26 August 2008

Don't be afraid to simplfy

When I was growing up it was a commonly held belief that if you did well at school, worked hard and made a lot of money, you would live a life of ease, confident in the knowledge that you could buy whatever you wanted and happiness would follow close behind. Most of us swallowed that hook, line and sinker but when it came down to it, having it all didn't make us happy.

I've often written about not spending, decluttering and giving away things you've paid good money for. Hanno and I live on a very small amount of money, we have no pay TV, we rarely buy books, eat out or buy clothes and shoes. We are making do with what we have. We've stopped eating meat (except for Hanno's pork and kale fest during winter) and work to produce food for ourselves in our own back yard. We respect the work we do and we're grateful we have the energy and ability to do it.

We often work hard at home doing for ourselves things that in former times we would have paid others to do for us. We stopped buying convenience food and instead cook from scratch so we eat pure food with no preservatives or artificial flavourings. I mend clothes and we look after what we own. We repair rather than replace. We try to conserve instead of consuming.

Some might read all of that and think we are "poor" and miserable and that if we had more money, we'd buy our way to happiness. There have been studies done in recent years that tell us that as long as the human needs of shelter, food, etc are met, having more doesn't increase happiness. Rich people aren't happier than ordinary folk. In fact, the more valuable a person's time is in the workplace, the more they are likely to spend their time making money and being away from their families.

I believe that if money and possessions do make us happy, that happiness is only fleeting. It is replaced, over time, with discontent. If I wanted to, I could still be working for corporate Australia but I know, from experience, that the money I would earn and the things I would buy would not bring me the kind of life-enriching happiness I get from my voluntary work.

I also believe that people and self awareness make us happy. I am happy with my family around me and knowing that I am what I am and that I am true to my values. I have thought about what I want my life to be and I make steps towards that every day. That gives me self respect and satisfaction and eventually that builds into the kind of happiness that is instilled deep within.

Our life paths will lead us all to different places, but no matter where yours leads, you will be able to live simply. Start by simplifying your daily tasks and then try to incorporate generosity, kindness and grace into your everyday life. Don't think of this way of living as a restriction or "poor" but instead see it as a richness that is built in small and simple ways. The rewards are there for the taking. They may not be as flashy or obvious as those store bought rewards but they are enduring and significant and they don't go out of fashion.



  1. Rhonda,

    Great Post! and Great timing... this weekend we had a few... well many friends over for a potluck and fellowship.

    There were 42 of us and I was really afraid of what they would think of our simple lifestyle. I kept telling them our home is small and we don't have much to look at.

    Well we had the best time yesterday and I think it was because our house felt like a home and not a show-place. It was a hot day 90's some were out in the garden, others relaxing inside, and some play sports in our backyard.

    I was not ashamed of our small but comfortable home yes, is was a little tight in the kitchen but everything ran smoothly:)

    I am proud of what we have and proud of our simple lifestyle.

    Almost everyone went home with a bag of tomatoes and one dear friend left with a jar of my best bread-and-butter pickles.

    It was a Happy and Joyful day!!

    Thank you for getting the word out simple is great! It does not mean you are poor:) If people were smart they would use their money wisely:) You don't need all those knick-knacks:)

    Much Love,


  2. Rhonda
    I don't often comment because you have so many that do. But I am having a blah weekend on my path. Due to my husband having an auto accident we are on this path...and after a hard weekend I had a moment of thinking of quitting blogging(here is my farm blog of my simple life doublenickelfarm.blogspot.com)

    So reading this post my explanation on penofjen.blogspot.com makes sense.
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts...as my weekend has been heavy.

  3. You do have a gift of pulling it all together, Rhonda. I am packing up stuff for the Goodwill every day, stuff which my kids don't want and I will never use again. Oh, I'm not getting rid of everything. There are things which make my life beautiful and bring me joy with their associations, but I don't need all that I had accumulated in 35 years of married life, 28 of it in one house! (And every day I am sure more came into the house than left it.) I have lots of art supplies to play with and things to use for writing, gardening, knitting, quilting....Books I love to reread. But every time I send a box to be donated, my heart feels a little lighter. Life is more than money or accumulation. People are the important part of our happiness and we need time to just relax and enjoy their company.....

  4. Hi Renne dear. What a lovely gathering of friends. :- )

    Jennifer, don't give up. Have a break, regain your strength and then come back. All these words we simple lifers are writing into the blogisphere are helping others come further towards this life. Your genuine experiences add to the rich patchwork we are showing others. Take time out, take care of yourself, rest, then when you're ready, come back and keep sharing your life. I send hugs and love.

    Hi Kristi!

  5. Great post!  I spent the weekend canning 35 pints of salsa and 28 quarts of whole tomatoes.  A friend called me last night and I told her what I had done.  She asked me if I was crazy and wouldn't it just be easier and just as cheap to go to the store and buy it?  Well, yes, it probably would be easier but definitely not cheaper.  And by doing it myself I get a tremendous sense of gratification and the knowledge that I KNOW where my food came from and what is in it.  People just don't get it.  We choose to live a self-sufficient life because we enjoy it, it's better for us, and it brings us back to nature.Our home is not anywhere near being a showplace.  All of our windows need to be replaced, our kitchen floor is in terrible shape, and our carpeting is from the early 1980's.  But it's clean and neat and we can't afford to upgrade right now.  We are trying to pay off debt before we take the plunge into home improvement.  Our kids see this and they model after us, knowing that if they save and wait good things will happen for them, too. Kristina in Nebraska

  6. OH Rhonda your comments are so true. Money does not buy happiness. We spent a long time in Nepal (one of the poorest nations in the world) when we adopted our daughter and we quickly realized that the people there were far more happy than the people in the West despite their poverty by western standards. Life there is definetely hard physically , but the people are proud and keep their families at the center of it all. I did learn some important life lessons...ones I won't soon forget.
    Great post!

    Kind regards,

  7. What a fabulous post! I agree with you totally! If we could only break the habit of consumerism, and I am one who needs to think more in those terms. I have cut back a lot, but I need to do more.

  8. Sounds like such a rich life - wow, I'd love to change my life and live like you do. Inspiring!

  9. I thought of you today, Rhonda, when I saw a plaque at a gift store that read: "A Clean Home is a Sign of a Wasted Life." I do understand the humor in that to some extent - if you feel like a slave to your home and you are passing by all of life's richness in order to dust, then that IS a waste.

    But when I think of that joke in relation to your life -and the deep satisfaction and sustenance that your simple, clean, cosy home and garden bring you - then I realize that the true "wasted life" is one that views the simple pleasures of home with disdain.

    Kate in NY

  10. Great posts. The more money you make the more you spend. Since changing our lifestyle, farming and conserving we feel that are lives are fulfilled!

  11. Thank you for the inspiring words today, Rhonda. Every word rings so true. We have a lovely home that we built ten years ago - and a lovely mortgage. It requires both of us to work fulltime. I'm to a point now where I realize how precious our time is. I want more time to do the things that make life rich. Although the work I do for a "living" is rewarding, it also drains my soul. Jerry and I are looking for a smaller place now that the girls are on their own. I love our home and we'll continue to nurture this land until we can make it happen. Our Time is precious.

    Thank you, Rhonda, for adding Scrub Oak to your "neighbor" list. It's an honor!

  12. Rhonda, I have been reading your blog for a while, and I love it. Thank you for so eloquently stating what so many feel. My personal goal is to live a simple life of service. How wonderful to get a peek at someone who does just that...
    I have made your bread and have the ingredients for your laundry soap waiting to be mixed. Please be encouraged to continue your blog. It must be demanding, but you truly have a gift, and what timely topics you choose. Your gentle tone allows us to follow happily along behind you without the fear of being discovered lacking in our skills, and you plainly teach us so many things we should know.
    I often tease that I threw out the instruction manual I was given at the hospital when I had my children.
    Now I can say I have found the one I was given when I got married!
    A million best wishes for you and a sincere thank you for your blog.
    Have a happy, happy day, Kimberly

  13. So very true are your words...
    The key to happiness is I beleive simplicity.
    You have so little to stress and worry over and strive to getting better,newer and the like and
    You soon see the sun is shining the sky is blue and the birds of the air are well taken care of and so too shall we be!
    Simlpicity...Bring it on!!!

  14. Rhonda, last week I had my sister-in-law for a visit, and she kept telling me, after taking a look at our modest surroundings, how we should "invest in good furniture". I smiled and said - it doesn't have to be new. It can be repaired. It can be second-hand. I don't mind, as long as we have no debt. Debt-free living is the most obvious advantage of simplifying, in my opinion!

  15. About 18 months ago I sold my house, threw out 3 trailerloads full of "garbage" to the tip, held 2 garage sales, and sold/gave away everything bar 40 boxes of gear (deemed essential/irreplaceable) and a bookcase given to me as a child.

    I've never looked back. I am renting now in the beautiful state of Tasmania and have NO DEBT!!!!! yay!!!!!!

    I have never been more relaxed or stress free than over the last 18 months. OK I may not have a lot of money and I have no savings anymore, but apart from my rent, I owe no-one or no company any money. I could never buy that feeling of freedom from debt!

    I enjoy reading your blog and the comments made! I've had a lot of fun on my journey towards living simply and healthily. I can see where I'm heading and it is a joy to read your blog and think about some of the ideas you put forward.


  16. Rhonda, this post is so precious, I think I'll print it out and put it on my bulletin board. I used to apologize to visitors when they came to visit about our simple ''organic'' looking home and our hippy-ish lifestyle but I've stopped doing that... I love my home and our simple lifestyle is reflected upon our home. I am so much happier now that I've made my home ''the way I want it to be'' not how others would want to see it.

  17. Thank you for posting that - so encouraging!

  18. How beautfiful. I love to read about someone so far away that is trying to live their life as I. You are a real inspiration and thank you for all you share with us.

  19. You are a wonderful writer and am looking forward to your book.

    Last night while I was vacuuming, for the first time in a week and a half, I was thinking that I want to take my time. I don't like to vacuum if I only have a couple minutes to do a quick clean. I want to do a good, thorough cleaning. Something that when I'm done I can look at and be proud of what I did. Now do that everyday or 3 times a week? No. Simple and it gives me time to think-I don't want to be in a hurry. I've told hubby for years that I don't like to cook if I'm in a hurry. I multi-task and have deadlines at work. I don't want them in the rest of my life.

    Update-knitting is coming along. I think I figured out purling last night. It didn't look like one big knotted mess so I must have done it right. Or it was another kind of stitch and not purling. Oh well. My mentor had an idea that us learners send you pics of our progress. What do you think?

  20. Amen!! Gen--IL Homesteader

  21. Excellent post and a good one to fuel tonight's round of pre-move [to much smaller house] purging!

  22. You know the way of life that you describe is much like the Amish in my area. They live a very simple, although hardworking life. The best thing though is that they are happy and content. Often times when I visit some of my amish neighbors, I enjoy sitting at the kitchen table chatting about the comparisons of the Amish and the English (that is what they call non-amish people). They don't understand why the "English" need so many material things and have so much debt.
    Great post. You have been an inspriation to me to start living a bit simpler as I tend to be a "material girl" at times.

  23. When will your stitchery be on Etsy?

  24. They may not be as flashy or obvious as those store bought rewards but they are enduring and significant and they don't go out of fashion.
    We love your blog my friend and guess what You have been tagged!!!
    I've TAGGED you.
    Check out my blog for details.
    hugs ginger

  25. Oh Rhonda...I LOVE this post.

    We love living the simple life and take such pride in doing so.

    We have found since we started living a simple life, that we slowed down. When you slow down, you become more conscious of everything in your life. It's just wonderful.

    Have a blessed day and hugs to Alice.
    Hugs to you too,

  26. another lovely post Rhonda and great news about the book,well done,looking forward to owning it


  27. Hi Rhonda,
    I enjoyed reading your post today - my nan (who passed away recently) believed as you do that 'things' are not what make us happy. I have learnt a lot from her. I've made a change of job to be a lecturer rather than work in industry as I find it much more rewarding and 'giving back' to society. I just wanted to say thank you for your inspiring post today. x


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