Our Simple Lives - readers stories, part 1

26 April 2008
Being part of this blogging community has a few benefits - we connect on a daily basis with like minded people, we share ideas, we learn new skills and sharpen up old ones and we gain inspiration to live according to our own terms and circumstances, going against the tide of the mainstream. Here are some of your stories. They are listed in the order I received them. This is a post I doubt you'll get through in one session. I'll put it over on the side bar so you can easily come back to it.

Kim at hedgeshappenings talking about simple living and the chicken house.

Trying to be green tells us about the simple life of a college student who grew up in a green loving home.

Journeyer writes about changing and improving her life.

Lizzie writes about her simple life in England.

Lightening wrote: We're a long way from "arrived" yet (I guess for most people simple living is a journey rather than a destination). Anyway, my journey initially started with a quest for frugality that would enable us to pay off a house without me returning to paid work. It was then fast-tracked when I had a nervous breakdown and "things" suddenly seemed less important to us than life itself. In a way it was similar to a "near death" experience.

We sold what assets we had in order to pay down debt and since then have continued to live a frugal lifestyle. With the sale of a couple of small assets and some VERY careful saving, we ended up paying off our home in about 2 years. We've just come through 6 of the worst years farming has ever seen and yet we seem to be in a stable financial position due to our desire for "less stuff" and "more life". Frugality has been our saviour in many ways.

I wrote a series on my blog "our journey toward simpler living" a while back which details my nervous breakdown and the changes we made to our lifestyle as a result of that. The links for this series are in my sidebar on my blog.

I know for many our level of "simple living" is nowhere near the level many people are at. And yet the changes in our life have been significant and we're making slow and gradual changes each year.My DH has just gotten enthusiastic about the benefits of my vegetable garden (health wise more than anything). I'm hoping that'll lead to him getting going on our chook run which I want to turn into a kind of permaculture set-up. That will allow me to grow more vegies than we currently do which would be great.

For me it's all about baby-steps toward a more sustainable and frugal lifestyle. :) Her blog is here.

Kristina in Nebraska wrote: What a great idea Rhonda Jean! I do not have a blog but absolutely LOVE reading other people's stories and gleaning from them as much information about simple living that I can!
We have a farm here in Nebraska and we live as simply as possilbe. We raise a huge garden every year and I preserve a huge portion of our own food. I can tomato salsa, tomato soup, whole tomatoes, green beans, dill pickles, berry jellies, and sweet relish. I cut corn off the cob and freeze that. I also freeze as much brocolli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and herbs as possible. We raise our own meat --beef and chicken -- so we know what goes into our meat.
We entertain ourselves at home as much as possible. We have just the very basic satellite package for our television as we cannot receive "free" television here and we do like to watch the news and some sports programs and public television. I make my own laundry detergent and only line-dry my laundry unless it is 20 below outside as it sometimes gets in winter here. I have started using only homemade cleaners. Organization is the key to simple living and I have purged so much unnecessary clutter from our house.
My kids go to public school and the bus picks them up in our yard and delivers them each afternoon. I limit them to one or two activities a year -- anymore and we get too bogged down with activities and no LIVING! We are not debt free yet but we are working diligently on that. Times are so tough for everyone now and they are only getting tougher. I think it's so important for all of us who want to live simply to work together and encourage each other with kind words and advice. Thanks so much Rhonda! You're an inspiration!

Rachel is over in New Zealand, she writes about her simple life here.

Maggie is a single woman living simply in Canada. Nice photos of your baking, Maggie!

Kate in NY and her family are downsizing and reclaiming their lives. This is what she wrote:

We are in the process of getting ready to sell our big home in an affluent suburb of NY so that we can "downsize" to a more modest home in a more modest town. My husband's commute will go from 1 hr. 15 min. each way to 25 minutes door to door! We will be able to pay off all our non-mortgage debts and take on a smaller, 15 year mortgage (rather than 30). It will be a little tight with 4 kids and (hopefully) more to come, but we are thinking of it as "cozy." Our new town will not have the "top rated" schools the current one does, but our children will be exposed to many different racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups.

When we bought our home 5 years ago, we were thrilled about how "impressive" it seemed - but the only thing impressive now is how much it costs to maintain, and how hard my husband has to work to do so. Thank you for being an integral part of our newfound, simpler-living philosophy. Thank you!

Carla is living the simple life in north Idaho and loving it. Check out her seedlings here.

Stephb has dived right into her simple life. This is what she wrote:

What a great idea Rhonda.
Well....My family is at the beginning of trying to live a simple life. We have two small children (3 & 1). I left a high paid job to care for them as I could'nt face leaving them with a stranger. Since Christmas, when I realised that we were living beyond our means, I have discovered your website and have begun my journey to a simpler life.
During the day, I bake my own bread, cook all meals & puddings from scratch, I have converted to your laundry powder and cleaning products. I have made my own soap, took part in the Tote bag swap which introduced me to a sewing machine for the first time in my life. I next plan to do one of your stichery patterns and also take up knitting.
I work in a local supermarket three nights per week to help pay off our debts a little quicker. Working in the evening is demoralising, but it is a better option than leaving my children in daycare.
I love my new way of life, I do find it alot of hard work as cooking from scratch take alot of time, and with coping with two small children, it can be tricky, but we get there.
Most of the changes I have made are through reading your blog Rhonda, so I doubt there is anything new here. I just wanted you to know how you have changed my life and made me see the light. I am 32, and hope that withn the next 5 years because of your help and guidance, we will be debt free and living a sounder exisitence.
All my love and respect.

Rosieb is living her simple life in an English village. She writes:
I live (alone) in a tiny rented property in a village (England) and have no car so my outgoings are fairly straightforward. A few years ago I became too ill to work and needed to get a grip of my finances. Now I work to a budget, keep track of my spends and, just by this one change, my life became simpler and less stressful.
I reduce, reuse, recycle as much as possible; since early last year I haven’t bought any new clothes (apart from underwear and socks!) but instead I’ve sourced elsewhere - ebay, freecycle, charity shops, etc.; this has filtered down to other areas of my life too and I’m currently reworking curtains to fit my new home.
I couldn’t manage a vegetable garden on my own but I’ve had success growing a good variety of vegetables in pots and this year I’m also planning a small herb garden. I’m enjoying cooking again, I make my bread, preserves and even make butter sometimes; I’d forgotten how much satisfaction there is in home cooking! Having been through some very lean times when my kids were small I like to keep a very well stocked pantry but now I buy ingredients rather than ‘ready made’ and I’m lucky that I can buy good quality food from a local butcher and greengrocer.
I’m rediscovering old skills that I’d forgotten - making rag rugs (like we used to when I was a child), sewing and knitting and I’m getting a lot of satisfaction in being able to provide for my own needs. As you said, Rhonda, ‘This is a journey, not a destination…‘ and I’ll find many more ways to simplify a I go along.
I’m looking forward to reading other people’s stories. :)

Vickie and her husband are celebrating life in Canada. Check out her story here.

Linda is living simply in remote Australia. Her interesing story is here.

Anonymous @ 13.37 is living the good life in remote Alaska. She wrote:

Hi, Rhonda Jean. I do not have a blog and I rarely ever comment. I do read your blog daily and enjoy it so much - I refer to you as my Australian friend - and you don't even know me! I live in the bush - Alaska, USA that is. We live 33 miles from a town of 1,400 where my husband drives daily to work at the post office. We had homeschooled our children and they are now with their own families and we look forward for them coming home to visit. Our son is a US Marine and is gone a lot. We try to live as sustainable as we can. We garden and I can and dry a lot of vegetables (tame and wild), we gather wild as much as possible - fruit, herbs and meat. We have no shopping centers around us to tempt - the closest city to us is a 4 1/2 hour drive. This is our year of trying to pay off debts - our truck - credit card. We live without electricity - we have a generator when we need it -and haul water from my Mom's which is next door to us. We have in a 3 mile radius two full time neighbors, other than my Mom. I'll keep this short -I'm not good with words - just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog and thank you for all the time you put into it. I want to start making soap too!

Busy Woman is living the old fashioned way. She writes about her life here.

Elizabeth is walking her own path and enjoying life with her husband and Miss Candi. Read about her changes here.

Maria is living in Tasmania. She wrote:
Thanks for your blog. We do the best we can and I'm gradually incorporating simple things into our lifestyle. We are still in "the rat race" but here are some of the things we do:
My husband takes the bus to work.
I make his lunch every day so he doesn't have to spend extra on lunches.
I bake our own bread, and cook meals and bake from scratch as much as I can.
I stay home with my children - my mother-in-law helps me out sometimes too.
I use cloth nappies, I breastfeed, and I don't buy jars of baby food.
We don't have a vegetable garden but I buy farm-grown produce whenever possible, free range eggs and butter from my butcher.
We recycle what we can, and I can sew and mend clothing.
I'm about to try making my own cleansers.
We don't have a credit card debt. We save for what we need before buying it.
We don't have pay TV but we do enjoy the internet!

p~ writes: Rhonda, It's been so long since I commented, I feel remiss.
I always enjoy reading about your simple ways of looking at things. I work a full time job out of the home, so my daily schedule is faily boring, I have however thought about getting the real captain of our ship, my wife A~, to write a guest entry for us talking about all the things that she does. Good suggestion Rhonda, I'll get on that this weekend for sure.
Don't forget to check p~'s blog later in the weekend for their story.

Sadge hasn't written her story yet either, but there is plenty of information about her simple life already on her blog, Firesign Farm.

Rachael has written about her simple life in Sydney with her expanding family. Congratulations on the baby, Rachael.

Jenny has written about how she and her family live their simple lives. You can visit Jenny here.

Tracie has discovered farmers markets, cooking from scratch and many other things using a small steps approach. Read her story here.

Pebbledash is content living her simple life in Cornwall. She writes:
Hello Rhonda, I'm going to put my contribution here....have a rather hectic day ahead! My journey started six years ago when I moved to Cornwall after nearly twenty years in London. I live on my own in a little granite cottage, along with my two current dogs (rescue golden retrievers who've been with me for nearly a year). I'm fortunate to have a garden (a lot of people in my small town only have tiny yards)which I've just started to work on, with the aim of having a small veg patch and eventually a couple of chickens.
Some things I've done for years - green cleaning products, though another step, I'm now making my own,organic gardening, recycling etc. I don't have a tv - when I moved here the tv licence was an easy thing to say no to! I read a lot, and since having a computer at home, I use the internet too. I've always cooked from scratch, and I love cooking, so that side isn't hard for me. I also make jam, marmalade, chutneys etc. I've just taken up knitting, and am learning how to use my sewing machine properly. I love crafting, especially with paper, and like to make my own cards etc.
I'm quite a solitary soul, and self-reliant, so not going 'out' is not a problem, I do love being at home! However, while all that sounds good , I am carrying a lot of debt and am slowly slowly making progress on this, but it's a big mountain! I think I finally 'woke up' at the start of the year. I used to be a consumer, beyond what I could afford. Happily, I've seen the light!! I do several jobs to make ends meet, but need more work. Cornwall has a very poor economy and wages are very low compared to the rest of the country - particularly the south east. I'm proud of the progress I've made in the last few months, and am really enjoying this journey. Rhonda Jean, I have to thank you for all the inspiration. Visiting Down to Earth, and reading your posts along with all the comments from your readers gives a wealth of information, guidance, warmth and friendship. Happy hugs to everyone! Diana Diana's blog is here.
She adds: I buy local - often from the farm gate, and from June to February I have a locally produced veg box - all the produce is grown four miles up the road from me. I don't use plactic bags, ever, it's something I feel really strongly about, and water in plastic bottles. I'm just starting to knit my own dishcloths....so much pleasure in a simple thing like that! I spent a year working in and managing a farm shop (this was a couple of years ago) and learnt so much about the food industry, and the journey our food takes to reach our plates. It was a valuable experience. The other thing on the road to simplicity is clearing the clutter - not only not consuming, but getting rid of the excess - ebay, car boots, freecycle and charity shops. This makes life so much simpler, makes home feel bigger, and easier to organize and clean, and makes a few pounds in the process.

Danielle is happily living in the suburbs. She writes:
I dont have a blog im afraid but i will tell you a bit about me. I have recently become a SAHM to my four kids- it should have happened years ago really. I have chooks and a vege patch and love growing herbs. i make my own clothes washing goop and use bicarb and vinegar for most of the other cleaning. I make a lot of stuff from scratch- it tastes better and you know whats in it- its also cheaper. We live on a large suburban block and we are surviving on hubbys wage and doing ok thus far (fingers crossed). I am loving having time with the kids and the garden and not having the daily anxiety attacks from going to work. I sew, knit and crochet. We dont have pay tv but we do have broadband ;-). I buy a lot of our stuff secondhand and make a point of never paying full price for anything- shopping around and waiting for sales. Love your blog!

Pippa is one who, like many others, has discovered simple living after becoming ill. She writes:
I never thought of our life being simple or otherwise until I became ill and the doctor told me it was all due to stress. While I was supposed to be 'recovering' and away from work I started reading about how to make our life simple and less stressful.
I haven't returned to work because of the changes we have made in the way we live I didn't need to. My darling husband now works withhin walking distance of home. I have the time to make our bread and cook all our meals from scratch. I can go to the farm shop but I do still use the supermarket.
I have the time to think about menus etc before I go, therefore I don't buy on impulse. Laundry is much simpler as now I can hang out on the line to dry during the day. We make do and mend many things. Darling husband has always had a workshop where he tinkers. I have started sewing, kitting and stitching again. We stay at home in our free time, reading, making, watching TV and of course using the internet.
I am in the process of making a small veg plot but this will still be about half of our garden. I feel I need to be growing some of our own food.
We stopped going on hotel holidays and bought a tent. Never had so much fun in all my life, camping is just brilliant.
We aren't debt free because with four children going through school and some to uni we needed to offer asssistance. That has ended this year so hopefully debt will become a thing of the past very soon.
There are other things we need to address to help us on our road to the simple life. I am working on simple cleaning at the moment. Using less shop bought products and making my own. Love to try soap making next. Just a little taste of how we are trying for the simple life.

Chas talks about her family's simple life over at Heritage Farm. Great photos Chas, thanks for sharing them.

Anna Marie writes from England. She and her husband have downshifted and simplified. She writes:
After twenty years of the rat-race, my husband and I decided to down-shift and simplify. House:
We live in an old farmhouse in the UK that is heated by woodstove. Our goal is to get ourselves off the power grid by the end of this year, as we are still reliant on supplied electricity. We are adding a wind turbine to our "green energy" arsenal.
Garden and food:
We have a large veg garden and a greenhouse, with 2 apple trees. We just put in grape vines, and I have planted blueberry bushes and some hardy apricot and plum trees. As Rhonda knows, we will be reintroducing chooks into our garden (we have foxes, and the last batch succumbed). I bake our own bread and cookies/biscuits that my hub takes for lunch, and we eat meat once per week now, as I am a bit anemic. I'm learning how to preserve food again after a bit of a hiatus. What we can't grow, we buy from the local farm shop, milk is from the local dairy. I am negotiating with the farmer down the road to "rent a ewe" so we can have lamb this next year.
We have broadband, but no television, though we do treat ourselves to a season's worth of cheapie seats at the symphony, because we both love music. We take holidays in our 25-year old caravan in the Uk and on the Continent, and neither of us has flown for the past four years. I hope frankly I don't have to get on a plane again, and I think hub feels the same way.
We both still work, hub full-time as an engineer, and me part time as a university lecturer/historian but have enough emergency savings we could get by for a number of years without a job. After lots of years of saving, we now have no debt and a rental property that provides us income. Mainly we are still working to save more in our pensions and diversify investments.
We have one paid for car that is high efficiency diesel that husband uses for his 5 mile commute to work. I take the train.
1. to get off the power grid
2. to increase vegetable/fruit production for total self-sufficiency
3. to learn enough about canning/bottling food to do without a refrigerator and freezer.
4. to be proficient as a basic sewer, though, by gum, I can now knit a dishcloth and mend!
;-) thanks for the blog Rhonda. It is a wonderful creation.

Christine has written about what it's like to live a simple life as the wife of a military man. She writes about many things on her blog, check it out here.

Boondoggle has written about the steps she has taken towards living simply. Check out her story here.

Roobeedoo has a blog here, but she wrote about simplifying:

Well, I live on an 85-acre farm, but sadly it is no longer cultivated, as we made a loss every time we tried to grow crops for sale. We had to hire contractors to plough / sow / harvest and it was more expensive than the value of the crops. So for now we grow a little bit of veg for the family. I want to keep chckens, but because my husband is ill, this has been postponed for a while - one more responsibility too many! I bake our bread and buy beans, flour etc from a wholefood co-op. We eat meat because my kids are dairy allergic and a vegan diet feels like a step too far while they are growing. I make my own clothes... and it sounds like I make a lot of excuses too! I love reading your blog - it is inspirational!

Rinelle has given us a condensed version of what she is doing, but you can read more on her blog here:
I read this too late to actually do a specific post about our simple living on my blog, since I've just written two posts tonight anyway, so I thought I'd do a quick summary here. There are lots of pictures and stories on our blog about our lifestyle change though.We moved from an apartment in the city a little over a year ago, and are currenly living in a garage while our house is being built. We have bought 3/4 of an acre in North Brisbane, have bought our first chooks, and are starting a vegie garden. I love making our own clothes and household items, and even have a spinning wheel and plan to spin our own wool. We will begin homeschooling our nearly 4 year old daughter formally next year.Though neither DH nor I expected to be going down this road, we are really loving it, and DD often comments that she loves our new home. Every day is an adventure, and you never know what it will bring.

Charis writes: I've bee a frugal homemaker for 32 years and I'm still learning. I was reading a 'posh' woman's magazine last night and they were extolling the virtues of being a career driven granny "many of my colleagues have photos of their grandchildren in their briefcases" the journalist wrote. What have I missed out on? Maybe the back of the mag was a clue. Pages of adverts for nannies, live in help, gardeners, carers for the elderly. Only the elite can afford to 'have it all'. And at what cost? I prefer what I have. It's authentic. Even if it's patched ;-)

Pauline is in Scotland, working from home and homeschooling. She writes:
I've just recently discoverd your blog, and totally empathise with your lifestyle. I live in Scotland, UK, and have recently moved from a lovely simple, crofting lifestyle on a small island to a bigger village with a metropolitan attitude on the mainland. My children are all home-schooled and are now flown the nest,(my partner also - flown, that is!) and i'm trying to establish my simple life here among neighbours - trying to recreate that very haven of peace that is home. I am very rich, except in money, live frugally, i make, mend, sew, knit,read,grow veggies and much more. I miss my goat,chucks especially, and am having to re- learn my skills to suit my new environment, eg learning about food growing in a confined space. I am lucky enough to work from home, making fishing creels and also having a small etsy store, and aim to make just enough money as I need.

Silver sewer is living on a limited budget, but enjoying life and travel. Her blog is here and she writes:I was brought up for part of my early life on asmall holding where as much as possible was grown. We kept pigs and chickens and also had my uncles heffers grazing on our fields.
My first marriage was a long one, but try as I might I could not get my husband to get interested in any form of gardening although he was quite happy for me to do it.
I had 4 chidlren and much as I wanted to stay at home I ended up going back to work in term time, to put shoes on their feet and clothes on their backs, althoug I still cooked from scratch, knitted and sewed, made bread etc.In 1990 I decided I had enough, all the chidlren were grown and living their own lives so I left.
My now OH and I lived togetehr for 7 years before we were able to marry. We mananged to buy a house and as far as possible grew what we could, we did not have the opportunity or the cash to do what we wanted to do, which was to buy a house with a large garden so we could be as self sufficient as possible.
To cut a long story short, we had to move into assisted living accomodation last year. We have an allotment where we grow as much as we can, we have fruit and veg on there. I cook from scratch, bake, make bread, preserve mostly by freezing.....I am thinking of going back to making my own clothes. We live on a very restricted income as pensioners. We use the local transport to buy our food, shopping on the local market for what fruit and veg we cannot grow. We are reliant on a supermarket.....I haunt the reduced shelves picking up what I can which is either frozen or cooked straight away. I shop for staples one a month. I find I spend less that way.
For years I have used a monthly menu list and I have a shopping list on the computer which I use to check my store cupboard before buying new stock, always bringing old stuff to the front and putting new at the back.
I use no chemicals to clean. dusting is done with a microfibre cloth slightly damp and furniture is then buffed up with a dry cloth. I have old flanellette sheets which I cut up and overlock to use for buffing. once every 3 months I use a beeswax polish on my furniture and then again buff it up. windows are cleaned with a spray I make up of white distilled vinegar and water, spray on the window and buff off with a dry cloth. I also use vinegar to clean the bathroom and kitchen, I do use bleach in the loo just once a week. the rest of the time the loo is wiped each day with a dmap cloth.I make my washing powder by using the cheapest powder I can find and mix it with a bag of washing soda, just half a cup to each load of washing.....I have a friend who was sceptical about this until I put a load of her washing in the machine without any added powder, there was enough soap residue in her clothes to do a wash. She now uses the same mix as me and there is no difference in results.
I could go on for ages, but this post is long enough.........

Cindi has written about her lifelong simple life on her blog. They have bees now too!

Tania writes about her simple life in the outback of Australia. It's a great insight into remote living in Australia. Check out her blog here.

Shelley is living in Texas making do with what she has and making a good life in the process; I really enjoyed reading her story. You can find it here, on her blog.

Tocco is wondering is there is such a thing as simple living. Read all about it here and about the new chickens.

OK, I'm taking a break now. I've been at it for three hours on this post. I'll return after I've had some tea and toast.


  1. Well done Rhonda. You must be exhausted.Enjoy the tea and toast.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to post others simple lifestyles and their blogs! I am having such a wonderful time reading these posts and the rest of their blog!!

  3. Dagny McKinley said...
    I'm amazed at how many people are taking steps to live their lives simply. For my part, I can only tout small steps. I've gotten recycling established at our town home association, ended pesticide spraying on our lawns. I try to eat organically and choose jobs that are conscious of and gentle on the environment.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing!

    Dagny McKinley

  4. For Elaine -
    In answer to your 2 questions, I have 2 words: white vinegar. My daughters actually started using white vinegar in their carpet cleaning machines before I did - who taught them that?!?! And I have since borrowed one of the machines & cleaned my own carpets, too. Use white vinegar in place of the cleaning solution then add water to the fill line. Proceed as usual. Depending on how much the carpet has been cleaned with chemical cleaners, it may take more than one cleaning to get rid of it - it will also be foamy if there is cleaner still in the carpet.
    Undiluted white vinegar is good for weeds but only directly on the weed because it will kill you lawn, too.
    You last question is a good one because I still use plastic bags for dumping kitty litter - haven't come up w/a substitute for that yet...anyone else?
    Carla in North Idaho

  5. Thanks for your help Carla. They are great ideas.

    I don't use plastic bin liners. Use all my kitchen scraps and organic waste are used in the compost/worm farm, or the chooks eat it. Tins, plastic milk bottles, glass bottles (wine) are recycled. The rubbish I throw out is wrapped in newspaper and thrown in the outside rubbish bin in little newspaper packets.

  6. This notion of a simpler life is intriguing to me which is why my friend, Alison, and I have started to research skills and knowledge that have become part of our history rather than our present. There appears to be a steady, but real, movement in this direction and it is slowly gaining momentum.


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