On to how my lifestyle has deflated....
I used to be a college professor. Now I'm not. I make more money now, in exchange for working all year rather than 9 months. I've joined the working class (though college professors are working class now according to some very relevant criteria outlined by Joe Bageant in his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War (2007, Crown Publishing)).
This made it easier to deflate. In my current position, I am not expected to conform to some ideal of intellectual elitism. As a professor I was expected to live in a place that other professors would like to come to for dinner. I ended up buying a small bungalo. The fact that it was a "fixer upper" bothered some colleagues. These are the colleagues who vote on your tenure. If they find you "odd" they don't vote for you. I was not willing to live above my means so I did my best with the low level home ownership. A condo or apartment in a modern complex would have been more acceptable to them, less so to me. Now I live in a crap rental trailer, people find it odd given my income and the status of my job. Their opinions do not have an effect on my continued employment. Now I'm an amusing eccentric, not a person in peril of losing a job because she is an amusing eccentric.
I'm able to live in one place all year. As a professor I was in the midwest during the school year and off doing research in a remote location (the one where I now live and work) during breaks and summers. This meant keeping a second home for 4 months a year, repeated cross country trips by car or airplane, and keeping connections going in multiple communities. By living in one place (with the short term caveat of my current double housing situation discussed in the previous post), I am more connected to one community. I usually maintain one household that is a "lower level" of housing than my previous housing.
In selling my home and moving out west, I was also able to pay off all of my debt. Being debt free has dramatically simplified my life. The pressure to keep my job has decreased and my reasons for keeping my job have changed.
I am able to travel more due to the increased pay and lack of debt. Now it's travel for pleasure. I've been to Europe for 10days each year for the last 3. I've spent this time traveling with friends and family and improving those relationships. The travel has all be "slow" and not research related. You'll have to trust me that that simplifies the issue! By slow travel I mean I rent one place with a kitchen, bed and bath. Once it was an apartment and twice it has been boats. We stay there and do day trips but get to meet and talk to neighbors, shop keepers, and fellow travelers. By cooking at the place, I save money, reduce my environmental travel impact, while still acknowledging that my travel is an environmental impact no matter what, and connect with the local residents.
I've been able to have a container garden! Hoping to upgrade to an actual garden, maybe next year. When I lived in the midwest September to May, and out west June-August, I couldn't have a gardent. It would be unattended in the midwest, or planted to late and unharvested out west. Growing part of my own food has been very rewarding.
With a "9 to 5" job rather than a professorship I've been able to pursue interests like drying and canning food for preservation, vegetarian cooking, and beadwork. Professoring meant giving up many (maybe most) evenings and weekends to duties the tenured faculty didn't care to take care of. Advising student clubs, running campus events, teaching night classes, grading papers, working on committee duties. My job is still demanding and there are days when I'm on call sun up to sun down, but it is STILL less taxing on my personal time and interests than professoring, especially in an untenured capacity. Last fall I put up over 100 jars of jam of mostly gleaned fruit. I gathered from fruit trees that were not harvested by their owners. My christmas presents were expensive to ship, but very much appreciated. I'm still using the jam at home and giving it as gifts when others do me favors. At my city apartment the downstairs neighbor is in a CSA that sometimes provides her with too much fruit and veg. When she gives me some fresh produce, I return the container with a jar of jam. We're both happy.
I also dried enough produce from my harvest and the farmer's market to know that with the addition of a few pounds of beans, I have enough food to eat for months! There is an emotional security in having enough to eat that I've never experienced before.
By learning to cook more vegetarian meals I'm saving money, becoming more fit, and taking care of the planet. I haven't gone vegetarian yet, but I may in the future.