The next step

26 August 2009
The second most asked question I get here is: "how do I start living like you do?". It comes a close second to: "why do you have all those pots on sticks in your garden?" Well friends, today I'll answer one of those questions, and it will have nothing to do with pots on sticks.

Hanno took this photo from the roof. Good eh?

When I first made my change I'd already been doing a lot of the things that became important in our quest for a simple life - I'd baked bread on and off for many years, we'd kept chooks for 25 years, when we lived in the bush we stockpiled groceries. I guess one big step was to understand that there were others living how I wanted to live and that really inspired me like nothing else. Just having a name for it made a difference to me but knowing there were others I could learn from made me realise that we were not alone and that what I hoped for was possible. BTW, the kids were still living at home when all this started.

So what did I hope for? Well, after many years of working as a writer I wanted to work alone in my own home. I wanted to develop myself as a person and as a homemaker. I wanted to collect eggs and honey, I wanted to harvest vegetables every day, I wanted to preserve food. There was a part of me that wanted to create so I knew knitting, sewing and writing would be part of my future. I wanted to give up work and be free to build a little homestead in my backyard where the sun ripened fruit and vegetables, rain collected from our roof filled rain tanks and where chickens and bees reminded me everyday that I was part of a natural world, not a corporate one.

Surprisingly, that romantic dream actually became a reality but it was a bumpy road that lead me to where I am now. If you're at the beginning of this journey, never expect to arrive at a destination because there is none. But one of the important things you will notice, if you trust yourself enough, is that once started, this journey will take you quietly by the hand and lead you to from one step, to the next, and the next.

To illustrate that point, let me tell you what happened here. Once the decision was made to close my business and live on what Hanno was earning in our little local shop, I knew that my first job was to find ways to save. The money I was bringing in stopped, so we had to reduce costs. I looked for different ways to shop for groceries - because we spent money on that every week. I looked around for the best consistent prices (Aldi), did most of my shopping there and shopped at my local IGA for the rest. I found a bulk food store where I bought flour, nuts, spices, beans, chick peas etc. I found our local dairy, with the best milk in the state, sold cheaper diary products right at their door. So did our local cheese maker. They sold cheese and yoghurt at their door, with yoghurt at half price. It was just a matter of seeing what was in my local area. There was much more than I ever thought there was. When I had the shopping sorted, I started stockpiling - that saved me time and money. Our once a week shop became a monthly one, saving time, money and fuel.

We looked around the home to save more money. We got rid of our pay TV and the second car, stopped buying magazines and most books (I still get books from my Amazon associates account when I build up enough points), we stopped buying clothes and shoes on a regular basis. Still now, all these years later, we have enough clothes in our wardrobes to do us, and will have for a few years to come. Oh, we look daggy at home wearing out everything until it goes into the worm bin, but that's okay, we are far beyond judging each other by what we look like and the clothes we wear. It feels good to get the full value from what we own. Fashion is well and truly in the past for us. Now we're comfortable in our own skin.

In the past I had hated housework and did everything I could think of to avoid it. But while I was living this slower life, it occurred to me that if I wanted to live in a home that nurtured and comforted, I would be the one to make that home. So at this point my next step was to learn how to make my own cleaners, how to do my house work well, how to use my time wisely, and how to look after myself while I was looking after my family. Morning tea on the front verandah came into being then, and it still survives, strong as ever today. I did a lot of thinking during this period and changed how I thought about a few things. In the end, when I felt comfortable with the changes I had made in our home, I felt that I had remade myself as well. I had gone from being a corporate worker who wanted to change her life, to a homemaker, happy to work at a slower pace, happy to wear daggy clothes while I worked in the garden, happy to live on less, happy to stop shopping. Just happy!

Martha, Heather and Cocobelle. Martha and Heather are best friends.

When we got the vegetable garden producing and the hens laying, I realised I had to teach myself how to store food more effectively. I already knew how to preserve in a water bath, I knew how to make jams and relish, but I'd never done it in a purposeful and productive way before. All my previous efforts were a bit of a gimmick really, to see if I could do what my grandmother did. Well, it worked, I started putting up our excesses in jars and then we decided to buy a freezer. We started freezing vegetables in packs, just one or two bags as they were ready for picking, with larger sessions for end of season harvests. I tried drying, fermenting and sour doughs. All worked well and are still part of my food prep at various times of the year.

This post is getting way too long so let me just finish off by saying that at every stage of our journey, we've just done the next thing that needed doing. There is always a next thing in a simple life. You're always fine tuning, changing or looking for a solution to a problem, so trust yourself to go with the next thing and your life will probably flow along nicely like ours does.

One thing is for sure, trusting yourself will lead you to your own unique life, one that is not influenced by any other. Sure we all support each other, even over all these vast distances between our homes, but trusting yourself to take your own next step, will guarantee your life will develop in a way that suits you perfectly. Starting with the first thing you want to do in your simple life will lead you to a question or the need to learn (or relearn) a new skill. Take each step as it comes, there is no hurry, this life is slow and relaxed, and when you master that skill, there will be another that pops its head up. Trust this process, trust yourself and take it slow. When you look back in a year or two you'll see a trail of questions that you found answers to and a period of rebuilding skills that took you along to the next step and the next. Along the way a life will be built and as I said, never expect to arrive at a destination. The journey itself is our prize.


  1. Good Morning Rhonda Jean,

    Lovely inspiring post, as usual. Funny how life unfolds isn't it? I've found you have to actively decide on a direction and move that way. There may never be an end to this journey, as long as we get up in the morning. :)

    Years ago we were just considered "nuts" by our families and neighbours, now the line has moved. LOL
    Have a lovely day!
    Deb in Canada

  2. This post could have gone on longer and I would have been happy! It reminds me that I need to stop worrying and begin to be more mindful throughout my day. I recently "retired" and am finding myself in a tizzy all the time trying to get everything done. Maybe it's time to just take fewer things and be more focused on those things. I needed to be reminded that this is a process and will try to be more patient and look at what I've done instead of what I haven't done.

    Thank you once again, my friend!
    central Illinois

  3. Beautifully written. You are living the dream of many.

  4. Dear Rhonda, thank you for sharing your story. I am looking forward to the end of the year when we will be moving to our new house which is in the process of being built. At the same time I will be giving up full time work and working part time from home, and I am also looking forward to that, having worked pretty much since I left school at 16! We are very fortunate in that the new house will be totally paid for, we will have no debt so will be able to hopefully live comfortably on what we will then be earning. We have an acre of land so will be looking to have chickens and grow our own veges. We have about 6 fruit trees planted already (or as I like to jokingly refer to it, the orchard!) and will be making jam and preserving all that we can. This stage of our lives will be the culmination of years of hard work and I am counting down the days. Thanks again for being such an inspiration to all who read your blog
    Judy in Adelaide
    (word verification = fowlsic, hope that's not a sign of things to come LOL!)

  5. I didn't think it was too long either!

    Do you think that what you are living and what you say applies to all ages- or just those who have experienced more of life?

  6. Hi Deb, Debbie, Gail and Judy!

    Judy, I think being debt-free is a major key to living a simple life. We had paid off our home before we made our change, and now staying debt-free is priority for us every day. I see this as ur prize for all those years of hard work, just like you do. Good luck with your new home.

  7. Hi Taryn. I think anyone can live their own version of a simple life. That might be like ours or something totally different. As I said to Judy, the key is to be debt free, or if you're younger, pay off your mortgage by sacrificing on other things and not getting into debt with credit cards. Use cash, pay off your debt, make as much for yourselves as you can, use everything you own to its full extent. Never waste anything. It's a million things really and taking one step at a time.

  8. Again you have written a beautiful post. I could of continued reading your post for hours, but since you stopped yesterday's post I had to reread some of your older posts.
    Thank you for all the time you put into your blog.


  9. Hi there this is my first visit!
    I love your blog....I came over from Large Family Mothering's blog!

    My blog is The Garden Gate and I have 6 kiddos so far and live my life much the same as you!

    I've been bloggin' for 1 year....and to celebrate I'm having a giveawy if you'd like to come over and say HI!

    Your garden and chickens are terific!
    I too have chickens!


  10. It really seems so simple when you take it one step at a time. I like how you emphasized the natural next step, instead of imposing rigid ideals on yoursef all at one. Thanks!

  11. What a beautiful post, You described how I see what I am doing perfectly I think, though my journey has some temporary destinations or stops. I think that is because I am in such early stages but I do see it as a journey not destination. Thanks for these inspiring words Rhonda Jean, I could have read a post twice as long written in this way.

  12. Rhonda Jean,
    I can not thank you enough for the information and more importantly inspiration you have given me.
    Today's post was just what I needed.
    God bless,

  13. Hello Rhonda

    Another great post with words of inspiration. I purchased the Burkes Back Yard mag and loved your article. It was a very welcoming piece. I think you will entice readers to the magazine just as you entice blog readers to you blog with your down-to-earth and calming words of wisdom.

    Cheers - Joolz

  14. So much of what you hoped for mirrors my own aspirations and I'm sure many, if not all of your readers have similar dreams. We are all at different stages of the journey. It's easy to want everything at once... the well stocked pantry lined with homemade preserves, the freshly baked bread, the home sewn clothes, the patchwork quilts and the abundant kitchen garden but as you do tell us it is all about slowing down and taking one step at a time. I had to do this and learn to prioritize and ask myself.... which of the homemaking skills would benefit my family the most? I chose the vegetable gardens, bread making and other kitchen arts over sewing and knitting as I find most of my family clothes at garage sales and it is amazing how many ladies knit garments to sell at garage sales! Even the bread making was a journey, from using a machine to returning to handmade loaves to grinding my own grain. Soap making and bee keeping are skills we want to learn but they can wait for now as we have lots of local soap makers and beekeepers and I'm happy to support local enterprises. One unusual project our family took on was building our own natural swimming pool which will use reed bed filtration and water plants to keep the water clean... no need for chemicals.It is almost finished but we now need rain to fill the tanks! I will do a post about this one day but I want to wait until it is planted out and up and running.

  15. I am just loving coming and visiting your blog. Thanks for all the wonderful posts. I have been just coming for short visits - reading a post or two and then going on with my housework and life here. Thanks for the welcomed and refreshing breaks.


  16. Thankyou Rhonda, that was just what i needed!!! Thankyou for reminding me to be patient and take it a step at a time - i'm only young and have wanted to have everything perfect already and was dissapointed when it hasn't happened... every day if i just work towards the end goal a little more, i have done a good job. i'm looking foward to one day being able to look back at what i have accomplished and enjoy all the 'fruits of my labour'as you do.
    I feel that this is an answer to my comment a few days ago so thankyou.


  17. It's good to be reminded that my journey is different to any others and therefor I should stop comparing.

    When I look forward I still have a lot I would like to change to have my vision of our simple life. When I look back I can see how far we have already come!

    Today I will pay off our last credit card only $260 left. I can feel the burden lifting. Now onto the next step...

    Thanks so much for helping set a mindful tone to my days.

    in Toowoomba

  18. Hi Rhonda Jean

    I was thinking about what you wrote about clothing in todays post. Despite wearing things until they fall apart at home, when you have social occasions you still want to look nice. I shop on ebay or buy from op shops to keep the price of good quality clothing down. Do you have a method of doing things cheaply to still look nice? I have black trousers and skirts and team them up with different cheaply purchased tops and accessories for different looks. I think this is something that readers may be interested in. It is all part of keeping the household expenses low, but looking after yourself too. Kind regards Julie Davies :)

  19. This post reminds me of much of my own story. I just found your blog yesterday, & chuckled tonight when I realized it's already "tomorrow" there. It truly is a wonderful journey to be living this life. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Laurie in North Carolina

  20. Yes, there's always a next step and it will all unfold as you need it to.Goals are moveable and keep increasing as fast as you achieve,that's what keeps it a challenge and interesting.Some things take a long time, some a short time and your vision changes as you learn to live the new life and become patient with yourself.

  21. Beautiful post Rhonda Jean...the life you created is the life that I am working to create as well. As you know I am going to return to school to become a this will slow down the homestead plan a bit...but I can still do a lot of what I want to do and continue to learn year after year in the process. Plus, being a teacher allows me to have summers off to garden and preserve!! It's nice to know that I don't have to do it ALL NOW. It will happen over time...and I am content with that. xoxo

  22. Thanks so much for this encouraging post!! I'm so much happier now that I've started hasn't been easy as I was raised as a "buy everything" girl...everything NEW. What a waste... Now I love hunting around garage sales, growing and preserving my own food, and I must confess one of my favorite things is to bake bread by HAND. :D It's amazing how we change, isn't it? I used to think this lifestyle was weird and coo-ky... now I wouldn't want anything more. (Or less!) :D Your blog is so helpful and encouraging through this whole journey. Thanks again!

  23. HI Rhonda Jean,

    I think you should put more humour into your writing when you can, you are so funny.

    I see you even removed the picture of the pots on sticks that used to be on the right hand side of your blog! haha

    To anyone curious: the little plant pots on sticks prevents the top of the sticks from poking you in the eye while gardening. (Just trying to help :D )

  24. I made my first jam ever yesterday!
    It is plum jam an it tastes delicious!

    Thanks for the inspiring post.

    Have a nice day,

  25. Thank you for your posts Rhonda Jean, you have inspired me on my path and to start blogging my thoughts. One point you keep reiterating - it is our own journey which is important. And we cannot compare ourselves to each other, we must make a path to suit ourselves.

  26. You are an inspiration and encouragement. You've done it a world away and when I read your words I see a similar reflection for my own family, not a duplicate but a theme.
    The journey of a nonconformist going solo against the grain is made much easier knowing someone else out there has paved the way, had questions and felt the same uncertainty of how to accomplish it.
    I have an 8yr old son and a 13 yr old daughter, they are both quietly intrigued by they changes I'm making. They embrace them without fight and few questions. My hubby is I think a bit entertained by some of it and a bit resistant of the long term big picture I describe.....he just can't quite see it yet. Your post about Hanno's hesitancy and how you plugged along letting him see the changes you made and how they affected you was a huge encouragement to keep going and just let him watch and soak it in at his own pace.

    I've had a mantra from a book for several years I think applies to the pursuit of a simple life:
    "Ruthlessly eliminate hurry."

    Thanks for showing us how! :)

  27. Rhonda! I enjoy your posts about sustainable and frugal living so much. My husband was brought up with such a mentality as his grandparents were serious Depression era survivors and this rubbed off on my husband's parents.

    We live simply, but are continuously learning and attempting new things, your blog being an excellent source of information.

    We get many comments on "how great it is that we live thriftily and budget," which puzzles me often as I forget that not everyone lives this way, as it seems so obvious to me by now.

    (I laughed btw at your mentioning about jars and the such as I somewhat covet the wonderful collection of jars my grandmother in law has collected over the years for use. She simply says it takes year and years and years...)

    Thanks again!

  28. Thank you for the inspiring post. I am in the process of trying to simplify my life and your post has added to my desire to do just that!

  29. Thanks for that post, there are bits of that post that I can take away with me! It has certainly given me things to think about anyway!!

  30. Me, too, all of the above! I quit and went BACK to the simple life. I did love keeping my home, sewing, making my own bread, yogurt, etc. and missed it terribly while I thought I 'had" to work! It has been hard financially, but so rewarding to stay home!

    Your chicken looks fabulous! I fried one for DH's BD the 17th. I invite you to read some of my blog (in your spare time! :) I have pictures of the chicken, potatoes, gravy, & coconut cream pie!

    I wish I could have a garden & chickens but living in the city limits prohibits that!

    Thank you for a lovely post!

  31. You could have kept writing and I would have kept reading. Thankyou for the inspiration. I'm still in the corporate rat race, but we are moving towards a simpler life and what you've described sounds like heaven.

    You're right about just doing the next thing. We started a vegetable garden and then as the summer harvest came around it was obvious that the 'next thing' was to learn to preserve. I'm loving the journey.

  32. Hi Rhonda, I started by reading about lemons, and ended up here where I stopped: you write beautiful words about trusting ourselves, and crafting our lives.

  33. As has already been said, so very inspiring.

    Admire your writing style immensely - reading it, it felt as if you were in the room speaking. That's real talent!



Comments with links or email addresses won't be published. All spam and business advertising will be deleted.

Children read my blog so I always make sure the information here is family-friendly. I don't publish comments containing links or email addresses now because I don't have time to check them.

All comments in English, please. Thank you.