Small steps towards a simpler life

26 March 2009
After receiving a dozen emails in the past day or two about starting a simple life, and having many new readers join us over the month, I thought it was a good time to write about that subject again. So how do you start living simply? The complex answer is to develop a set of simple values you want to live by and fashion your life around those values. The simple answer is that you've probably already started. If you're here looking for encouragement, ideas and motivation, I'm guessing the idea is already in your head, you just need to work out a practical way of developing your idea of simplicity.

When I started living this way, I started with myself and my home and I tried to simplify everything I could. I wanted to make my home as comfortable as possible so my family and I felt nurtured just by being at home. I wanted to rid my home of as many chemicals as possible and start cleaning with less harmful 'old-fashioned' products like vinegar, bicarb and soap. I wanted to stop serving foods containing preservatives and artificial flavourings. I wanted to return to my home in every sense and reskill myself in the arts of the homemaker. I wanted to develop my frugal living skills, cut back and modify how we lived so we wouldn't notice or care that I wasn't working. I wanted to slow down but feel more alive than I ever had. I needed to lose the person I had become while working for a living and rediscover my true self. And I hoped that living a more simple life would help me achieve all those goals.

I am happy to report that I was able to do all those things, and much more.

It will be a great help to you if your partner and family are working towards simplicity with you, but when you start, you will probably be the only one in your family who thinks it's possible. That's okay! When I started along this path, Hanno thought I'd lost my marbles. And maybe I had because I was going against the tide of everything I'd lived with and believed in the previous 50 years. But that didn't make it difficult, it make it more exciting. I felt I had a real purpose. Now my life was more than working to pay for stuff I didn't need. Now my focus was in creating a good and decent life that would sustain and nourish my family. And I wanted to do that when I had just closed down my business and I had less money than I ever had.

I love a challenge.

While acknowledging that we are all different and all have different priorities, the items in this list are those that might need your focus:
  • How you deal with money
  • Budgeting and paying off debt
  • Time management
  • Cleaning
  • House maintenance
  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • Food storage and production
  • Home production of basics
  • Looking after yourself
  • Contributing to your community
  • Reskilling in those areas you are lacking
Money is not the most important aspect of a simple life but it is the glue that holds it all together. If you don't pay off your debts and cut back on what you buy you'll find it very hard going. So work hard on managing your money. It isn't easy, but it's necessary and I promise you that when you get a handle on your money, when you start paying off those credit cards, and stop shopping for non essentials, your life will open up in many wonderful ways.

When you do have to shop, look for bargains, ask for discounts, plan your shopping and try to buy good quality appliances that will last. Look after what you own. Learn how to mend and clean properly so you can make what you have in your home last as long as possible.

Look critically at what you do and stop waste. That might be wasted food, fuel, fabric, water, electricity, money or time. Prudent planning and watching what you do will help you minimise waste. Learn how to store food correctly.

Never stop learning. Learning new skills will help you in the coming years and whether it's learning how to bake a loaf of decent bread or how to plant a vegetable garden, it will enrich your life and make things easier for you. Pass on your skills to your children.

Never limit yourself. Life and the people around you will try to limit you, so limit what you spend but don't limit yourself.

Look after yourself, take time for yourself, get enough sleep and slow down. You will get more done.

Give to your community. A healthy community will help you thrive, so make sure you give time and effort to help your town/area develop. Give more, expect less and then stand back and watch your life change because of it.

I could continue writing much more but this post is getting way too long. So my challenge for you is to decide what it is you will change about your life right now. Don't click out of my blog today and go about your normal activities. I would like you to think for a few minutes about how you could make a simple change that will make a difference to your life. Then I want you to do it. It could be as simple as "I will sweep the floor instead of vacuuming.", "I will stop procrastinating and will go and plant those tomato seeds right now.", "I will walk to work.", "I am going to write up a budget.", "I will start collecting materials for my compost.", "I will make morning tea and ask my partner to join me.", "I will cook tonight's meal from scratch", "I will stop nagging and start encouraging.", "I will think about what values I want to live by." or "I will spend more time with my family." Whatever it is, whatever commitment you make right now, carry it out as best you can and make it part of how you live from now on.

Simple living is never fast, it is a small steps process. But over the months and years to come, by adding one thing at a time, by changing how you see yourself and others, by doing your best, by taking responsibility for yourself, by slowing down and becoming the person you know yourself to be, you will change your life and be happier for it.


  1. Hello, Rhonda. Thank you for this message. It is so helpful in these trying times and I think harder for our children who have not gone through some of the hard times we older people have. It helps them to read these ideas and I copy them out and send to the ones that do not have access to a computer and email the ones that do to be sure to check your blog today. Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. not sure if this is relevant to this post but I do have a question.

    trying to buy locally or even Australian made is difficult. especially when there are so many cheaper brands and products available in the many $2 shops or even Aldi. I do shop at our local co-op for all my vegies(well the ones I cannot grow myself) and dry goods, most of my dairy comes from here too. It is alot more expensive to do it this way but I figure I don't smoke or drink so the money goes towards that.
    I know Aldi is cheaper but I am not sure of the ownership or where their products come from (as I also have a problem with buying products from China).. I guess it is a case of doing the most you can.

    Rhonda, if you ever get to visit the Mountains, make sure you go see our co-op in Katoomba. it is fantastic.
    I am madly knitting face washers. I needed new ones and thought that making larger dishcloths would be perfect for a facewasher!

  3. BRAVO.... a wonderful post .. I crave your blogs daily, as I am sure many do... you encourage, you teach and you help us stay the course to a more fruitful and fulfilling life... thank you.....

  4. Good morning Rhonda,

    Well, what can I say? Your post this morning sums it all up. That's exactly how I want to live. As you say it happens slowly over time but it does happen if you put the effort in. It then becomes second nature.
    I have decided to print this post out today and post it in my journal as a constant reminder of what I call "the good life" is all about. You have such a gift with words and it is truly wonderful the way you take the time to encourage others who are working towards a simpler lifestyle.

    Blessings Gail.
    p.s. I especially like to sit with the big fellow early in the morning and have our coffee on the verandah and just chat and plan our days. He then heads off to work and I begin my chores. Just bliss!

  5. Miss R, I divide my shopping up. I shop for as much as I can at Aldi. It's much cheaper than IGA, Coles or Woolies and they have a lot of Australian made products and produce. This is from the Aldi website: "100% of our fresh meat, 97% of our dairy products and 95% of our fruit and vegetables in our Australian stores is sourced from Australian farmers" The items I can't get at Aldi, I buy in my local town at IGA - my independent grocer, and by doing so, I support my town's economy. I also buy locally made cheese, milk and yoghurt - we are in a dairy region. It's more expensive, but I don't care because I've already saved enough to do it by shopping at Aldi. I find I can meet my budget, support my town and get good quality food shopping this way.

  6. You couldn't have written a better post on acheiving simple life. Beautiful. :)

    I plan on printing it to keep it as a constant reminder to practice what I want to acheive.

  7. thanks Rhonda! my daughter did say a week ago that Aldi supports aussie farmers.. so thankyou for finding the info.
    we have a few IGA supermarkets here in the mountains. I try to boycott Coles as much as I can. they do stock some items that I cannot buy anywhere else.. water soluble lavender oil is one.

    also do you buy tinned fish? if so, what brand?

    I have been reading over your archives the past few days when i get a chance.. love them! so much sharing of wisdom, just like women did in ancient times. sharing what they had learned.

  8. What an encouraging post. I think everything you said will help those searching for a simpler life, and encourage those that are already in the midst of doing so. I am really glad you said something about slowing down and getting enough sleep. How we torture ourselves to get so much done by losing sleep, when we don't realize that having a full tank of "fuel" gives you better efficiency!

  9. Dearest Rhonda,
    I have slowly been making changes in our family. We have a 3 year old daughter so by making changes now she will grow up with these positive changes. We have cut the tv out nearly completely. It used to go nearly all day as I liked the noise in the background. So at the moment my husband usually turns it on after she goes to bed. When he is on night shift I don't even bother turning it on. It has made a huge difference to my daughter as she now reads more and plays outside nearly all day with our labrador.
    I am making my way through the house to get rid of all the stuff we don't use or wear. I am sick of clutter. For presents for our daughter we have a new rule. Quality over quanity. I am instilling a Rudolph Steiner approach in our house, as I really don't like all the plastic toys that clutter up the place.
    I have cut back my grocery bill by a large margin. I have the same rule now when it comes to food. Quality over quanity. At the moment I can't have a vegie garden but I have started to purchase from an organic shop. I must admit it is alot more expensive but it supports local organic growers and I feel better eating that produce rather than filling up on pesticides & chemicals. I have discovered Woolworths has alot of organic products which is great to see.
    I cook all our meals from scratch, am in the middle of knitting my first ever cardigan for our daughter, (it's a slow process but I am loving it!) I was making bread up until recently when the flour ended up weavels in it. I would love to know how to make sourdough.
    Thankyou Rhonda for such a wonderful blog. You have taught me so much lately.
    If I may just add a book that has taught me to slow down & enjoy motherhood to a higher degree. This book has encouraged, inspired and helped me to appreciate this journey that I am on. ( by the way it's not a religious book as noted by the title)
    Mitten Strings For God, reflections for mothers in a hurry,
    by Katrina Kenison.

    Here is a receipe from the book for preserving children!!
    1 grass grown field
    several dogs & puppies
    pebbles & sand
    1/2 dozen children or more
    1 brook

    Into field, pour children and dogs, allowing to mix well. Pour brook over pebbles until slightly frothy.
    When children are nicely browned, cool in warm bath.
    When dry, serve with milk and freshly baked gingerbread!

    Take care Rhonda & keep up your amazing work.

  10. Rhonda it's almost a year since I made the fortunate stumble onto your blog and it's posts like today's that keep bringing me back.

    I started the steps 25 years ago, then became caught in consuming, and am now making the intermediate steps.

    One step at a time IS the answer. My most recent has been learning to make good bread and making enough for the week on the weekend. It's doable! So you can work outside the home and have homemade bread everyday.

    My current step is to shop more wisely. We cut back on consuming eight years ago when we halved our income but I still wasn't shopping smart. Now I am loving to save.

    Concurrently I am teaching myself to sew. Thanks again for your inspiration. Rose

  11. Lovely thoughts! It's been over a year now since my Sweetheart and I decided we wanted to change our lives. He has a lot of grandious plans that take a lot of time and equipment. His ideas will be great--when they happen. Instead of deciding to wait until he started his projects, I decided to tackle the things in life I'm "in charge" of. I say this not as a put down on my husband, by no means!!!
    I'm writing this because I want others to see all they can do to make changes with or without someone else's input or support. I started with our food since that where I spend the most of our money. I switched to a store with all natural meats, organic produce and lots of bulk goods. I began to make as much as I could from scratch. I had cooked most of our meals at home, but began to make even more myself. Now I make all our bread and bread products including crackers, tortillas, pita breads, waffles and more. The money saved from this has allowed us to buy the more expensive natural meats and produce without an increase in our costs. I even taught myself how to can and preserve this summer and fall!
    I then switched cleaning products. I've become increasingly sensitive to chemical with each pregnancy. Now, I make our laundry detergent,furniture polish, and use vinegar, lemon, and baking soda (bicarb) for the rest. I've even switched to my own cleaners for hair and skin and even started making my own lotions and lipbalms. Soap making will begin soon.
    I also started sewing and embroidering, somethings I've always disliked because I didn't know what I was doing. I just jumped in and have learned from my mistakes, including wishing I'd had my machine serviced before I started using it! Just today I took my cloth bags I'd sewn this week for all my produce and bulk bin goods.
    There's more, but I've taken up enough space here! Again, I write this not to make myself look good, I know my many faults. I write this to encourage someone else who may be reading and thinking that it's all too much to do! It's not. I'm just a regular wife and mother, an American living in the suburbs, someone who grew up on boxed, canned and processed foods. I didn't know how to do most of the things before I began and I've made a lot of mistakes on the way. BUT--I remind myself I'm just learning and try again. So many of the things I do now as second nature, began because I read about someone else doing them first. Several of the changes, including the cloth bags, came from this very site! So, be encouraged--and try something new today!

  12. Thank you Rhonda :o)
    ~ Kelly Lynn in TX

  13. Kimchi, do you have a recipe for kimchi?

    Miss R, we buy Aldi tinned fish. I don't take much notice of brand names now so I don't know the brand.

    Everyone, thank you for your lovely comments. Thank you for sharing your stories. I think it does help others, especially those who are just starting out on this road. Vintage Rose and Kimberly, well done!

  14. Hi Rhonda
    I was wondering why you decided to start living simply after all the years of not? What was the catalyst?

    I guess I have always lived fairly simply to an extent but for me the turning point was when my relationship broke up & I was single again. This was about 5 years ago. I also think the older you get the less "things" matter - well for me that is the case anyway hehe.

    I think the internet gives us a lot of info re waste, consumerism, animal treatment and info about options we have to change the ways and different lifestyle choices we can make. It also connects us with like minded people which is great.

    I'm still knitting away :-) but have had a few dramas with the animals *sigh*. Have a lovely day.

  15. Rachael, I have been dabbling in this and that over the years. We bought our first chooks and had our first vegetable garden 25 years ago when our kids were little; I've almost always cooked from scratch as that's how I was brought up; started stockpiling when I lived up on Cape York, and again when we lived in central west Queensland; have read Grass Roots since it started and one of my treasured books is Living on the Earth which I bought in the 60s. It became my main focus however, when I decided I was over working for a living. I was a technical writer then and when one big contract ended, I couldn't bear the thought of starting another. So I started looking into frugal living, to make up for the money I wasn't making, and Eureka! I found it. I guess it took me about a year of concentrated thought to develop my philosophy of simple living, and I guess that is still evolving. :- )

  16. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Great Post!
    HOpe you're doing well these days!
    Have a great wk.

  17. Rhonda:
    Thank you so much for this. It is exactly what my body, mind, and soul have been yearning. I am printing this blog!

  18. Dear Rhonda Jean thank you for your wonderful posts every day I cant wait to get to the computer each morning to get my dose of 'RHONDA' could you please tell me how to print out one of your posts so that I can put it into my journal or send it to a friend who hasnt got the internet.
    regards ELLIE

    my e-mail address is

  19. Here in the West of OZ we are very disadvantaged in the way that we have little shopping option...its wither coles, woolies or the odd IGA. We dont have aldi or other competing stores, and Iga is very expensive unless youre desperate for something on a weekend or public holiday.

    re tinned fish, I would not eat fish that is not caught in what I think are clean seas or waters... the waters in some countries or fishing methods are less than salubrious and hence I would nto buy their products. So I always check the country of the fishes origin.

  20. lovely post and so helful as always..
    working on a crochet prayer shaw for donation..
    Happy knitting/crochetin along everyone..

  21. One of the ways I knew we were living more simple is the fact that we now only have garbage pick up once a month. That's it! It's a testament to how little stuff we bring in the home. And I do a lot of recycling (about every three months) and compost a lot of the paper items, food, dryer lint, etc.

    Thank you for the wonderful reminders. :)

  22. Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog and have decided to knit along. Thanks for the inspiration to get it going and for the continued ideas and suggestions. I've been working toward a simpler life and it's nice to know others have walked that path before me and have found it worth while.

  23. rhonda,

    i always love thinking about how new readers to you will read this and be as inspired as i was .. . my life is all radically different from what it was even a year ago, and it's still moving closer to a similar type of place to where you are. you were the very first blog i happened upon in my desperation for something different, fast. i'd reached the breaking point of this "normal" (gah!!!) modern life on overload...thank goodness i found you when i did ... and then came all the others!

    though i'm not by any means a new reader, your posts continue to inspire me and give me hope. at age 29, that's all i can ask for. the rest is up to ME!!

    be well, dear friend.

  24. We've been walking this path for a bit now. It started 5 years ago when we changed our diet to all natural foods and has slowly morphed into us turning our urban plot into a garden.

    You are so right when you say to take it one day at a time, and letting it progress over the years.

    What I did today: we cancelled the TV. We've been TV fre in the past but have enjoyed Discovery and History channel. I'm looking forward to being TV free again and relying on our library's DVD collection.


  25. Thank You Rhonda I agree with
    Ma Ma said "BRAVO", you help us stay the course.

  26. Hi Rhonda *waves*

    I haven't posted a comment in a few weeks so I just wanted to say Hi and that I still love your blog and get alot of inspiration from it. Your post today is lovely - all it takes is a few small steps to get you on your way. I can attest to that. Actually in the last few months I have changed alot and alot of it was though the guidance of your blog that's helped me start this new phase of life. I'm eternally grateful. I wrote about my changes so far on my blog on Tuesday - here's the link if you'd like to have a read:

    *hugs to you Rhonda*

  27. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and have made laundry powder and am about to pop my first loaf of bread into the oven! I also figured out how much we are spending on groceries each week, so I can be more careful in future. Thanks Rhonda, a great post today but always inspiring!

  28. Hello Karen. I loved your sweet comment, thank you. I love knowing when I've helped someone with something. It makes my blog seem worthwhile. Take care. RJ

    Good for you Tara! We got rid of pay TV a few years ago and have never missed it.

    Hello Chantel dear. I'm so proud of what you've done. I left a comment on your blog. Please stay in touch. Refresh my memory. You are the girl from Ashfield?

    Great work, Fiona. :- )

  29. Dear Rhonda, what an encouraging post. I'm at the beginning of my walk to semplicity, well not really at the beginning, it's at least 4 years that we're 'walking', but still outside the family ( my husband and children ) we're still seen as ' weird people' heating the house with a woodstove in the suburbs. I don't care, i know this is the right way to go and i'm happy enough to be blessed by a likeminded husband, and children who are learning the art of homemaking and the delight of frugality.
    Thank you so much for this post !
    Flavia from Italy

  30. Hi Rhonda. I have been reading (and learning a lot from) your blog everyday for quite awhile now, but have not commented until now. In fact, coming upon your blog has led me to many other similarly-themed bloggers and has truly changed the way my family has approached our lifestyle choices.

    The reason I decided to post today has been on my mind for awhile. Reading everyone's posts breaks any preconceptions that leading a "simple" life is a painless and smooth journey, however no one has ever really given the stories of the "down days." Everyone has bad days, and I would imagine there is a time in this "simple" journey when it'd just be easier to chuck in the towel and give in the the tide of normality.

    I think what leads me to this query is that, perhaps everyone wants to highlight only the good while minimizing the dirty part of this journey, but surely this lifestyle isn't "perfect" (whatever that is?). We're all human, but I have yet to read any stories of a "bad day"...

    They do exist, right?

    Whether or not you wish or are able to respond to this query, I also want to thank you for your dedication to this blog. I look forward to your entries everyday and really have learned so much from them. - Julie M.

  31. Hello Rhonda, thank you for your comment you left for me, it really made my day! One of my biggest inspirations said I was amazing! I feel really humbled with that :)

    I am the girl from Ashfield! I'm the one who took the photo of St Andrews church and we talked about your relatives who lived King Street long ago. I also made your date and walnut cake for my country farmer dad just over a month ago.

    And I am the girl (one of many) that wants to adopt you!!

  32. Rhonda, this is the first time I've visited your blog, and I must say THANK YOU for this well-written and encouraging post. This was quite an inspiration to me as I am transitioning into living a simple life. Your website is absolutely beautiful! Thanks again, and blessings to you and your family. alexis

  33. Very wise post Rhonda. Thank you. It is informative, encouraging and filled with good old fashioned values that can serve us all well. I love the fact that you added to not leave the blog without thinking about the changes you can make. Many of us are guilty of accumlulating information but never putting it into action.

  34. Splendid post Rhona Jean! I like what our city does..they compost at the dump and then the city residents are allowed to pick up the 'rich soil' for their!
    I smile every time I take a small step to conserve, recycle and is an ongoing journey and I'm still learning every day! Your posts are such an encouragement to me..every small step in the right direction is really a big step!
    I check your blog daily, it keeps me on track..

  35. so much to think about - thanks for the tips.

  36. I believe that living simply is different for everyone as well. I feel that (in a nutshell) is ridding your life, home, etc w/ all of the things that keep you from doing what you love to do.

  37. Hi Rhonda,
    You are such an inspiration to me - I love your blog. I am starting to make small steps toward living simply, and it's paying off slowly. Getting hubby to agree on some things is proving interesting, but he's coming around. You make it seem so easy, but I know that it does take time! Thank you for your time in helping all who read your blog.
    Barb, Idaho

  38. I've been reading your blog for about a week. I am slowly going through the old posts as I have time. Your post today, though, is like an outline for a class in simple living. I have decided to use your basic list and your blogs as a reference for my daughter and me to learn "home making". I never learned home making in school and my wonderful "single-mother" mom didn't have time to teach me. (I say that with love.) Since I home school my children, I can add a "class" in these skills and my children will be better for it. We already garden, I make many, but not all, of our meals from scratch. I do make homemade bread and I preserve fruit and vegetables from the garden. So we have some skills already, but it is an attitude as much as skill. I want my children to have a "home making" attitude.
    Thank you for the blog. Oh, and I have one question--on the sidebar in the pictures, there is a yellow liquid in tall bottles (next to an orange preserve in glass jars). What is it? And thank you for accomodating your American readers with conversions to Farenheit and pound measures and so forth. It is very kind.

  39. Always a treat to read you blog.I have been working at this lifestyle for many years.It is a challenge but, one I enjoy and I am encouraged by the interest so many people have shown.Friends whom I never thought would be interested in how I do things are suddenly full of question about gardening, canning,knitting and the list goes on and on.Blogging has brought me a new group of friends from all over the world who have so much in common with my thoughts.I never guessed so many of us are out there.Thanks for everything.Our planting season is just starting so wish me luck.

  40. What an incredibly helpful and loving post. Keep teaching! There's a whole generation (or two) that need this kind of wisdom!


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