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9 July 2013

Changing how I lived

So far we've gone through listing our values and working out what our priorities are, claiming our home and some of the financial matters that might concern us and help us live within our means. Today I'd like to talk about my next step towards simplicity. And I'd like to remind you again that I don't expect anyone to live as I live, I'm not saying that what we do here is the right way, or the only way, it's just how we did it ten years ago and how we continue to live right now. I hope you'll add a comment about your early days too.

When I closed down my business, I was burnt out and I guess I was stressed. I didn't know it then but  now that I look back I see the signs. In those first few days of being at home, after years of working hard and being raised in a working class family where work was what we did, I floundered. If work had defined my life, what was I supposed to do now? What would happen if I didn't earn my keep?

I began a new phase of life. I woke up in the morning and got my family organised. Hanno was working in a little shop we owned in Montville, Shane was at university studying environmental science and Kerry was an apprentice chef. And then there was me. Me alone in this house that I'd never really thought of as a home. I love the land here, that is what made me fall in love with being here, but my home felt alien to me.

I'd never really kept house like my mother and grandmother had but I remembered what they did and I started doing that, mainly because I had nothing else to do. After a couple of days, I decided there were a few things I could change. I started enlarging the vegetable patch and decided we needed more chickens. I also changed a few of the spaces in the kitchen and laundry because they were quite difficult to work in. Those changes made a difference to how I worked and how I felt about working. It started to feel good, I was beginning to see a purpose.

There was a slow, gentle pace that helped me eased my way through those early days and even though I'd lived there for a few years, I felt like I'd just moved in. I was seeing everything with new eyes and I liked what I saw and how it made me feel. All of a sudden, new possibilities opened up and those possibilities were as exciting to me as any big contract I won when I was running my business. I could see freedom and independence ready for the taking and all I had to do to claim it was to work in my home with the same energy that I used to work for money. I'd still get paid for the work I did but my payment would be better than money, I'd be rewarded with satisfaction, opportunity and self-determination.

In those first couple of weeks, I realised that if I could make the most of the money we had and what Hanno was making in the shop, we'd be fine. A saved dollar was worth more than a dollar earned because we didn't pay tax on those saved dollars. Every dollar we made was taxed about 30 percent, so it was worth 70 cents. Every one of our saved dollars was worth one dollar. It was so clear to me, saving what we had was the key.

I realised the modern way of housekeeping, cooking and buying everything we needed cost a lot more than it did when I was younger. And the increased cost wasn't only because of the passing years, it was because thrifty ways of cooking and efficient systems had been replaced by convenience. I thought about that while I was working in my home, I thought about it while I sat on my verandah with a cup of tea. I decided I would examine the work I did in my home and change everything I could that would cut the cost of living.

So there we were, living on the Sunshine Coast, about to move into the 21st century and I was planning on returning to a slower pace and a gentler time. I was about to reinvent myself as a housewife! I kept it quiet though. My family and friends already thought I'd lost it when I closed down my business, how could I tell them that I wanted to make myself and all of them happy with hot bread, warm soup, fresh eggs and vegetable gardens. No, in those first few months, I had to kept this a secret. I went into stealth mode and started developing a plan.

... to be continued.


  1. Thanks for this post! I have two reactions to it. The first is a little frustration as I know the seasons in our life is different to where you were ten yrs ago. We have 4 children still at home and will be for at least 10+yrs. I have never regretted any season we are in with our family and will not start now longing for something that cannot be. While our lives are "down to earth" they are not quiet and simple. But the time will come when we will not be running like we do with the children and homeschooling and we can slow our lives greatly.

    The second area - I know that there are many things that we can do to cut the spending and save more, so thank you for encouraging us along the way.

  2. "Stealth mode......." - what a fantastic description!

    My introduction to a simpler way of life came from a different angle. My interest in recycling and other environmental issues was well and truly awakened by meeting a couple who were passionate about living the simple life. This was almost 25 years ago when I had 2 young children. In the meantime I have built on that introduction whilst raising a family and working outside the home (often full-time).

    Decluttering, thrift and simplicity are now permanent hallmarks of my life, however, the overarching philosophy that drives me is a desire to minimise my environmental footprint on our planet.

    While it is not exactly stealth mode, I do not always shout what I do from the rooftops. I simply do what I do and try to set an example to those I meet. For example, I have a young colleague at work who always asks me if she wants to know how to cook something (not always completely from scratch - but better than takeaway). She is always keen to report her successes. It is a little thing but she asked me because she knows that I cook all of my own meals as she sees me regularly bring leftovers for lunch or mention what we ate for dinner.

    I am looking forward to hearing the next instalment of your story.

  3. I am really, really, really enjoying this series of posts. It's coming at the perfect time for my family. Thank you so much for writing them.

  4. The warm fireplaceJuly 09, 2013 6:39 am

    It is just great to hear how you started on your journey, i am really enjoying this series, thank you.

  5. Hi Rhonda - wonderful set of posts, this one made me smile, thank you for sharing with us. I too love the description of "stealth mode". As you know I gave up full-time work a while back to be a SAHM so some of what you described in your post sounds like me. I think I am still trying to find my feet in being at home. I do love waking up everyday to know that it is planned how I would like it, I can do or not do the things that I want. I feel great pride and comfort in making my bed before leaving the bedroom each morning, bread, washing liquid, and of course the knitting monster in me loves sewing the dishcloths:) I am slowly working out a schedule for maintaining the house for so long it has been left unattended both working full-time. I found and added to the schedule my first quarterly item at the weekend as I pulled off all of the lounge covers and cushion covers washed and aired everything in the glorious sunshine and what a feeling it was when I put them back on the next day.

    I am learning to slow down and I know that all of the things I would like to get done around the house and garden will get done just all in good time.

    I cannot wait to read your post tomorrow.

    Have a great day.


  6. I think the important thing is just to start. Do something, however small, today. Right now. It's easy to fall into the 'I will be happy when...' trap but you must decide to be happy right now. This is a little challenging for me at the moment but my gratitude diary resets my perspective each night and I am truly very lucky. Simple is bliss.

  7. I found myself at 35 debt-free with no career and no family and with a comfortable modest income.
    It was REALLY confronting.
    I was a bit like you - what do I do now?!
    What am I meant to strive for?
    No career really held any appeal for me and we couldn't make or adopt kids.
    So I went "Xtreme Housewife" - moved to the country, grew all my own vegies and fruit and tried to become as self-sufficient as possible.
    I loved it!
    But then I wanted more.
    I sound absolutely ridiculous complaining - but it's really hard when you are spoilt for choice and you can do anything you want to - you become kind of paralyzed.

  8. Hi Rhonda,
    I love this post, I to are in a completely different situation to what you were, I am a single mum with children at home and a mortgage, trying to live a more simpler life I had never been on a holiday with my children, but since reading your blog and making changes, cooking from scratch , making bigger vege beds, making soap and laundry detergent, meal planning, all these little things have enabled me to treat us to a holiday. Eventually one day I would like to retire debt free, so keep posting all your wonderful posts
    Sharon xx

  9. Rhonda you've touched on the details of your beginning the simple life before, I love this in depth return!

  10. And lucky for all of us that you did have a plan!
    Thank you for your wisdom and the passing on of it to us all.
    I am really struggling to pay bills etc at the moment, due to not being able to work for various reasons.
    I read on a blog, may have been yours! 'To bloom where you are planted'. At first I didn't get this, slowly it sank in and despite my head telling me it's just another twee saying, I am slowly blooming where I've been planted! It may not have been my original choice/place to be 'planted' but, I am definately blooming!

    Sandie xxx

  11. I love your idea of going into stealth mode. So often when we want to try a new idea it is better to mull it over in our minds first. I still have quite a few years work ahead of me, but am looking forward to retiring and spending more time at home. Your idea of a dollar saved is worth a dollar makes a lot of sense.

  12. I can't wait to read the next part!!!

    Angie :-)

  13. I am enjoying the series where you take us back to where it all began and I particularly love how to say that this is the way you do things that works for your family and people can take all of it, some of it or a little bit and adopt or adapt to suit their needs of their family and in what stage of their lives. I think this is the most comforting because you are not being a "preacher" but a "teacher" and I think everyone loves seeing how you can do things differently for a greater reward.

    When I posted my two comments yesterday to "Freckles" the one about the Aldi Cookbook. She pointed out that her husband loves his brands and is not willing to change as he thinks Aldi is inferior. My suggestion was to buy the Aldi Cookbook which was written by a Mum quietly at home testing her own recipes using all Aldi products for one year to see how they were saving money and for quality and taste. She didn't tell anyone just set about to do it (kind of like Rhonda set about quietly doing her thing and even Rhonda has mentioned in earlier posts that she talked to Hanno about it in the beginning and whilst he thought it was a good idea he didn't think it could be done (don't quote me on that but I think it was something along those lines) so Rhonda just set about doing it and after a few months showed Hanno what they had actually been doing and proved that it could be done. The Aldi cookbook is a bit the same....either tell your family and get them to pick recipes out of it or don't tell them and just make lovely meals and I'm sure they won't think the taste is inferior (a little bit of mind over matter). So instead of talking about doing it (changing brands) just do it and make home cooked meals and you could be on your way.

    Also someone else commented yesterday on a divider wallet. I love using cash and some years back bought a Ladies Wallet with dividers and little plastic tabs with little bits of labels to slide into the slots so you can have your money divided any which way you like in your wallet. eg "petrol", "food", "entertainment". You decide. I used this wallet for a number of years until I wore it out and they are reasonably priced for a wallet. If you don't want to spend the money, just throw your lose change into a jar and when you have your $30 + $10 postage (aust) or $15 (international) buy it. It's basically the envelope system without the envelopes and no one would ever know you are budgeting so you won't be in the queue at the supermarket with your little plastic bags of money or envelopes. This is a wallet which is meant for CASH and meant for you to be able to be in CONTROL of your money. I would highly recommend it. I have nothing to do with their product or website, I am just a customer who loved the product and it is a local Brisbane girl as well. The wallet is called the PBO (Personal Budget Organizer). Best to buy it with loose change in your house or raise hubby's suit pants when he gets home.

    Loving your posts Rhonda. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

    stealth mode, love it

    selina from kilkivan qld

  15. I really enjoyed this post Rhonda. What you are doing and saying is very timely. Not just for me, but globally. Thank you.
    Sidney BC Canada

  16. One does need a purpose in there life. Weather it being in home or out in work force. One time I own and ran a ceramic shop. One side of me miss the creative of it but sure don't miss the stress.
    I only wish or work to maintain something in middle of life
    Coffee is on

  17. I found your blog quite sometime ago...and somehow lost it.
    I've recently hooked up again with through 'bloglovin' ...boy! I am so glad that I did that and here you are!
    I'm thrilled to be reading your blog, this post particularly.
    I don't want to go into it here...but I've experienced the Empty Nest and while I don't want to say I have a 'syndrome' ...I have found myself floundering about not knowing what to do with myself. As soon as the kids all moved out, the hubby retired, then had a terrible heart attack. He is so much better now...but I've not found a peaceful quiet moment to gather my thoughts. I'm seriously burnt out--I've forgotten all that I did when the children were young.
    I've become very relaxed in my homekeeping.
    Sorry to go on...
    I just mean to say-- your daily encouragement and writing has been so uplifting for me just THIS PAST WEEK!
    I'm hooked.
    I am hoping to mine the blog for information and do great things with what I learn here.


    1. Best wishes for your husband's continued recovery. I hope the more relaxed rhythms of simple living will lead to less stress and other health benefits for both of you.


  18. The realization for me that a simpler life was what I needed came on thick and fast! My husband and I have changed our garden, taking advantage of everything our rental has to offer, and are working towards a way that I can work less, and be a homemaker.

  19. My son and his family have just been for a visit, five days in all. I had home baked biscuits, slices and ice-cream ready when they arrived. Home made pizza bases were in the freezer ready for home made pizza after the football. My daughter-in-law was surprised to see how easy and quick it was to make chicken nuggets and home made fries for all the kids on Saturday lunch. I was raised this way and like you lost my way during the years I worked, takeaway so so easy and quick, those boxes on the supermarket self so easy to throw into a trolley. Well, becoming unwell, leaving work and having a reduced income also had me thinking I had to change things.

  20. Hello,
    Rhonda, I often read your posts after getting home from work. I feel that I lived a simple life as a child and then got sucked into all the marketing as a teenager, and then as my career grew into my 30's I thought I was very important playing with the "main players". This meant that I was working very long hours away from home and then working more at home via e access. We can really get locked into things without planning it that way. Looking back now with my retrospectascope I really think I missed a lot of my kids growing up - they were in child care!

    Stealth mode is how I need to consider retirement in early 2014. I really want to be able to help my daughters by caring for their children when they go back to work, do more gardening, sewing and help in local community groups. But I am really getting a lot of pressure at work by my manager and work colleagues as they state that I am too young to retire!! If only they knewn how desperate I am to run away and hide for a while in my own home and care for my own extended family. When we are very busy on a bit of a treadmill - often of our own making it is difficult to make considered decisions ... so I have a long holiday planned soon and will plan retirement . Love your posts they help ground me.

  21. A little bit like us when DB had left the RAF, thinking I would be the main bread winner, then I left nursing due to stress - it was either that or drive into a tree:(
    We knew the money we had would not change for 5 years due to converting some of his pension to pay off the mortgage. After all bills were paid, we couldn't afford enough for bills so went onto war rations. Yes it was hard and yes, all family and friends thought we were nuts but it saved us, quite literally. Our son, then 7, grew up really appreciating the value of money and that going without, wasn't such a hard thing.

  22. Great post again Rhonda. Had computer problems recently, so haven't commented recently.
    Back now, & loving it!

    Best wishes,

    Angela (South England) UK

  23. I became burned out in the corporate workplace as well. I had longed for a simpler life for years and had been working toward it when my children were still at home - raising a garden and learning to can. When the children moved out to begin their own lives I went in full force. Like you, I felt my corporate work had defined me and didn't really know what was next when I first left that employment. But little by little I took those steps to self sufficiency. It's empowering to me to learn to provide things for myself that before were purchased. I strive to be gentle on this land so I don't desire many of the 'things' I used to. I don't collect things or boredom shop so our home is now decluttered and peaceful. I love this life and I'm always on the lookout for what the next step will be!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  24. Dear Rhonda,
    thank you for another wonderful post! As some others have commented, this is just at the right point of time. My life has been lying in chaos for the last few years and I am slowly trying to get it back in order (the reason why I started my blog), and there is so much inspiration in posts like this! This is just the kind of life I would love to live, with chickens and a vegetable garden, but at the moment, this is not possible. So I am trying to find ways to make the best of what we have. Like you said, I am trying to make my house a home. Love these posts about homemaking.
    All the best from Germany, Gabi

  25. dear rhonda,

    just a comment as you requested to say these ARE my early days. i'm 33 and have been reading your blog faithfully for the last five years. only now am i ready to put intention into ACTION. fiance and i are getting married in three months and are looking to start a family soon thereafter. no time like the present to make new habits un-difficult and turn them into a happy lifestyle. i feel like blogging about my journey keeps me honest and accountable ... to myself. you have been a constant guide and inspiration, i only needed the time to be ready to plunge, i now realize, but let's be honest i've been taking little dips all along, isn't that how many of us get started? i learned how to cook and knit, get rid of unnecessary items at home, simplify and cozy up our living space, and do hobbies out of the large stash (books, yarn) i have currently. my next humongous challenge is becoming financially stable if not yet secure. we are both at square one on this, neither of us having been taught from youth how to handle money wisely. i am still feeling my feet dragging on this one, but they're moving forward nevertheless. i'm excited to see what the next phase of simpler living brings. blessings to you .... karen in virginia USA

  26. My eyes just welled a little...with a flutter of adrenalin in my heart.
    Perfect time, perfect content, perfect delivery.

    (blog pending ;) )

  27. Oh! Rhonda.
    I sit here in awe.
    You have stated everything perfectly.
    I want to be home again so badly.
    You have made me want to strive to get home more fiercely than ever before.
    Thank you for your words that explain my feelings perfectly.

  28. Your comment "I was planning on returning to a slower pace and a gentler time. I was about to reinvent myself as a housewife", really resonates with me. I am ten years behind you, as this is where I am now, well where I have been for the last six months or so. Slowly slowly getting to where I feel a comfort in my life and my daily patterns.


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