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10 April 2008

The rewards are there for the taking

There have been a few enquiries lately about how to convince your family you haven't gone completely nuts when you start living a more simple life. My advice: don't even try.

When I sat alone on my verandah all those years ago thinking about what I wanted my life to be and how I would be able to achieve my dream, many things were uncertain, but I knew one thing to be as clear as day - Hanno would not want to do it. He grew up in a time when everyone worked as hard as they could to buy everything a comfortable life would hold. In those days you worked your way up the ladder of quality and size - if you could afford a small house, that is what you bought. When you earned more money, you sold your small house and bought a bigger one. All the way you kept working towards more, bigger and better. I had never know a time when Hanno didn't work. Even when we moved back home to Australia after spending a couple of years in Germany, we stayed with my parents in Sydney for a while, and the day after we arrived home Hanno looked for a job. The day after that, he was working. He always worked for the good of our family, he always wanted us to have the best we could afford. Success, for both of us, was defined by what we owned and how little debt we carried.

We both know now that flimsy definition didn't come close to what success should mean.

So when I was thinking about how I should convince Hanno towards this life, I thought the best way was to just explain my vision to him. I thought that if I told him about living a greener and more frugal life he would immediately see how wonderful it could be and set about planning this new utopia with me. I had already closed my business down, I told him my thoughts and explained how we could live a free and easy life by him closing his shop and us both working to make and grow what we needed at home.

He listened closely and then asked me if I'd gone completely mad.

:- (

I realised then that my dream, the way I could see our lives, was not shared. It had been bubbling away in my head for a while, I'd been quietly doing a few frugal and green things for a few years and Hanno just didn't get it.

Plan B

I didn't mention it again. I started doing all the things I wanted to do at home. I cooked everything from scratch, made everything I could at home, stopped shopping, started building a stockpile, enlarged the vegetable garden, bought more chickens and reduced our grocery shopping. After about six months he could actually see what I wanted - it was there before him, a real interpretation of what my dream was. He couldn't argue with that. He could see it worked, he could see I was happier than I had been in years, he could see this life had changed me for the better. I suppose it was another year or two before he actually closed the shop, knowing we would not only survive this life, but thrive in it.

Now, having said all that, it would be quite irresponsible of me to not warn you that life is ever-ready to throw you some unexpected curved balls. Doing what we did worked mainly because we have no debt and we are the age we are. Doing it earlier would have required that we set up a small business to run from home. We would have needed an income. Not much, but enough to pay our house rates, health insurance, electricity and gas bills etc. And you can live simply without giving up work. It really does rely on your stage of life. Look at how Bel is living with her lovely family. Bel and her husband with six children - they have fashioned a simply life that works well for them all. Bel's husband works and Bel homeschools the children and produces healthy food for them all.

Simple living has a lot to do with changing your mindset and how you see yourself and your actions. It's being independent and taking responsibility for what you do. And remember, simple living is not easy living. You work hard at times because you stop buying convenience. The convenience of ready made, or partially made, food, the convenience of buying a new car when the old one needs repairs, the convenience of plastic, and supermarket vegetables and a hundred other things.

So I guess my advice would be to just live your life the way you want to live it. Don't explain it to anyone, unless they ask. Your actions and commitment will speak much louder than what you have to say. Lead by example, others will follow. But if you're convinced you can make a go of this way of life, if you're willing to work hard and forsake the latest fashion in clothing, furnishings, houses and cars, if you can see that less is more and you want to work towards a healthier environment and a happier you, then go for it. The rewards are there for the taking.


  1. Great post.

    My mom thinks I'm mad already though I don't live with her. She hopes I will be able to afford better some day. I do feel encouraged though I may not have a lot, it also means I'm not wracking up the debt I see others including some of my siblings wracking up. I do have to do without some things but I feel in the end I will be better off as I get it sorted out. I would someday like to have a garden for growing veggies but if that doesn't happen I know I can still make do with what I do have and be happy. I think you put it really well. It's all down to what your definition of success is. >:3

  2. Don't know what else to say other than..


    : )

  3. You have a way of pulling out what I have been feeling for so long.It feels very vague and dreamy in the back of my mind,but you put bones to it and seem to pull out of me what I have been feeling and thinking and wanting to do for so very long. I'm 56 years old and I feel like its too late for me.But I can live through reading your blog and enjoy your life with you.And just see everything you do and somehow enjoy it too.I'm so glad that you decided to blog and share.

  4. "So I guess my advice would be to just live your life the way you want to live it. Don't explain it to anyone, unless they ask. Your actions and commitment will speak much louder than what you have to say."

    Perfectly put.

  5. Oh, Dear Anonymous - please don't think you're too old!! I will be 61 in May, and I feel I've just started along this path, even though, mentally, I've be on it since the 60s. Rhonda has been such an encouragement to me. Finding her blog has been like Anne Shirley finding her kindred spirit when she met Diana.
    Start small: change to CFL bulbs; recycle; de-clutter; READ ALL OF RHONDA'S POSTS!!!!!
    And if you feel you need more encouragement, just ask. And don't give up!
    Carla in North Idaho

  6. That is just what I needed to hear as I am just starting to live the best life for me and everyone else thinks that I am just taking things too far. They don't understand why I want to make things for my family and do things myself to save money. A lot of them are in debt badly and still try to keep up with the Joneses. I think my life is a lot happier than theirs will ever be.
    Your post inspires me so much.

  7. A wonderful post, again! I think living by example is the best way to lead. You are a wonderful example of that! It's what I hope to do with my blog, too.

  8. I too use your method with my husband. He is alot like your Hanno, hard working and always wants the best for his family.I didnt try to explain what I was doing I just did it and he eventually came on board. We do have a business from home and now our son is working there also.This lifestyle has worked for us even though others think we are mad

  9. Wise and comforting words, Rhonda Jean.

    I've just spent the last five or six weeks - five to six days a week - making jams, sauces, bottling, freezing etc., whilst also helping my elderly mother in various ways. Never the less, I took time away from other family obligations to get all that work done, to which I recieved a belittling comment from a family member as to the value of my efforts and the implication that I was shirking my responsibilities! I didn't bite back but thought to myself how I'd never dream of criticizing their way of life.

    It's curious to me that had I deciced to do just about anything else in life that may be commensurate with consumerism in some way or other (perhaps taking six weeks off to travel overseas or something), I'd not have recieved that comment at all.

    This simle way of life I've chosen seems to threaten some people. Whether it's because it may seem to some that I'm "turning back the clock" on women's roles in society I'm not sure. Perhaps these are somewhat similar times for those of us who choose simple living, to when women were striving for equality. -To which I say, brothers and sisters, bear the burden with a smile on your lips and a song in your heart. We at least know what we're on about.

    Regards, Marilyn

  10. I absolutely have to agree that it depends on the stage of life you are in. I have children and we need an income. It is that simple. However! I do raise my hens, use recycleable grocery bags, make my bread and haunt the heck out of everyone about showering time and leaving lights on! It is hard to live simply as you said but every little bit helps!

  11. I too will freely admit that living a simpler life is hard work. I too am learning not to comment on others "unfrugal" ways and just show by my example that anything is possible. My family are supportive although sometimes even they think I go too far! -lol-
    Thank you Rhonda once again for all your support and advice.

  12. Thank-you Rhonda for this blog. I am learning so much!

  13. Maybe in the quest to get a partner on board (because they live with you and you can't just ignore them completely!) you need to look at the areas they're most likely to cave in on first.

    We have been growing more and more, which we do happily together (taking turns of distracting the toddler) and now I think if we find a place where we can keep chickens, and a little less conveniently located to the pizza shop, my partner will come around even more of my way of thinking. For others maybe it's the science of great bread making, or the possibilities of home brewing.

    Or maybe (like my Dad when Mum was having solar panels installed last week) you'll have a partner who just looks bemused and lets you carry on with your thing while they keep on with theirs!

  14. Thank you for this post! Today I just told my principal that I will not be back to teach next year. It is another step we are taking in living our dream of a simpler life as well. You are such an encouragement to so many of us on this journey!


  15. Rhonda Jean,
    I have been reading your blog for the past few weeks now, and look forward to it each day.
    I am 'starting small'.
    I began by using and making my own cleaning products, using recyclable bags when shopping, cooking from scratch, growing a few herbs, budgeting, using a change jar, decluttering and getting rid of all the STUFF I had accumulated over the years,etc.
    I think if you try and implement things all at once it just feels too hard and you end up stuck doing nothing, so I plan on adding more Simple things one at a time.
    Last night I had the following conversation with my 19 year old son.
    Son: "What are you knitting mum?"
    Me: "A dishcloth."
    Son: "Mum, you can buy dishcloths at the shop you know. Why would you bother knitting one?"
    Me: "Because I can", I said with a smile.
    Best Wishes

  16. My family call me the hippy. My friends laugh at my ideas, but are starting to ask me to help them garden after I feed them food from my garden. There are some people who were very close friends who are now people I only occasionally speak to but still care for, and other new friends who have started to come into my life. I am looking forward to moving into my own home, paying it off, but also creating an environment where people who live with me and visit will come into a culture of simplicity and sustainability. We'll see.

  17. Hi there,

    I am visiting for the 1st time and I must say that I love your blog! So many great things to learn here. I will be back to visit, for sure!

    Wonderful post!

  18. I take the baby step approach. DH already thinks I'm crazy so no problems there. I just started doing things and he has only commented once or twice but it can be hard.

  19. Hi Rhonda. Thank you so much for all your inspirational writing. I'm a single Mum, living in the heart of England and for many years I've been yearning for, (and dipping into and out of!), the simple life. Recent life events have made me question and re-evaluate what it is that I want from life - and then I was directed to your web page. The Universe truely does provide. I only found your blog on Monday but already it's become a daily, 'fix'. Many, many thanks.


  20. Anonymous - Carla is right, its never too late to live the life you want. I'm 59 and also fairly new to the simple life. I reduce, recycle and re-use, grow a few veg in pots, and make a lot of things that I would previously have just run to the shops for. I have a lower income now than ever before (I'm on benefits in UK) yet I have more money than ever before. Please give it a try, even small steps will bring you a lot of satisfaction.

    Thank you Rhonda Jean for another great post. I hope you have a great weekend with your visitors, and have a wonderful birthday (I believe it is this weekend?):)

  21. Another great post Rhonda

    I think that once you get into the swing of simplifying, it doesn't really take that much longer than convenience living once you've taken into account the time spent driving to and from shops, queuing at checkouts and walking the endless miles round and round the ever bigger shops.

    I don't know if Delia Smith is known to you in Australia, she a cookery writer and TV chef, but I thought you might like to read a review of her latest cookery series here in the UK

    It makes me want to go and weep.


  22. Thanks for this Rhonda Jean

    My Hubby and i are both committed to this way of life and have done all we can from our current home

    We plan to continue the good work our next step is sell up and retire (hes 53 me 38 )the final shove was his dad passing away a few weeks ago ,he worked his whole life and had dreams for his retirement which were taken away by serious illness taking hold soon after he stopped work

    The new attitude at our place is live your dreams now

    My parents have been very supportive as my dad too struck down early in life with a debilitating illness my sisters another story!!Designer labels and homes are the order of the day but she will see in the end we are not crazy!!

    Thanks for your affirmation

    Sharron in the uk

  23. Rhonda Jean,

    Trying to explain Voluntary Simplicity to those that don't know about it is very difficult (I'm still learning about it).

    I'm one of your few male readers (based in the UK). I'm on the path and my girlfriend is slowly coming round.

    'G' is into shoes, clothes, and handbags, but I do see little changes here and there. I haven't pressed her on issues because I think that would just cause her to back off. Instead, I try to lead by example (I've produced a budget sheet for her, and we've discussed it. Now I'll leave her to decide if she wants to use it. I'll continue to use mine though). Last night G told me that she'd decluttered a lot of stuff and that she thinks she has too many shoes so she'll give some to her sister. I can't believe that she said that. I just hope she doesn't replace them.

    I'm also taking pride in repairing things at the moment. I've had the needle & thread out repairing a duvet cover, a pair of gloves, a jacket and an umbrella. G thinks I should take up cross-stitch with her but I told her that I'm happy with repairs but I'll leave the artwork to her.

    We're hoping to buy a place together next year and we both want to grow our own vegetables and have a few chickens.

    We're getting there slowly :-)

    Yabusame (in UK).

  24. YAy! elegant frugality!

    great post Rhonda!

    At first, Mr Duck Herder thought I was BONKERS, but bit by bit, he has fallen in love with the ducks and the chooks, collects the eggs, lets them out and locks them up, and through sometimes helping water the veggies with me, is slowly learning about different plants and fruits. He would never SAY it, but I think he likes being different and doing things a bit differently - he likes living in the crazy house with the farm in the back yard now......

    love to you!
    duckie xx

  25. Your post today is so timely. Just last night I tried for the umpteenth time to talk to my husband about our retirement (he's almost 65 and I'll be 62 on Tuesday). His answer to my questions/comments about how are we going to provide for ourselves at retirement is "Oh, I plan to be still working at age 80 and you worry too much and there'll be a way and we've always made it before". I love this man with all my heart, but I want to lash out at him whenver I feel the burden of planning for our retirement falls completely on my shoulders. We don't have a lot of debt, but we also don't have very much income. He's self-employed, so how ever long he can work is how long he'll earn money. I don't want to work outside our home forever and I don't want to depend on "we've always made it before". We can live more simply and be able to have a good life - it takes planning and some work. I have to be honest: until I read your post this morning and thought about one of your earlier posts where you put your plan in place without actually clearing it with Hanno first, I was ready to just say to dear husband "Okay, since you won't help me figure out our future and you won't discuss it, I'm going to do it my way and you'll just have to go along with it". Hmmmm...might be the start of an argument if I said all that. What changed my mind about saying that to him was your post. I think I will just quietly and calmly put my plan in place and see how that works instead of beating up dear husband for his lack of involvement. Thanks for the reminder that just because one person doesn't see eye to eye with another doesn't mean you have to give up.

  26. You've hit the nail on the head with this one, Rhonda!

    I told my mom the other day about my desire to have chickens... she reminded me about Bird Flu.

    I told her about my interest in making my own soaps... she reminded me how inexpensive soap was and how my grandmother made soap... once.

    I told her about my wish to make homemade bread... she said I would ruin my neck kneading all that bread dough.

    I told her about my curiosity about fermented drinks like Kombucha or kefir... she said I would poison myself.

    I told her about my dream of having a big, sustainable garden and greenhouse so I can put up foods and feed my family... she said I'd get botulism.

    so, I decided I would not share any of these dreams with her anymore, not because I don't love her or respect her, but because she doesn't share the same vision as I do.

    you know what? The first time I dropped off a loaf of my bread at her home, she called me later and asked where I bought this amazing bread. I smiled on my end of the phone and told her I made it myself. She said I could drop off a loaf anytime I wish.

    It's like the old kid's story, The Little Red Hen... "Who will help me eat the bread??"

    You're a major inspiration to me, Rhonda.
    Thank you!!!

  27. Rhonda Jean.... WELL SAID!!! :)
    Beautifully written, it CAN be done, but your mindset has to change... exactly!
    If I could see you right now I would give you a big ole hug!
    Love to you!

  28. I have a tried to set my family on a good start down the voluntary simplicity lifestyle, but I have one major issue: my husband spends money. He spends it on hobbies, mostly, or if I fail to pack his lunch, he buys lunch. The hobbies are expensive-- a boat ($$$$), a welder ($$), driving around all weekend to wherever($$+). I have to ask for help with this: how can I get him to scale back on this stuff, or find cheaper hobbies? I have hobbies, too, but they don't cost hundreds of dollars per weekend (a lot of it the cost of fuel).

  29. I know this is totally off-topic, but I'd like to suggest a possible future swap. Since most of the swaps involve crafts maybe something to hold sewing or knitting supplies would be appropriate? I think this would be quite fun too.



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