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6 January 2010

From the archives - Building your simple life (October 2007)

As most of your know Hanno and I took the plunge a few years ago and stopped working. We now use the hours we used to sell to others on ourselves, making an interesting life on our own little patch of Australian earth. I sometimes get emails from younger readers asking about living simply while working for a living. I've said many times that you can live simply anywhere at any time. Simple living has little to do with location, income or age, it's primarily a state of mind.

I want to emphasise first that your simple life isn't a cookie cutter version of my life, or someone else's life you've read about. Every single one of us creates our own version of what our life is. If you were intending to live forever in an un-simple world, you know your life would differ at many points to your friends and neighbours' lives. The same applies to your simple life. There will be points of similarity and points of difference but I hope that many of the new things you incorporate into your life will be environmentally sound.

I believe the best start to any simple life is to decide what it is you want your life to be, write that down and make that the focus of your new life. Know where you're headed but then work with what you have right now. If you feel like your life is a bit out of control, start with small steps towards the life you want - all those small steps will add up to make a big difference.

Work on one goal at a time, you'll probably find that whatever you work on will lead on to other things. For instance, if you want to change the way you shop for groceries, focus on that. You'll find that when you get into it, you might want to plan your menus, you might decide to stockpile, and to declutter to make a space for your stockpile. You might start cooking from scratch, so that will involve learning how to do it and finding recipes your family enjoy. The same will apply if you decide to grow vegetables. You'll learn all you can about gardening, but that might lead you to worm farms, compost heaps, chickens and preserving.

Forget all the grand gestures - small things matter. Make your lunch when you go to work, take a thermos flask of coffee or tea, always take a bottle of water with you when you go out. Your water bottle should be one that is reused many times. Stop buying water unless you absolutely have to. Add the money you would have spent to a change jar. When it's built up, pay it off your credit card debt, or pay an extra mortgage payment. If you have no debt, start a savings account to help you buy your own home, or donate your savings to your local homeless shelter or neighbourhood centre.

Say NO. Make your time your own, stop giving it away to insignificant things and people. Make sure the time you spend away from your own home and family is spent in the most worthwhile way. Time is really all we have. Use the time you have wisely. Stop shopping for junk, stop going to shopping malls - they will create a need to spend, if you habitually watch TV, stop. It all wastes your time. When you have some spare time, do something you love. Write down what you value and make sure you spend your time in line with those values. Now that you're living in a new way, you'll shed a few things that you used to do but now get in the way of living the life you want. Stop multi-tasking, stop living on auto-pilot. When you decide to spend your time doing something - be mindful of what you are doing. Concentrate on your tasks, think about them, make sure they matter and do them well.

Find beauty in your own life. That might be through obvious things that everyone would recognise as beautiful, but it might also encompass a passion for bee keeping, teaching yourself how to speak a foreign language or volunteering your time to a local cause that means a lot to you. Create a new standard of quality for yourself. Make sure you do everything to the best of your ability.

Learn to be frugal. Reuse, repair, recycle and make do with what you have.

There will probably be a long period of time when you feel like you're using simple living strategies but not really living simply. But you will come to the point when you feel it all falls into place and that you've built your version of a simple life. And when you do that, when you reach a point when you feel comfortable with your life, you know you're growing stronger and what you're doing is significant, you will begin to thrive and then no other way of living will be good enough for you.


  1. I really enjoyed this post from your archives today. It's something that I need to remind myself of often- I can identify with feeling a sudden "need to spend" when I go to malls and etc.
    Thank you so much!
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  2. Rhonda, Thanks as always. I love to read your blog first thing in the morning with my coffee. It focuses me for the day ahead and reminds me about where I want to be and want to go.

    Today was a timely reminder. I have been feeling overwhelmed - as mum of 2young boys and with Christmas - all my simple living projects have just seemed to be extra work and I am just feeling tired. Time to take a deep breath and slow down - I do not need to make all the changes tomorrow - lol.

  3. I like the idea about writing it all down. I have been taking inventory of my life for the next year. How much it helps to see it on paper!! They say you are more apt to do what you write down. Thanks for another great post, Rhonda Jean.


  4. Good morning Rhonda,
    The one thing that really stood out for me this morning was " When you decide to spend your time doing something - be mindful of what you are doing.
    This statement will go into my journal today. It is full of wisdom. So often I flutter through my day and forget to be mindful. Thankyou for your timely reminder.

    Blessings Gail

  5. Hi Rhonda

    Ditto to fitzba. I too look forward to reading your latest entry while drinking my morning coffee.

    I'm a stay-at-home mum to 2 little girls (3 & 1). Your blog has really inspired me to live our life more simply.

    Money is tight and we have more bad debt than I am comfortable with. I'm confident that by living a more simple life and applying some of your ideas then we'll be able to dig ourselves out of this rut while raising our girls in a loving "simple" home.

    Thank you. I'm really loving your "From the archives" entries too at the moment.

  6. This is what I have been doing for the past year. We have changed to a much simpler lifestyle than we had before and I am making many more things from scratch, including bread. I really like living a simpler life. It's extremely less stressful.

  7. I am loving your blog! You make me pine for Brisbane though, left just over a year ago for Sydney!

  8. Yes I truly believe in living simply. I am about to become an empty-nester so simplicity will be even easier for me to achieve. I have lots of plans for changes to take place when it is just me (in a couple of weeks time).

  9. Thankyou Rhonda Jean, I have only been reading for a little time. I've recently given up a stressful job to look after my hubby who is on lengthy sick leave, and we are enjoying the pace, slowing down, reading more, thinking more, exploring our local environment more.
    When I worked, tasks were always half done cos I was out the door for a shift or dreaded night duty, and then I was exhausted and the whole half done task started again.
    I look forward to building my vege patch.

  10. Thank you Rhonda. I am guilty of multitasking all the time and not being mindful. Today I want to focus on that. As well, I will take time today to write down some of what I want my life to be like.

  11. Your comments on time are particularly true. For me, most of my motivation to the simple life (a bit of a misnomer, IMO)was because student loan debt after University meant we didn't have anything to spend. I did quickly learn, don't bother to go to a store, shop with a list, make what you can, etc.

    Every now and then I am starkly reminded how precious our time really is. How important it is to make sure that we are spending our time where our priorities lie and not allowing other people and things determine how our time is spent!

    One last humorous story from around here... for Christmas the kids requested new slippers. Someone bought them slippers. Then the requested that I make them 'your slippers'. (knitted ones) I made my DD a quick crocheted pair that she wore out in 2 days and am now finishing off the last pair of the knitted version (takes about a day a child-size pair). Says my son and daughter, "Mom, they don't make 'em like this in the stores!"

  12. Dear Rhonda
    Just want to say thank-you for your post today. Recently I decided to give up my very small part-time job realising it was costing me to go to work then the other way round. I also Decided to give up my university studies I realised that I had achieved my personal goal and all I was paying fro was the stress and the feeling of anxiety that it was causing me. Initially I left both occupations to care more for my partner who is not as well as we would like and take more time to be with my beautiful father. Like a lot of people I thought that I had to sweep through the house in one go in order to make things work, then I came across you journal and realise nibbling away at a ask in hand is OK. So far I have empted a small cupboard and NOT re filled it! Sent what I didn't want into the world of freecycle. Even had time to make and finish a small Christmas present for this year. I think the way forward for is to nibble. Thank you for all you share it realy is quite empowering.
    Rachel, Plymouth Devon England.

  13. Thank you, beautifully written as always. You keep on inspiring me to change my ways, even when the forces of habit and "convenience" would pull me back in.

  14. My worst time waster is the TV. I find it very difficult to pull myself away from it.
    This is something I am working on this year.
    Do you think there are any tv anon groups around? lol

  15. Excellent post!

    If you don't need much, you don't spend much. There is a big difference between "want" and "need".

    - Sheryl

  16. You are so wise. Thanks for all your advice, I love it.

    Thanks again


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