DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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15 August 2012

Life satisfaction and constant contentment

I have been reminded of a beautiful part of simple life that over the past few months I hadn't thought about much. I've been mentoring a young woman who left work two years ago, she gave up a career in law, and settled down, very happily, at home with her partner and young children. I met her when she came to the neighbourhood centre for one of my workshops and have seen her on and off whenever she came in for a chat. Early on I showed her how to make soap and bread, I encouraged her to knit and sew and I challenged her to find as much satisfaction in her home life as she did in her career. Yesterday she came to tell me she is there. She found satisfaction and enrichment and for her, there is no going back.

Our washing up doesn't look much like anyone else's, there are usually a lot of jars and strainers.

I don't understand why working at home is seen as dull compared to working in a job or developing a career. Homemakers stay at home for a variety of reasons that sometimes revolve around children and sometimes don't. They know that by reducing the desire for excess acquisition, by shopping wisely and being productive at home, the cost of living is reduced - and then you can pay off debt faster or you don't have to earn as much. Job satisfaction for stay at home mums, mums running a business at home, traditional and radical homemakers, retirees and young couples who have a less conventional work-life balance - is rarely written about, yet many of us experienced it every day and it keeps us going.


I know that when I spend a day tidying my home, getting tasks done, creating comfortable spaces, knitting, sewing, or getting a casserole or soup ready for the evening meal, nothing beats the feeling of enrichment I get from just being there and doing it. I just know that this is right for me. I feel I'm increasing my self reliance and that on the day when I choose these activities, even if they're repetitive and might have to be done again tomorrow, I am giving a gift to myself and my family just by doing it.

Jamie exploring the garden and having a snack.


Making things we need, like soap, cleaners, bread, jam, sauce and jumpers, quilts and baby clothes make me feel I'm worth something, that what I know is valuable and that I haven't sacrificed my life skills for the sake of convenience. When I do these things, and much more, I know that I can do for myself and my family, that I don't have to rely on buying these goods from a shop, and if I continue to do that, we will not only get by, but thrive. Any work that you find meaningful - either paid or in your own home, done with love and appreciation for the opportunity, settles on your heart and nourishes your soul. My days are filled with days like that and the satisfaction it brings threads its way through my weeks and turns into constant contentment. Of course, not every day is wonderful. There are days when I spill, burn and forget but those days just remind me that nothing is perfect and highlight the good days even more.

Alex watching Chico.

I think the key to finding satisfaction at home and in housework is to dive right into it. Think about what you're trying to accomplish, work out long term and short term goals and then make a plan to carry out your wishes. Work to a routine, take it seriously and know that if you do it well, the rewards will be there for the taking. Think about the skills you have to learn, and learn them. Set yourself challenges - such as "reduce the grocery bill this week by $25" or "make laundry liquid and do a one month trial of it". If you don't know where to start, start with what you need to know first. So if you want to have the family sit down together to a good home cooked meal every night, but you don't know how to cook, teach yourself and get better every week. If you've left work to have a baby, start with preparing homemade baby requirements - teach yourself from books or the web, or ask other modern cloth and natural living mothers - they will share and, I hope, encourage you. None of us is born ready to cook or sew - these are learned skills. You will challenge yourself to learn these things, to keep at it until you become competent, but even the challenge of the tasks will improve you, make you more resilient and tougher.

Sugar snap peas.

There will be things you can't do well or you don't enjoy, accept that and move on, there will be so many other things you will  be good at - concentrate on them and when you've worked well on general housework, go back to the difficult things. You might find that your general skill level and confidence have risen enough for you to take on your former difficult tasks successfully.

But never give up. Never, ever give up.


You do have to try, put in the time and effort - nothing good comes easily. We all need to work for what we want and instead of thinking that it's all too difficult, start at the beginning and move slowly ahead. That is how I started, it's how most of us do it. Forget instant gratification - nothing worthwhile is instant. Satisfaction builds gradually, along with your skill level and what you'll develop that into is a life worth living. You have it in your power to make your family life wonderful. I love listening to people talk about their childhood in reverent tones. It may not have been easy but those who can say they love their family and have fond memories of home have those memories because someone knew it was important enough to work for. And always in the background there would have been that life satisfaction and constant contentment. It is there waiting for you too, although it is one of the many things not available at any shop or mall. These precious commodities are home-made and hand-produced and available to all of us who put in the work and then slow down enough to appreciate them.

51 comments:

  1. It is so easy to get overwhelmed when trying out something new. I think we could all use your friendly reminder, new to simple living or not, that nothing happens overnight, it take time to learn these skills. But once you have them they are there to serve you for a lifetime. Thanks, Rhonda. Oh, and when we did the dishes this morning Matt remarked on how it was almost exclusively jars!

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  2. Hello Rhonda,
    How very true all this is. I have been at home many years. I do a bit of office work to bring in a little cash. It is hard to change some things, I'm not that tidy by nature, but when I roll my sleeves up & get cracking, I really feel happy, I look around our home, thinking if I could be like this everyday how much easier things would be. I think I'm getting there, slowly but surely. Diving in is the best way, it's no good procrastinating, I know, I've been there. best wishes to you & your familAngela (south England) UK

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  3. Thanks , Rhonda . I needed that inspiring post this cold wintry morning...now off to tackle my tasks with gusto.

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  4. Rhonda, I just wanted to thank you for your words around this topic. We made a sea change and with it left my successful career behind, assuming I would find the same kind of work. I didn't find work, but did find myself pregnant with our third (surprise) baby. Since then, I have been gradually moving towards a simpler life, reading blogs such as yours (I picked up your book on the weekend, too). The hardest part hasn't been the 'doing', but changing my mindset to feel worth in my work at home. This morning, I know I am still learning, but I feel a great sense of satisfaction with fresh bread in the oven, baked treats ready for morning tea and real fresh coffee being sipped. So, thank you. :)Sarah

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  5. I have recently lent your book to a good friend, telling her how your philosophy of life resounds so strongly with me. We have our own piece of heaven in the Hunter Valley and so enjoy living our version of the good life. Thank you for your encouragement, your honest and balanced posts. And welcome back - it was lovely to drop in and find you " home" this morning. :)

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  6. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for a lovely post today. I feel relaxed and happy having read it and nodding and agreeing with everything you said.
    I wish I could give up my part time (school hours) work and work completely in my home, but we do what we have to do to make things work hey. One day I will be a full time homemaker and in the meantime I enjoy all the time at home I do get.
    The photo of Alex watching the bird is just gorgeous - he is so intrigued!
    Have a lovely day
    Sarah from Jimboomba

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    1. Hello Sarah (I really enjoy your comments). Yes, we all do what we have to do - we are all at different stages of our journey. The key is to enjoy each stage and do the best you can do during every stage. There is no destination for any of us so we must make sure all our stages enrich us and prepare us for what will come next.

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  7. Hi Rhonda,
    I read your blog every day but rarely have anything to say, today I do however. I spent many years hovering between career and home. My job as an infants teacher was very rewarding and I really felt I had a worthwhile profession. But working full time was coming at a dreadful cost to my family. Rushed early morning routines, shouting at children to hurry up, no time to listen to anybody. At the other end of the day, I felt exhausted, had nothing left to give to my own childrwn and dinner consisted of food out of a box. At the start of this year, I decided to stay at home full time and see how that felt. I am lucky to financially be in a position to do so. Well, every one is happier. The kids have my full attenrion. We all eat home cooked all the time. The grocery bill is halved. As I type this, my youngest is lying sick on the lounge. She is not well and will stay home from school today where I can look after to her and nurse her back to health. In my previous life, a sick child was a disaster. Yes, Rhonda I am happier than I have ever been in my life. And more importantly, my family is happier too. I love your blog, thank you for all the words of wisdom you contribute to my world each day.

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    1. I'm smiling here and really pleased your transition went so well. I hope your child recovers quickly. Take care, Vanessa.

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  8. Thank you for writing this, and aways being such a source of encouragement. It made me a bit teary-eyed to read it, and to be reminded that there are others also striving and struggling and counting the small successes in what I've found to be the most challenging work I've ever done.
    -Jaime

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    1. It really makes a difference, doesn't it, Jaime. Knowing others are working in the same way always encourages me. I hope you have some small successes today.

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  9. Rhonda
    Your post is so true and encouraging. Jamie and Alex are adorable, I love seeing photos of them wondering around your garden. I am instantly transported back to my grandparents garden and all the precious memories of them and their garden. Have a lovely week glad to see it is warming up slightly and the mornings are getting lighter now in our part of the world.
    Lors

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  10. Thank you Rhonda. Just the post I'm needing right now. Re-assurance is good thing and nobody says it better or with more encouragement than you :)

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    1. I'll second that Tania, and add that your blog is also very encouraging and reassuring especially to me.

      cheers Kate

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  11. Great post! Inspiring and well said!

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  12. I can only really repeat what other commenters are saying in thanking you for putting these gentle reminders in - they always seem to magically come at challenging times when we are questioning our drive to be home focussed.

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  13. Thanks for another beautiful post, Rhonda.

    Madeleine.X

    PS: while you were away I reread all of the post under 'cutting back' for inspiration - what a treasure trove :)

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  14. Thank you from me too. Eighteen months ago I had a car accident that has changed my life in every way. No high paying job or career satisfaction any more. When I first found your blog, it made me so happy that I could give my household the same dedication I'd given my job, and the rewards are so much better. I'm not making a 'fat cat' richer, I'm nurturing my family. Thank you for making me feel worthwhile again!!

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    1. I'm sorry to read about your accident, Elizabeth. Lives work in strange ways sometimes. My god daughter, Casey, was in an accident when she was 22 and she will spend her life in a wheelchair. I think I understand how difficult it is when life dreams are not realised. Hopefully your life will be full and satisfying and your dreams will come true, but in a different way. xx

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  15. Hi Rhonda, I've never posted a comment before but I read your blog daily and have a copy of your beautiful book. Last night things really fell apart for me (emotionally) and I had a solid hour-long sobbing-style cry. I was just feeling overwhelmed with being a mother to three and the seemingly endless demands. Consequently I have a rather large headache but your post has made me feel a lot better and I will get on with the day knowing that not all days are great (as you've pointed out before) and I can only do the best that I can do on any given day. Thanks again for your help - I really mean that. Your suggestions, advice and reading lists have really provided me with nourishment and inspiration. Sincerely, Laura Matheson (Perth)

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    1. Laura, I just wanted to take the time to let you know that having a cry is a good thing and picking yourself up is even better. Young children do seem to have endless demands, but they aren't endless, and end all too soon, although it never seems like it at the time. Try to take some time for yourself, even if you're really busy, and keep doing your best. Some days that will be absolutely brilliant and somedays it won't be. The trick is to be okay with both when they happen, remember that you're doing your best and be kind to yourself. {{hugs}}

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    2. Thank you so much for your kind response. I'm happy to say that I did pick myself up and experienced a day with renewed perspective and purpose. What you wrote about young childrens' endless demands ("but they aren't endless, and end all too soon") resonated with me deeply since I grapple with my guilt over feeling overwhelmed and stressed-out when I know that they are young and need me (and want to be with me) for such a short space of time. I never want to wish this precious time away. I couldn't be luckier to have these beautiful people in my life. Thanks again, Laura

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  16. Oh my goodness, that Jamie is such a little sweetheart! I love your post Rhonda... it really speaks volumes to us all about satisfaction and contentment in a lasting capacity. The satisfaction of buying something is so short lived... making something from scratch (on the other hand) brings long lasting satisfaction that is beyond compare :)

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  17. g'day rhonda
    and a lovely day to you & your family
    thanx for your encouragements here, struggling is what i do best i feel, slowly getting back into things & with so many people in here for support too. a wonderful post as always & so true.

    have a great day

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  18. Lovely post, Rhonda. I really enjoy your blog. :D

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  19. I love reading your words, they just all make sense to me about my life and what my husband and I chose to do for our family...to stay at home, nurture, care and provide a safe, healthy and happy environment for us all......it is a job, and lately when someone asks if I work? I say yes, I work at home...and leave it at that...they can think that I am making a million bucks in a home business or they can think I am home cleaning and baking cakes...it dosnt matter to anyone else what I do, only me and my family...and I am quite happily being here at home baking those cakes....( I will do the cleaning later!)
    Suzanne...Enchanted Moments...

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  20. I have 4 teens and even though I expected this time in my life to be challenging, I didn't realise how tired I would be. My kids are great kids and so far haven't given my too much grief but they need so much more nurturing and emotional caring for than I expected. Lately I've been feeling burnt out (again) and not finding the joy and pleasure in my role as mother and homemaker, thanks again Rhonda for reminding that what I do is valuable and important, but also that it's ok to rest and every stage is just that a stage which will all too quickly pass.

    But never give up. Never, ever give up.
    I was about to give up, admit defeat and stop some of my cooking from scratch, and home caring things that I do, but no I won't they are important to me and they are very worthwhile. This is my job and I won't do a half hearted effort at it.

    Thanks Rhonda (again and again)

    cheers Kate

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  21. More and more I slip towards a simpler, and like you say fulfilling life. At work the effects of the tasks I perform are far removed from my life, or the lives of my family. Really I am only performing the tasks at work to earn money. Contrast this to the work I do at home and every task is done for a very close and directly meaningful purpose. I work in the vegetable patch to feed my family fresh delicious food, I put the chickens away at night so that they are not killed by foxes so that they can continue to provide my family with eggs, I bake home made snacks so my children have something health to eat while at school, and the list goes on. These tasks are far from trivial, they are the foundation of human existence. Changing the colour of a letter head, now that's trivial.

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  22. Dear Rhonda, i have been fallowing this blog for about 18 months now, this is the first time i have commented, i have always been a stay at home mum now a stay at home granny just like you. The simpler life gives me the chance to have the time to connect with people, i care for our grandsons 2 days a week what a joy, i feel very lucky by life choices we are time rich andliving well on an average income. I bake grow veggies and fruit in our yard, sew, preserve and share with neighbours. but its with thanks to you its so nice to see someone liviing a similar life, i only hope that my life choices set an example for my 3 daughters who may not choose this life style at the moment but see it in action .Never doubt that your blog touches the heart and soul of many readers you and hanno are an inspiration, keep up the wonderful work. thankyou Julie

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  23. Whenever I see food or bread on your blog, it looks so delicious and makes me hungry. You're doing something right!

    By the way, you've been nominated for the Sunshine Award! http://greenbeangal.blogspot.com/2012/08/sunshine-award.html

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  24. Hi Rhonda, this is a very timely post for me! This year I have been grappling with the idea of whether to return to my career, or not. It wasn't hard to leave work when the babies came along, but it has been hard to give away a corporate career I worked hard at and enjoyed.

    With both kids now at school, I felt pressure (from nameless, faceless society) that it was 'time' for me to go back to my life. Fortunately the job promised me fell through - fortunately because my heart was aching and I was a little panicked at the thought of having to go back to an 'important' job and be less available here at home, which is where I'd rather be (even though somedays my world feels very small compared to what it used to).

    I applaud the woman you mention in your post. I feel it takes courage to go against expectations and I appreciate hearing about other young women who forgo corporate careers for a life of simplicity and authenticity. Thanks again, Rachael

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    1. Hi Rachael, it's funny, isn't it, that the nameless seem to always think both partners working for a living is the norm. All those hours and effort you've given to your children will create the most wonderful memories for them, and you. There is a lot to be said for living a simple life and the opportunities it gives families. I applaud you for choosing to stay at home with your children. You and I are both lucky to have had the opportunity of a great career and the choice to give it up.

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  25. Hi Rhonda, some of my best days are days when I achieve my goal of getting all the bedding and covers washed in my homemade laundry liquid and hung on the line on a beautiful suprisingly sunny day. Balancing that with organising an entire renovation of a 4 bed house on my own with a 3 year old the small things often are thre greatest in terms of looking after myself and my family. Looking forward to planting seeds of some lovely bright flowers for some pots that needed some renweal with my 3 year old tomorrow. The funny thing is that most people take these things for granted as I did a life ago, but when you take a little bit of time out and enjoy the moment for what it is that's truely living I reckon. Thanks for the inspiration and spurring to keep focus on what is best and not what is expected.

    Jane

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  26. Dear Rhonda,
    I recently started following your blog and enjoy it immensely. This post in particular I find very comforting and has brought me great clarity. Although I have been at home for many years now I still struggle with the 'should I go back to work issue'. Sadly, we do live in a world where most of those around us do think that both parents should be hard at work away from home. I shall no doubt still struggle with the thought for a while longer but I should just read your post again to remind me that I shouldn't. Liz xx

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  27. Rhonda - I have been following our blog for a few months and have found your bread making tutorials very useful. Please accept a 'One Lovely Blog' award from me

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    1. Thank you for your kindness, mummyhen.

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  28. Rebecca in TassieAugust 15, 2012 8:00 pm

    Hello Rhonda,
    I'm very thankful for your encouragement to never, ever give up! We were spending a huge amount of money on bread (there are 10 of us), so I determined to start making our bread from scratch every day. In the beginning, it was very discouraging, and I certainly was tempted to quit. We made quite a few 'bricks' before my experimenting and tweaking led to a recipe and method that worked well for us (at one point my dear man jokingly said "well, if we make a whole lot more of these, we could build ourselves a house"!)
    I completely agree that you do have to try; you do have to put in time and effort. Sometimes you will feel as though you will never succeed - but when you persevere and achieve your goal, it is very sweet! So, my approach is to tackle one new thing at a time; expecting it to take some time, effort and experimenting as I learn. Step by step, just doing what I can; slowly but steadily building up my set of skills with which I can bless others.
    Rebecca

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  29. Great post Rhonda! Even though I work 5 hours a day, I still consider myself a homemaker. Taking care of the family and the home are not chores and learning new (and old) ways of taking care of them is something I enjoy.
    Sweet pictures of the grand-babies. :-)

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  30. I just love your blog! Your grandbabies are getting so big. You inspire me to delve deeper into being a housewife and creating what I want in my own home. Thanks for sharing your greatness.

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  31. You have a wonderful life! It was so refreshing to read of true contentment in the midst of a world of discontent. Thank you! I was mulling on contentment too in my blog today: http://wp.me/p1RlRY-5s

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  32. Oh my goodness, those beautiful grandsons!

    Wendy from NSW

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  33. Thank you. Your words ring very true with me. I've been struggling with guilt since quitting my job to focus on a simpler life. People don't understand why I would prefer to be at home, making things & cleaning the house, if I don't have a child. I simply want to provide my husband & I with a happy life. Vanessa

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  34. Wonderful wise words Thank You.hugs

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  35. A lovely reflective post, I dearly love being at home, warts and all.

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  36. Hi Rhonda
    I have just found your blog last week, Ive also borrowed your book from our local library and am devouring all the information that it contains, Ive already started saving for my own copy :)
    I have been wanting to live more simply since I quite my job working in a bank when I had my 2nd Son 4 years ago, I made a small start and then got very bad depression and anxiety and have not been able to progress any further, because it all seemed so hard and such a huge task/change and more work for me now with 3 children under 6.
    Today Im going to start at the 1st page of your book and begin planning my own simple life
    So Thank you for your amazing Inspiration, I hope to be able to share my journey with you
    Pamela

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  37. Hi Rhonda,
    Something "clicked" for me when I read in your post today about our childhood memories that we cherish so much. My stay-at-home mom was the one who made sure we had not only what us 7 kids needed but the extras that consequently created the reasons I reminisce about my years growing up often. And even though the world of the 1950s and 1960s no longer exist outside, you show me it can very much inside our homes. I am retiring in 9-1/2 weeks and my plan is to learn and do whatever possible to bring some of those far away memories back into our home now. Thanks Rhonda for all your encouragement! Nancy from Fair Oaks, California

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  38. Hi Rhonda
    My sister recently gave me your book for my birthday and I devoured it in a night. I have always been the quieter type but consistently work myself into the ground in my career, take on extra study and say yes to everything. I have a three year old and even after her birth had only 10 weeks off. My life is crazy, rushed, disorganized and unfulfilling. I yearn to slow down, be a homemaker and not have to send my daughter to daycare full time. However, I feel paralysed to make a change because I don't feel like we are financially able to do so. My husband and I are both teachers and earn a modest income. We live in a suburban area in a modest and older home. We have a few debts but reading your blog obviously there are many one income families so it can be done. Do you or any of your readers have any tips or pearls of wisdom for making the leap? I realize that simple living does not dictate the need to be a full time housekeeper but that is what I yearn for. How did you first tackle the change of finances?
    Thank you for showing me what my heart was burning for but hadn't yet realized!
    Sarah

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