1 February 2008

Starting your simple life

I was quite overwhelmed at the response to yesterday's post. I never fails to surprise me that so many readers enjoy reading about our very ordinary life. Thank you all so much for your comments. I will respond to every one of them in due course and have written a list to go through. Today I have a mixof two requests - a photo of the drive to work and a post about being at home in your home, for Marilyn.

Before I get to Marilyn though, I have to say that although I shouldn't be surprised at the curiosity shown about the Australian landscape, I am. I guess I'm so used to living surrounded by the beauty of this part of the world, I don't appreciate it as much as I could.

I live in a small semi-rural town called Landsborough that you can see a little bit of here. Below is the view from the top of the mountain that I drive up to go to work. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them. These are the Glasshouse Mountains, named by Captain James Cook on his voyage of discovery in 1770.

If you drive in the opposite direction, you will find yourself in Caloundra. This beach is a 20 minute drive from my home. Kings Beach is settled on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I took this photo on the small cliff behind the surf club.

This is part of Marilyn's comment: "I would be interested to know more about you're change of attitude towards your daily tasks, from getting through the daily chores so you could enjoy yourself, to thriving on them as you do now. I wonder did this coincide with children leaving home or hubbie retiring, with possibly more input from him, perhaps a sense of combined effort? ... Our young adult daughters at home also don't really know what it takes to be wholly responsible for a home, despite being given plenty of practice. I still have to remind them to do things all the time (one has ADD which is the greater source of constant frustration). Being fussy eaters, despite relishing some, reject a lot of the meals I provide from our lovely home grown vegies. Combined with their lifestyle of burning the candle at both ends, I end up feeling taken advantage of and resentful, that at thier ages I have to work so hard at parenting. Surely I've done my bit by now. So, does it just get easier/more pleasant without all of that? What was your experience? What forces do you feel lead you to have the change of attitude?"

When I first stopped working in my little writing business, I was as far from content and focused as I could be. I didn't know that living like this was possible. I didn't know anyone who did it, I hadn't read about others living the kind of life we currently enjoy and when I closed down my business, I didn't know what I'd do. I started with the knowledge that I would have to make up for the reduced income so I started looking online for various ways of cooking, cleaning and keeping house that would help me save money. Then I remembered a lot of what I knew when I was growing up - I remembered what my mother and grandmother did and I copied their example. I realised before I stopped working that buying more things didn't make me happy, so I'd already stopped shopping for wants and just bought what we absolutely HAD to have. That lead to stockpiling, gardening, preserving, knitting and sewing etc. So they were all of the practical things - the things that kept us alive, I also needed to make myself happy.

I realised after a while that not going to the mall, not watching advertising on TV and not reading the flyers that were delivered in the letterbox removed that need to accumulate more "things". I started decluttering and as I did, it seemed that I was ridding myself of some of the bad feelings I'd had in the past. After a few weeks of just working quietly at home, cooking from scratch, green cleaning and no shopping I thought more about what it was I wanted from life. Hanno was still working at our store at that time and I had each day to myself. I used to do my morning chores quickly - make the bed, clean up, sweep, bake bread etc. so I could sit on the front verandah with a cup of tea and think about life in general.

I worked out that I had to make my own happiness. I realised I had to shape life so that both Hanno and I would be happy, without the constant spending that we once did. It suddenly dawned on me that instead of looking outward to other people, the stores, buying more crap and the outside world in general, that we could build what we wanted at home. We could fill our lives with meaningful work that would sustain not only our physical beings but our spirits as well. When I knew that our happiness was not reliant on anything "outside" I started to slow down and concentrate on doing my work well. This lead to several things. I was more relaxed as I wasn't rushing to complete tasks, I changed some of the things I was doing because I felt that I could do them better another way, I discovered that housework never ends, so I didn't try to finish it every day. I've accepted housework now as an ongoing stream of chores with no end. Knowing this took a lot of pressure off to complete everything within a certain amount of time. I hope you understand the general idea of what I've written here. I guess the message is to slow down, be mindful of what you're doing, stop multi-tasking and try to enjoy even the most simple tasks. If you look for it, there is beauty in the mundane and familiar.

There is a lot more I could write about my change but this post is getting very long and I want to write about your daughters. What I wrote about above happened while I had either one or both boys living at home. They moved in and out a few times and I forget now when those times were, but they were definitely still here at the beginning of our simply journey. I love my sons and would do anything for them, but that does not include pandering to their every whim and making special meals for them. I have always strived to give them the gift of independence. I taught them to cook and look after themselves as they were growing up, so by the time they were in their early 20s, they were ready to be launched into their own lives, living in their own apartments.

Marilyn, you are the only person who knows what will make you happy. It seems to me that the current situation with your daughters isn't doing that. You will always be their mother, but at some point, you have to stop mothering them. They aren't children now and you should treat them as adults - capable of looking after themselves. If they don't like the food you cook, they should cook their own food. You aren't running a diner where everyone gets a choice. They should be doing their own washing, ironing and cleaning up. You, my love, should step back and provide them with a space within your home, but apart from that, it's up to them. If they were living in an apartment you wouldn't be there to make their beds or their lunch. That is their job now. You've finished with that part of your life. There is a pay off at the end of the parenting phase - you get your life back to do what you enjoy, and they get to live as they wish, without your constant input.

I know they'll be upset for a while that they have to do all the things you're now doing for them, but that's okay, they'll get over it. Tough love is needed sometimes. It doesn't mean you don't love them with all your heart, it means you're giving them their lives to organise and do with as they will. I think the best way to go about this would be to talk to your husband and tell him what you propose to do - that apart from providing your girls with a safe and comfortable home, they will be looking after themselves. Then you could both sit down with your daughters and explain the new system. Expect them to not like it. : - ) But they need to discover now, before they get out into the wider world, that very few people go through life with a mum there helping every step of the way. At this stage they should not expect you to do anything other than to love them unconditionally. The rest of it is their own responsibility. So cook the family meal that you want to cook. They don't like it? Fine, they can make themselves something they would like to eat. This is not being mean, it's allowing them to develop the time and management skills to look after themselves. Better they do it while in your warm embrace than out in the world.

Marilyn, I feel this is a very condensed response to what I think it a real problem for you. Please feel free to email me and we could discuss the finer points. I think if you get the girls on the right track, you'll be able to see your own life more clearly. Overall, I guess my message is that one thing will lead to another and that stopping all you're doing for your girls will be good for them, and for you and your husband. I've found that when you simply, life slowly uncurls itself and leads you on to the next thing you need to know. So when you ask "what forces lead you to have the change of attitude", it was actually living this way, it opens up new ways of thinking and teaches that your day to day life, and how you live it, is THE most important thing you'll ever do.


  1. I have to commend you for saying what I've been preaching to my boys for years! And, you said it so lovingly...how nice. :)

    I have some friends whose children are giving them a tough time right now. I'm going to print this post and hand-deliver it to the mother. She feels so guilty because the adult children demand that mom cater to them. I think your post will be an eye-opener for her. :)

    Melissa in FL, USA

  2. Thank you Rhonda, for your words of sage advice. I wanted to add my support to your wisdom and encourage Margaret to take up what you have suggested.

    By the time I was 16yo I was doing my own washing and ironing (Mum spat the dummy when I unrealistically wanted something washed & dried overnight!) and I was doing a lot of the evening meal cooking. Mum worked in the city and didn't get home til after 6pm and we were all too hungry to wait. She'd get out meat from the freezer and I'd do something with it. Some of my efforts were less than appealing, but I learned. I had the added incentive that if I cooked I didn't have to do the dishes ;-) When I married at 19yo (yes, I was a baby!) I was fully capable of caring for our home without a worry in the world. My then boyfriend (now dh) thought my Mum was so mean, but you know what? I knew what to do and he has had the benefit of it!

    Go for it Margaret. Empowering and enabling your children to care for themselves is a fantastic and necessary skill to provide for your daughters.

  3. Rhonda,

    I just KNEW where you lived seemed so familiar...I dragged out my Queensland roadmap and found it...I traveled through your neck of the woods over 2 years ago and just fell in love with it. I never felt so at home and at peace as I was in Australia. But maybe that's jet lag talking :)

    I agree with what Rhonda says -- you're not running a diner where you can pick and choose what you want. Your children are fully capable of cooking their own meals and taking care of their own chores. As someone who doesn't live at home it drives me batty when people my own age -- mid 20s -- take advantage of their parents like that. I just want to tell them to grow up and get some life experience.

    Secondly, if your children are resentful that you're not helping them out because they're 'burning the candle at both ends' than perhaps that is a wake up call to THEM to change their own life around. They will eventually realize that their behaviour is alienating those close to them.

  4. Well said Rhonda, well said. It is not always easy to make our children responsible for their lives, but that is just part of parenting. As the old saying goes: we give our children roots to come home to and wings to fly away with. It is hard to see them fall on their butts but when they learn to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go out and try again it is worth it. Go for it Margaret-make them grow up and take responsibilty for their lives!!

  5. Thanks for sharing your photos -- you live in a beautiful area! I myself am in a frigid, wintry zone at the moment! Temps of -10!! Brrrr. Thanks also for your wise words! Blessings to you and yours!


  6. Hi Rhonda
    I always read your blog last thing at night before I drop off to sleep. I enjoy being taught the things I have never even considered, like making soap. Sometimes though, like this evening, I wish you were just around the corner from you and could drop in from time to time with a couple of slices of cake to share some tea and wisdom.
    I am still learning to relax into the moment and not fight to finish everything so I can enjoy myself but I really am getting there over the last few months. I have two teenage boys but they are no trouble and I am grateful for my family and home but I can truthfully say that from your writings I have learned to love my home a little more and worry a little less.
    The phots of your area are fantastic but what had my mouth dropping open was your list a few weeks back of animals that live closeby. Only an Australian could mention the python at the bottom of the garden without hiding indoors!
    Best Wishes
    PS Hope you managed to listen to the music track by now and enjoyed it as much as I did.

  7. Hopefully by the time your children leave home Margaret you will be able to say (as my Mum did) "But now I'll have to cook dinner more often".

    I left home to live with friends. Two had no idea how to look after themselves, the other knew how to cook, clean up after herself, hold a job and generally be an easy person to live with. The first two had parents who doted on them to their disadvantage. One even continued to buy food for her daughter and send her home with meals after she'd left home!

  8. My at-home daughter (almost 21) REALLY put me through where Marilyn is now. I still have to stop myself from waking her up (she hits the snooze button) and let her face consequences at college and work. I'm getting better on that.

    "B." also thought LOVE equaled catering to her needs. Except for doing her own laundry. "B." was very misinformed to believe she could live like a slob where her room is concerned.

    A few trash bags in the outer hallway cured her.

    Now, when she 'roams' the fridge and ponders 'what to do', I have discovered 2 MAGIC WORDS that Marilyn needs to use:

    "GOD BLESS".

    Who knew? The woman can cook. Who knew?????????

    I am NOT TRYING TO BE FUNNY. The amount of immaturity out there in our young adults is not only because of the mothers/fathers. The SOCIETY around them created ENTITLEMENT issues. Trust me.

    "B." is less whiny. I thought I HAD A.D.D., seriously. She had me so exhausted and I was so unware I was an enabler. Now Marilyn has a LONG HAUL. After she PHYSICALLY puts down her boundaries, the EMOTIONAL RIDE to wellness requires A STEEL WILL; GOOD FRIENDS AND NO TURNING BACK. I am not kidding.

    God bless you, Marilyn. If I could do it, YOU CAN TOO. Trust me. This young lady of mine got a good splash of 'cold water reality' in her face. She still needs a bit now and then. ;o) We are getting along fine, after some rocky months. YOU CAN DO THIS.

  9. Marilyn,
    I think Rhonda is so right in her words share with you. It is the biggest gift you can give your children - teaching them to be responsible, mature, self-sufficient & to be able to be thoughtful of others as well.

    I don't think your dilemma is unique. I sadly find this quite often in teenagers and young adults these days. It's really up to the parents to be more stern about such things, helping them to know they are doing what is best for them in the end. Spoiling them endlessly leads to children that grow up to be adults that expect to be taken care of. Stand firm knowing that doing so is the best way you can be as their parent. I wish you the best.

    What a gorgeous view!! How lovely are your photos. Where you live looks like an amazing place to be.

  10. Beautiful pictures.

    My first "housekeeping" memory was standing on a wooden chair by the stove stirring a pot while my grandmother taught me to cook. I was doing helps around the house from early on. Of course as most children do I complained one day about not wanting to do my share of the chores and my mom just sat me down. She explained to me that even though I was young now one day I would have my own home and what she was teaching me was important so that I would know what to do then when she wouldn't be there to do it for me any more. I don't remember my age at the time, early teens I'm guessing but I remember that talk making a real impact on me. I remember thinking about what she said while I was working. I think to often parents cave in to fast today. "Oh don't make them clean up their room, let them be young" and so on type thinking but in the long run I think it hurts them more than any help. Even now some of my friends come to me not knowing how to do things. That's fine, no one knows everything. I'm happy to share but I do wonder what their childhood was like compared to mine. I say to parents, hold your ground, pick your battles and remember that life you are molding will be on it's own one day. What will they do then?

  11. i too enjoyed the photos and i always enjoy the stories as well. you're right on with your advice. as someone who has returned to the nest twice...i definitely feel that home is a place to land, but not something to take advantage of. the older i get the more i try to give back to my parents when i am there thru cooking, cleaning, gardening and the like. while dad does still cook most dinners, there's never an issue of what to eat and it's always more an important matter as a time for us to come together as family, even if as adults these days. i had been cleaning my own room and bathroom and doing my own laundry for as long as i was old enough..even in the few years when we did have a housekeeper. mom was a stickler that it was our responsibility and if we didn't do it then we had to suffer thru dirty spaces and items.

    in my opinion most young adults should feel that their parents are doing them a favor by allowing them to return or still remain at home. although i recognize that is a cultural thing as well. in some cultures it's much more appropriate for young adults to remain in the home until marriage. however no matter which culture....anyone in the home should be contributing to the greater cause in my opinion...

  12. Such good words Rhonda.

  13. Thank you for your wise words Rhonda. I always love reading your blog, and read every day, even if I don't often reply. I appreciate your advice about grown up children, and even though mine is a long way of that (she's 3), I know if I keep it in mind now, it will save a lot of arguements later.

    I also was doing my own washing at 16 (mum, wonderful as she was, didn't do it 'properly', LOL, so I did it myself). I didn't cook dinner, but my sister and I had to wash up every night, so we had our own responsibilities.

    Personally, I'm still struggling wtih the transition to simple living. I struggle throughout the day with what to do when, and feeling guilty when I don't do what I feel I 'should' be doing. I'm also aware that I spend too much time online, which is something I think I need to work on.


  14. wonderful post, wonderful blog. :)

    i have found it's helped loads to have my children working with me, beside me... a sort of "apprenticeship." their attitudes are worlds better when we do things together, rather than if i send them off to work on their own. it seems less like work and more like just keeping busy while we enjoy one another's company. :)

    hope it's all right to recommend a favorite parenting site (Rhonda feel free to delete if you wish):


    Robin in Ca.

  15. Rhonda,

    Such wisdom in your words today. I read in a homeschooling book (years ago) by the Bluedorn family that a parent should not do for a child what the child was capable of doing for himself. We've used that advice to teach our children how to run the home and homestead. At 19 and 17 they are quite capable of doing it all by themselves.

    This is not to say that I don't do it, but if I couldn't they would know how and have plenty of practice to boot!

    Kim H

  16. My first thought at reading Marilyn's dilemma was "ditch the kids". I know that sounds horrible, but being a Mom who's 19 year old daughter has moved out into the big world I can honestly say it alleviated so much stress in my life that I was truly unaware she was bringing about. I look forward to a phone call and maybe a visit about once per week and we're good with that. She has matured so much since leaving last fall and I'm so proud of her.

    Gorgeous view BTW!

  17. I enjoyed reading today and yesterday's posts. Due to my poor health, I have become a stay at home mom. I have been home now for 3 years. I still feel like I don't "have it down". Of course my health doesn't always allow me to get up and get the chores done. But what I needed help with is the inside, the emotional part. I do want a simpler life. We have begun to declutter and have had to stockpile, coupon, etc. to save money since we are on one income now. It is hard. My kids are home 13 and 15. Because of my illness, they have learned to cook for themselves and me. They can clean the house, bathrooms, and the kitchen. They do their own laundry. Sometimes I have felt guilty that they have to do this, but after your column, I no longer do. I am preparing them for their lives. The reason they have learned, my illness, doesn't matter. They have learned. THat is what is important! Thank you for reminding me of that. I will continue to learn how to stay home gracefully.

  18. Rhonda,
    That was some really good advice.

    I have 3 kids 13g,16b,18g; and they can do everything in the house.

    From the time they were very small they were given chores to do. By the time they were 8, they could do any chore in the house, including cooking on the stove, that with supervision.

    When the youngest was about 8, I took all the chores that needed to be done in a day and split them 4 ways (with kids input on how we should divide the work). From that day to now, we have had 4 printouts in page protectors, posted on the fridge with the chores listed on them. At the same time, I also made name tags. Each week we rotate the name tags to know who does what that week. When one child moved out, we redivided the chores for the 3 of us.

    Our children need to know not only how to take care of themselves, but to give back to the family as well. They live in the house, they can help with dishes, cooking, cleaning, and laundry as well as keeping their rooms cleaned up and picking up after themselves. As I said, my 8 year olds could do it, so I know these girls can too. And if they don't like it, they can always choose to move out. No one is forcing them to stay there and mooch off you and dad!

    When my now 18dd was 15, she went out and found a part-time job. She was given control of her money, but was asked to cover certain bills (like the utilities. Boy did she quit the 2-a-day 20-30 min. hot showers in a hurry!)
    She is still in high school and pays part of the rent, utilities, phone/internet and her own insurance. And she STILL has chores to do. Needless to say, she is very responsible and dependable. (Less than 1 month on her new job, she was promoted to customer services manager - over "adults".)
    As I have told my kids; "If you don't like it here and think you can get a better deal somewhere else, you are welcome to go there and try." (Not in a mean voice, just very earnest tone.)

  19. "I never fails to surprise me that so many readers enjoy reading about our very ordinary life."

    And I am grateful for your willingness to write about your very ordinary life! Thank you, Rhonda Jean.

  20. Thank you Rhonda. I tend to cater a lot to my two teenagers and feel guilty when I don't. I know...not good for me or them. Thank you for your wonderful advice; though it's what I already know to be true, it helps to hear it from someone else.
    As always, I love stopping to visit you,

  21. My husband is from Ingham and also has lived in Townsville. He's living here in USA with me, and I always delight to hear his stories about "home". Thanks for giving him a taste of home in your blogs, as well as for your great ideas and info!

  22. "I discovered that housework never ends, so I didn't try to finish it every day. I've accepted housework now as an ongoing stream of chores with no end. Knowing this took a lot of pressure off to complete everything within a certain amount of time."

    oh my goodness...what an epiphany! i always feel like a failure if the floors aren't swept, dishes done, all that stuff isn't done before I go to bed. that doesn't mean i'm just going to let stuff pile up, but it does let me breathe a little bit. thank you :)

  23. Hello Rhonda, I wanted to say 'thank you' for answering Marilyn's comment in such detail. Your advice and truth of the situation has helped me greatly. I have a 22 year old son who recently moved out of home, it has been a huge adjustment for me with conflicting emotions. I felt relief when I read your reply, even though I still have my 13 year old daughter at home, I have part of my life back. I have more time to enjoy the things I wish to do. My son cooks, cleans, studies/works and is learning all about the responsibilities of life, budgeting and all the associated costs with activities. Thanks Rhonda and thank you to Marilyn for this question. I ordered your new book yesterday from Fishpond. I can't wait for it to arrive. All the very best to you. Kind regards, Ann


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