Simple Livng Series - Making the life you want

12 January 2010
When I first started living simply, I didn't know what I was doing.  I had no plan and no recipe for success but I knew what I didn't want so in the first few weeks I just did the opposite of what I usually did.  Eventually I found a few books that helped me.  I read The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, The Encyclopaedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, Your Money or your Life by Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin, and I found an American forum that I eventually became an admin on and I helped start an Australian forum, all of them helped me start my brand new life.  I wish I could have found one book that contained everything I wanted to do, instead I stumbled along doing what I felt was right and developed an idea of what I thought a simple life could be.  Eventually I connected up all the dots and I'm now living that life.

In the early days most people writing about living simply were writing about the philosophical and financial aspects of living.  Most of them, except Carla Emery, left the practical bits out.  But to me, the ordinary day-to-day living parts were the real crux of it.  If I didn't simplify how I lived it wouldn't matter how much money I didn't spend or how I thought about my life. If I didn't simply my daily life and all the day -to-day things I constantly repeated, what was the point?

Another big turning point for me was when I found blogs.  Here was a wonderful unseen world where people wrote about things that interested me.  I could see into their lives, get to know their families, understand how they lived and be part of a big neighbourhood that supported each other.  When I found blogs, it didn't matter much that I didn't know anyone in my real life that was doing what I was doing, I felt comfortable here.  Still, I didn't find many people living my dream life.   I found blogs talking about global warming, lightening your footprint, going green and peak oil but none that wrote about how each one of us could do our own bit in our own homes doing ordinary things like changing how we shop, mending clothes and making do with what we have.  So I dived in and started writing about what I was doing.  I had already started writing a book and much of that then went into the blog.  Writing everyday made me accountable and gave me a clear record of what I was doing.  Slowly, my life took me by the hand and one by one I added things I wanted to learn.  I was on my way.  This felt right!

So what did I do?  Basically I stopped spending, made a budget and stuck to it, shopped in a different way, started stockpiling, cooked from scratch, decided that growing the majority of our food in the backyard was possible, started making bread everyday, looked for ways to clean without chemicals, started sewing, mending and knitting, made soap and laundry powder and a million other things that although they came slowly and had to be learnt or re-learnt, are now all a normal part of my life and what define my days.  I no longer struggled to earn a living to pay for food and clothes to be made for me, I stopped buying what was fashionable and went for the practical.  I was over looking like everyone else, I couldn't be bothered with who the latest celebrities were or who they were divorcing, I stopped focusing on myself and came home in the truest sense.  I started to fluff my nest and make my home warm, comfortable and inviting.  I changed my life on purpose and while I was doing that, reinvented myself as well.  Hanno was slower to realise this new direction was right for us, but when he did, he dived right in with few doubts.  Now we are happier than we've ever been - the way we live encourages and supports that.

But the path is different for all of us.  If you have a look at your mainstream friends, even though they're all living in the same way - with debt, convenience foods and keeping up with the Joneses, they all have their differences.  This way of living is the same.  My way of living won't suit all of you, you have to define for yourself what you want your life to be, then step by step move towards that life.  You will probably have to give up much of what supported you in the past but that is replaced by the security of knowing deep down that what you're doing is good for you and your family.

Don't be fooled into believing that a simple life - or whatever you call it, is easy. It usually involves doing more work because you give away convenience and you trade fast for slow.  And don't live your life according to mine, think about what you want and custom make the life you want.

No matter what the final version of your life is, it will probably involve some of these changes:
  • Thinking about what kind of life you want to live - this is a conscious thing, you don't have to stay the same as you are now
  • Controlling your spending with the aim of being debt-free
  • Learning how to look after yourself and your family, reskilling
  • Shopping in a different way
  • Eating healthy, local food
  • Growing some of your own food
  • Disposing of disposables
  • Green cleaning
  • Using your time wisely
  • Cutting back and making do
  • Looking after what you own
  • Making home your centre and connecting with your family and community
  • Changing your definition of success
  • Becoming independent - setting yourself free
Tomorrow I'll write about the thing we all hate - budgeting.  Today, right now, I want you to think about your life and how you want to live.  Get yourself a notebook and write down all the ideas you come up with.  It doesn't matter if it doesn't make much sense, edit it later, just let the ideas flow.  From your list, come up with a paragraph that describes the life you want.  Then make some dot points of all those things you need to change to make that life a reality.  That will be your starting point - you've just written the beginnings of your simple life plan. It's going to be an incredible journey.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey to a simpler life. I think I've been fairly 'simple' ;) for most of my life out of sheer necessity - you can't buy the latest fashion or keep up with the Jones' if you've got no dough (well I guess you can but I've never been into wracking up debt).
    But it's only been the last couple of years that the way I live my life has been a conscious decision. I've suddenly become aware that not using disposables for example is not only the cheap option, but is also the ecological option. While I was frugal, I didn't think beyond my wallet, now I do.
    While we do or aim to do a lot of the things on your list, my simpler life includes high speed broadband. It's wonderful to have the best of both worlds.
    PS - I LOVE budgeting.

  2. Debbie, Ontario, CanadaJanuary 12, 2010 7:46 am

    Wow!! I am so doing this tomorrow. I like the idea of brainstorming my life plan and then making a list of changes I need to make to get there. Like, like, like this. Thanks for the idea. I'm not much of a 'goal' writer but putting it this way I know I can do it. Thanks.

  3. Glad I stopped by--haven't been here for a while. Lots of good in this post!

  4. Thanks for sharing. We've been working on simplifying our lives this last year but it seems like we've been approaching it in a very haphazard fashion. Knowing that other people have gone through the same process really helps. I'm a big believer in lists so tonight I'm going to write out my list and we'll see how it works.

  5. Thanks for this post--very good to reflect on the WHY and the HOW of living simply! I am looking forward to the budgeting post too.

  6. I think it is good on a popular blog such as yours to remind readers that you haven't always been this way. It encourages others to 'give it a go' and to see that often the smallest changes leads to the best life has to offer. :)

  7. I believe your blog is going to change lives! I think this post came along at just the right time for me, thank you.

  8. I really enjoyed this post and wanted to thank you for having the courage to point people in their own directions! You are right on a key point ....the simple life may be different to each person according to their own needs! Too many times we find blogs out there that teach "my way or the highway"....I know that's why I appriciate your blog so much...I never feel like I have to compare my life with are just so encouraging to us to start where we can and keep truckin along as best as we can...Thank you :)

  9. Hi Rhonda
    This post is very good timing for me. I have been making changes in the way I do things for a while now such as cooking from scratch, growing veg and baking bread.
    Like Hanno my husband was unsure about the changes I am making at first but has gradually come around as he noticed how much money we were saving.
    Before Christmas I made the decision to resign from my part time job, to allow me to spend more time working at home. I am working my notice period at the moment so I have been thinking alot about what I want to achieve, I will definately be doing as you suggest and write some ideas in a note book, it would be good to get something down on paper.
    I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and I have learnt so much from you. I look forward to reading the rest of your simple living series.


  10. Over the years, I think I have been tending in this direction for a variety of reasons. And I have read many of the frugal books.Joe and Vicki's book, Janet Luhrs' book and others. But I agree with you I really hadn't read anything that was truly helpful until I found blogs. And specifically, this blog. The reason, Rhonda, your blog helps so much is that you are a time in your life similar to me. Although I have fond memories about my kids (they are definitely out of my house, and sadly not near), it is in the years in which I am no longer working and have time to do what I want. I am learning slowly about how to do it all. But it also has been a time when I can be quiet enough to begin to listen to the wisdom inside. I so cherish this blog more than any other because it gives me a guide of areas to explore and find a way for myself. Yes, I would rather have a prescriptive path, but you have helped me realize I need to find my own path and what is right for me, now in the place where I live. I need to find a way to grow food appropriate to the area I live - which is a long ways from Queensland. I live in the high desert in the southwest of the US. Living off our little bit of heaven here is very different. And I need to find that way.

    What I miss is finding a real community rather than a virtual one to support my journey.

  11. I have been spending time as this new year starts reviewing the steps to my simpler life I have made so far and will take your challenge to brainstorm what other changes I would like to introduce.

    My biggest challenge arises from making the changes I want and still having my husband have what he thinks he needs. Not sure if I'm saying that right - we are at very different stages - I crave a simpler life and he is still very much the consumer, especially with technology etc.. It's a compromise. And I'm working on it.

    Thank you for being the blog you were hoping to find!

    BTW - I love to budget! Even hubby does too - he spends, but only what we have already saved.

  12. I am really looking forward to this series. I look to blogs like yours for inspiration to keep up the motivation to live with 'deliberation.' Thanks!

  13. I'm new here. I recently wrote something similar on my blog, and can clearly see that I am in good company. I can't wait to become a regular reader!

  14. Hi Rhonda;
    I am looking forward to this series and your book once it is published! I particularly enjoyed reading about your "journey", the process you went through to set up your life as it is now.

    I wanted to ask you about doing a blog entry (if possible) on setting up cleaning/menu planning routines - what would you do, step by step, to make these routines a daily/weekly habits?? Do you think forming new habits take more than formula of "21 days"?
    I suppose budgeting could be included in this too as it is a habit to learn about and stick to.

    Thank you!!

  15. I am in love with your blog. It is so inspiring and encouraging. I am just at the beginning of this journey and could you all the info I can get. Again thanks for sharing all of this. I started crocheting wash cloths last night.

  16. Once again you have spread encouragement and inspiration. Thank you for the time, heart and soul that you put into each and every one of your posts.

    Your blog has been a God-send to me. DH and I have been living a simple life for many, many years, but it is not 'normal' and we have been looked down on for living this way. We are not in debt and we are thankful for so much.

    We are all unique individuals, and living a simple life will be different for each of us.

    Last year brought a big reduction in income so we've had to tighten our belts and really look at things as to what is really important. I feel that even though I am about to turn 61, I am not to old to improve our life style, tweaking it to make it even better than it was and I am grateful for your blog.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  17. I'm working my way through "Your Money or Your Life" right now. Your blog and books like that really make you think about how we live our lives. It's great to have such resources out there.I've been thinking a lot more lately, and making actual changes, about how I want my life to be. I just totalled up how much I've spent on my yoga hobby in the last six months. Let's just say I'm cutting WAY back--it's exceeds the amount of fulfillment I get from it because I prefer a solitary practice anyway. That's just one example of becoming aware of the choices I make.

  18. Though I got a lot out of what you wrote, the thing that came across so strongly to me is that I need to re-think my definition of succcess. That's deep! It's also so hard! So many of my friends (and even some family) that I've had since childhood think my new ways of doing things are strange. That hurts sometimes. I guess I'm having some 'growing pains' :) Thank you for the encouragment, as usual!!!

  19. I love your blog. I only discovered it a few days ago, but it's fascinating!

    I was raised in a very simple lifestyle. My parents had goats, we never wore new clothes, only thrifted or what my mother sewed for us, we were homeschooled and my mom made everything from scratch on an old wood cook stove. Later we had more modern amenities, but my parents insisted that we learn the basics because these are the skills that are necessary if things go down the drain.

    These days, living in Guatemala, I find myself going back to those skills that were taught. I'm homeschooling my sons, trying to put in a garden (I have a black thumb) and making things from scratch. It's truly a wonderful way to go and far more fulfilling than purchasing everything. Thanks to my father's teaching, I have never been in debt and that has been a huge blessing for our family!

    Really looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  20. I have been following your blog, since hearing your interview on Radio National and your thoughts and comments ring true with us (my husband Michael and myself).
    We decided to retire early and move out of the city (Brisbane) and here to Burrum Heads, which is north of Hervey Bay in Queensland.
    This week will mark 9 years since our move, and we have not regretted our decision or our change in lifestyle.
    As we were having breakfast this morning (after our morning walk), it felt good to look at the table and say - homemade yoghurt, mangoes from the trees, homemade bread, homemade Brazilian Cherry Jam - free range eggs.
    What more could you ask for!!

    Our property is 2 1/2 acres - we don't have town water or sewerage, which we believe is a bonus these days - grow vegies, have lots of fruit trees and of course, our "girls" who produce the delicious free range eggs.
    Suppose I am lucky in that I have always cooked, and enjoy the pastime.
    Our big shop is every 4/5 weeks when we go into Hervey Bay, and shop locally if we run out of things.
    This year we made another step forward and have opened a separate Pensioner account for our Bills.
    Michael had calculated what our expenses would be for the year - rates, electricity, gas, car registration, insurance, phone bill etc. and by transferring so much a fortnight from our pension into this account, we feel this will make our budgetting a bit more manageable.
    When you make the decision to change your lifestyle, the feeling of accomplishment kicks in.

  21. Thank you for sharing this post .... I have been writing down bits and pieces I have found on your blog and the forum but today you summarised it so simply.
    You're generosity in sharing your talent is greatly appreciated.
    Manola xo
    Townsville QLD

  22. Thanks for that Rhonda. I like the idea of a statement of intention. I will give it a lot of thought and then put pen to paper.

    Blessings Gail.

  23. A lovely post, Rhonda! It's all about taking small steps, not changing everything at once. Start out by deciding to stop using paper plates or napkins, then knit a dishcloth or bake a loaf of bread. When you start with one or two things a month and continually add on, your life will start to transform almost seamlessly. Can't wait for your budgeting post tomorrow!

  24. And in return, your blog and some others have been so inspiring to me that I start to live moe and more simple by the day...Happiness is a decision you make, and has nothing to do with a new pair of shoes each week!

  25. I think a good way to go about it is to work out what you need most. For us, with two little ones in nappies, it was to start out on cloth nappies (although we've temporarily switched to disposables because we're moving house and packing).

    Then, I needed a good hair gel, so I started making my own flaxseed hair gel.

    It just kind of snowballs as it gets addictive, really.

  26. Reskilling! That's the word! As I bumble through this "simplified" life, I've found it requires all kinds of things I don't know how to do. For me, acquiring new skills is probably the most satisfying part of all this. At 46, I'm past my physical peak, and it feels wonderful to be getting better at something. Thanks for putting a name to the process.

  27. I love your blog! I have an itty-bitty yard, but hope to do more gardening next year (it's the dead of Winter where I am in the US). For now, I'm only dreaming of the growing season. *sigh*

    Thanks for the posts!

  28. Looking forward to the budgeting post - perfect timing since DH and I are sitting down tomorrow to do the budget!

  29. Oh Miss Rhonda, this was a lovely, lovely post today! It was especially encouraging to me. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to write your blog- I always look forward to reading what you have to say.
    Before I even found your blog I was doing what you described- sort of stumbling along, and figuring out what worked and what didn't. I new step I've taken is 'disposing of disposables', and instead making my own cloths. I can't tell you how satisfied and joyful I felt washing dishes with a little dishcloth that I had made, or when I saw an apple pie on the counter that came from my kitchen instead of the store! The simple things in life really are the best things. Thanks again, I'm enjoying your series.
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  30. PS. I also want to thank you for recommending 'The Encyclopedia for Country Living'. It got a lot of bad reviews on, so I was a tad worried about whether it would be useful. The next day you mentioned what a good book it was, so I went out on a limb and bought it. I'm so glad I did.

  31. I really like this post. I think this will be my journal entry for tonight. Writing down how I want to live and the dot points on how to make that happen makes it more of a possibility than an idea. We have been making many changes in our lifestyle and that of our kids(who don't care for our "old fashion" values). I think this will give me a guideline to follow to continue with our journy to a simpler life.

  32. Your blog is truly inspirational once again

  33. I took your advice and this morning I wrote out my dream. Now I will take it one day and one point at a time to make my dream a reality.

    Thankyou. ----Krystal

  34. You are such an inspiration. Thank you

  35. I just found your blog and like other readers find it very inspirational. I recently had a baby girl and my wife and I decided to change our own lifestyle, with me leaving my day job and staying home with my daughter.

    My wife and I have always wanted to live simply, but have gotten caught up in the trials of day to day life and have fallen back on convenient habits that are not good for ourselves or the world.

    I am also blogging about my experience as well. I find that this keeps me honest and motivates me to turn my attention away from the television and start to focus on what I really want.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and your posts. I will be coming back often!


  36. Thanks for your post. With the birth of my daughter in August, my wife and I decided that we needed to make a change in our lives, not just for us but for our daughter.

    I have done the exercise you describe and it is great advice. I have also recently started my own blog and I must say it keeps me honest and motivated towards my family's goals.

    Thanks again for this post and your blog. I will be visiting often on my own jjourney to a simpler life.


  37. "And don't live your life according to mine, think about what you want and custom make the life you want."

    I think those words of yours are just as important as the rest of what your wrote. We all need to realize that simplifying will look different on each of us. No one life will look like another...nor should it.

    Too often, we tend to think that the way we do things is the "right way", and that everyone who isn't on the page we are on is wrong.

    But we all have different goals and preferences, so we will not all want the same things...and that is okay.

    For example, we now live with one vehicle. That will not work for everyone, I know, and it would be wrong of me to tell others that they should only have one car if they want to live a simple life.

    Also, I don't enjoy planting a garden. After doing it for 3 years, because I was told I MUST plant a garden if I wanted to live a more simple life, I have admitted to myself that I HATE it. It robs me of peace and joy and, therefore, does not simplify my life. Shopping at the farmers' market, however, IS relaxing and calming...and simplifies.

    So, while we can learn from one another, we have to remember that we don't have to do exactly as they do. WE need to do what works for our family.


  38. This is a great post and I look forward to reading your blog.

  39. I came across your blog today. I am really enjoying reading through your posts.
    I have been making lots of changes in my home lately and have been doing a lot of thinking on how I eat and live. I don't want to be materialistic and I want to feed my family well. I have come across the Nourishing Traditions recently and have been trying recipes from it. It is a great book with lots of good information.
    I also have been making changes to go green with my cleaning, rethinking how I celebrate Christmas and other celebrations so as not to be materialistic, and just thinking about how to live simply and not trying to keep up to the world's expectations.
    BUT, I struggle with the issue of time among a few other things. I have two young children and we have three days of the week that I like to take them out for activities. So beyond this housecleaning, cooking and some volunteering I feel I don't have time to make all the changes I want.
    So, then I think are all these times out of the house I have yet to decide. I love for them to learn swimming, going to storytime and having interaction with our children. I also like time out with other mom's.
    So much I am thinking about these days...



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