That first step

12 March 2009

Cracking the walnuts.

Caution is in the wind. We're being advised to save our resources, spend our money - for the good of the national economy, and keep our heads down. Keep working, keep spending and don't change anything. Times will get better, they say.

Of course, times will get better but now is the perfect time to change. Change can make your life better while the bad times continue around you. Simplifying your life can make a big difference to how you survive this economic crisis. I'm not saying you should pack up and move to the country, I'm saying that whatever you're doing in your home right now - the way you shop, the way you cook and clean, the way you furnish your home, how you feed your pets, how you think, how you travel to work or school can all be simplified in a way to save you money and eventually, time.

Living simply is a good way to live all the time, not just in hard times. I know many people are coming to it now because it provides an optimistic direction and a light in the window in these cold dark times, but even when the economy turns around again, it will provide that, and more. Simple living is not just about being prudent with money, it provides a gentler way of living that is kinder to the environment and to the people who live it than the way we have come to live our lives now.

Modern life encourages us to be dependent on others. We buy our food, often already cooked, from a shop, we buy our clothes already made, we have someone cut our hair and 'do' our nails, we go to the doctor to ask what is wrong with us, a mechanic fixes our car, a train takes us on our journeys, someone teaches our children, magazines and TV tell us what we should wear and who we should look like; advertising dictates, products dominate, others decide. Obviously we shouldn't give up the convenience of modern life, but we should get back our independence. We should make our own decisions on food, cleaning, clothing, health and how we live. Almost everything you make yourself will be superior to what you buy in a shop. You will take care that what you include in what you make is healthy and not there just to extend the shelf life or make it smell better. Preservatives and flavour enhancers are there to benefit the manufacturers, not us. We do better with fresh, or home made.

This post is not meant to teach you what you might need to know but rather to encourage you towards change. I have written many posts on ways of doing things, recipes, developing yourself and becoming independent. Some older posts on these ideas are here, here, here, here and here. And read 50 simple things, which is here.

I don't expect anyone to change their life overnight. It's a slow process, one thing at a time, day-to-day kind of change. But generally you will find that changing one thing will lead seamlessly to other changes and before you know it your life change is underway. And I don't want to point you in one direction either - this life is different for all of us. Those older and younger, with and without children, working outside the home and working at home will all have different priorities and needs. So the point of this post is to help you think about change, to tell you it's possible no matter what you hear from others, and to encourage you to start. You don't have to live your life the way "normal" life is portrayed on TV or in magazines. Your life will be different to your friends lives, so don't model yourself on them. You and your family are unique, so create a unique life and piece-by-piece, slowly but surely, new possibilities will open up before you. It won't be easy, you'll work harder at first, but the rewards will be there for the taking.

So wake up, dive in, be bold, find beauty, slow down, give more, expect less, breathe deeply, take pride, value yourself, respect your work, do good, learn, grow, develop, lead, teach and become your true self, whatever that may be. Unravel the mystery of what your life can become by starting on that journey today. That first step is the hardest, but it's also the most important.


  1. Rhonda,

    Always glad to get inspiration from visiting your blog!

    I was wondering if you know what kind of pumpkins are popular for baking/ roasting in Queensland? I lived there a while & ate wonderful green skinned pumpkins (people refered to them as "japanese pumpkins"). I'd love to grow them in the states. Do you know variety you in QLD?

    Thank you- Jenny

  2. Hi Jenny, I've seen your request before, but have forgotten to answer. I apologise. I prefer the Queensland Blue for roasting and Japanese (or Kabocha or Kent) pumpkin for mashing or cooking in cakes or scones. You can buy seeds here at this Etsy store: Goiod luck with your harvests.

  3. Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for todays update. It is really encouraging. I especially liked the part about modern society creating a total dependence. That is exactly what it does, from birth to death.

    Also, thanks for the answer the other week with the laundry liquid for a mechanic's clothes.


  4. Rhonda, the hens hid the eggs for two days and a half days, they were cool and are not fertile. I did the float think they are alright to eat?

  5. I agree with you Rhonda that so many are coming back to the simpler way of life because at this point many have to but let's hope that the simpler life will catch on and become a way of life for more seems to be easier for the older generation. As for me I have little need to spend money at the malls or anywhere else. I am content! It becomes easier the older I get.
    And your posts inspire me onwards to make do with what I have. I think about you as I do my housework and enjoy each task at hand.

  6. Thanks Rhonda for the reminder. :0)

  7. Good morning Rhonda,

    What a really good reminder that we don't have to be like everyone or anyone else but just be ourselves and work towards the things that suit us best. Some of us live in the city with not even a verandah to grow plants but others have lovely vege plots that provide abundantly but we can all, in our own way make our lives better by not being bogged down by materialism. Its fulfilling and rewarding and along the way we are able to connect and make friends with like minded folk who in turn are just trying to live a better life.

    Blessings Gail

  8. Thank you for this brilliant post. It's left me with a go-getter attitude and a big smile on my face!

    Thanks for making my day! I always read your blog but usually with 3 kids running around don't get a chance to comment....thanks so much!

  9. Good morning everyone.

    Donetta, the eggs should be okay if you're sure they've only been there a couple of days and the weather is cool or cold. If your chooks continue to lay eggs away from their nests, make the nests more comfortable and attractive. There might be something there they don't like. They will like a darkish nest made of straw in a quiet, out of the way place.

    Ways of Zion, I hope that smile lasts all day.

  10. Love this post! I was just saying to a friend yesterday how being frugal gives you a sense of freedom!

    Change your perspective and focus on what you do have, how blessed you are, and how little you really need to make you healthy, happy and safe!

    It can be a satisfying, fulfilled and happy life, by living more soimply and not getting caught up in the 'wanting/ wishing/ desiring' of things you can't afford, can't have, and don't really need.

  11. I just read a book called Little Heathens about life on an Iowa farm during the Depression. They had a whole chapter about saving nuts in jars.... just a lot of description not actual directions... sweet book though. Great look at life in that time period and what a simpler life means - of course it was also a lot of work, but everyone pitched in. Thanks for posting about this.

  12. Thank you for the encouraging words for independence.

    It has frightened me somewhat to hear our public officials (President Obama included) encourage spending. I understand they are trying to prevent outbreaks of fear, but there's just something about it that isn't right. With all of us taught to be dependent on someone or something else, it's impossible for us to all out stop spending, so what are they really encouraging spending on?

    One step at a time, we all can become more independent and happy through simplification, hard work, and a little less frivolous spending. :) Thank you for all your posts, when you take things one small step at a time, you can still feel overwhelmed by all that you still want to do. Your posts help me to calm my mind and refocus my small steps. :)

  13. Thanks Rhonda, I needed this post. I've been feeling like I don't do enough to be frugal and live a simple life. Most of my friends just continue to live like theres no tomorrow and sometimes look at me like I'm the crazy one....but...I'm the one retired and they're still working 40+ hours a week...Thanks again for the encouraging words and keep up the good posting.

  14. Hello Rhonda,

    Thank you so much for your post. It is a good reminder of how far I have come. I am lucky to live in a strong urban community, where we offer each other support in simplifying our lives. This spring and summer I am focusing my efforts on trying to raise as much food at home as possible, even though there are several challenges to growing food in the area around our house. In order to meet this goal, so far I have really needed to focus on prioritising my time so that I have time at home to implement all the great plans I come up with during breaks during the day at work and reading books on my commute.

    I can see that my goal will be keeping me closer to home this summer. I imagine that I will be heading for a dip at the local lake ( 15 mins bike ride away) more often that to the beach ( 45 mins on the bike). I hope we can still fit in some beach visits sometimes!

    Thank you for the great blog. I made laundry detergent as a gift for my housemates last december and I think most of them are still using it. I also am reading the simple green frugal coop blod regularly. I think it so neat that it is international in scope. It's fun to hear what is happening on the other side of the world.


  15. I look forward to reading your posts each day! Today's was beautifully stated. I ought to print it and tape it to the mirror!
    Tylee (central California)

  16. Rhonda, I always love reading your posts... they seem to always echo my own thoughts and feelings! Thank you!

  17. What a great post Rhonda Jean!
    I have been trying to live more simply for a long time and it hasn't always been easy but I am making progress and I am looking forward to making more changes!
    Thank you for your wonderful blog and all the inspiration and encouragement it gives!

  18. Thank you Rhonda! I have been trying to say this same thing to my daughter for a long time. That she doesn't have to live like TV or her "firends". Peer pressure is touch for a middle schooler. Thank you for being another voice chanting my message.

  19. This is beautiful as usual. I have noticed that I am thinking so different since reading your posts. You are so inspiring. I love simple.

  20. Hi Rhonda,
    A great post, reading your blog has encouraged me to simplify my life alot over the last 12 mths.
    Thanks for the work you put into each of your posts to help me in my adventure called life.

  21. I know there are people out there who DO NOT need any encouragement when it comes to spending, and I just cannot imagine living that life, seeking happiness in material possessions, or living an overindulgent lifestyle (though, really, it's all relative). BUT sometimes spending is necessary and needed. Making good choices and spending WISELY, is the key, I think. My thoughts here:

  22. Hi Rhonda,

    Good luck to Hanno with the nut cracking. I do hope he keeps his thumbs and fingers out of the way! Since I have started reading your blog Rhonda I have changed my life in alot of ways in just a few short months. Here's a list of things I have changed:

    In 2009 I was going to track all of my spending which I have done in an excel spreadsheet. This is great because it makes me think twice about impulse buying. I also record the quantity and where I purchased from so I can start my own version of a price book. I log everything - even something for 50 cents.
    I made 2009 my year of no takeaway and I think I have maybe had it 3 times the whole year which is amazing since I used to buy my lunch every weekday at work and dinner almost every night. Pretty much my every meal! What a wicked waste of money. Now I never do this - I am organised :) In the process I am teaching myself how to cook
    I made my own handmade soap which I use and have given away
    I have taught myself to crochet
    I started knitting again and making dishcloths
    I planted tomatoes and strawberries
    I canceled my gym membership. I never enjoyed going and now I get a walk in most afternoons just by simply getting out of the train early
    I used to drive my car into work every day. Not only did I pay for petrol but I used to pay $15 a DAY in parking. Absolutely crazy but I had gotten lazy and saw it as 'easier' then catching the train. I have never enjoyed catching the train but I've changed my thinking. Now I see it as me getting a great walk, saving money, and time to read :)
    Because of these changes I have started to loose weight and become focused. All I needed to do was become more organised and look after myself.

    The first of my changes started by simply just wanting to cook for myself, the rest of it sort of snowballed. The future looks bright :)

    Thank you for all the ways you've helped me to turn my life around Rhonda *hugs to you*


  23. Rhonda, you are such a breath of fresh air! The things you talk about in your posts are pretty much the way I've always lived. My mother taught me and my sisters how to sew at a very young age....I've always made my own, and my family's clothing....One year I ran out of time and attended Easter MASS with pins holding the hem of my coat! But I did manage to get everyone else's done in time. I finished mine after I got home! LOL!!

    Doing for ourselves has always been our first choice, and we resort to outside help only as a last resort. Yet, we are always able and willing to share our knowledge, and our bounty and are never alone.

    It is the only way to survive the good times and the bad.

    God bless you for what you do. I'm so glad you have such a large following on here.


  24. Thank you Rhonda :)
    Oh soon the soap making and aging it. I still have a stash of soap from a clearance sale. We are using up all the store house of purchased product I look forward to the gradual reduction. Oh for April and May's harvest.
    We are saving to plant the fruit trees soon.

  25. Rhonda Jean, thanks so much for the orange coconut cake recipe! I'll be making it tomorrow and have some with tea and knitting. I'll think of you. Much thanks, Mona

  26. Hi Rhonda,

    Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know how much you have influenced me over the past two weeks since I first read your blog. I wont bore you with the details but lets just say I have gone from one extreme to the other and not all has been my choice up until now.
    Anyway, stopping by the local Salvo's store yesterday and came across a book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Brathnach. Not sure if you have heard of it or posted about it as I have not yet completed going through the archives. It's like a change your life diary... giving you a topic for each day over a year and so far its wonderful. I just wanted to share with you the opening quote.....
    " a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, through her work, a portion of its lost heart" - Louise Bogan

    I just wanted to share this with you and let you know that your wise wisdom found me just in time to turn me around.

    Many many thanks

  27. Hello Mel, thank you for your interesting comment. I do know of Simple Abundance and my name is down on the waiting list for it at my local library. What a profound and wonderful quote, thank you so much for sharing that with me and the readers here.

  28. That spot in your photo looks so wonderful and relaxing. Plodding away on to do's (I see your knitting there) in the shade, in the summer. Lovely.

  29. Rhonda,

    Thank you for the lovely blog. I can never read them enough!

    Since I've been reading your blog, I've changed my vision of a few things I do at home. I pay attention to everything I do, now. I just don't 'do' something, I enjoy what I do. I'll be managing my life and conserving more this year. I am being more respectful of the blessings I've been given.

    Now that it is planting season here, I'll be outside with my gardens, thinking of you and your gardens.

    I wish you all the best for a peaceful life.

  30. Thank you, thank you for this post. It is just the encouragement I need to keep moving in the direction of Simple. As I have been shopping less in stores (and avoiding the mall entirely!) I've noticed a few unexpected benefits:

    - My mind feels less cluttered

    - I feel more creative

    - I feel more and more satisfied with things as they are; with what I already have

    I am with you in your hope that people continue to live more simply even after the economy improves!

  31. Wonderful post! I delight in reading your blog everyday... sometimes more than once! Your wisdom helps me stay focused in a consumers world. I try then to take what I have learned and share it with folks I spend time with. Little bitty steps from everyone and real change is possible! Simplicity is rather addictive!

    Thank you!!

    cathy c

  32. Love this post! What a wonderful way to approach life. I will be visiting your blog quite often I am sure.

  33. Hey Rhonda!
    you are so right. i have always been a DIY kind of girl. i told my mother and my sister that i made butter and they were both like why would you wanna do that? because 1. i can 2. it like to make my own stuff when it is possible! 3 it was fun and satisfying. i will never buy butter again! they just don't get it.

  34. Hi,
    My name is Ivy. I am French, living in a little island called Martinique in the Caribbean. Please, if my English is not so good,excuse me. I want to say hello to Rhonda. I regularly reed her blog, but it is the first time that I leave a comment. I am used to freeze nuts, buying them went I travel (every thing is so expensive in my country) and the taste is good even after months of freezing. Thanks for all you advices and for helping us to appreciate the real things of life.


  35. You're lucky these are not the north American native black walnuts. Delicious but almost impossible to husk..We drive the car back and forth over them several times for starters! ;->

    I love the Kabocha pumpkins!

  36. Thanks Rhonda -

    This was just the gentle little "kick up the backside" (lol) that I needed today.

  37. Your words are so timely! Thank you thank you!

  38. One simple change i found thru reading the comments on your blog: use our bath water to flush the toilets. It saved me over $18 on my bill last month. It cut our water consumption from over 20 cu ft to about 10 cu ft per day. Perhaps still a lot, but definitely an improvement.

  39. Fabulous post! I agree with you 100% and although change doesn't happen overnight, it feels so good and RIGHT to start taking back control of life.
    Thanks for all the great info.

  40. So true and eloquently written. My husband and I purchased the Encyclopedia of Country Living a few years back and have found it to be a great resource in becoming more sustainable and living off the land and with our hands. I'm so glad you shared the title on your blog.

  41. It's really interesting to hear that the government there is saying the same thing that ours here in the US is. And it is getting the same response from most people in both places. We'll cut back on spending and we're going to start being more self-sufficient and eco-friendly. We should have done it long before now and there isn't any reason to keep on like we have been.

  42. Thanks again for a wonderful and inspiring post. I used to read and wish but didnt know where to start or how and thought I would just live the way I wish to vicriously and do what little I could do and thought it was oh so little, but I realize that my whole thinking process has changed and I dont feel like I need to keep buying and storing more "stuff" around me - I started putting away, giving away, and plan to do more of that of things I just do not need and for some reason kept buying and now I dont feel the urge to buy things like I used to. I think I was feeling deprived but now I am not so much and it is thanks for posts like yours and some of your reader's as well. Thank you again and I hope to come back in the very near future to post about how I have managed to move more towards simple, frugal, sustainable, reasonable, better way of living and being


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