Living small

24 October 2007

It never occurred to me when I was a spender that I was actually giving away my independence. I thought the opposite. I believed I was the queen of my realm and the more I had and the more dollars I spent, the more power, strength and independence I had. When I stopped spending I realised how pathetically wrong that was.

What I was doing was working in a job I didn't like so I had enough money to pay for a lifestyle I didn't want to live. I was shopping for clothes and shoes to make me look like everyone else, I was buying things for my home to make me feel comfortable in a place I didn't take the time to feel comfortable in, and I was buying foods to comfort and nurture because I didn't feel at ease in my life and I didn't have the time or energy to cook the foods I liked. And the strangest thing is that when I was doing that, I didn't think about the sadness I was feeling, I didn't realise I was unsatisfied and I didn't see the need for change.

I only realised that need when I took myself out of the shopping frenzy and sat alone on my verandah and thought about what I was doing and how far from my ideal life I really was. When I stopped shopping, I saw it in a brighter light and when I saw its ugly side, I didn't want to go back there.

I realised that I could do all those things I used to spend my money on. I could make clothes, I could cook well, I could do my own housework, but when I started doing those things I found that I'd lost many of the skills I grew up with. I'd forgotten how to sew and knit because I paid someone else to make my clothes, I'd forgotten how to cook well because I'd been buying all sorts of foods that didn't require me to exercise my mind and spend my energy on making my truly favourite dishes. When it came to housework, all I knew was to get the Chux and Mr Sheen from the cupboard and wipe. I was really pathetic - a grown woman who didn't know how to look after myself or my family properly; I'd forgotten the skills that all my great grandmothers had passed on to me - I, my friends, was a modern woman - I was dependent on others to help me live.

You don't have to be a genius to shop, you need limited skills to be good at it - all you need is money, or credit, and time. All that time to spend walking through shopping malls searching for something made (usually) in a foreign land by people who are probably underpaid, producing millions of products exactly the same as the previous million, and the million that will follow.

On the other hand, not shopping requires a multifaceted strategy. You need to know how to create, cook, clean and sew, you need to make do with what you have, to reuse, recycle and repair, you need to barter, grow food, preserve, and you need to love doing it. You have to discover for yourself the true beauty of being able to look after yourself, your family and your home with a minimum of outside help. The beauty of it is there if you look.

I am much richer now than I've ever been in my life. I know how to live now. I have the skills to survive a crisis, I have the strength and knowledge to produce my own food and to store it. I can clothe myself and others. All these are real life-engaging and self-empowering skills. But the real skill here is to do it and love doing it. Relearning those lost skills, and then loving the doing of them, is an act of subversion because you're not doing what women and men in our times are supposed to be doing. Nurturing your family and yourself with cooking, gardening, housekeeping, dress making, knitting, making soap, baskets, shawls and jam, and all the other things you learn to do in your post-consumerist life, not only enriches your spirit but it makes you an independent force. Ladies and gentlemen, may the force be with you.

Graphic from


  1. Well done and said! Isn't it sad we learn these lessons late in life. Have a wonderful day!


  2. You put into words, exactly how I feel. Thank you, Rhonda Jean. Blessings, Tami

  3. I have been reading and enjoying your blog. This post is right on! Excellent and thanks for the thought you put in to the post.It really has been impacting to me!

  4. You write beautifully! I don't know how I found your blog, but I
    am glad I did. Wow! And thank you xxx

  5. Hi Rhonda-I agree with you 100% It's amazing what we can sew,grow,save etc. when we truly put our minds to it. Thanks for the great post. Blessings, Rose

  6. Amen Sister!!!!!!!
    Another wonderful Post!
    I Love being home and living life at a slower pace. I know simple side is not for everyone .
    I was standing in line at the Post office today, some were pacing over it, one on his cell talking very loud,etc., etc. Being on the shy side I didn't say anything , but I thought if we knew what they had planned to do next,it most likely wouldn't be real urgent to get there or get it finished. I wish more could see how much stress would be taken off them if they'd slow down and enjoy life and not stress over getting from point A to B. Thanks for your Wonderful Post!:o)

  7. I think it is a huge jump for many people to come to any understanding that their life is consumer driven. Many believe that two wages must come into the house for a family to cope, "The Working Family" so beloved of our politicians.
    Giving yourself time to think about the alternatives and more important to truly decide how you want to live your life and raise your family is an act of courage for an Australian adult. Taking the next step, to actually live that life is often an act of subversion and you will most definitely be treated as a curiosity especially if you have school age children. But you can be certain that by living this way you will affect others outside your family circle and you will help them to start thinking and perhaps start making changes to allow them a better, more satisfying life.

  8. I agree with every word Rhonda. Thank you for putting it so eloquently.

    Living simply has been a revelation to me. I chose not to go back to work after I had children but I didn't live simply. I did my best to keep up with the Joneses and to live a "modern" life until I reached my fifties and then it suddenly all seemed so shallow and without real purpose.

  9. Wonderful words! Sometimes I feel like I am fighting a force living a simple life. Then I visit your blog where you always refuel me with knowledge and energy to keep going and take even more steps into the simple life.

  10. What an inspiring post. Thank you.


  11. "Nurturing yourself and your family"....well said...something we are all trying to bet better at. Thank you for reminding us.

  12. Great post Rhonda Jean :) I've linked to it from my own post this morning. It really encouraged me. Thanks!

  13. Oh I loved this post Rhonda, it hit my motivation/inspire button! I'm printing it and keeping it if it is ok with you, and I would like to link it to my blog tomorrow if that is also ok.
    These words embody my feelings perfectly and speak to my soul.
    blessings and hugs to you!

  14. Well written Rhonda, Im so greatful that Ive got this blog and your experiences infront of me every morning. I am young enough to make all these changes now,and to learn new skills, even though we as a family went out of the loop awhile back we still get looked at as if we are leppers for being resourceful. We have honoured our commitment of no new clothes and each day im looking at new ways of reducing both our impact on the planet and wallets.

    Yesturday I finished off my first knitted dish cloth and my recycled curtain fruit bags are ready to go, the vegies are cranking, my home journal is complete and Im so motivated, most importantly Im totally enjoying myself, family and home. THANK YOU. MArlo

  15. Well said.

    This past Sat. I took my daughter and her boyfriend to Atlanta (he lives in the outskirts) and for the first time in almost 13 years, I went to a mall. After I had been there about 1/2 hour looking at all the "nice" things, I was having a real pity party. Instead of being grateful that as a single mom, I've been blessed to be able to be at home and homeschool my kids, I felt envious of what others had.

    It's a good thing I'm 54 and been around a while. I had to have "a really good talkin' to" myself about my attitude. But, still I felt wistful at all the things I didn't have.

    Moral for me is: if I want to be happy with what I have, stay out of malls and stores. They set up for one thing and one thing only - to MAKE us want what we see and to spend money we don't have because we "have to have it". We "owe" it to ourselves for....(fill in the blank - working, being a good person, etc.)

    It was just a real eyeopener for me - a person who has been perfectly happy for 12 years with what I have, to be affected so much in such a short time.

  16. Hi Rhonda jean,
    Wonderful post I am working on my simple plan. I have my home on a diet. I am doing some serious cleaning out. One step at a time I will get there.

  17. Thank you for this inspiring post!

  18. How true , how true-it feels so much better to not let buying become the focus of one's life. Great post and a lot to think aboutRhonda!! Sharon

  19. You said..."I, my friends, was a modern woman - I was dependent on others to help me live."
    :) Good point.
    Though provoking post...thanks!

  20. Rhonda Jean,
    I have awarded you the "community blogger award" as I really appreciate the way you take time to respond to all the comments on your blog and that adds so much to what you already offer your readers.

    The details of the award are on my blog.

    Huge (((HUGS)))


  21. I am so happy to have found your blog, you are such an inspiration. I talked about you at supper last night, sharing some of your ideas with my family. Thank you so much.

  22. Well put! So many women just need support in this area...My heart really goes out to them all.

  23. Wonderfully wise post, Rhonda Jean.

    Just wanted to let you know -- your post about the buttons inspired me to do something creative!

    Thought about all the buttons I've been saving over the years and thought I'd do an art project to put them on display. They are now sorted by size and color and strung on a wire. This wire is wrapped around to disguise the broken top of an otherwise perfectly fine pottery piece where we save up our spare change. Now when I need a button I know just where to go! And it makes it not quite so easy to grab the spare change too...

    In addition, the pottery piece was a nice gift from friends that I always felt bad about it being broken but kept it on display anyway instead of tossing out... Now no one will know it's broken unless they look close!

    OK, this is a silly thing, perhaps -- but I just want you to know what you are inspiring!

    Thank you.


  24. Oh, and "living small" is "living large", in a way...


  25. Your post reminds me of this poem by Grace Noll Crowell, entitled
    I Have Found Such Joy...

    I have found such joy in simple things;

    A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread

    A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,

    The shelter of a roof above my head,

    And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,

    Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.

    I have found such joy in things that fill

    My quiet days: a curtain's blowing grace,

    A potted plant upon my window sill,

    A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;

    A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,

    And books I long have loved beside me there.

    Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might

    Tell every woman who goes seeking far

    For some elusive, feverish delight,

    That very close to home the great joys are:

    The elemental things--old as the race,

    Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.

  26. Rhonda, I kind of felt the same way. I used to be dissatisfied when I didn't shop. I thought I *need* to work more so I could buy more. Now I realize I didn't really *need* all those things. Sitting with good music and knitting or stitching is far more satisfying for me than hanging out there and shopping, then stuffing my closet with more low-quality clothes than I could ever wear.

  27. Another excellent post Rhonda Jean. 'I have the skills to survive a crisis' Sadly not many people can. They look to someone else to fix it/make it better/blame. A few years ago, the UK ground to a halt when tankers blockaded petrol(gas) stations. Shops were cleared by people who thought they could buy their way out of a crisis but actually contributed to making it worse. It took weeks for shops to get supplies back on the shelves.

    Most of my friends think I'm weird and am 'withdrawing' from what they think is 'normal' life. I don't think filling your life with stuff you don't need is normal!

    (Lovely poem Nancy)

  28. I discovered the same thing when I began to not spend money. I'm still re-learning all the skills as well as new ones. Thanks for sharing what you know here!

    I've just discovered your blog but you're going on my blogroll today. :)

  29. I want to thank you all for your wonderful comments. I love reading what your thoughts are on what I've written. I am really fortunate to have such a great group of people reading my blog.

    Nancy, that is a lovely poem. Thank you for sharing it with us. I've read it a few times and I like it better each time I read it.

  30. Hello Ally and Chile, welcome. : )

  31. As I read through your blog and other pages on living simply, I begin to find what I am really searching for. As a child, we lived simply in every sense of the word, mainly because that was all we could afford. But far from feeling deprived, I loved every minute of it, and somehow found it disappointing when I had money, and no longer had a reason to scrimp, save and make things intead of buying them. Yet I felt that there was no purpose these activities if I could go out and buy something cheaper and quicker. I felt silly for spending all that time.

    Now, as I discover all these people out there doing just what I've always enjoyed, I am discovering a new urge to live life the way I want to, and to enjoy every moment of it.

    Thank you Rhonda Jean. :)


  32. What a wonderfully eloquent and accurate post.

  33. Rhonda, thank you for these type of posts which give me so much encouragement. You keep me headed in the right direction!


  34. Rhonda,

    I have only just come across your blogg, you share the same outlook on life as we do.......unfortunately circumstances in life have dealt us a few blows, but we have worked through them and by December next year (2009)we will be debt free. We will however continue on the road we are on now......we do not have our own home, but rent an apartment. We do however have an allotment where we grow all our fruit and vegetables, those we cannot grow we buy in the local market.

    I have always cooked from scratch even when I had a fulltime job and 4 young children. I knitted sewed baked cleaned and washed and brought up my children with the same values I had.

    I enjoy reading your blog, I am about to go back and read some more. Keep it up.

  35. This is a great post Rhonda! I'm re-reading some of my favourite posts and just discovered this wonderful poem by Grace Noll Crowell; thank you for posting it Nancy, I've copied it to my hd as I think its worth designing onto a background and framing.

    I realised last week that there's a lot of interesting information and opinions in the comments here too, so I'm taking time to read through them all this time!

    Thanks all! :)

  36. Hi Rhonda,
    Another great post! My I have permission to quote your last paragraph on my blog?

  37. I love reading your blog! I have spent the last few years moving towards a simple life and I have been saddened by the lack of support from those around me.

    I am 39 and have a 5 year old son. It seems that so many my age are trying to keep up with what they "think" they should be doing for their family. I see parents spending large amounts of money on birthday parties, expensive toys and enrolling their kids in every imaginable activity only to end up having no time to spend together as a family. I am not saying that any of this is wrong in and of iteself, but just a bit sad.
    I want my son to grow up unhurried and able to take the time to appreciate our surroundings. He spends a lot of time digging in the garden, going for walks in the woods among other things. He is learning the life skills of gardening, building things with his dad and many other wonderful things.
    I appreciate your heart and pointing people towards the simpler things in life. I hope I too can be that for those around me. Thank you for what you do!




Thank you for your comment. They are an important part of my blog because they help build the community here. Please don't add links or email addresses to your comment. This is a family-friendly blog and I don't have the time to check all the links before I publish them.

These comments are moderated so yours won't appear until after I've read it.