May 1st – the “day of work” is a good day to think about how to work less…

Mountainbiking at a lake near Munich. You can enjoy it for free...given you have TIME!

Today is May the 1st!

This is again a good day to live, especially here in Germany where it is a public holiday.

Is it in your country as well?!

If not, that should be introduced. At least I find the idea quite nice and appreciate it very much, that the “day of work“, as it is called here in Germany, is actually a day of not-working!

This is a good day to pause and think about the role work plays in your life.

Initially for most people work or labour was just a means to survive. Later a means to consume and to afford some nice things and a bit of spare time on top.

And today? Well, we earn much more than we actually need for living and eating.

Let’s look at some data from Germany (Source here, in German)

Item Work needed 1950 (h) Work needed 2009 (h) Difference
1kg bread 0:27 0:11 -60%
10 eggs 2:01 0:08 -93%
1l milk 0:19 0:03 -80%
1kg coffee beans 2 days 0:19 -99%
Suit 4 days 17:00 -80%
TV 16 days 2 days -87%

This list could easily be continued to most products that we really need for living today.

So, instead of what most people think, life in general does not get more expensive over time.

On the contrary, it got massively cheaper in the last decades, and probably in many aspects continues to do so. Looking at the data you can see that you can easily afford everything that your grandparents had by working much less – let’s say not more than 30%  of the time – than your grandparents had to work for it.

The problem thus is not that we have too little money but we work too much because we think that we must have much more things to make us happy.

Instead of being happy with a simple TV, a basic car as one had in the 50s and furniture you would use for decades, today we are talked into a brand-new TV each 5 years, 2 cars with oversized motors, cloths that are thrown away after wearing them only twice and loads of lifestyle-crap that is forgotten a week after you bought it. A lot of this desires are not coming from within ourselfes but probably from outside via peer-group pressure and TV ads.

Well, I don’t say that all modern products are bad.

Not at all. Me and my family for example fancy very much some nice holiday-trips every now and then, and I enjoy the variety of books, films, good food and kitchen machines my grandparents weren’t able to possess.

However, again there is the middle-way:

Find out what are the basic goods that you really need in life. Then think about what extra add-ons you like to have, add-ons that really increases your happiness on a long term basis.

And – important – find out for yourself!

Don’t let others or advertising influence you. Think hard about things you bought and whether you enjoyed them in a sustainable way or whether they only gave you a short kick (as e.g. cloths do for me).

And then cut out all the crap, concentrate on basic needs and these few add-ons, and you will find that probably you can afford all of this and still work much less than your grandparents did.

Now the tough next step is to convince your employer that you want to cut down to 4 days a week from tomorrow on – but maybe you find a way!

So enjoy your day of work by spending a few thoughts on how to actually work less in the future!



13 comments on “May 1st – the “day of work” is a good day to think about how to work less…

  1. […] But this lady had a lucrative job in the city of London, and her husband as well. All in all I’d guess their household is clearly in the top 10% of UK or even better off. That means a fantastic level of luxury and wealth, today and even more when compared to past times (see here). […]

  2. Bernhard says:

    Tegernsee, olé!

  3. […] mean after all, today’s world is amazingly productive, so much work is done by machines, wealth is enormous in western societies and beyond everything that people 50 or 100 or 500 years ago would […]

  4. […] was a long one, thanks to our ancestors who fought hard to make May, 1st into a holiday, the “day of work”, downshifters day to think of how to work less. […]

  5. Great post and yes, I got sent here from MMM. I moved from South Africa to Munich a year ago and although I find housing to be on the expensive side everything else is rather reasonable. But one of the most awesome things you have here is the endless possibilities to do amazing things outside completely free of charge. Hiking, mountain biking, going to a lake or park, the list is endless. Such a great place to live.

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