DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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5 August 2015

Living better with less

It was really wonderful receiving so many comments on Monday's post from people I've "known" for a long time. Thanks you to all who commented. It made my day.

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We quite frequently read about how people lived through the Great Depression and how many thrived in those demanding conditions. The lack of money, jobs, food and housing certainly made life difficult for almost everyone back then. And yet many people who lived those years say they were good, the tough times brought families together and valuable lifelong lessons were learned. I understand how tough times can teach frugality, appreciation, unwavering responsibility and courage but I think you have to be in the right circumstances to appreciate the lessons. If you're scared and hungry, every life lesson is difficult and maybe you feel too desperate to take much notice of anything except where your next meal is coming from or how to pay the bills.


I think you learn a lot when times are tough and also when things are going well. No one is born with a life manual, you do your best, and live with the consequences of whatever you do. But sometimes something comes along that will knock you over and through no fault of your own, you might be out of a job, go from full time to part time work, lose a partner, or your home. When the global financial crisis started in 2008, there were a lot of big changes and many people lost their home or job, and sometimes both. Lifestyles changed and many of us looked for ways to be frugal while living a good life. And here we are now in 2015, still living frugally, the world economy is still recovering and life has changed in countless ways. Many of the new ways of living we've adopted since 2008 are more sustainable. We're eating healthier and fresher food, we've changed the way we prepare food and shop for it, and for many of us these new ways will remain, even if the economy returns to what it used to be.


Because, just like the Great Depression, this long recession we're having is changing our mindset and showing us that modifying old ideas of how to live fit very nicely into modern life. Even with the recession, we've made many improvements to our lives while living on less money and being thrifty and sensible. We are recycling and mending now, we're cooking more of our own food and we're mindful of many things such as the importance of family and community and the insidious impact advertising has on us.


Simple living has taught me that almost everything is a series of small steps. What you see in someone who has "made it", or look like they have, is only part of the picture. That person got there one step at a time doing who knows what to get to the point you see them at. Those who don't have much are the same, it wasn't one big thing but rather many small steps to get to that point.  And so it goes with working your way through a simple life. It may have seemed like a huge decision to change how you live but after that, it's small steps. You start with one thing, that leads to other options and by taking one step after another, you reach another point.


It's certainly been a time of change. The recession has reminded us that we're not helpless and that we can do a lot more for ourselves than we had grown to believe, and those things can be life changing and enriching. I think you know what I've learnt along the way but I'd be interested in knowing what you have learnt in the past few years. What have been your good changes - both the big ones and the small, those things that even if the economy improves now, you won't go back to what you did before?


35 comments:

  1. We were not particularly bothered by the depression, but from 2008 -2014 my husband was a student, we lived of my wage but we also had goals to pay of student loans, part of our mortgage, had to pay for the study and had 2 daughters. So we had to be careful with our money, and I discovered the power of budgeting: knowing what you can't and CAN do with your money. I also discovered - via your blog, and others - the fun of running your household and doing as much as you can by yourself. I think the most important realization was that money equals time. The money you earn, is paid by your time. The time you put into your house, the garden, cooking, saves money. And than it is up to us to choose.

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  2. My changes are so vast, not just because of the recession but because it collided with me becoming a single mum! I'm not sure which had the biggest impact. I've had such a journey and I am Much more conscious of the ways I can save money by using less heating, growing our own eyc. It has helped me as the more I've learnt how to save money I have realised that I am helping save the world too!

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  3. We make much more food from scratch and actually purchase less food which means less waste.. There was a time when I just automatically put certain things into my cart at the store without really thinking and often those things were thrown out. During the recession years we paid off our house by putting every dollar that we could spare toward the mortgage every month. It really made us rethink where our dollars were going. It is real peace of mind to know that we own our house free and clear no matter what happens now.

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  4. I started my simple journey not that long ago and now I'm wondering why I didn't start any sooner. Before I had my kids I worked 3 jobs and my husband had a full time job, we lived in a small apartment and some how we never had any money, I still don't understand why was that. Few years into the future and I'm a stay home Mom to two girls, we have bigger apartment, we live on one income and life is better, simpler and we are happy. I changed few things, like I bake my own bread, preserve, grow what I can on my balcony, make my own ice tea, soap, laundry powder and I hang my loads to dry. Simpler live is so much more fulfilling. my blog: www.simpleinbigcity.blogspot.ca

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  5. I think the most important thing I've learned, and from which so many other things trickle down, is that I don't need what society/other people tell me I need. By taking a step back and evaluating my means, my lifestyle and my tastes, I've been able to see more clearly what it is that's truly essential, and focus my energy on *that*. It has been liberating and empowering, and I'm thankful every single day for this clarity of thought!

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  6. That picture of your tea cup next to Jamie's blocks - such a powerful statement there with so many unspoken positive messages. This made my day and made me appreciate the input of my own grandmothers when I was a child. Oh, and how true is the small steps concept.....small steps are not my natural forte (I am used to having to kick big hairy audacious professional goals every day at work) but I have been forced to accept the small steps method as the best and most enduring way to change our lives......incremental and sustainable.

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  7. Just yesterday, while I was waiting with my young son at doctors, I struck up a conversation with a lovely elderly gentleman who told me about his times as a child in the depression. While he spoke about being hungry, his father out of work and so on, he spoke so fondly of his mother and how she managed to make a meal "out of almost nothing" for him and his four siblings. I was so glad my young boy got to hear this wise man share his story of living without and being grateful for the simplest of things.

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  8. Our timing was wonderful; in 2008 we sold our house and most of our belongings and moved into a tiny motorhome to go touring this great country of ours. Talk about a crash course in minimalism! Now that we have come off the road again we still own few clothes and just barely enough furniture and we are happy this way.

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  9. Its never too late to start. The more you slow down and take the time to create for yourself the practical and simple things life has to offer the more enjoyable and abundant everyday becomes. I'm so grateful I have found a more pleasurable way of living instead of letting it pass by like I'm sure so many other unfortunate people have. Thank you Rhonda for shining the light x

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  10. I one of those that have read your blog for a long time. My grandma other taught me to be frugal and I never new what I was doing was special or different to what others were doing. But then I read your blog and suddenly I realised that yes not everyone knew how to be frugal or live simple. So you, and a coupe of other blogs, inspired me to start my own blog. Now people all around me were suddenly interested in what their bizarre friend was doing. Having chickens and growing vegetables. It was so nice to be part of a community who understood what I was doing and why. After 20 years of Marrage, raising my family and trying to build a business through the recession we had to have we paid off our home. I was a stay at home mum. No second income for us. If we could do it. Anyone can. Now seven years later we are empty nesters. And still we live frugally. Not because we absolutely have to. Because it's just who we are. We live by the motto that you never know what is around the corner. Always be prepared. And it's very nice knowing that what ever comes. We can face it. It's not a horrid Spartan way of living. It's a blessed way that shows you what really matters, family, health, compassion, kindness. You get to concentrate on those because the worry and fear of unexpected bills and unexpected issues. Are limited because you have prepared for those

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  11. I'm currently reading a book called "The Narcissism Epidemic" which, in part, delves into the GFC. The authors suggest that the acquisitiveness that preceded the GFC has been reigned in by some of us, they certainly endorse small steps as the means to a happy and sustainably green life.

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  12. I stumbled across this simple life and your blog about 2 years ago now. I came down with a chronic illness and went from working 2 jobs, rushing here and there, buying clothes, shoes, food, whatever to fill up a void and because I thought that was what made us all happy. We luckily had a small manageable mortgage but the purse strings were well and truly shut. Things are a bit better now financially and the biggest difference now is that I really, really think before I purchase something - especially clothes and shoes. I haven't brought new shoes for over a year where once it was almost a fortnightly purchase (!!!) because I just had to have them for work. We rarely eat out any more and I just enjoy cooking from scratch and my husband has unearthed a love for gardening so now our backyard has only plants and trees we can eat from.
    The word "enriched" really spoke to me in your post today...my life, although a daily battle with illness, is so much more enriched and I can even say I am grateful for the wake up.
    Warm regards, Jan x

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  13. I was listening to a radio broadcast here in the States today. The discussion was about the possibility of a financial crash later in the year and how most Americans wouldn't know how to live on less. I thank God we have had lean years and now in our 60's, we have skills to see us through. I have been encouraging people to stock up on my Saturday posts and to gain skills.

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    1. I live in western North Carolina and yes, there is a lot of speculation about a huge financial crash possibly coming this fall. There is a lot of economic instability as Greece and Puerto Rico have defaulted and in Venezuela there are food riots which the media are not reporting.
      And you are right. if a crash occurs most Americans are not prepared and most are used to things being readily available. I think my fellow Countrymen are in for a rude awakening. I was brought up knowing how to grow your own food and live very frugally but a lot of people here are used to fast food and instant gratification. I am not an alarmist but I have always kept a pantry, saved my seeds etc and I encourage everyone else to stock up and prep.

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    2. I have been reading a lot of a potential economic crises this fall. I am stocking my pantry and doing what I can to be prepared. My employment situation has been shaky for a while as well so it will never hurt to have some stock in the pantry

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  14. My parents used to say that you work with what you've got and another goodie is, In your lifetime you cross a lot of dry gullies. My hub and I have been married for 35 years and right now we are crossing one heck of a dry bumpy gully and the way we have worked with it is hub has taken a job in Melbourne with our son to bring home the bacon for us to carry on. Theres no time on then time off and while we miss each other we know its what has to be done, He is with our grandson and loving seeing him so much. I couldn't go as we have pets and chickens and so on so I am holding down the fort for us up here in Qld. People say to me I couldn't do that or I couldn't do without this or that. Well,they haven't been in a tight spot because this is a good one. We also survived the 17% interest rates of 1987. We wont give up and I think its brings out a good side that sometimes is buried when you can buy what you want. When times are good again we will look back and say that we made it once again. I have always made a lot of own food yogurt, bread and such but for time being its just for one. I one thing I do know you are never too old to learn how to do something. Thanks Rhonda for your blog. love it

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  15. My daughter has recently left her marriage and is feeling the pinch a great deal...there is no internet at home now and the boys (8 and 6 yrs) are outdoors all the time playing on their bikes, playing "table tennis"/cricket, soccer with their feet in a pillowcases, visiting neighbours, going to parks and the seafront together...all great pastimes instead of sitting at computer games. In the evening they colour together and then have an invented by Mum bedtime story. (Just saying)
    coffeee Sue

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  16. Thank you, Rhonda, for prompting me to reflect on the last 7 years and be grateful for lessons learned. Two days after my 60th birthday, at the end of 2008, I lost my job. The company where I worked was bought by a competitor, and we all lost our jobs. It was tough. This wasn't the time in my life when I thought I'd be starting over, but I rolled up my sleeves and dug deep and took one day at a time. And I made it through. Thankfully, many folks made it through.

    Seven years later I'm proud of where I've come. I lost my house and most of my investments, but what I gained turned out to be more valuable. I know that sounds trite -- but it's true. I'm a widow, and my kids are grown, so when the food was scarce, I was the only one hungry. I dusted off old cooking skills and started making simple things that didn't take a lot of expensive ingredients.

    And I learned that I could use my skills to help others. Making soup from leftovers turned into a class I teach, and sewing gifts and toys from my scrap stash turned into an Etsy shop that brings in small bits of income. And every little bit helps. It's humbling to realize that earning money from the words you write or the items you make is so hard. But it's a reality check that I needed.

    Now when my grandkids come over, they don't know my house is rented. They just enjoy picking veggies from the garden, working on messy art projects, and cooking meals from scratch. The love we share isn't determined by my position in the corporate world. It's about spending time together -- listening -- telling stories -- and enjoying every day for the adventure it brings. I don't plan to ever retire from this life, and I'm thankful every day for health and family and a warm bed.

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  17. Much has changed for us in the 10 months since our son died. I have gone from working to not working and we have moved to a place where we now know no one except our employers whom we knew before.I can barely take one day at a time but I TRY and do something familiar every week like some knitting. Last week I was thinking about sewing and brought 2 classic patterns---1 a gored skirt and 1 a pinafore. The jersey I am knitting is classic too and I decided at my time of life it is more frugal for me to make classic clothes that will hopefully last me a good few years or even until my time to go "home" arrives. I found when I looked at these patterns I had no stress to do with the construction of the garments come upon me. They were straight forward.

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    1. I can't imagine what you've gone through this past year. Hanno's daughter from his first marriage died many years ago. He told me it's something you never get over and there is never (that horrible word) "closure". He said that with time you just learn to live with it. I hope you can do that and I think sewing and knitting might help you do that. Keep coming in here to read, comment when you can and email if you want to. I send much love to you. xx

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    2. Thank you Rhonda Jean. Your words comforted me to know that you do truly realize how we feel

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  18. I have learned I don't always need new clothes or shoes. I have had one pair of sandals all summer and while I keep threatening to buy just one pair of flats, I have yet to do so. Cooking more at home and being inventive is something I learned while reading your blog back in 07 or 08, MY GOD LOL, and I am eternally grateful for all the knowledge you have shared along with pieces of your life. I think just being prepared, knowing how to get by with bare bones for a meal is not a bad thing. Sometimes you have to be inventive and I do that, even when I have stuff in my pantry. Sort of like practice you know?
    Another thing is not to eat out almost three - four times a week. Amazes me we even did that to be honest. We still like a good take out meal, but if it is once a week, we are lucky.

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  19. During that time we not only started living more simply, but we also became parents for the first time in 2008, at which time I left my full-time job--so it's all tied in together and the last seven years have been full of changes. We moved out to the country a couple years ago and started keeping chickens--I don't think I could go back to flavorless store-bought eggs (which are becoming more and more expensive here due to the avian flu that killed millions of laying birds). And we just put in half a dozen peach trees (a local nurseryman is retiring and had trees at an amazing discount--we couldn't resist), along with some citrus. We are slowly making steps to settle in and grow more edibles. I am going to give making my own laundry soap a try when I run out of the bucket of detergent I bought years ago. My daughter is wanting to learn how to knit, and I'm delighted to help her learn. As you say, it's all a process and there are so many steps on the journey--it's kind of amazing to look back and see how many we've taken!

    On another note, I always love seeing that beautiful teacup in your photos--it's lovely, and makes me smile every time I spot it in a post. :)

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  20. When my husband died, I decided to continue to work part time while the kids are at school. We have learnt to go without and make do, more than we thought we would ever have too. Our school holidays are spent national parks, with bushwalking and swimming always a must. And bike riding the local trails is also free! We grow a lot of our own vegetables and have our own chooks, so we always have something on hand for meals. Learning to be frugal and sustainable has been life changing for me and my children and I know that what we have learned in the last few years will hold them well for their lifetime (and maybe the earth will be a little better off too!)

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  21. I've learned to live by my values. Sometimes I feel very different from other peers. I don't like shopping, I tend to consider a day without spending to be a "great" day. I don't drink or smoke, and my home is the centre of my happiness. This can at times be lonely. My kids (21 and 23) feel their mother is odd. But you know what, being true to yourself is more important than following a crowd. And this Blog re-affirms my choice in life. We may not be plentiful in one location, but we are not alone!

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  22. Foe me, it was about leaving the rat race. I had worked as a Registered Nurse for over 30 years most of it in Critical Care. I was burned out physically and mentally and on August 12, 2013 suffered a stroke which required 3 months of PT, OT and ST. Eventually I was able to return to work but now I work prn {as needed} in the ICU. I average maybe 1 - 2 shifts a week. The rest of that time is spent helping my husband on our farm. Life has never been simpler or more rewarding. I feel like at the age of 56 I have finally started living and have never been healthier or happier.

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  23. We have some huge changes over the years also, we have gone from a single wage earner( my husband) working away for 2 weeks at a time and me a stay at home mum to 3 great kids, to empty nesters(with hubby still working away. We were not rich by any means but thought nothing of shopping and buying whatever we wanted food wise, the large shopping centre was a short walk( and an even shorter drive)
    Since then hubby has retired 10 months ago and we have moved full time to an off grid property in the country, where our local small town is about 15 minutes drive and a larger supermarket is about 40 minutes away, and larger shopping centres over an hour.
    I have learnt to make do, bake a lot more, do without, and I have developed an obsession of pressure canning(preserving) meat and vegetables. We now have very few bills and pressures l compared to the old life and the calmness is wonderful.
    We now have chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat, we raise Dorper sheep for meat, are establishing a vegetable garden and try to save money where we can.
    We have a busy full life now and are very content. More is not always better.
    take care Rhonda, this was a great post and I have enjoyed reading all the wonderful comments.
    Cheers,
    Jane.

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  24. i've been on the frugal path for some years, not all the way at first as i didn't know how powerful it was to be a homemaker back then, when i saw rhonda on, i think it was the today tonight show? (gosh can barely remember that now) i knew that's what i was looking for, of all the 'sustainable' & 'self sufficient' sites i was searching & coming up empty, she was it & it was rhonda who made me realise that it was up to me to make the change, it was also the basic living (simply) that i was looking for; i started reading her blog for inspiration. i also stopped spending on clothes & shoes too & started looking at what i already had & i started buying from op shops, looking for better quality clothing instead of the cheap stuff that never lasted the season. i still have a lot more to learn & a long way to go but it's all thanx to rhonda that i am no longer 'lost'.
    a great post as usual & i could go on & on & on here but think i'll stop as most others have already said what i want to say more of too
    thanx rhonda & hanno for a wonderful blog & showing us that we too can live simply
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  25. Hello my dear friend. Long time…
    With regard to today's post, There are so many temptations out there to spend your hard earned dollars on. It’s ridiculous! I’m trying to teach my teenage children about spending their money wisely these days, Recently my 17 yr old son went away for a week with friends, I gave him his spending money and after three days he was ringing me for more, it appears he was indulging in Oysters Kilpatrick and Scotch Fillet steak at a local restaurant each evening!! He knows he should have been at home cooking up noodles, or toasties but he was spending my money just because he had it. He has the skills to cook up many basic meals and I’m not ashamed to take him to the grocery store and buy items from the reduced section of the supermarket. (I even make him add up the bill to see how much money we have saved each time). It’s about not going overboard, learning and using basic homemaking skills and practicing healthy budgeting so that if you do find yourself in a situation with no work or low money, if you’re using those skills in your everyday life anyway then it’s not such a hard hit in the face. What happens when he leaves home and goes out on his own? I worry, he’ll either rise to the occasion or I’ll go broke!!

    Now, Blogging. Thank you Rhonda for your link from the Weekends reading. I’ve been thinking about getting some kind of a new hobby lately, you know with all that spare time I have on my hands...! I've been having a mild identity crises ,my days consumed with housework, life chores and running around here there and everywhere with the children, I’ve lost a bit of My time. My eldest daughter has been telling me to blog again because she remembers how much enjoyment I used to get from it. We used to have a lot of internet problems and then I had computer problems, it was just a chore in itself wasting time trying to blog, My life has also been busier as my children get older but I have just been putting it off, I don’t know why. Anyway, I've been putting it out to the universe and for whatever reason I jumped on my computer yesterday to look at my blog, I noticed my stats were high and upon investigation discovered you had sent a number of visitors my way. Thank you, what you may not have noticed was that the post you linked back to (my most recent) was actually July 2014, 12 months ago. It’s funny how things work out isn’t it, I needed a push to get back onto these pages and you just got me up on my feet again Rhonda without even knowing it. Thank you for sending over some new friends and inspiring me once again to keep going. I hate it when life gets in the way of my blog! I just have to find that balance now and continue what I enjoy.
    Lovely to be in touch again
    Karen x

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    1. Hi Karen. HA! Well, I didn't even look at the date. I just thought your blog was current. It had changed since the last time I visited and I loved the thought of you being back again. So maybe it was meant to be. Welcome back. :- )

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  26. I could say exactly the same thing : living by my own values. I didn't learn the lesson with the GFC, but through a marriage that didn't work out. I let myself totally depend on someone else that (I learned too late) didn't have the same values as I had. I have learned that money really doesn't make happiness, because the most financially comfortable period of my life was also the most miserable. By picking myself up, retraining, finding a part-time job and going back to my own true self/values, I found happiness. Having (a lot !) less, but being in control, is the key. As once I read, "to be the captain of your own ship, no matter the side of the boat".
    The sense of being in control, for me, also comes from knowing how to mend, fix, cook from scratch, preserve, clean, and doing so in a manner that doesn't hurt the earth. I know that I can go probably a good week or two without having to enter a supermarket if I have to, because I did it already and there was no horrible feeling of missing whatsoever. I can live without buying clothes or makeup, without knowing all the latest trends.
    There is this feeling of being part of a bigger whole, respecting it, appreciating the little things like the glorious sunrise on my balcony, having plenty of water from the tanks to hose the garden. When I bought this house, my very first move was to install solar panels and this is the best, best decision I took. Not having to worry about paying a huge electricity bill is such a relief. For me once again, it's all about being in control and making sound, reasonable (to me !), sustainable decisions. I don't care if my kitchen is not fancy, delicious meals are made all the same. Very little technology also here, happy kids running wild in the bush (they call it the jungle), making "nests" and "spying on the wildlife", cuddling them every night while reading a book all together, this is priceless (and free!).

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  27. Hi Rhonda. I really appreciate your blog and reading all the comments. I am learning and relearning skills and that I need to let my creativeness come out again. Thanks for all the things that you share with us. Have a blessed day.

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  28. I so love to read your words of wisdom, Rhonda. You are so secure in your little corner of the world living as you do. Each word you write inspires me to go the distance paying down my debt while living a good life on very little. Thank you for your blog.

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  29. I just love your images of everyday life ...so very interesting and inviting...

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  30. Thank you for inspiring me to take all the small steps I need to in order to make big changes in my life. I have just recently come across your blog, and I'm so glad I did. Due to health reasons, I cannot work outside the home any longer, but that doesn't mean I can't try my hardest here at home. I'm taking all your words, and learning as much as I can.

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