Building your simple life

26 October 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. I think one of the biggest and hardest things for me to learn is to not spend money. I actually have whole days now where I don't leave home and therefore don't spend any money. And sometimes it's really hard. Once I get this one thing down, I think the rest will fall into line.
    REally enjoy reading your blog!!

  2. I can still spend money at home, no problem, if I let shopping is so convenient and can be very addictive. My best strategy for not spending money is simply to plan my expenditures and buy purposefully, no impulse purchases, only what we need and I must say, it really doesn't bother me at all anymore.

    Rhonda, these posts are so encouraging and substantial, the real "guts" of simple living.
    Hugs to you!

  3. I'm now working on learning to say "No" as I realise how valuable my time is. My family comes first and sometimes I need to remind myself that my children won't be children forever.

  4. I agree with the spending thing. i have started keeping a record of everything I spend my money on, at work on the computer. It means I have to remember everything, but it's not too hard. It is already causing me to stop and think, why am I going to the shops. I try and only buy what is on my shopping list unless something is a major special.

    Shopping is not only often a waste of money but time. I am trying to use my time better to put into relationships with people rather than my bank account or my stomach. lol. But it's true.

    Thanks again Rhonda for a thoughtful post.

  5. Well said Rhonda. And I most heartily agree with stopping the dreadful habit of multi tasking. to live fully in the moment , to live fully in YOUR life you need to give full attention to what you are doing and rejoice in a job well done.

  6. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Great post. My focus right now toward a simple life is making my home easy to maintain.We are having foundation done to house so as I am having to make choices about putting the house back together I am going for simple things. Instead of hardwood floors I went with carpet. So much easier for me to vaccum once a week. I don't garden due to my health so I am getting rid of plants and things I have to maintain. Areas of my yard that need weeding they are out of here too. I am on a roll one day at a time.

  7. Thanks for another Wonderful Post.
    I'm glad you take time to explain, I think so many wanting the simple life thinks at first they have to do everything just like someone else does it and they become so overwhelmed they lose interest.
    thankls fo rtaking time to post daily and again I Love your blog its sp Helpful and I always go away so refreshed. Thank You!

  8. We've recently taken the plunge to live more simply and sustainably. For so long we were fighting to do so with intense jobs and a bustling city social life. But once we created a world that was truly comfortable for us, everything fell into place. It has actually been MUCH easier than we thought it would be. Of course that path is a never-ending one, full of unique discoveries and some troubleshooting, too.

    Amazing how many people have told me they would love to have a garden like ours but just don't have the time... We haven't watched tv in two years, except to rent programs deliberately (I work in the media industry). We also consolidate our trips out of the house, so we don't swallow up our time running errands every day - just one day a week. And we have so much more time!

    Sure, because we don't work as much we can't go out all of the time. But now that we grow and cook the majority of our meals, nothing 'out' tastes as good anyway! Friends can come over, and have a much more intimate dinner than in a crowded restaurant...

    And, by the way, we're both in our early 30s - so it can be done!!

  9. Wonderful post ~ lovely and thoughtful. I desire daily to live more simply and will re-read this when I need a little kick :)

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

    I'm finding I'm at the point where I need to up the physical comfort level some and enjoy life a bit more again... (For instance, like sometimes turn on a light to read or up the thermostat a little to be warm enough...) Also stop fighting myself on some of these things. Come a long ways, but more to go!


  11. I love the simple life. Thanks for the tips.


  12. Stop multi-tasking,....This is where I'm at. Finally someone else has said that it's ok to do 1 thing at a time and focus on that 1 thing. My mind is usually about 2 or 3 jobs ahead of what I'm doing and i really don't like it. It causes me stress and makes me an unpleasant person to be around. I must learn to allow myself the luxury of mindfulness. From now on I will try to catch myself when my thoughts slip ahead and remind myself that Rhonda said it's ok to be in the moment.

    cheers lenny

  13. I just spent a day with my 79 year old great aunt. As we poured over her photo albums, we were in complete awe of how happy and healthy they were despite war and a depression. Her stories of living in such hardships made my sisters and I feel a little bit guilty that we have been brought up in such a disposible and greedy era. Its not our fault but she also made us appreciate that as a family we dont waste the $$$ on such consumer items and don't live beyond our means. I will definately instill these morals on my babies in such an uncertain world. We all should spend a day once in a while with the elder to remind us were we will sit in history. Thank you for an inspirational blog. Happy days to you.

  14. Great post....something to think about.

  15. Rhonda, thank you for another inspiring post! I strongly agree with you on the window shopping and TV points: why surround yourself with things that enlarge your spending drive if you don't want that in your life?

  16. Nicely written, Rhonda. I've been meaning to reread some of the great books on simple living such as Doris Janzen Longacre's "Living More with Less" and Charles Long's "Surviving without a Salary." You live what they preach.

    And Lenny beat me to the punch on multi-tasking. It has slowly occurred to me over the past year that multi-tasking is not a good thing, even though every job posting out there says you must be able to do it. The only multi-tasking I do nowadays is food processing while watching a DVD. It's the perfect time to shell pecans or pistachios, sort through beans, or rub dried corn off the cob.

  17. Yes, this is why I love this blog. You are right on again. By reading blogs some get idyllic, thinking that the life they read about can be theirs too.

    No we must put our own stamp on the way we live and use the blogs and the internet to gain ideas, but stay true to ourselves.

    Thanks so much.

  18. That's what I tell me readers, small steps.

  19. I just most recently found your blog. I look forward reading it from the beginning.

  20. Rhonda,
    I just want to tell you yet again what an inspiration you are. I've wanted to live simply for so long but have been trapped in the "modern-era".
    Since beginning to read you I have been pushed and challenged. I have begun to grocery shop weekly rather than biweekly. My grocery bills were between $300-$400 every 2 weeks. I would go in with a list but never really paid attention to what I had on hand. I frequently threw out produce or some form of dairy (yogurt, ricotta). It has now dropped roughly $100 a week. We're heading into winter over here which means a lot of planning for next years garden in hopes to cut this grocery bill even more.

    I have also been using my time more wisely and can't believe the things I am crossing off my to-do list. Pajamas sewn for the wee ones, sweaters knit for the 4 of us, last week I canned 40# of apples purchased another 40# to finish off a years supply of butters, sauces, spreads and just plain preserved apples. When apples typically cost a minimum of a dollar I couldn't pass up preserving them at 40 cents a pound.

    Might I also add the way I am looking at things diffently. My little Emma decided to take my sewing scissors to her fall dress. Typically I would have thrown it away saying something along the lines of "Well, at least it only cost a couple dollars to make" Instead I decided to patch it and put a pocket over it.

    Thank you for all you do and write. You almost make me want to blog for all those like me who never knew where to begin or what to do.

  21. Dear Rhonda;

    As always your post are exactly the encouragement I need when I feel myself straying from what simple living is all about.

    Having small children, sometimes I have a hard time focusing on living a simple life - then I realize that as long as we stay focus on one thing at a time, I will succeed in living a simple, joyfull life without the trappings that were so programmed long ago.

    You are such a blessing Rhonda!

    Thank you,

    Maria S.

  22. I just discovered your blog. What an articulate way to advocate a simple and meaningful life!

  23. Thank you for great blog Rhonda it is incredibly inspirational.
    Both my husband and I earn 6 figure salaries however you would never know looking at us. We both drive second hand cars , never have take away , rarely go out ( local Chinese- spend may be 30 $ in total ), cook every night from scratch and have no cable TV etc . However we feel FREE. We spend time with our daughter, we do not worry about tomorrow or next GFC or whatever. we are gettign chickens next year .
    Living simply is liberating ; I am able to contribute to charity of my choice and help out my aged parents. Rat race is not for us.
    Daria, Australia.


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