Connecting the dots in your simple life

7 October 2007

My neighbour gave me these beautiful lilies yesterday. She is a florist and they were left over from a wedding.

How are you going with your move towards a greener and simpler life? It's difficult sometimes, isn't it? I would imagine that almost all the people who read this blog are here to read about ways to live more simply in one way or another. I have been doing many of the things we do now for many years, but the entire package didn't come together for me until a few years ago. It was when I really focused on how I would change that it all fell into place.

For example, we've kept chooks in the backyard for over 20 years, I've baked bread on and off for that time too. When we lived in the bush, we stockpiled. We've eaten organic food for many years, we've grown vegetables when we had the time. But all these things seemed to be disjointed and random. They were never part of a formula that made up a philosophy of life. Now they are. Now all these parts are connected, they flow into each other and they're in our lives everyday, not haphazardly like they were before.

What changed to make that happen was the way I looked at what I was doing. It helped to have a name to hang on it, so I could focus on"simple living" and not chooks, stockpiling, organic vegetables, slowing down, and all the rest of the elements of this lifestyle. When I had the name for it, I knew I wasn't alone in my thinking and when I found others who lived how I wanted to live, that motivated me like nothing else. I knew I didn't have to move to the country to live the way I wanted, I knew I would have to learn how to do a lot of the things I wanted to do and I knew that if I was not going to earn a living as before, I would have to budget and save as much as I could. I'd already realised that shopping was an insatiable fire that would continue to feed me all I ever wanted, and all I didn't want as well. It had to stop and when it did, I suppose that was the first conscious step I took on the road to my simple life.

My plan was to stop shopping for crap, to change the way I shopped for groceries and to make as much as I could myself. In my home my aim was to rethink how I viewed housework and to make what I did in my home meaningful and rewarding. I did that by realising every single thing I did at home, I did for my family or myself. Knowing that, and really understanding it, made that change possible. It was like a light turned on inside my head; one of those cartoon moments when the light globe comes on and you can almost see new ideas forming and old ways melting away. If what I was doing at home was for us - for Hanno, Shane, Kerry and I, then what greater incentive could I have. The better I did my house work, the more comfortable we'd all be, and I would be caring for our greatest financial investment - our family home. Mind you, I do not agree that a mother and wife should do all the housework. When our sons were young they were given chores to do and they had to keep their rooms clean and tidy. When they were older, they were expected to mow the lawn, help with the tidying up and take out the rubbish. Hanno always did most of the outdoor work and all the repair work. So although my focus had changed and I know saw value in what I did in the home, I was not the sole worker there. I think housework should be shared. Now there are just the two of us I usually work in the house and Hanno works outside, but there are many times we cross over when I do one of "his" jobs and he does one of "mine". I see my work here as challenging, honourable and rewarding. I now see that it contributes significantly towards how we feel and that if everything has been done well here, that flows on to other things in our lives.

Sometimes when you're on the road to somewhere, like a simpler life, you wonder if you'll ever get there. I am proof that change is possible. If you were to ask my advice, I'd tell you to focus on yourself first and to understand that you may already be doing a lot of the things that make up this lifestyle. If it still feels disjointed to you, try to connect the dots. Work out for yourself how you saving on your grocery bills and cutting back on your use of water and electricity helps to pay off your debt. Work it out on paper if you have to. Convince yourself. Develop a plan and develop new values that will facilitate and support your simple life. When you focus on a simpler life, really understand it in your own head and start the first small steps on your plan, it will come together. And when it does that, you can help it slowly trickle down to the other members of your family.


  1. Rhonda Jean, once again you've been reading my mind. I was out early this morning with baby Max in the garden, watering the vegies and pots and laughing at all the dead slugs, and wondering just how I might ever be so fixed and comfortable in the simple life, as you appear to be. I know envy isn't good for your karma, but I suspect I'm not alone as one of your readers in occasionally envying the process you've gone through and what you are achieving. With tips like the ones you've posted here, you remind me that it is hard, but that a series of steps is the way ahead; that one giant leap isn't always the best plan. Thanks for the message, I really needed it today!

  2. Thank you for sharing those thoughts with us. While it is great to do many of the steps along the road, sometimes it is harder to see the big picture.

    I'm finding I'm struggling with spending, because now instead of spending on general commercial stuff, I'm spending on products that will help in my simple life. Like soapmaking supplies, and seeds. A better way of spending I guess, but still spending.


  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Rhonda Jean - I agree with what your saying. I am doing bits and pieces as you were, maybe it is time I put it all down on paper and connect all the dots.

  4. I just love reading your words, every day I look forward to your 'advice of the day" as i am now thinking of it. Rhonda, you are my teacher. Have you had to cope with negativity in regard to your simple life? I know lots of people who think just because you don't want to buy numerous cups of coffee when you are out, or go out for dinner every Saturday night and maybe every Thursday night, and other odd nights when you don't feel up to cooking, that you are "tight". My hubby has a wonderful aunt &uncle who have lived in the same house over 40 years, they are very happy there, but they are described by other members of the family as miserly, because they won't spend the money on a new home! I always feel so warm and comfortable in their home, and it is a home as opposed to a house.

    I have a very good friend who is very frugal with her money, as are her parents. I have heard her parents described as "tightwads" or "scrooges", or "miserly". I think they are marvellous!!!!!

  5. Lisa, in my experience, I've found that most worthwhile things are quite difficult. It's the damaging and negative things that are easy. Work out what it is you want your life to be and then the plan that will get your there.
    After that, small steps. : )

    Tamara, you've fallen into the trap that awaits a lot of people trying to simplify. You're still spending. It doens't matter what you're spending on, it needs to stop. Barter or trade for your seeds (are you the Tamara whose letter I have on my desk right now? I'll post back tomorrow.)

    Soap can be made with products from the supermarket: caustic soda and oil, you don't need special supplies. If you do, give yourself an allowance, within the confines of your budget - about $5 a week, and when you've saved for special soap supplies, you can buy them. You have to look at what you're doing, you're still in the spending trap. It always troubles me when people start buying things they need for simple living. Real simple living means you do without those things and made do with what you have. If you are the same Tamara, I'll include a few other seeds to get your vegetable garden going. : )

    Alita, yes, a pen and paper sometimes works well. You think you know what you're doing, but having to formulate it in your brain to write it down makes you think of it in a different way. Pretend you're trying to explain it to someone and write it down in a way that would do that. It will explain it to you too. : )

  6. Jill, when I first started living like this, my friends and family didn't understand. It didn't really concern me as I knew they just didn't understand it. Over the years, as they've seen Hanno and I thrive, they've come to accept it and I'm sometimes asked for advice on how to do things.

    If you feel confident in yourself that it's right for you and your family, then that confidence tends to give you a buffer against the non-believers. They'll all catch up one day. ; )

    If you're asked out for coffee or dinner, grab the opportunity to explain why you won't go. Don't just say you can't afford it, say it doesn't suit your simple lifestyle and that you'd prefer to keep that money for something more important to you.

    You could also invite them to your home for coffee and delicious homemade cake. It will be much better than coffee you have in a coffee shop and you'll know whose fingers have been on the cake. ; ) Thank you for your kindness.

  7. Thank you Rhonda. Yes, that is me. :) I have my seeds now, thank you though. I plan to work on saving seeds in the future, but wanted to start out with open polinated ones, otherwise I would probably have saved them from my own vegies. I guess I need to work on batering and the like, but I know so few people who have vegie gardens. I have saved some tomatoes and herbs form my aunt's garden, where they have self seeded, and some strawberry plants that have grown from runners, so I guess I've started.

    I can see I'm going to have to think on this spending, as I feel it is something I need to get sorted out in my head myself. Thanks.


  8. Is there a good site that tells you how to collect seeds? I left a cabbage and a broccoli plant this year that have now flowered, but I'm not sure where or how to collect the seeds. The broccoli seems to be growing things that look like beans now - is that what I should be watching?

  9. Good for you, Tamara. Simple living isn't so simple sometimes as you have to continually avoid the hurdles that modern Australian life puts in our way.

    I'll include some Bradywine tomato seeds and some pigeon pea, along with the loofah. You probably won't have those yet.

    Have you discovered the caboolture markets on Sunday morning? They have lots of good cheap vegetables that will keep you going until yours start producing.

    I hope I didn't sound too harsh before but it is a trap you need to be aware of. Take care love and good luck with setting up your home. : )

  10. marg, I think the seed savers handbook from this site: is the best info you can get on saving a wide variety of seeds. I always borrow one from the library but I use it so often I'm thinking I might buy a copy.

    I've never saved seeds from cabbage or brocolli so I can't give you any advice. Those cold weather plants grow here but never flower.

  11. Thanks Rhonda. :) Very excited about the brandywine tomatoes, as I have read your comments on how good they are, and was regretting that I didn't think of them when I was staring at the overwhelming number of tomato varieties wondering which to choose. I'm not a big tomato eater, but I'm hoping to make our own tomato sauce and pasta sauces with them.

    I haven't discovered the caboolture markets yet, as unfortunately we're not out there yet. Staying with my aunt until our shed goes up. Since we're nearly an hour from Caboolture, I can't justify driving out there as much as I would like, but I will be checking them out as soon as we are there, thanks for the tip.

    I have resolved that I am going to write up a budget tomorrow (when my husband is home to watch our daughter). Our last one kind of slunk away when we moved, and circumstances changed, so I think now it's time to re-do it for our new situation.


  12. Ahh Rhonda very timely advice for me. I'm feeling like a fish swimming against the tide right now. Maybe I'll try putting all that I do and why to paper, see if it helps to get things clear in my head. Some days it's so hard and I wish I didn't care and all these things weren't important to me then I could just be lazy and self indulgent, but alas I can't go back either. Feels like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. Oh well sure when my thoughts change my attitude will change and all will be rosy again. Hopefully that will be within the next few hours.

    cheers Lenny

  13. I have just discovered your blog today, and I have to say that this post is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. My husband and I are always trying to live more simply and more green, yet we find ourselves so often "falling off of the wagon" because we don't apply our philosophy in a consistent, coherent manner.

    Just today was my FIL's 50th birthday party, so the whole extended slew of in-laws were together. My husband's aunt showed up (along with her 2 small sons) in a Hummer after a 2 hour drive. 95% of my FIL's gifts were cheap plastic "gag" gifts that will never again see the light of day. On and on. I felt like I was suffocating, really... and resolved to really "connect the dots" and live more purposefully starting tonight!

    I really, really, really needed this to night. Thank you so much!

  14. Beautiful photo Rhonda! Thought it was from a magazine at first.

    Great post and replies as well.

    Do you think it has been easier for you to stop/reduce spending because you are already so well established in your home and garden?

    There only seems to be so far you can go in "making do" before life can become frustrating and even lacking in efficiency and beauty of quality, made to last items.

    Sometimes I think we need to make wise purchases to facilitate the ease and joy of the "simple life".

  15. I have to agree with Tamara and the post before this one. That one does have to buy some things, not to make life simpler but to facilitate your aspiring life to a simpler more green one. I have recently -dare I say this - 'bought'- a large square plastic holder in which to make candles in for Christmas. I also 'hsssh' 'bought' a food dryer on which to dry the oranges which I am going to put around the candle. This food dryer will also be used today for drying out the Coing (Quince) Pate which I have just made. It will also in the future be used to dry out other fruit. These to me are both 'useful' and 'thoughtful' purchases which will enable me to 'make' homemade things. I believe that the shopping which is harmful is the endless purchasing of fashion objects, useless bargains and those into which people go into credit for. Shopping for shoppings sake. As with most things in life there is a balance.


  16. I am slowly connecting the dots in working towards a simpler life. I love the way you put that Rhonda! This year will be my first veggie garden and I am going to start with a few simple things that I already have seeds for. I'm getting much better at "making do" - like making my open compost bin from found materials. The only thing I had to purchase were some nails to assemble it all. I think of my jooining the dots like stepping stones - because I have to take it one step at a time!
    Thanks for the insipration to keep going :)

  17. Great post! I have a refreshed focus of my purpose.
    I would love a bread baking lesson, Please!

  18. Rhonda Jean, I love reading your blog. You give me hope and inspiration to continue on my road to simplicity. I'll be retiring next spring to help my daughter w/child care, so I need to get serious. I do struggle w/spending but since I had a huge yard sale, I now don't want to fill in all the new space. I think my biggest hurdle will be/is gift giving. Some of my family doesn't get the simple living idea, but some do. Also I don't know too many other people on the same path as us. Again thank you for all the great words of wisdom!!!


  19. I'm thoroughly enjoying your entries on simple living, Rhonda. And it does help to remember The Vision :)

  20. Hello Lenny, I believe people are slowly waking up to the changes needed to be made. Hopefully that will make it easier for you. Know that what you're doing the right thing.

    Hi greeneyes, welcome. Once you do connect the dots on your version of a simplified life, you'll probably see that you've made a fair bit of progress. Hopefully that will give you enough of a kick start to keep going. It really is the starting of it that is the most difficult because when you're living it everyday, it's easy.

    Welcome abundantly. I think it's difficult for everyone to go from a consumerist lifestyle to a more simple one, myself included. It did make it easier for us to own our home and have room to garden, but stopping the spending, learning new skills and giving up luxuries like pay TV, a second car and extravagant holidays is difficult for everyone.

    Karen and abundantly, I agree there are things you do have to buy so you can carry out some simple activities, and when you do buy these things they should be the best quality you can afford. I believe that items like soap and seeds are not in that category. We all have our own versions of what we want our life to be. I believe that things like soap and seeds can easily be bartered but if it's important that you have those things, as I advised Tamara, they should be structured into your budget. It's the consistent small spending on things like this that will hold you back. Items such as some tools - like a water tank, sewing machine, wheelbarrow etc, I see as an investment.

    Lisa, that's excellent. It's amazing what you can find in your home to give a second life to. I have a few spare vegetable seeds here that I can send.

    Hi donetta, that good! You'll find my post on making bread here:

    Hello Colleen, welcome. Gift giving is a big challenge. Just remember that the world doesn't stand or fall on the gifts you give. There might be a period of readjustment, but most people are ok with it. I gave up giving gifts to all but my family and closest friends and now most of them say they love getting my home made gifts. There will always be a couple of people who you won't feel comfortable giving a homemade gift to. For those, I scan ebay during the year for something I know they love that doesn't cost the earth. Good luck with your retirement. : )

  21. 'We all have our own versions of what we want our life to be. I believe that things like soap and seeds can easily be bartered but if it's important that you have those things, as I advised Tamara, they should be structured into your budget.'

    That all depends on where you live. In the U.K. which is where I am from it is a way of life to exchange seeds or exchange items. Here in Switzerland it is not the same, one does not do that, one buys seeds for example or plants but we don't exchnge seedlings. But I cannot exchange seeds/plants from neighbours as the life style here is not the same. I try to be green where ever I can be as I am sure others too are. As for buying things to make soap, here I would have to buy.

    But I buy things consciencsciously and with thought to the environment. Here in Switzerland you get recycling advice on things bought, like my food dryer, it tells you where to take it when it's life is finished and you pay recycling tax when you buy. All is thought out here from the cradle to the grave.

  22. lovely post Rhonda Jean. thank you!

  23. This post really spoke to me. I keep reading all about these people that make their own bread all the time, grow organic gardens, and raise farm animals...although I'd LOVE to do these thigs, I had to come to grips with the reality that I simply don't have time. With a 2 yr old and a nursing 6 mo. old, they are my priority to love and train up.
    I discovered that living more simply, for us, meant 2 things - having a menu plan to get us through the month, and throwing away, giving away, or selling much of the useless clutter in our lives. It's so freeing!
    Thank you for your post and listening to my ramblings

  24. Rhonda Jean, I stumbled across your blog yesterday and I am so glad I did. Although we are in different parts of the world, I felt an instant kinship with you. I hope you don't mind, but I linked to you from my blog. You have really inspired me. Thank you!

  25. Once again, Rhonda Jean, you've "saved the day!" (smile) Coming in to work after a disappointingly short weekend, I was a bit glum - until I read your blog (my first priority every day).
    Because I live alone(with 4 cats), everything that's to be done, I must do myself. Gets a bit tiring at times. When I don't get to cross everything off my TO DO list, I feel less than successful. (Never mind that the weather didn't cooperate, or that my 2 youngest grandsons came to spend the afternoon on Saturday) - I STILL didn't get all of my outside chores finished (boo-hoo/pout)
    But, after reading you note about Connecting the Dots, I realize that I did accomplish some things, just not the ones I planned. And there's always next weekend.
    I envy your lifestyle & the size of your garden, your chooks - all of it. But I simply (what a word!) can't do it all now. There's not enough of my nor hours in the day. I'll have to write down my own plan of how/what/when - it will all take just a little longer, until I can retire & have a larger garden, or have a few hens in the backyard (where would I put them now?!?! I think I have too many cats to have chickens, anyway...)
    Sorry for rambling on - just meant to say, once again - Thank You! to you, Rhonda.
    Carla in Idaho


Comments with links or email addresses won't be published. All spam and business advertising will be deleted.

Children read my blog so I always make sure the information here is family-friendly. I don't publish comments containing links or email addresses now because I don't have time to check them.

All comments in English, please. Thank you.