for so long.
And when the illusion fades, we sense our hearts yearning for that simple, authentic, integral living, in deep connection with the others, with the planets and with ourselves.
My personal take is this.
Downsizing is but making enough space to help us see through our own insecurities, flaws and poor life decisions. At first it hurts and you find it unbearable. But once you punch through and reach the other side, you can see what abundance is really all about. That is, the ability to do what you need to do when you need to do it. Period.