17 February 2008

Not the step-by-step guide to simple living

As I clicked away on the needles yesterday I tried to compose a blog post in my head that would help those much younger than me work towards their own version of a simple life. I would really like to visit each and every one of you and discuss various approaches to simplicity and help you all get started on this path. Needless to say I didn't compose that blog post and although I would love to give you all a step-by-step guide to simple living, there isn't a one size fits all approach to this.

I am acutely aware that many of you read my blog to find a way of starting, and some of you want to find the motivation to keep at it, but I can't give you a magic formula, I can't say how I would live if I had small children, I am what I am and this is all I offer. I hope that by reading here about my daily life, and all the joys and disappointments it holds, you will see me as all too human role model who shows that life is not always easy, but there is joy to be found in the simple tasks of daily life.

If you look for it, you will find beauty and joy lurking in the ordinary.

I believe there is no one way to live simply. I have lived in Europe, in the Australian bush and in the city, in houses, flats and caravans, and I know with no doubt, I could have lived simply in all those places. Whatever your circumstances are, you can fashion a life that will simplify your daily tasks, help you nurture yourself and your family and lead you to discover that a simple life is like a patchwork - it's pieced together slowly, unpicked sometimes, composed of a mish-mash of colours and textures and is different for everyone, depending on the fabric of your life. But when one stands back from a completed patchwork, it's complexity becomes apparent. It's no longer pieces of this and that, it builds into a functional piece that gives warmth, beauty and comfort. That's how your simple life will build too.

So here are some general suggestions, some things that I have done, that have helped me find this happiness. I encourage you to pick your pieces from this list, and discover fresh pieces from your own life and surroundings, and make them work for you in your circumstance. You might use only one thing here, or you might use all of them, there are no rules, except the one to live well.

This is in no particular order, it's just the order they fall into my brain:

  • Keep your family close and teach your children, by example, both the little and the adult, that happiness is not on sale at any store, it is a homemade commodity.
  • Reduce your spending, pay off your mortgage as fast as you can, but enjoy life as you do it.
  • Learn to cook from scratch.
  • Learn to garden- even if you live in a flat or an apartment you can do this with sprouting, window boxes or a mushroom farm. If you have some space in the backyard, your options are greatly increased.

  • Simplify your laundry routines with homemade laundry powder, soap and green cleaning.

  • Cut down on the time you spend in the supermarket with stockpiling, menu planning and mindful shopping.
  • Don't listen to the naysayers.
  • Teach yourself to knit and sew.

  • Make your own rules. Don't listen to me when you know your own way is better.
  • Find the everyday beauty that surrounds you.
  • Make your bed every day. Make your home the kind of comfortable you enjoy. Fluff up your nest everyday so that your home is a haven and the place you want to come home to.

  • Push the envelope. Your life will probably not be the same as those around you. Try to find a role model but if you don't, walk your own path with confidence and know that you're teaching those who come behind you.
  • Learn to grow some of your food in your backyard. Eggs and fish are the obvious ones for me, but there are other options like meat chickens, milk cows, goats, quail and much more.

  • Develop simple values like generosity and kindness, then be amazed at how they will change you.
  • Look after your local environment. Get rid of all the poisons in your home. This must be done responsibility after contacting your local council or rubbish tip for guidance.
  • Save water, gas and electricity. Learn how to read your meters.

  • Slow down and learn how to appreciate the ordinary aspects of your life. About 90% of your life will be ordinary, the trick is to appreciate it.
  • Develop your independence. This will involve stepping away from the mainstream to reskill or learn how to look after yourself with a minimum of outside input.
  • Help others by volunteering some time to your community or school.
  • Be kind to yourself. Work out what it is that will make you happy, then do it.
This list is not nearly complete, nor could it ever be because all our lives as so different. If you have a tip that has worked for you, please add it to your comment as you may open a door for someone else by sharing it.

Thank you for stopping by
, I hope you're enjoying your weekend.


  1. What a great post! Thank you.

  2. I love your list Rhonda, thank you for sharing it!

    In the last few years I have let go of people in my life who I "thought" were my friends. I have found out when you are going through a trying/painful time, who really are your friends and who are not.

    I believe it is a great rarity to have a friend who will stick by your side through thick & thin. Many like to stick by you when your life is good, there are no huge problems & they are having fun along with you. The real test is when the trying times come.

    I am a stronger person for it now. Sometimes we must be refined by fire, like precious metals, to come out even more valuable on the other side.

    I am at a place in my life where I will not tolerate things I did so in the past. I expect better for myself & therefore have simplifed my life of the takers, the unloyal, the fair-weathered friends. Those who are in my life now I know truly care.

    I believe a simplifed life is also a life where we do so in such areas i.e. mentally, spiritually & emotionally. There's a lot of excess baggage in our heads & hearts sometimes.

  3. Our Motto here is 'Home made is best.' We have said it for years and now even the children say it spontaneously, whether it be pizza or homegrown rhubarb. cakes or whatever.

    When the children were young it applied to home-made play dough and games and painting. and it still applies. Home-made IS best. Whatever 'it' turns out like !!!

  4. Hello Rhonda - great post, I love your blog, it reminds me of where to find all the good bits of life, the stuff that REALLY makes you happy. Even though I'm sure most of us do know these things, I know I need lots of reminders and tips. I work fulltime and one day I aspire to live like you. Sometimes I find it difficult to be environmentally friendly and keep up with housework, a blog like yours is a fantastic motivator. Thanks again

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I posted today about my big step toward living a simple life. We cleaned the attic today. I am having one big yard sale March 1.
    My house is so much leaner too. Ahh what freedom.
    Great post.

  6. My first thought when I started reading this was how wonderful it would be to have you come and visit and give me a few pointers. Then I took a look around and thought to myself, I bet the first thing she'd point out is that you have too much stuff. :) My goal this year is to do some serious decluttering. It's amazing how much stuff we accumulate even when we're trying not to. That will include staying out of shops as much as possible which can only be a good thing. :)

  7. Rhonda,

    I had a very similar thought as Lightening about how great it would be for you to come visit and give a few pointers -- you would probably contain a giggle at the pile of dirty dishes in my kitchen. But that's ok. You are quite right that what works for one person, may not necessarily work for another.

    My goals this year, on the living simply angle, is to de-clutter and clear up some unemployed induced debt. I suspect that just having the ability to discuss our living simply journeys in such an open and non-judgemental fashion is very liberating for many of us. It also lets just know that all of us have the same pitfalls and setbacks, but that we're also, equally aspiring to get back on the horse as it were.

    Thanks again Rhonda for allowing us the freedom to do that here.

  8. great post! you inspire me on a regular basis-thanks!

  9. Thanks for the ideas and inspirations. It's blogs like this that convinced me that my fiance and I could make a difference in what is being done to the Earth. After reading "Our Stolen Future" I went around saying we were all going to die but I got invigorated and inspired by all the bloggers out there taking positive steps towards change. My fiance and I are newbies but our best advice would be to start small and then just keeping adding to what you're doing.

  10. Dear Rhonda Jean;

    You are such an inspiration! I do read your blog on a daily basis as a way of staying on course.

    It is true that my life is quite different from yours, I have small children and one of them is multiple disabled so my life is hectic and quite eventful.

    But the simplicity that you talk about can be acomplished even in my life. I thank you for your posts, your lists, your ideas.

    Your blog is like a good book...the pages are marked...there is writing on the margins...there is always good advice in every page.

    Thank you.

    Maria in PA

  11. Rhonda, what an amazing list you've put together. It is very encouraging and inspiring.

    I would love to visit with you in person Rhonda, over a cup of tea, brewed in a pot...maybe with some of those wonderful scones of yours. There are many things I would love to learn first hand from you. The reality is that we live at opposite ends of the country. So I am grateful that I have internet access and I can 'visit' with you that way.

    Thank you for you gentle way and wise advice.

  12. What a truly wonderful post-it reminds us that though we are all trying to go in the same direction we all take our own different paths and make our way a step at a time. Thank-you for the inspiration to keep going forward!

  13. What kind of fish are you growing?

  14. Lyn, what a beautiful comment "Sometimes we must be refined by fire, like precious metals, to come out even more valuable on the other side." I relate so much to what you say.

    Rhonda, thanks for this simple, honest and life-affirming post. Thanks also for the previous post on your mischievous photo taking in spotlight store (it gave me a giggle to think of the reactions of fellow shoppers to you taking photos of wool and string and stuff..:). Also, the wonderful links to the other posts, ooohh, what delightful writing from Kim and what a treasure trove of information from the other blog.
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  15. It is always good to read your blog as you are open and honest about how you live your life. It helps to keep at living more simply. My family live fairly simple lives. We are having our seventh baby in July and if we did not simplify our lives a few years ago we would be struggling now. We cook from scratch, enjoy home made bread, cloth diaper now (I never did till our sixth child). It really does not make life harder to make these changes, but is instead very freeing.I love the satisfaction you get from enjoying your own bread or seeing your daughters in their new dresses that you made. I enjoy it more everyday.
    I enjoy visiting your blog daily to see what other changes can be made in our lives and to just be reminded that living simply is a blessing in itself.


  16. Hello everyone, thank you again for the wonderful comments.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lyn.

    There have been times in my life when I've struggled under the weight of clutter, I'm not about to judge anyone else for it. I'd just be there for the chat and the tea. :-)

    N & J and Maria, welcome.

    Maria and Natalie, it sounds very busy at your homes. I'm pleased you find something to help you here.

    Kim, our fish are silver perch, a native Australian fresh water fish. We are having trouble with them at the moment. I'll write about it next week.

  17. A step-by-step guide woud be great... but I think your method of offering gentle advice and living by example works even better!

    Everything on your wee list is "do-able" to some extent, even by someone like me with a totally different life. That's why your post is so inspiring - you don't declare that we all have to live off the grid, use composting loos and shun the modern world. You just point out the little things that we can do to move towards a different type of life.

    I think the essence of your blog is to appreciate the life you have and to be grateful.

    Something I try and do when I'm feeling a bit blah is to make a quick list of random things that are making me happy just now. So, today:
    1. Watery winter sun just shining through the trees.
    2. My one year old shouting "Go 'way!" at my three year old (the teacher of that brief phrase).
    3. That I just managed to drink a hot coffee in peace because of blessed Winnie-the-Pooh.
    4. That I sorted out my seed planting "plan" last night, instead of watching TV.
    5. That I will see my mum and step-dad later today with the kids.

    You get the idea - each little thing makes me smile and remember that these things are the things that make life worth living.

    Karen (Scotland)

  18. Rhonda Jean - how did you make the pattern on top of the soap in the top picture - thanks

  19. Just wanted to let you know I'm still dropping by from time to time -- great post, this one!

    Was going to clip and paste another great quote from you here, but can't find it now, and besides you already know what you've said! But I appreciate that you acknowledge we're all unique, but can do this anyway.

    Still working at living simply and well day by day! Now, thanks to your blog (and step by step progress made over the years), focusing more on improving the "well" part!

  20. Rhonda Jean,

    This is a great list. You and I are very different, and live in very different parts of the world, and yet this is a similar list to what I would have made. There are only two things I'd add: reduce the amount of stuff you have but don't need, and learn to become more resourceful at doing with what you have. And share your gained knowledge and enthusiasm with others.

    I've nominated you for an Excellent Blog Award. I see you have several awards, but this doesn't seem to be one of them - yet!

    Please see my latest post for details. Thanks for all the advice you've offered me, and for sharing your life with us.

  21. I speak to many mums who are caught in just trying to keep their heads above water. It is the never ending battle between staying home and "doing" many of the things you have mentioned or going to work to contribute to mortgage payments and then spending extra because there is no time left to "do" things that save money. It is a real juggle for them and often takes a lot of courage to step away and live off less.
    I try to focus a lot on doing things together as a family and developing old fashioned values but it is increasingly difficult as my children get older to 'shield' them. Even though we never watch commercial television, they are becoming so 'worldly' just from interactions with their peers ( even though they go to a very small school) I think mums today need more encouragement to take the simple path and step off the 'keeping up' roundabout by applying many of your simple living strategies, however, we still need to be able to build our savings to offer assistance to our children in the future, whether it be to send them to university or help them get started in their own lives. It is a battle for balance and we certainly need lots of ideas! I think I will give this much more thought Rhonda, from a mum of young children's point of view. The big question, 'how to simplify your life with children on board'.

  22. Well said, Rhonda Jean! As always an inspiration to all. Thanks!


  23. Great tips! Thanks for posting this; I think I'll link to it from my blog. :-)

  24. Incredible - I'm trying to lead as simple and self-sufficient a life as possible, but sometimes I need a reminder of how to stay focused. Thank you.

  25. Hi Rhonda,

    Joanne from Dubbo, great blog. I am interested in the picture of the silverbeet and the pipework you have around it. Have you anymore information or have you done a previous blog on it? Looks interesting for water conservation. Thanks

  26. Hi Rhonda,

    Joanne from Dubbo, great blog. I am interested in the picture of the silverbeet and the pipework you have around it. Have you anymore information or have you done a previous blog on it? Looks interesting for water conservation. Thanks
    I have re-written this message as I have now signed onto an identity.

  27. Perhaps not complete but really very good suggestions. If I might add one.. I would say, take baby steps. Don't feel bad for starting with just one or two things. For lots of folks this is new and new habits take time to break in. Taking on to much to learn at once can sometimes feel overwhelming. Sometimes it's just easier to master one or two changes and then when that's comfortable, add a one or two more. Take the journey at your own speed I guess is what I'm saying. What matters is enjoying the trip day by day.

  28. Thank you for articulating so well everything I am trying to achieve in my life.

    Goddess bless you.

  29. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Good post and some great comments.

    I found myself mentally ticking things off your list! Need to work on gardening, consider having a chook or two, need to work on meter reading and teach the children about this.

    I think reading (simple living blogs, books and magazines like "Grassroots") fills the role model function for me.

    I think "be kind to yourself" means baby steps are OK.

    And I agree with Busy Woman that with young children their future is a big issue. We'd like them to be kind, just, strong and gentle. And we know that money is very useful too.

    As usual there is a lot to ponder.
    Regards, Ann.

  30. Great post, thank you so much. A lot to think about.

  31. Oh, I also meant to ask, what are those beautiful pink flowers?

  32. Oh, my first post seems to have not gone through. I was just saying thanks for the inspiration that is your blog. I am trying to de-clutter as my first (or next?) step to more simple living.

    Also, I will look forward to your fish post - I have chooks, but I never thought of growing my own fish.

  33. Hi Rhonda Jean:

    Thank you for a thoughtful post. We've made some steps towards living simply, but our goal this year is to grow all our own vegetables that we eat in the summer. The greenhouse is up, the beds are dug, and the seeds are in the propagator. We'll see how we do!

    Your idea about appreciating ordinariness is important. Living in the moment, marveling at the beauty of nature, and enjoying time with your family equals happiness. You also find out (as I think you know) that within the ordinary is very often the extraordinary.

    Thank you again,

    Best wishes,

    Anna Marie

  34. hi rhonda jean! what a wonderful beginning to a fresh new week here in florida! i ran across this post (and pattern) for a crochet farmer's market bag while blog surfing this morning and thought you might be interested:
    have a wonderful day!!

  35. Wonderful post! This is the first time I've been on your blog, I happened to stumble across through a couple other blogs. I'm happy I took a look. I added it to my favorites. The list hits close to home.
    Thanks again!

  36. My Challenge. Learning to appreciate the 90% normalness :) I'm getting there.


  37. Hello Rhonda,
    Thank you so much for these ideas. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind sharing your recipe for homemade Laundry Powder. I would love to not have to spend the extra money on storebought detergent but I'm not sure what a good substitution is. Thank you again! Angela

  38. Thanks for the great comments ... again!

    Melinda, thank you. it will be a day or two before I can do anything about the award.

    Lizzie, I make the pattern in the soap with an ordinary rubber stamp. Press it in before the soap firms completely.

    Thanks for the link, jayedee.

    Welcome babsi.

    Joanne, the silverbeet is growing in the aquaponics tank, not in the ground. See today's post.

    Kirsten, I grew that huge pink flower bush from a cutting I got from a friend. Neither of us know what it is but it flowers in late winter with its bright splashes of pink.

    Angela, the link to the recipe-post for laundry powder is in the sidebar under "Various recipes for green cleaning".

  39. Hi Rhonda

    I really needed to read this today (hug)


  40. Hi Rhonda,
    Once again, you've managed to list so many ideas and thoughts that are so helpful. Your blog is a 'must read daily' for me. The ideas and the inspiration you give in every post is 'down-to-earth'! lol My goal this year is to keep working on simplifying and staying 'green'.
    Busy Woman is so right about the struggles of teaching young school age children the old-fashioned values. My youngest son comes home with requests for all kinds of things from the shops and I have to patiently explain again why we don't buy certain items. The same with commercial television. We don't watch all of the programs that his friends watch and it is difficult for him when they start talking about which 'hero' is best. I keep talking to him so he understands that he doesn't have to do everything, etc. just because someone else does.

  41. Absolutely fantastic post and quite simply perfect. What is simple living to a country person may not fit a city person, or a person with kids will not have teh same life as someone without kids or with fully grown independant kids, yet your list really does hit all the most basic points of living simply no matter what the situation, so congrats and thankyou.


  42. Hi, just found your blog and it is very inspiring and this was a great post. Thanks.I will return often.

  43. This is my first visit to you. I came via Two Frog Home's Fav Five today.

    I will certainly be back. It looks like we are the same stage of life and I know that I can learn much from you about simple living.

  44. How refreshing, Rhonda! I have been encouraged and inspired by your post today.


  45. Great post!

    I believe that it's important to question everything, and it's with questions that I started:

    What really makes me happy?
    Is this worth my time?
    Do I need to do this? Do I want to?
    Is this really convenient?
    Is this really simpler?
    Is that really so hard?
    Can I do it myself?
    How can I do that better?
    How long does it really take to buy something vs. to make it?
    etc. etc. etc.

    The answers have amazed me.

    I've been amazed at how inconvenient convenience foods are, how easy it is to garden, how much better baking soda cleans than other commercial formulas, how much time it takes to shop, how easy it is to find alternatives, and how good it can feel just to sit and breathe.


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