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5 February 2008

My heart's desire

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it took to kick start my simple life. I used to think it was to stop spending, but I realise now that was the consequence of something else I did. The big change was to focus on what I did at home and to make my home the most important place for me.

We grow up with advertising, it's ubiquitous, Wherever you look, there will be an advertisement telling you what to buy, where to get it and how wonderful you'll feel when you buy that product. When we wake in the morning and turn on the TV news, advertising is there to greet you. Read the paper - more ads. Go to work or to the park and you'll probably pass billboards and advertising signs along the way. You come home to relax and if you turn on the TV, every few minutes, ads will be telling you what you can't do without and how to get it. You've just spent another day in the modern world - bombarded by advertising.

Advertising make us look outside our homes to find what satisfies us. It teaches us that when we see what we like, we should have it. It never teaches prudence or patience; quite the contrary, it encourages us to go into debt to buy whatever our hearts desire.

My heart's desire is to live well, to be happy and safe and to feel satisfied by what I do each day. Since I started living as I do, I have achieved all those desires. I have never seen any of them advertised on TV or even in the slickest magazine. It's obvious you can't buy the experience of living well, the sense of being happy and safe or the inclination towards satisfaction. These, my friends are all handmade treasures, you have to make them all yourself. And you do it at home.

I believe that focusing on what you're doing at home and knowing that everything you do is a gift to yourself or your family helps build a better life. Go back to the old ways - it's healthier, cheaper and it will give you back your independence. Learning how to look after your family, yourself and your home without buying convenience foods, chemical cleaners and new appliances will liberate you. The money you earn each week will stay in your own bank account, or will allow you to pay off your debts, instead of adding to the billions we all give over to supermarkets and multi-national companies.

Advertising forces you to look outwards all the time. It constantly tells you that your happiness is waiting for you at a store. I would like to encourage you to focus on your home. Start small. You could start by making your own laundry powder (there is a recipe here) or bread (recipe in the sidebar), maybe you could start stockpiling so you don't have to shop as frequently as you do now. Start cooking from scratch or cleaning with non-chemical cleaners. It could be anything. Your start might be to make your bed each morning so that when you go to bed each night you can look forward to a lovely warm and cosy bed. Maybe you could start by making up a roster of chores for the children so that everyone helps at home and you start teaching them how to look after themselves - that is the most wonderful gift. You might start walking to work or making sure you take 20 minutes out of an otherwise busy day to make a cup of tea and sit quietly to relax for a while. You might turn off the TV or the lights more often, or start monitoring your own usage of electricity or water. Maybe you mend a ripped shirt instead of throwing it away, or cut up old towels for rags. There are so many small ways to start and once started, it's easy to add another small thing, then another.

You will find that as you do this, your focus will be on your home. Do your tasks slowly and mindfully and that will help you slow your mind too. See the work you do at home with new respect. It's not an annoyance, it will make your home, and your experience of living there, better - you're building a new way of life. As you work towards what you want for yourself and slowly, piece by piece, add to the fabric of your life, you will see that each level makes you stronger and less reliant on what you'll find outside. And once you find the true joy of being independent and capable of providing your own needs, nothing else will be good enough for you.


  1. Were you ever in a place in your life when you just felt overwhelmed by things to-do? I'm feeling a bit overloaded by clutter right now & can't do enough each day to get to the other side. I want to get to that peaceful place you often speak of but right now I'm feeling still a bit of chaos.

  2. Hello anon. Yes, I have been there too. You can get through it, by starting small and doing one small step at a time. If you're decluttering, start with your own wardrobe. Decluttering is a very personal thing in that you're selling or giving away tings you've valued in the past. You wonder if you're doing the right thing and will you need the clutter later.

    If you do your own wardrobe first, you start by examining your most personal things. If and when you get through that, the rest is quite easy. Ridding yourself of that extra set of coffee cups is much easier and less confronting than getting rid of your favourite dress and shoes from 1988.

    Above all else though, be kind to yourself. Start with just 15 monutes, timed on the kitchen timer, and when that bell goes, stop and have a cup of tea. If you feel like it, go back for another 15 minutes, if not do it the next day, but make sure you do. You will feel better when it's decluttered, I promise, but small step. Don't expect to do it all in one day. Good luck, love.

  3. Hi Rhonda Jean,

    When I think about that wonderful feeling created by a sense of what "home" means to me I can recall lovely memories of the warmth of the slow combustion cooker, my mother singing in her beautiful voice as she cooked, watching her knit and sew the most beautiful clothes for my sister and I, playing simple games and countless other such memories. We never had much money at all but what I was given formed a base of memories that I draw upon as I have built my own "home" as an adult.

    I wonder what a generation of children might think about if they have lived off meals on the run, fast food, fast paced lives, just throw things away and buy more things to surround yourself with?

    Would those from a generation or two back look at us, even those of us living more simply, and lament about how we zoom everywhere in motor cars, or no longer have the experience of seeing shoemakers, coopers, wheelwrights, weavers, tinkers and smiths anymore unless we visit a theme park?

    Regards, Marilyn.

  4. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I just wanted to say thank you for your ever-inspiring posts. I've been gradually going down the green path for the last few years but your blog throws a completely different light on it... in fact your blogs have actually started to change my attitude towards housework! Up until recently I absolutely detested washing up dishes, but now I've started doing them more regularly and taking pleasure in completing the task. That's just one of many inspirations I gain from your blog, but probably the most shocking, especially to my long suffering OH who usually ends up doing the washing up because I won't! :)

  5. RJ, I made the homemade laundry powder yesterday and was wondering whether the soap needed to be grated finely (like parmesan cheese) or if slightly larger specks of soap is okay?

  6. Marilyn, I think those people who don't have the mother at home with soup of the stove type memories look to blogs to build their experience. I think that is why my blog is popular.

    I think our predecessors might lament the passing of coopers and the ability to make do, but they've missed out on the computer and the longevity we enjoy. Every era has its pros and cons. The trick is to cherry pick what we can from the past and use it in a modern context.

    And now I'm off to work. I hope you have a lovely day. ; )

  7. Hi Sarah, I'm pleased you've found news ways of looking at your housework. There is beauty lurking in a lot of the ordinary tasks.

    Bella, grated like carrots is fine, it doesn't have to be really fine.

  8. Thank you for this post. When you break things down like this it seems as though living a simple life might become more do-able.

  9. Hi Rhonda

    I struggle with this everyday, so nearly everyday I visit your blog. What you say makes so much sense. I am in a very different place in my life and have trouble balancing the new business with still setting up a home and living as simply as possible. I cannot imagine reaching the point where I happily undertake the household chores, but I keep reading what you say and trying...I promise!

  10. Your words and thoughts echo my own so well, especially when you speak of doing your tasks slowly and mindfully. When one proceeds in this way, simple tasks tend to become somewhat reverent. I believe satisfaction most often comes from mindfulness, the simple pleasure of being in the moment,along with appreciation.

  11. Thank you for your inspiring post! You are very knowledgeable, and your contentment show thru your words.

  12. I love your blog. I love everything you teach us. Home is where the heart is. . Thanks so much for sharing your life.

  13. Rhonda Jean
    This was an exceptional post, well done.

  14. Rhonda Jean,
    Another truly inspiring post! I am still reaping the benefits of your posting that "I've accepted housework now as an ongoing stream of chores with no end. Knowing this took a lot of pressure off to complete everything within a certain amount of time."

    I already "knew" this in my head but not with my heart and was always down on myself for not ever being "done"! I thought I was a failure at homekeeping, and it sucked all the joy out of my day. For some reason, the way you worded it really helped me to accept what I already knew to be true. It's made such a difference and I want to say "THANK YOU" for keeping this blog and offering advice and words of encouragement.

  15. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Thanks for another great post.
    I'm trying to catch up on my visits ,being sick put me behind.
    Hope you have a great day.

  16. I've been lurking about for a while now. Enjoying your posts on the simple things in life and thinking about life on the other side of the world.

    I have thought about this post all day!

    I often feel guilty for wanting to just be at home. But now I realize that is how it's supposed to be. My home is my HOME. It's where I am nourished, where I rest, where I pray and where I love.


  17. Hello ladies! thank you for your kind words. The love the comments where people say they see their work or life at home in a different way. I am happy that I can help you with your changes.

  18. Dear Rhonda Jean,

    I really loved this entry. I came across your blog by accident, looking for hand-made soap instructions. Currently, I am living abroad serving in the Peace Corps. Until living in a "developing world" environment, I never had the distance and perspective to see how much "convience" foods and stores take away from the intimacy and enjoyment in our lives. There is something richly satisfying about making bread, eating your own tomatoes from the soil you worked with your own sweat, and taking back your life from corporate America. I look forward to merging my new priorities and perspective with my American life when I return from my 2 year tour this fall and making a true home for myself.

    Thanks for such a great blog!


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