31 December 2009

From the archives - Living Small (October 2007)

It never occurred to me when I was a spender that I was actually giving away my independence. I thought the opposite. I believed I was the queen of my realm and the more I had and the more dollars I spent, the more power, strength and independence I had. When I stopped spending I realised how pathetically wrong that was.

What I was doing was working in a job I didn't like so I had enough money to pay for a lifestyle I didn't want to live. I was shopping for clothes and shoes to make me look like everyone else, I was buying things for my home to make me feel comfortable in a place I didn't take the time to feel comfortable in, and I was buying foods to comfort and nurture because I didn't feel at ease in my life and I didn't have the time or energy to cook the foods I liked. And the strangest thing is that when I was doing that, I didn't think about the sadness I was feeling, I didn't realise I was unsatisfied and I didn't see the need for change.

I only realised that need when I took myself out of the shopping frenzy and sat alone on my verandah and thought about what I was doing and how far from my ideal life I really was. When I stopped shopping, I saw it in a brighter light and when I saw its ugly side, I didn't want to go back there.

I realised that I could do all those things I used to spend my money on. I could make clothes, I could cook well, I could do my own housework, but when I started doing those things I found that I'd lost many of the skills I grew up with. I'd forgotten how to sew and knit because I paid someone else to make my clothes, I'd forgotten how to cook well because I'd been buying all sorts of foods that didn't require me to exercise my mind and spend my energy on making my truly favourite dishes. When it came to housework, all I knew was to get the Chux and Mr Sheen from the cupboard and wipe. I was really pathetic - a grown woman who didn't know how to look after myself or my family properly; I'd forgotten the skills that all my great grandmothers had passed on to me - I, my friends, was a modern woman - I was dependent on others to help me live.

You don't have to be a genius to shop, you need limited skills to be good at it - all you need is money, or credit, and time. All that time to spend walking through shopping malls searching for something made (usually) in a foreign land by people who are probably underpaid, producing millions of products exactly the same as the previous million, and the million that will follow.

On the other hand, not shopping requires a multifaceted strategy. You need to know how to create, cook, clean and sew, you need to make do with what you have, to reuse, recycle and repair, you need to barter, grow food, preserve, and you need to love doing it. You have to discover for yourself the true beauty of being able to look after yourself, your family and your home with a minimum of outside help. The beauty of it is there if you look.

I am much richer now than I've ever been in my life. I know how to live now. I have the skills to survive a crisis, I have the strength and knowledge to produce my own food and to store it. I can clothe myself and others. All these are real life-engaging and self-empowering skills. But the real skill here is to do it and love doing it. Relearning those lost skills, and then loving the doing of them, is an act of subversion because you're not doing what women and men in our times are supposed to be doing. Nurturing your family and yourself with cooking, gardening, housekeeping, dress making, knitting, making soap, baskets, shawls and jam, and all the other things you learn to do in your post-consumerist life, not only enriches your spirit but it makes you an independent force. Ladies and gentlemen, may the force be with you.


  1. Some of the richest people I know are certainly the poorest! Thanks for the reminder.

    Blessings, Barb

  2. Good morning Rhonda,

    Whilst I have read this post before, it has to be one of my favourites. I agree wholeheartedly with all you say. Wow! the satisfaction I get when I do things right from scratch is fantastic. I knitted a shawl last year for a friend for her birthday and while she was out having lunch at a very swish restaurant, an American tourist came up to her and ask where she purchased it, as she just had to have one. What a compliment. My aim is to try to make most of my own gifts this year. I'm starting to "live simple" and I'm loving it.
    Blessings Gail

  3. this is an amazing post. Thanks for bringing it up from the achives. It really rings true with me also.

  4. Hello

    My name is Pattypan and I read your blog on a regular basis although up until now I have been inclined to stay in the shadows. I fully appreciate this last post as it has put into words and gelled everything I have been feeling but hadn't managed to formulate into words. My partner lost his job unfairly in October 2008 and because we are a partnership rather than a married couple we have received no help by way of benefits becuase we fall into this invisible black hole and despite the rent book being in my partners sole name they have refused to pay the rent and/or any of the outgoings and I have had to take over the responsibility for these as well on top of my own responsibilities. Shopping has therefore been knocked firmly on the head and I have gone back to traditional values and methods and I do not envisage doing anything else once we have dug ourselves out of this black hole. Thank you for your wise words they really do help.


  5. Rhonda...today the bank statement came in the mail. Since being unemployed for three months, I've not wanted to look at it. I figured it would just be a dwindling balance. My husband takes care of the finances. Since being home, and living more frugally, I was happy to see that we have MORE money in the bank now, than when I was working.

    Love your blog.

  6. Wow what a great article...and I have been thinking about the same things,,Have a great 2010...

  7. Rhonda, thank you for this post - I am forwarding it on to my 12 year old daughter. Among her Christmas gifts was a second hand sewing machine - this past year she has become an avid vegie gardener and knitter, and desperately wants to learn to sew. She has chosen to be home educated for high school where others in the family feel we should be focussing on computers computers computers, we are instead teaching sustainability, quilting & patchwork (if that isn't geometry I don't know what is!)cooking from scratch, gardening and nutrition. Computers and technology will be there as well of course, but all the subjects she needs to study will arise naturally through the learning of self sufficiency. Thank you for re-introducing today's post - it clarifies the path we are taking and the rewards to be reaped!

    Happy New Year,


  8. I must tell you - I am SOOO happy I came across your blog. It is a wealth of knowledge for me. Yours is the life I long for and have been on a journey to. I appreciate that you so willingly share your thoughts, knowledge and expertise in getting back to the simple life. I truly look forward to reading every post. I have begun making my own bread in the past couple of weeks since beginning to read your blog. I would love to make my own soap, but I can't seem to find lye anywhere. My family has come a long way on this journey. Yet, we still have far to go. I am thankful that I can glean from you in this area.

    Have a wonderful New Year!

  9. I missed out on reading this post the first time, so thank you SO much for reposting it.

    All the best for a great new year, Rhonda. xx

  10. I just *love* your blog. Thank you so much for your inspiration & true words indeed. May 2010 bring many blessings to you and yours. --- Cadi

  11. This is a wonderful post and I thank you Rhonda for pulling it up from the archives.

    I sewed when I was younger, but now buy my clothing from thrift shops. Skirts, blouses, and slacks are cheap. I couldn't make them for the price I pay.

    I do love to cook and bake from scratch and have done so our whole married life, a little over 40 years now.

    We have always lived frugally, having some up times and some down times, like this past year with the economy.

    Finding your blog has been so encouraging and uplifting. I can hardly put it into words.

    There is more joy in my heart and each day is a gift, one to be thankful for and to live fully in.

    There are lessons to be learned each and every day.

    I am thankful for our many blessings.

    Thank you again for this wonderful blog.


  12. Awesome post... thanks! I have so much to learn and my dream has always been to be a homemaker!

  13. Sometimes it takes seeing it written out in black and white to really see and understand why you feel so unsettled.Then it all makes sense! That is what this post does and your blog does...puts it in written word so we can mull it over in our minds and have that "Eureka" moment!Thanks! Darlene

  14. I loved reading this! Just what I needed to hear to kick my behind into gear for the new year! May need to re-read it every week! :)

  15. This is such a great post and the reminder is so important! Thanks :-)

  16. A very appropriate post for the new year. A lot of it rings true for me and I hope to put into action all these values that I'm tring to show my children.


  17. This is one of my very favorite posts, Rhonda. It says exactly what I want to say, what I eventually want to do fully (just getting started now), and how I would want to explain it to someone who didn't understand. I've been there - the consumerist - and I hate it. I'm pulling away and the Lord has provided me and my husband a little farm with which to do it. I am making small baby steps towards my goal, and I thank you for working so hard to provide all this information in your blog for us. Happy New Year!

  18. Bravo!

    coffeee @ DTE

  19. Beautiful post.


  20. Rhonda,

    I'm writing to say a Happy New Year,
    and that you are a divine thing in my life and provide me with a sense of grounding and inspiration so far from home! As a devout country girl banished to the city as youth demands, you are a guiding light for me for my years to come and your every post gives the gift of a smily and calmness to my thoughts.

    Thank you for all your work, and for all your worth.

    Anna x x

  21. Amen to that - what an inspiring post to take us into the first day of a new decade. I missed it first time round, but should I ever backslide, I will remind myself every time I read these words. I am an "older mum" to 3 now fully grown children, and I hope I have taught them true old-fashioned values, such as the ones you mention here. My eldest daughter, despite having an excellent degree, is unable to find a job - ANY job - because she has "no experience". however, she has plenty of experience at making "6d do the work of a shilling" as my granny used to say. She has learned, by the age of 23, what things really matter in life and they are the ones you have written about. I have taught all my offspring to cook from scratch, even my son, and would consider myself a total failure if I had done otherwise.


  22. Rhonda - you are such an inspiration, it's wonderful to see a post such as this to remind us all that independence and self-fulfilment come from what we do and who we are - no what we buy!

    It is next year in your part of the world now (and we have just finished a birthday lunch for my mum here in Buckinghamshire, England!) so wishing you the best of times this year and hope that you remain as happy and fulfilled as you were in the last year.

    XX mara

  23. Once again, another brilliant post.

    Happy 2010 ~ it's already happened in your neck of the woods, but it's about 14 hours away for me!

    Blessings from Ohio...Kim W<><

  24. Good post, Rhonda. You're an inspiration. Although I do many of the things you do, I certainly have room for growth. Recently, I began sewing, and it has opened up a whole world to me. Thank you for the time & energy you put into your blog, and the encouragement you give us all.

  25. Thanks for this post. I went to being a full-time working mom to a very part-time stay at home mom and I never thought I'd love it. But you know what my kids are happier, my hubby is happier and surprisingly so am I. Thanks again. Happy New Year.

  26. Looking forward to being ---independant.

  27. Dear Rhonda and Hanno,
    Just stopped by to wish you and your family a Happy New Year!

    Hugs, Aunt Bea

  28. I don't mind sewing-in fact I just made new curtains for my bedroom, my son's bedroom, the kitchen and lounge room.

    I used to make all of my own clothes and my kids' clothes when they were little. Overlockers are the go, I must say.

    I don't sew as much now, because it's so much cheaper to buy t-shirts, windcheaters and the like, but I do enjoy sewing.

    I've always cooked from scratch, just as my mother and grandmothers did and I like growing my own vegies.
    I do loathe cooking and housework, particularly dishes with a passion, so I have a dishwasher. Best thing I ever bought.

    Unfortunately, I can't afford a cook, so have to do it myself, but regard it as the most loathsome drudgery ever inflicted on women. Nothing can compensate for the sheer godawfulness of having to churn out meals day-in-day-out. Bring on the day when we can just swallow a pill.

  29. Happy New Year Hanno and Rhonda, I wish you a year filled with good health, happiness and love! What a great post for beginning the year, the new year is just so full of hope and promise. Heather

  30. Thank you! This is what I aim to do with my life. I agree with what everything you say in this post.

  31. Bravo!!! You've put into the perfect words what I've been discovering for myself. Thank you so much for this amazing, beautiful, and thoughtful blog. May you be blessed!!!


  32. I reblogged part of this here: http://basje.livejournal.com/279650.html?mode=reply just because it's so wonderful! I hope you don't mind :) Keep up the great blogging!

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