The right look

8 May 2008

There is a corner in our backyard that holds a corrugated iron water tank, an outdoor kitchen sink with running water attached, old buckets and lots of bits and pieces. It's a work area where water is stored, vegetable are washed before they go inside, seeds are sown and sit in the sun. It's not a pretty area but it feels good to work there and as Mrs Anna T rightly pointed out in the previous post's comments - beauty often comes from a purpose, or as Anna stated, "I think I finally realized the secret of your garden's loveliness: it's functional!". You hit the nail right on the head there, Anna.

Functionality holds its own beauty.

It concerns me sometimes when I read emails from readers who are desperate to move to a house in the country or when they are saving to buy things to build a simple life. They believe that when they move to their ideal home or when they have that new breadmaker or Kitchen Aide or when they have a certain "look", all things will fall into place and life will be simple and perfect. There is no need to move, no need for extras to be brought in, simplifying can be done right where you are now and it doesnt have to look any different to what it looks like now.

I've written in previous posts that a simple life may be lived anywhere. There is no "right" location, no tools of trade, no must-have colour and no props to let others know you've simplified. A simple life has no particular look and it's different for you than it is for me. One thing is common to all though - there will be areas where work takes place that might not look pretty, but are as much a part of what you need in your simple life as all the beauty you create. A truly simple life is more about the feel than the look of it but over the years, like me, I bet you'll grow to love the look of the functional.

Like many other things in a simple life, you handmake your life, you don't buy it in. You make do with what you have, and instead of adding to what you have, you usually declutter and get rid of things. Simplifying happens within you - it's a change of your own expectations and wants. Once that has taken place, you can start on what surrounds you in your home. You start cutting back to return to what is most basic, and most simple. You reduce the complexity in your life - and that might include debt, too much junk in the house, having too many commitments, trying to keep up with your friends or neighbours or eating out most nights. It could be anything, but it needs to feel right to you. Copying what others have done probably won't work. You need your own unique work of art.

When you simplify, you reclaim your life and live it according to your own needs and desires, not those of anyone else, like your neighbours and friends, or of fashion. You decide what is important to you, you decide what will make you happy, you decide your own boundaries. When that is done, you set about doing it.

Your home might look very similar to those in your street, but you lead a simple life if you're saving water and electricity, cooking from scratch, shopping mindfully, recycling, repairing, mending, sewing, cutting back on the times you use your car, growing some of your own food, and a hundred other things that only require the doing of them. Your life might still look like it always did, but there will be a change, you'll be in control and won't be dependent on anyone's opinion or the mass appeal of what is fashionable in any particular year.

There is power in independence. You live according to your own values, you gain strength by making your own life decisions and living deliberately, you learn to say no - so your time is your own. As you peel back the years it will reveal to you a life that has been tailor made for you and your family, a feeling that your life is the way it should be, there will be no yearning for that illusive "more".


  1. This is a great post! It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to do as others are doing to achieve the "simple" life - growing our own food, having a farm, or what have you.

    It's a good reminder that our simple life will consist of what works for our family alone and won't necessarily look like anyone else's version of simplicity. :)

  2. "...Like me, I'll bet you grow to love the look of the functional"

    How true that has come to be for me! Thirty years ago when I started married life I felt I had to attain a certain standard in my appearance and that of my home (even if it was on a meagre budget). Yet several years later, being in the kitchen of a newly found friend started to alter that notion completely.

    When I looked about the room, nearly everything was in need of "doing up" and I wouldn't have wanted to have any one feature of it in my own kitchen at all, and yet I LOVED being in that room rather than any other I knew. It gave out a sense of welcoming warmth and homey comfort because that was the way it was lived in. It started a process of realisations and a total changing of my priorities in life.

    These days when I look at my rampant hedge I think "Great! There's a lot of shreadable mulch for the vegies growing away there!" The extra long grass is rabbit food, the pile of newspapers isn't for recycling, it's for the worm farm or the future chooks. The washing drying on the rack in the lounge looks good to me as it saves the otherwise wasted electricity of a dryer. My jars of preserves stay at least a day on the kitchen bench before they're put away just so I get the joy of looking at them a little longer.

    And I feel really good wearing clothes that I've had for years and years, rather than feeling the need to be seen in something new every season. My hair is pulled back simply in a clip each day (which my husband trims for me - no need for a hairdresser) and there's no make-up on my face any more because, after thinking the stuff never looked good on me anyway, I'm happier without it.

    Always love reading what you have to say, Rhonda. Thanks for another great post.
    Regards, Marilyn

  3. You know, I do love the independence and almost defiance of simple living. I get to march to the beat of my own drummer and it's wonderful!

  4. Hi. Beauty must truly be in the eye of the beholder because I noticed your little corner in the other post and thought it did look lovely. I'm beginning to want a potting table and can't wait until the next council cleanup to find what I want. Cherrie

  5. Thanks for the timely post, Rhonda Jean. We are in the process of moving FROM a bucolic country home with (in theory) a great deal of room for growing food and keeping animals, etc to a smaller home with very little land in a somewhat urbanized area. However, this will be a simpler life for us, because we will have less debt, less need to drive, and my husband's commute will be reduced by an hour a day! All I can think about is how wonderful it will feel to live within - or better yet, below - our means! So I guess the "simple life" means different things to different people.


  6. This is a wonderfully insightful post. As I continue on my own journey, I have come to learn that it will be different from someone else's. And that's ok!

    I'm just me...keepin' it simple.

  7. I am so happy to have found your blog, that makes two blogs tonight I've found that are right up my ally! I cannot wait until I get a chance to read up on all your posts!

    Many blessings!


  8. Oh how easily we fall into the mode of trying to keep up with the Joneses! This was something I had to work at to get over when we decided to simplify. It has taken a while but I have learned to be happy with what we have! The linoleum in my kitchen has a big rip in it from wear and tear. It is unsightly but we don't have the funds at the moment to fix it. I do, however, keep the floor swept and mopped and it is very clean which is good enough for me until we can save some money to fix it. I've truly learned to be happy with what we have!


  9. We had a city wide rummage sale last weekend. I'm not yet ready to have my own sale; so, I went to a few others.

    I found a few treasures; but, mostly, I was just overwhelmed by all the junk people had held onto.

    When I came home, I looked around and realized that I'm holding on to way too much. Why? Some of the things I own haven't been touched since we moved in here almost 1 1/2 years ago!

    I'm ready to be a little ruthless in getting rid of things. I think my yard sale will be growing!

    God bless! Thanks for pointing out that everyone will find their own way to simplify.

    Laura of Harvest Lane

  10. Yes, I get a chuckle about how marketers have seized upon the concept of "simple living" to huckster more consumer goods!

    I'll keep growing my veg and preserving my food and going for country walks, thank you very much. None of these things requires a trip to the dreaded mall.

    Best wishes,

    Anna Marie

  11. Well written, what a great post! I think I need to come back to this one and read it again when I need a boost. I usually don't feel like keeping up with anyone, but I do get this urge of useless shopping sometimes. It's still my weak spot. :-)
    Christine from the NL

  12. Thank you for such a great post and it comes at a good time for us. We are in the process of changing to a more simple life- mainly because im no longer in the workforce. i get such satisfaction from watching my garden grow, making breakfast for my kids and making do with less. My kitchen isnt lovely and doesnt have anything modern in it but it has jars of tomato relish cooling on the bench and fresh baked cookies for lunchboxes. I am so much less anxious and depressed and stressed now. I dont want to keep up with the joneses- i want to do things my way.

  13. Isn't it so liberating to not have to keep up with other people's pristine lives? I hear colleagues complaining about how little money they have in one sentence, then telling us about how they went shopping at the weekend and spent £100 or more on clothes. And I smile to myself as these are the same people that think I'm barking mad for not finding that a fun way to spend my time. Then I think about the veggies growing in my garden, and how my life these days is so much less stressful than when I thought I had to live up to something - somebody else's ideal. The only thing I have to live up to now is myself.

    And isn't it gorgeous outside? Spring, as Christine from the Netherlands said yesterday, has well and truly sprung.

    Love to all,

    FiFi xx

  14. Amen ,to all said......Rhonda....


  15. Amen and Amen! I having been talking to my husband over the very subject of not needing x amount of land to do x. I always thought I did. I have learned or awaken just recently the fact that I can make an impact right here. In the city limits on our small lot and in the community garden.

  16. I have always been confused by purchasing things to make life more simple, seems like an oxymoron to me. Thank you for reminding us that it is what we can do and what we want to do that matters. There are things I would like to try but they don't fit into my life right now so until things change some I do what I do and know that that is enough for now.

  17. Another beautifully articulated post Rhonda, thank you. Your words really speak to me, and you write from your heart with such warmth. My days are all the richer for dropping by here. Hugs, Diana

  18. Who was it who first said that form follows function? I notice, Rhonda, that all the objects you've chosen yourself have intrinsic beauty: the galvo tank and bucket, your blue trug... as a result, that PVC drain-pipe doesn't fit in, functional though it may be. I'm betting the plastic is jarring your subconscious mind, because there's nothing else ugly there. Maybe a big pot of mint could fit under the sink to conceal the pipe?

  19. We'd love to move outside of the city and have been saving towards this for several years. Yes we have simplified our lives here but I do believe they would be better outside the city. Yes we make most of our bread; yes we grow as much of our veg as we can on an allotment (this would be so much easier on our own land near the home but our neighbours on both sides have so many trees that no sun reaches our garden and the trees sap the goodness from the soil so that veg will not flourish); yes we reduce, repair, reuse & recycle as much as we possibly can; yes we shop in charity shops if we can rather than buy new. and my husband's asthma always improves dramatically when we are far away from the pollution laden city air. In the country, our neighbours would not complain so much about my little chickens (just chickens - no rooster AND we clean them out at least once a week in winter and often every day in very hot weather). Our preferred version of simplicity includes a move to the country because real living would be so much easier - especially my husband's life if he could breathe better. I don't think it is wrong of us to have this dream of moving.

  20. Hi Jo, it sounds like you've got every reason to move. I hope it all goes well for you when you go. As a sufferer of asthma myself, I know how great it will be for your husband to be in an area where he's able to breathe properly. All the best with your plans. Let us know how it goes.


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