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15 December 2009

Living a deliberate life

I enjoyed your post. I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? I have tried to be more deliberate in my life, but I have children and I teach them at home. It's certainly a challenge to take from your posts and apply them to my busy life, but I have learned from you and the others. What's really working for me is to take one change at a time. That was great advice. ~ Anonymous

This is a comment from those made yesterday.  I'm sorry I can't name the person who wrote as she is only know to me as anonymous.  Anonymous, I wanted to address your comment today because I think "living deliberately" can confuse some of us.  My interpretation of deliberate living is that I have intentionally taken my life in the direction of my values.  I needed to sit and think, and  I needed to work out for myself what was important to me.  I knew how I didn't want to live, but what exactly did I want?   When I changed, I knew I didn't want to keep spending and rushing around like a loon but I had to replace that with something, and that required me to decide on what my core values were and how I could live by those values.

Essentially, I deliberately focused on my values - generosity, kindness,  independence, self reliance, self respect and respect for others - and I made my everyday life reflect those values.  That, to me, is living deliberately.  You make a deliberate decision to live a certain way and every day make sure your life stays true to that.  It sounds like a huge commitment, and it is, but it is done in small steps, every day, without fail, deliberately following that path.

I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau about 15 years ago, well before I made my changes towards simplicity.  I have no doubt that book, and in particular this quote below, influenced me more than anything else; although I didn't know it at the time and only made that discovery in retrospect.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience ... 

It still takes my breath away to read those words.  I am trying to live deep and to suck all the marrow out of life; I want to know if life is mean or sublime, and I want to know it by experience.  I do not want to read about it in a magazine or a blog, I want to truly experience my life every day, and every day it is deliberately focused on the values I want to live by.

Now to answer your question: I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone?  Living deliberately isn't reliant on who is living in your house. It is the decision to discover your real values and live them, on purpose, everyday. That is important when you're raising children. You want them to reflect and live to your values until they have grown and are capable of making a sound decision for themselves on how they want to live. Hopefully, by that stage, your life and the way they were raised will influence them towards the kind of life you want for them. So for instance, deliberate living would be to decide you want to pay off your debt: you want to homeschool your children: you want to instil in them the values of care for others, kindness and generosity; you want to be healthy and connect with nature. Once those decisions on values (whatever they are) are made, everyday from then on, you would make sure your every day life reinforced those ideals, and deliberately move your family towards them. Every day you would deliberately work towards the outcomes you want by the way you homeschool, the behaviour you model for your children and the example your life sets for those young eyes.  You would make sacrifices to pay off debt, even when it's difficult, you would continue to homeschool, you would plan into your homeschooling a few nature days and read books about the natural world.  You would do all that deliberately - even when it's difficult to do.

Slowing down is another aspect of a simple life.  It's concentrating on the task at hand and being mindful.  It doing and knowing and experiencing what you're doing, and not thinking about what you'll do later in the day.  I've written about slowing down before so I won't repeat that again now.  I hope I've answer your question.

Walden, and in particular the quote above did more for my resolve to live as I do than anything else I've read.  As I said I read it many years ago, but reread it when I started to live a slower and more deliberate life.  That second reading made me certain of the truth of Thoreau's words and I have tried to live true to them ever since.  Walden is available free online here.   I have it quietly tucked away on my computer and frequently revisit it.  It is fine inspiration.  It's not an easy read because it is written in the vernacular of the 19th century, but if you decide to take it on, I'm sure you be rewarded for the effort.  It would be a great holiday project to read a little bit of Walden every day and if you do that, I hope you gain as much as I did from it.


  1. I have always loved Thoreau and am pleased to have seen Walden included in your post today.
    What a fantastic theme you touch upon.
    Tracy (Brisbane)

  2. Thanks for that Rhonda, what a thoughtful couple of posts :)

    It's so important to focus on your values, and make sure the things you do reflect them, even if that's a long term aim.

    I turned down a job offer today which went completely against the grain. But for me it's about priorities - I need the time more than the money right now. I don't have debt right now, so I don't have to take every money making opportunity that comes my way. I know I'm going to have a busy few months ahead, and this job would take time away from the things I WANT and NEED to do.

    That's a deliberate choice for me, one that helps me work towards my goals of getting this (seemingly never ending) PhD finished, of moving on from my existing job to something more interesting, not just 'something else'.

    It also reflects my values of giving myself time and space, focusing on things that are interesting to me, and spending time with my family (among lots of other things!)

    Thanks again - it's always fascinating to read about your thought processes and how you make the decisions you've made.

    Best wishes,


  3. This an important time of year for me when I re-evaluate my reasons for living as I do. Putting myself back on track if I've lost my way or not as the case may be. Planning my next stage.
    These last couple of posts have been well timed for me to do this. A reminder to check my values.

    thank you so much Rhonda, this life is much more than the physical things we do. It,s just as much about our frame of mind.

    Pippa xx

  4. I'm slowly realising that the busier I am, the more I can get done if I do slow down and focus on the task at hand, finish it and move on. I enjoy stuff more that way too.

    It's not always possible in a world that expects us to multi-task, but when I can do what you say and slow down and focus, everything goes a lot more smoothly.

  5. Patricia in DenverDecember 15, 2009 7:23 am

    I have taken Thoreau's words to heart as well. Although I work full time outside the home towards becoming debt free, I know that will take years because I still have a large mortgage. My husband has been out of a job for over a year with no prospects in sight. Thinking out of the box and not wanting another "job", I decided to sell my crafts. I enjoy crafting very much and every few months I have a "show" in my home. I make several hundred dollars each time so it helps with the bills. I am much more self sustaining now than ever before thanks in part to your blog, and true to my own values. I know I can manage things and I am happier and more fulfilled than I was when I was living the "Great American Dream". Thanks for being a mentor to me.

  6. Even tho it was hard with little kiddies, working outside the home, volunteering, band practices with the kids, horseback riding lessons, etc., etc., it was possible to do some things deliberate and focus on teaching the children values and showing them what was important for their parents and what road we hoped them to follow.

    But, she is right. Sometimes in that world that she is in now, it is impossible not to have to multi-task and just get some things done just because you have to do them at that time and in that way.

    But, I think the secret is to keep your eye on the goal for your life and don't be upset if your path takes you off the road now and then. Just get back on the road!

  7. That was an interesting comment. I live my life more deliberately *because* I have children and educate them at home.

    When my oldest was an infant - maybe just a few weeks old - I was driving to my SIL's house and heard a man on the radio say "Most people live their lives on auto-pilot, just doing what is easiest, and wake up years later not knowing how they got to where they are and having used up years of their lives in the journey." The SIL I was visiting was just such a person (and still is) and I made a decision right then to live deliberately.

    For me, of course that means moving in the direction of my values, but that movement is the result of taking a moment, even if it's just a fraction of a moment, to consider my actions, thoughts, and words. It was a bit exhausting, I'll admit, the first few years of this and at times it still is exhausting, but I'd rather be exhausted in the living of a meaningful, full, well-lived life than soul-dead in the 'living' of a life on auto-pilot.

    I do this, not *in spite of* having children, but *because* of it.

    Sometimes, as the commenter noted, you have to take little steps, but in taking the little steps you just have to be cognizant of the other steps you're not able to make right then that you will be able to later.

  8. This is the best blog post I have ever read. Gorgeous and heartfelt writing.

    Thank you :)

  9. Hi Rhonda, I liked your reply to the post, because living the simple life is like you say, its not dependant on how many people live in your home or all the other things you mention. Some people wrongly imagine that lving a simple life probably means that no one else is living with you, and that one does little all day except what they feel like doing. Wrong! The simple life is far from that and requires a lot of work, but the rewards are so satisfying!
    I think because you and Hanno live alone it just gives (wrongly) the illusion that your time is less taken up say by the demands of a family with children. Glad you cleared that point up though!

  10. Rhonda, I do believe you've given Thoreau's words a modern spin. How much simpler to read your lovely post today than to try to guess at what Henry meant all those years ago. You are an excellent writer, dear lady, your blogging should become a book on living. Thank you so much for sharing. Hedy

  11. Very timely for this holiday season and the fast approaching new year as well.

    I too read Walden online, especially if I feel my life is about to jump off the track. A little exposure to 19th century vernacular would do some writers good in my opinion!

  12. For those who, like me, are still stuck commuting, or for those who for whatever reason prefer audiobooks to the written version, Walden is available as a free audiobook:

    I find that for older books, like Walden, where the style of writing requires concentration to follow, audio can be a very good alternative to reading.

    There are lots of other audio versions of public domain books on that site. Enjoy!

  13. I've been meaning to read Walden lately. It's on the list.

    I don't think anonymous articulated it well, but I get what she's getting at. One great thing about this blog is that it shows you a beautiful vision of life. That vision, however, does not mesh well with small children.

    The principles behind this blog do, and should be applied to us young mothers. But as the mother of an almost 6 month old, I don't have a pretty, clean kitchen, I don't have time to make my own soap, I don't have a terribly slow pace to my life. But it IS slower than it would be otherwise, I do lots of more natural things, and I hope to bring up my daughter and any future child with many of the values you espouse.

    Perhaps you could have a guest post written by someone with small children sometime?

  14. Thank you once again for a well written, thoughtful post.

  15. I find that, if anything, having children has enabled me to live a more deliberate and simple life.

    It means I can be at home and have some control over how we spend our days.

    We have a simple peaceful routine and choose not to rush from one activity to the next.

    Feeding the animals. Going to the park. Preparing meals. Visiting friends. Watering the garden. . . and, most importantly, taking time to pause in between.

    I know that I am lucky not to have to work out of the home. But, by the same token, we are not big consumers and being at home enables us to save money in many ways.

    I found it interesting that someone could see children as an impediment to simple living, when for me it has been the catalyst.

  16. Hello Rhonda,
    It's been a long time since I weighed in here but I've been reading your words since you started and I hope you know I still treasure them. This post made me have to chime in.

    I couldn't agree with you more. The only thing that I would add is that that deliberate life changes just like any other life. Values are not static, nor are desires and beliefs. Times will come that hard decisions must be made. (Otherwise I'd still be posting on Simple Green Frugal)No matter how hard they are wanted, you have to decide to stand by what is important to you and yes, that is living deliberately!! Well said as always my friend.
    very best to you and best wishes for the upcoming holidays!

  17. Thank you for this post!

    Would you be able to write a little more about "I had to sit and think" (and what was the trigger for this, apart from Walden's powerful words) - this part of the process of becoming clearer about your values and how you wanted to live your life.

    I wanted to know a bit more about how you do this. Do you sit quietly or do your ideas/thoughts come to you when you are working around the house or reading? Do you make time to do this life thinking? Are you constantly evaluating "maps" and goals?

    You've mentioned it before - reflecting and thinking deeply about life, in a conscious manner I mean - ie being mindful about your life, or living a mindful life.

    Your blog does read as if you do lots of reflection and then decisions on living your own (and Hanno too) life. That's my interpretation anyways!!

    Thanks again. No rush on the answers to my questions or no need to blog about it, I just wanted to ask and know a little bit more about your reflections.

  18. Hi Rhonda - Magda here again.

    Forgot to ask - what's helped with this process of becoming more mindful. I know you said sitting and thinking, but what has helped with this - decluttering? savings? talking things through? reading? evolved over time?

    Thought I'd ask just in case you were going to write something about all this...!
    Thank you!

  19. What an interesting post. I am a regular reader of yours and although do not always comment I find your writing very inspiring.I often ask myself how it is possible to convince other members of the home to change their way of life and I wondered if you had any suggestions on this issue.

  20. What a great post. I think 'living deliberately' is the key, and that can mean many different things. I feel as though I lived about 10 years of my life on 'auto-pilot' (as Sarah comments). The awareness of life and living wasn't a sudden revelation but crept up on me, although I think it was always there in the background waiting to be awakened.
    Btw Rhonda - I made butter from your instructions yesterday and it was very successful and so easy to do. Delicious too. Teresa X

  21. I can definitely see what you mean by still being able to live deliberately with small children at home as far as the big picture. As a homeschooling mom of four (9, 5, 3, almost 2) and one due soon, we choose our family activities so that we're not at practices each night and so on. At the same time, "simple" to me probably isn't the same as "simple" to Rhonda or someone else with grown children. I try to make a lot of our own foods, have tried my hand at soap, and so on, but just keeping everyone fed three meals a day usually takes precedence over say, making my own vinegar. We just have to do what we can at each stage of life, IMO, and keep our focus on the big picture.

  22. I have enjoyed reading your blog today for the first time I hope I have also chosen a deliberate life. What has bothered me of late is the time I spend on the computer...sometimes I wonder if we have just substituted one busy work for another yet we feel better about ourselves because we have eliminated spending money etc. I have read Thoreau but though I enjoyed the thoughts always found him to be a bit of holier than thou...I hope to spend a month by myself this summer and re-evaluate things

  23. This post really, really spoke to me today. I've been feeling confused lately as to what I'm trying to live for, how I really want to run my home, etc. I need to stop and look at what I believe in, and how I can live it. I need to look at what I place value on, nice things for my home, or truly being a frugal, wise person free from debt and living in a peaceful home.
    I've been wanting to read Walden for sometime; it's on my Christmas list.
    Thank you so much for this timely post. I really needed it. You always seem to put into words what I can't figure out. Thanks again.
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  24. I love your eyeglasses! Could you tell me the brand of frames?

  25. Dear Rhonda ~ I have bookmarked the Walden site, and started reading it last night. Thoreau's writing really touches my heart.

    I'm sorry I didn't know when I was younger the things I've learned and am still learning about living life meaningfully, each moment of every day.

    I am so glad to have found your blog, and enjoy visiting and reading every day. I've still got to go back and read older posts.

    I hope your younger readers will be inspired greatly to live simpler lives, instead of being caught up in the mainstream of living, which is materialism.

    Thank you for your insight and your inspiration. You are a blessing to many.


  26. Honestly, some of these comments made me laugh because I was thinking the same thing!

    I too turned down a job offer, like Jenni, to finish my long-time-coming PhD (I should be done, God willing, in August 2010!) and take the time to find the right job, not the first job, that came with that PhD.

    I also have small children at home and believe it's been easier for me to simplify and live deliberately. What do I want my children to know? Do? How do I want them to behave? Am I the kind of example I'd want for my chidlren? (Now, that's a tough question to answer - trust me!)

    I do have a ways to go, but your blog has definately helped Rhonda! I doubt I'll ever have chickens or a garden larger than a few tomato plants but having such a fine example of living deliberately is a blessing!

    God Bless,

  27. Rhonda, what a great sharing of your thoughts today. I am bringing my copy of Walden (which I have actually only read bits and pieces from) over to the chair where I read. What a good idea. I am older and without debt or real financial worries and just trying to construct my life since the death of my husband two years ago. I'm involved in helping a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in my township and looking for perhaps one other volunteer activity. I like your ideas about mindfulness and not multitasking. That's a challenge for me, but when I succeed what awareness of peace and happiness I have.

  28. as you know, i love thoreau as well. my fav quote in life on my side bar... i think i feel a thoreau blog comin' on!

    godspeed my friend

    God bless as well!

  29. I stumbled upon this blog via the soul mama blog and have loved reading a bit this morning, one thing I wanted to share in response to trying the live deliberately with young children at home: I too find it challenging but keep trying to focus each day, if today crumbles due to too much on the plate I will try to regroup tonight and start fresh in the morning and so it goes is you intention that the kids feel! A wonderful resource for me has been a book by the name of "At home with Holistic Management, creating a life of meaning - by ann adams" well worth the read and the time investment to set you on a very deliberate path!

  30. Right on. I just posted on my blog about woman and motherhood and didn't realise that what I was trying to do was to encourage women to live more deliberately. It's all about being slow and deliberate and purposeful and present.
    Thank you.

  31. I think for those who are curious about how to live a deliberate life with small children, the blog is a perfect read. When I need peace and inspiration for parenting small ones, Amanda is the first place I turn!

  32. I had to smile when I saw this title. As our lives have changed so much in the last two years, I have switched from thinking it is a simple life to that it is a deliberate life. It isn't simple-- meaning easy--in most things. But it is our choice. We live as we do now because we decided we wanted a different life.

    We have a two year old, a four year old and one more on the way. It would be easier to just spend my days driving from store to fast food place to activity after activity. Instead, we are deliberate. I chose to stay home most days. Creating a life from scratch-and most of our food-requires that someone be home to do the work.

    I certainly wasn't raised this way. I have had to completely change how I see life and learn some useful skills, for, in spite of an excellent education, I had no idea how to care for myself or my family.

    Blogging and reading blogs has changed my life by allowing me to learn how to do the things I was never taught. Freeing myself to make mistakes, to throw out my old ideas of perfection have made a world of difference. This blog has been one of the most practical, inspiring and useful that I have read!!! Thank you Rhonda, for sharing your life with us.


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