DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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11 July 2013

How to start your simple life

It's perfectly clear that we're not all the same. We're different ages, with children and without, married, single, straight and gay. And within all those differences, there are the personal preferences we all have. So given all that, why would there be only one way to live a simple life. The truth is there is probably a version of it for everyone who wants to live it.

Seville orange marmalade.

This is the question I'm asked more often that any other. How do I start to live a simple life? I can't tell you that, no one can. This way of life doesn't follow a formula, that's one of the beauties of it. But even if I can't tell you how to start, I can help you get started. Take some time out by yourself and:
  • look at your own life
  • work out what is important to you
  • identify what you don't want to change as well as those things you're longing to change
  • identify what you're having trouble with now 
  • identify what you think you can do now
What you're trying to do is to find happiness in your daily life by modifying the simple and ordinary things you do everyday. Some of the things that will help you do that is to: cut back on your spending and identify what you need as opposed to what you want; pay off debt; cut harmful chemicals from your food and from whatever you bring into your home; home produce what you can; respect the land you live on; try to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses you're responsible for; become a part of your neighbourhood and community. There will be other things that are important to you, but those I listed are often a part of everyone's list.

Always remember that there is not one big thing that will make a huge difference in your life - it's an accumulation of small changes that will make the difference. I think the most effective way to start is to focus on what you're doing in your life now or what you want to do. Those first two categories will help you decide what you want out of life now and maybe what you should focus on. So are you a mother? Are you working outside the home? Are you a carer? Are there other people you have to consider? Your personal circumstances will dictate to a certain extent how and what you can do.



What don't you want to change and what are you hoping to change?

Are you currently having trouble paying off your debt? If so, start there. Get a notebook and track your spending for a month, then set a budget. Refer to last week's posts on how to do it.

Are you wasting too much food? Start menu planning, set up a stockpile, stop shopping so often, clean out your fridge and pantry and start from scratch.

Do you want to buy organic food and can't afford it? If you have a back yard, start setting up a vegetable garden. Ask your friends to see if you can share an order from an organic supplier. If you still can't afford it, or can't grow your own, you'll have to settle for fresh and local. Don't regret that, just get on with it. When your circumstances change you may be able to change that too.


Are you suffering with allergies or health problems? Start green cleaning, get rid of all the chemicals in your home and clean with the basics - soap, borax, washing soda, citric acid, bicarb and vinegar. There are recipes for green cleaners on my blog and those ingredients are all you need to make them.  Start cooking from scratch too. Try to eliminate all the preservatives, colourings and additives possible from your life, particularly in your food, drink and what you use to clean yourself and your home.

If there is nothing that you're having trouble with and you can find no real way into simple life, start with food. We all eat everyday, so that's a good place to start. Work out how much you're spending on food, identify how much you should be spending, do you know how to cook from scratch?  If you haven't tried simple cooking, start with a couple of dishes you know your family will enjoy and when you know how to cook them well, add a couple more. Get everyone in the habit of taking their own lunch and drinks to school and work or when you go out as a family. Make sure you have lunch boxes and drink bottles for everyone. If you want to bake your own bread, work on that. Find suppliers of good flour. Make sure you've got a good bread tin for baking. Start practising. It took me a couple of months before I was happy with the bread I made. Now I can almost do it with my eyes closed. Don't give up.


So it all boils down to this: if you have a particular problem, start with that, if not, start with one of the things we all deal with - money, food or cleaning. Like me, you'll probably find that when you start learning one thing, it opens up an interest in something related. Follow that path. Follow where your own particular journey leads you. Add what you can when you can. Don't rush it. Just go with the flow.

Fresh lemon juice for the freezer. Lemon butter below.


And please, if you can't do something that you really want to do, get over it, you'll make yourself miserable by dwelling on what you can't do. Move on to something else and maybe you will get back to what you want to do at a later time. There are times when it's easy to do certain things, wait for that time. It will come. Always remember, that nothing lasts forever. If you're stuck in a job or a house you don't like, it will change at some point. Right now, bloom where you are planted. Make the very best of today. You won't get it back. Don't try to be perfect, just do your best. And if you can say that you did your best every day, you're on the right track.  Nothing will change quickly, but keep going and when you look back, you'll notice changes, you'll realise you've been changed and you can prepare to go into the future, continuing to take these small, but significant, steps.

Next week we'll talk about the happiness factor and homemaking.

40 comments:

  1. Wonderful, I'm going to look into the things I want to learn and the things that are important to me !! Thank you !!

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  2. Bloom where you are planted. I love that! You are so inspiring, Rhonda. I think that's important to forgive yourself and move on when you can't accomplish something right at the start. I'm guilty of beating myself up for not progressing quickly enough. I've learned these things take time but, when you look back over the years, you'll be amazed at how much you've done and how far you've come. That photo of the bed with the bunnies is SO beautiful! Looks so happy and inviting!

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  3. Hi Rhonda - thank you for this series of posts, they are really lovely. They are like a gentle helping hand each day. Lx

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  4. This the kind of post I love to read Rhonda. I log on each morning to see what you have put up but this is my favourite kind, so inspiring, gentle and encouraging. Thankyou, Kathryn

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  5. Hi Rhonda

    Letting go of the things you cannot change (at the moment) is so important. Mine is working full-time and being out of the house more than 13 hours at least 4 days/week.

    Working full-time means that we can pay off our debt faster. This is imperative in my opinion as we are in our mid/late fifties. In the meantime, I can still do many things that fit with the simple life. They also contribute to the debt reduction plan.

    We always pack our lunches. We have chickens and a vegetable garden (which we are working on extending), I use green cleaners, and cook simple meals from scratch.

    People wonder how I find time to do these things but if you are not shopping for entertainment and wasting time and money on frivolous activities there is actually plenty of time. I do not have young children to consider, either.

    There is certainly something for everyone in the goal of simple living. Thank you for opening our eyes to this.

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  6. The warm fireplaceJuly 11, 2013 7:47 am

    The points to contemplate are so very important, it is something i will discuss and look at with my husband in our journey towards a more simple life, it is so important to stop look around and see where you are and what you would like life to be shaping into, our goals, ours have been small steps, but they become like an avalanche after a while as one thing leads into another, and when you look back and see the money, time, quality of life, e-co friendly lifestyle all link into eachother.
    sue

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  7. Hi.
    Tanx for the advice!
    Love your blog!

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  8. Sometimes doing things we don't want to do opens our eyes to what we really want out of life. I'm currently working full-time and though I do want to continue woking outside the home I now realise I don't want to work full-time. I miss my toddler something crazy! It's startling how much things have slipped with my simple living too. I haven't made yoghurt in a month and I have been wasting food (which makes me sick to think of the wasted food and money) because I've been too exhausted to meal plan or cook what was planned. I'm already counting down the days until I can get back to where we were but in the meantime I'm trying not to be too hard on myself and doing what I can/

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  9. Good morning Rhonda,

    I'm on this simple life journey along with many others. I'm in my late 20's with a husband and 2 girls, 2 and 4. I work as a teacher 3 and half days a week. This journey has been a slow but enjoyable one. I find that as I'm on this journey I take quite a lot of time thinking about the next step and that part is important because as I look back, once I take the step, I never go back to old ways. If people dive into it too quickly and try to make radical changes all at once, it will be overwhelming and they will probably resort back to old habits. Slow and steady is the key.

    One of the first things I did was make the homemade laundry liquid and it seems like agggeesss ago and I still haven't had to make a 2nd batch! Initially it started off as a budget choice and it still is but it is now also a health choice. My eldest daughter has suffered from eczema since a baby and I just realised the other day that I hadn't applied her cortisone cream for months. I'm convinced that the reduction on chemicals in the laundry liquids has improved her skin so thank you for the recipe Rhonda!

    Health and budget is an important factor in my choices on this simple life journey. Lately I have still been under budget and buying my meat and produce from the weekly farmer's markets in Melbourne. However, as debt reduction is a priority (knocking off the mortgage), I'm going to settle for buying cheap produce from the supermarkets that is local. I'm happy with that decision now. We'll be able to reduce our food bill even more, have more produce and meat for the stock pile and add more money to the mortgage.

    The last thing I must add is the question I get when I tell people I make my own laundry liquid....they always ask, does it really work? almost as soon as they ask that question they realise how silly it is...we don't look dirty! :) Have a great day, Jade.

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  10. Hi Rhonda,
    Must say, your photo of the squash.... I didn't have my glasses on and thought that the squash was sitting in the garden bed was humongous!
    :)

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  11. When I first started this "simple life" all the things I wanted to change felt overwhelming. I found it best to choose just one thing to change at a time. Once that felt normal and easy then I would move on to another thing. So, not just thinking of "food" but first I started with finding bulk, organic, local meat. Then it was making bread, then budgeting for better quality, local milk etc. One step at a time. After a few years at it I can now look back and say wow! look how far we've come! And be prepared to start questioning many aspects of your life- things I did just because it's what you do I started to question if it was how I wanted to live. I ended up leaving my work to be a full-time Mum (love it!) and we homeschool now too (also love it!).

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  12. Rhonda, I get so much from your 'back to basics' blogs, this current series reminds me to be content with what we have accomplished so far - Rome really wasn't built in a day! Now that health issues have decided i am no longer in the paid workforce i have more time to spend in my home (& what a lovely place it is to be), & with a mortgage still to be paid a financial reassessment is a priority, this is a work in progress - but one i am finding easier with your help, so - thankyou for your words of wisdom, i look forward to reading your blog every day, Deb M

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  13. Good advice as always Rhonda
    Carol

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  14. Rhonda, so much lemon juice! Did you grow so many lemons yourself? That's wonderful.

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    1. yes Lisa, we have a Eureka lemon tree in the chook run. It produces fruit all year but we have a glut in winter so I juice all the lemons and freeze the juice for summer cordials.

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  15. Hi Rhonda, just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this series of posts. I've always been careful with my money but since having my son 9 months ago have struggled with not having time to do all that I want to, despite still being on maternity leave! As bub and I settle into a routine, finally, I'm renewing my ways slowly, back into careful grocery shopping & cooking more, crocheting after he is in bed etc instead of collapsing into bed. Thank you. Rhiannon in Sydney

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    1. Babies have ways of disrupting life Rhiannon. Just do what you can each day. Your priority is your baby now so slowly getting back into your simple routines is the best way to go. It sounds like you're all on track. Take care of yourself too, love. XX

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  16. Really appreciate this post Rhonda. It occurred to me while reading that the principles that you outline for a simple life would also work in micro for each day.

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  17. 'Bloom where you are planted.' - I love that quote. And good advice too, to do what you can and don't worry about what you can't. As a mum of two littlies, I often have to remind myself not to dwell on the things I'm not doing, but focus on the things I can.

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  18. Beautiful pictures Rhonda. Just this week I started using baking soda to wash my hair with and vinegar as a conditioner. It is working great. We still have regular shampoo left so I'm the only one trying it so far. Feel just like you doing it myself first then hopefully the family will follow my lead. Little by Little More and More. Enjoy your weekend
    Kristy

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    1. You can't change anyone but yourself Kristy. You start doing these things and hopefully the others will follow. That's what happened here. xx

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  19. I just came across your blog, so encouraging. Yes, simple life's look different, but somehow thy are all simple beautiful. Thank you!

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  20. Do u make bread from scratch or using a breadmaker? Why do u need to buy special flour for breadmakers? Is this just marketing? I would to make bread from scratch and need help!?

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  21. You need high protein flour for bread. The protein (gluten) is what makes bread rise. There is a tutorial for making bread on my blog. I sometimes use a breadmaker to knead my dough when I'm busy, then bake it in the oven.

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  22. I've been really enjoying your posts. I'm co-founder of Green Renters, a charity organisation which works with renters to make their homes and lifestyles more sustainable despite being unable to do big structural changes in general like rain water tanks and solar panels. We teach a lot of workshops on sustainable lifestyle and making your own cleaning products, beauty products, preserving etc. It's great to see we share the same perspective. Everyone can do something (if they wish) to make their lives a little greener.
    Cate
    Green Renters
    www.greenrenters.org

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  23. I really want to start doing this. But I feel like my life is in such a state of turmoil at the moment that I can't do the big changes. At the moment I don't even know if my next paycheque will cover the rent and bills, let alone food. And my fiance was fired a few weeks ago and has no income. Anyway, I have bookmarked your posts and will start on small things until then :)

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    1. keep your head up, sarah. i'm currently in a VERY similar boat, along with trying to fund the simplest of weddings. look around you and see if there's anything you can sell for some quick cash (i currently am trying to sell an old wedding dress, consign some clothes i never wear in great shape, and am about to sell an old record player that's "really cool" but that we never use). that might take a while, in the meantime you can save all your spare change in a jar, you can extremely simplify your diet (beans, rice, eggs). when things get tough, ask yourself to return to THIS moment. are things okay right NOW? the answer is usually yes. breathe. no matter how hard it gets, stay connected to your priorities for a simpler, less scary financial life. i have faith for myself, and for you. best wishes. xo

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  24. Hi Rhonda!
    Thank you for sharing with us such wise thoughts as "Right now, bloom where you are planted. Make the very best of today. You won't get it back. Don't try to be perfect, just do your best." I have been following your blog for over one year now, and your words today just made me write my first comment. Life can be easier and simpler, although people close to us may not understand it! Somehow, reading your blog I feel part of a community, and it helps me to continue with my journey!

    I started baking our bread (we are a family of 6, and my 4 sons love to eat bread) and making liquid laundry soap. We also simplified the way we eat, cooking always from scratch but only once a day: if I cook lunch I will do enough quantity for dinner as well, or if I cook dinner I will make more to eat at next day lunch. By doing so I save time and also spend less energy cooking, because I will only have to heat it up (we don't have a microwave!). We stoped ironing all clothes, and we only iron shirts and some throusers or skirts now! We try to live with less: less clothes, less furniture, less television! Do we really need so many thinghs? I think we are trying to live simpler and it feels happier!
    Have a nice day!
    Manuela
    Portugal

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    1. Hello Manuela, thanks for your comment. You are living simpler and I have no doubt that it is making you happier. It did that for me too. Like you I only cook one meal a day and most of the time I cook enough for us to eat it twice. I've also cut down on the ironing. It sounds like we're running our homes in a similar way. xx

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  25. thank you for this simple yet poignant post, rhonda. i've been seeking out words like these nearly every day for the last couple of weeks as i finally begin to truly act out the intentions i've had/been dreaming about/percolating in me for years. i'm definitely starting with money and debt, as i'm terrible with it and i already cook from scratch mostly. i'm also learning how to not feel overwhelmed by eliminating mindless timewasting activities (like Facebook) .... isn't it funny to feel scared by so much wide open time? i'm trying to remember that all change feels uncomfortable sometimes. so on the money thing yeah, i'm starting very small (and pretty much at rock bottom) by sticking to a painful budget for a while. i have a jar on my nightstand which will hopefully fill with spare dollar bills. i'm going to ask myself, need or want? before each superfluous (and maybe not so superfluous) purchase. thank you a million times over for these words. i need them.

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  26. 'Bloom where you are planted' - I love it! so wise, and yet we often need to be reminded of this (at least I do!).

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  27. Your lemon butter looks mouth watering!

    I believe these words of yours need to be scrawled out on billboards across the world:
    "If you're stuck in a job or a house you don't like, it will change at some point. Right now, bloom where you are planted. Make the very best of today. You won't get it back. Don't try to be perfect, just do your best."

    Due to the varying economic rollercoasters that have effected most of us, it is hard to keep your chin up at times. This post is a small reminder that life is not a dress rehearsal and how we should really appreciate the littlest things. Thank you.

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  28. Dear Rhonda, your pictures are awesome, you always make housework look so beautiful! Great post with lots of inspiration, just what I need at this point of time. Maybe it is really the small things that make big changes. I have always been waiting for THE BIG ONE to come...still waiting for it ;-)
    In the meantime, you will find me in the kitchen, checking the fridge, writing down a menu and maybe bake some bread... Thanks a lot! Gabi

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  29. I love how you said "Bloom where you are planted". What a great mindset to have! I love this encouraging post.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

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  30. Dear Rhonda. I read your blog every day and your words resonate with me on so many levels. I have learned so much from your blog and enjoyed reading your book which you signed for me when you came to Brisbane for your book launch. I have particularly enjoyed following your blog this week as you talk about ways to start living simply.
    I am fortunate to have been born a ‘war baby’ in the UK when simple living was the order of the day, we were still getting suger with ration coupons. So it has not been hard for me to go back to living simply as I only had to remember what my mother did.
    I retired three years ago, here in Brisbane, and since then have found myself moving further and further towards the way I was reared - enjoying cooking from scratch, cutting back on chemicals in my home and lots of other ways.
    But the real move towards living more simply was becoming a member of Beelarong Community Farm, working as a volunteer in the community garden and then taking over my own allotment.
    I have always enjoyed gardening but living in an inner-city unit with just a small balcony had his limitations so when I retired I decided to join one of the community gardens springing up around Brisbane. I chose Beelarong Community Farm at Morningside. I started by working with other volunteers in the community garden every Wednesday morning. This was a wonderful way to get to know other members, and I learned from them how to grow vegetables in the Queensland climate. (My only other experience was back in the UK.) I didn’t even recognise some of the veggies we were growing, some seemed very exotic to me, but others at the garden were generous in sharing their knowledge with me and I soon learned how to cook these vegetables. When we had a glut I also learned from them how to blanch for the freezer and I re-newed my interest in making pickles and jams with the overflow.
    My next move was to apply for one of the allotments which surround the community garden and I didn’t have to wait long. A few weeks later I was allotted my first plot of 8 square metres. As other allotments became available I was lucky enough to get a second plot, another 8 square metres. I now grow (almost) all my own vegetables.
    I try to get over to Beelarong two or three times a week, always on a Wednesday morning to work in the community garden and share morning tea at 10am with other members. Usually about 30 of us squashed around a few tables, eating cake, drinking tea and ‘catching up’.
    I have gained so much from the community garden. A lovely group of friends; knowledge gained by watching what others are doing in the veggie plot - I learn better that way; learning what to do with the harvest; new recipes for pickles and jams; attending Beelarong workshops on herbs, worm farms, pickling and lots more; a spell on the committee and never a shortage of veggies on my dinner plate.

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    1. Hi Jean, I think it's great that you've discovered the benefits of volunteering. Volunteer work in a place such as Beelarong can be so enriching and rewarding. I know when I volunteered at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre, I went home happy every day I spent time there. I left after almost seven years and I only left to write my book. Coincidently I went back again yesterday to do a talk on simple living. It was wonderful to read your story, it sounds as if you've made a very good life for yourself there in Brisbane. Warmest wishes, Rhonda

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  31. Beautiful as always. Look at that bread!!! And lemon butter. Oh Rhonda, I wish one day to meet you. Highly unlikely as I live in the US, but it would be a joy.

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  32. What a wonderful thought provoking post! We've started with our food, as you suggested and from that so many other things. We're getting out into the garden more, obviously cooking more and preserving more! Your posts are always such an inspiration!

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  33. it's so inspirational, thank you for it ! <3

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  34. Your words really hit home for me today.

    Grow where you are planted. That's what I'm going to do til things improve for us.

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Thank you for your comment today. I love reading your opinions and thoughts. We have built up a wonderfully diverse community here that I'm very proud to be a part of.

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