30 June 2010

Simply living in the city

There is no doubt about it, when most of us think of living a simple life, we think of the country.  Hanno and I live on the edge of a rural town, an hour's drive from our State capital.  We have lived in Hamburg, Sydney, various regional towns and cities and, for 13 years, in an isolated mining town; this way of life is suited to all those places, it is not just for country folk.  I received an email from a young city girl the other day.  She is 27 years old, newly married and longing to move to the country.  She and her husband both work in the city and travel in from the suburbs each day on the train.  She hates it and wants to start a family, be a SAHM and create a home in the country.  She wrote saying she's delaying all her dreams so they can save for a house deposit but it's making her miserable.  She wants to be making soap, knitting and cooking healthy meals instead.  I told her I would answer her email here in this post today.  I am sure many readers will also have friendly advice for her and maybe even be in the same position. If so, please take the time to share your experience.

The phrase "I live in the country" has a powerful and utopian feeling attached to it.  It makes us think of long walks down quiet  lanes, ducks on ponds, apron-clad grandmas taking scones from the oven and family dinners around a big kitchen table.  Of course, country living can include all those things, but so can city living. 

Start living the life you want right now where you are.  You don't have to be in a country location to do any of the things that Hanno and I do.  You are probably in a better place to shop frugally in a city, you have more supermarkets, butchers, green grocers and organic stores to choose from.  If one doesn't suit, you choose another.  You often don't have that choice in the country.  If you learn how to shop wisely and use that saved money for your deposit, you'll be able to move sooner.  You can learn how to cook from scratch in any kitchen.  You can make soap anywhere.   You can dispose of disposables, kick harmful chemicals out of your life, stop using plastic and start a natural beauty program right here, right now.  You can learn how to knit and sew and as you have a long train ride to the city for work, that time could be put to good use by knitting on the train.  All of those activities can help you slow down and live more simply, they will also help you save money so you can move sooner.  See this as a period of preparation when you can build your skills, not a time when you just want it over and done with.  All stages of life have good as well as bad bits, hopefully you'll learn equally from them both.

I often write about how important it is to provide a safe and comfortable home.  I think that is more important in the city because outside your front door can be so uninviting. and chaotic  Spending some time making your home the way you want it to be, within the limits of your tight budget, could be both a challenge and a blessing.  I know this to be as true today as it was when I first married: working side by side with your husband towards shared goals, especially if they require hard work and commitment, has the potential to bind you closer together and make you a solid unit.  Don't see this as hardship, although it might feel like it at times, this is just one stage of your life that will lead on to something better.  Going through these hard times makes the good times better, you appreciate what you work towards and you understand the value of a good days work.  Work is not an enemy, it can be the making of you.

See if you can work out a system where you live on one wage and save the other, or most of it.  If you can do that, you'll be in the driver's seat and you'll be making the most of your situation.  Talk to your husband about all this because you'll both need to be working towards the same goal.  Make plans for the future you want together so that you both have the rewards clearly in your minds.  You might need that when things don't go according to plan, and there will be those times.  If you are lucky, living simply will make you more generous, tender, kinder, happier and more content but it will also make you strong, capable and a fighter.  It is very rare indeed to have anything of value handled to you on a silver plate.  Most things of value need to be worked for.  Never forget that.

I think you're in a wonderful position.  You're young and living with the person you've chosen to be with forever.  That alone should help you climb most mountains you come across.  But if you two can combine forces, decide what you value, come up with a plan on how to achieve what you both want and then work side by side for it, you'll get there.  Simple living is a slow, small steps process.  Having things instantly is a modern ideal what will bring you undone.  Take your time, understand your strengths, work according to them and in time you'll get your dream.  When you look back in 20 years, you'll realise that this time brought many significant rewards that make you the person you want to be.

I send you my best and hope the coming months will bring you the kind of life you're longing for.    You might not be in the location you hope to be but you should be able to clearly see a way of getting there.  Remember, you're not just building a simple life, you're also building a life with your husband, respect and trust for each other and a marriage. And that takes time.


  1. Bravo! I hope your reader takes your comments to heart...very wise and well-written


    AM of the bread

  2. Wonderful blog. What superb advice. In your journey towards 'life in the country' you will meet challenges and pleasures. Remember every cloud has a silver lining and ultimately you may end up happily in a totally different situation. Take and enjoy every day as it comes and as Rhonda says make the most of your current situation in your way forward. And knitting on the way to work is therapeutic and you end up with so many wonderful things. You could save by knitting or sewing many of your Christmas and birthday presents.

  3. LOL..I'm happy to hear you refer to the 27-year old as a "young girl," Rhonda, because I guess that means that at 31 I am not too old either! :)

    Like the original emailer, I too feel stuck in the city with a very tiny yard. I am unhappy watching my kids grow up here when we could be out in the country. It seems that it will be many years before we can save enough to buy some land. But as Rhonda explained so well, it's is possible to do some things while waiting. I have learned to bake bread and can jam, I'm starting to knit and sew, and I'm growing what small amount of food I can in our tiny back yard.

    It's not the same as really being in the country, but it IS possible to do quite a bit towards simplifying your life even in the city.

  4. I live in a small town now, but in a month will be moving to a larger city. I've been working towards a simpler life for a year now and the baby steps are so rewarding.

    First thing I did was take stock of what I wanted to be doing; knitting, simple mending, homemade cleaners and scratch cooking. Then I learned how to do them one at a time. I made my own laundry soap first and when I figured out that I was saving over $150US a year with just that I knew I wanted more.

    So I started knitting dishcloths. I replaced all my icky ones with homemade and find they last longer and work better. Now I'm using up the last of my cleaners and not replacing them from the store. I bought larger bottles of vinegar and more baking soda and ammonia and am learning the recipes for those - and you know what. These baby steps to a simpler life bring me happiness.

    Now I'm dreaming of learning canning and pattern sewing clothing. There is even more I can do to live the life I want and all it takes is a baby step at a time.

    Even in the city you can control what is inside your home and how you live your life. Just because convenience is right outside the door doesn't mean you have to take it. Embrace your dreams one handful at a time and sooner rather than later you'll be hugging it with both hands.

  5. A wonderful response, Rhonda!!

  6. Patricia in DenverJune 30, 2010 6:39 am

    I live in the city on a small lot which has a house, and garage. Several years ago I started learning to garden in the back yard and it has spread to the front. People stop to tell me how much they like my home. We make much of our own bread and try to eat and live without chemicals and we do well at that. We live very frugally and it's amazing how well one can live on very little. I have always wanted to live in a rural area but at 59 I don't think that will happen. Keep that goal in mind but try to bloom where you're planted, you will be much happier.

  7. Bloom where you are :)

    Great post Rhonda!

    Mary Ellen

  8. We live in a large Canadian city and I am happy to do so. We live close to downtown and I am happy to be able to walk to many places and have so many amenities so easily accessible. I love being able to walk around the block and walk to local shops. We have been living in a condo with room for only a few containers, but I keep a container garden with herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, mint, capiscums, radishes and a few flowers. Our kitchen isn't large, but I make almost all our meals from scratch, make my own yogurt, granola, (sometimes) bread and pizza. I am so excited to move into our own house with our own land in August, where I'll be able to expand the garden and simple living, but I am glad I didn't wait until we achieved that to get started.
    Country living (or for me, single family home with land living) won't make you happy by itself; contentment must come first.

  9. We are also waiting for the day when we can live in the country. Right now we are on a small 1/5 acre lot in town. But, we've learned so much right here, and are practicing many skills for that eventual day when we do have more space to work with. We keep a few chickens (just started last year), have some raised bed gardens, and read all kinds of books and magazines and blogs to learn more about the topics we expect to use in the future (as well as now). That would be my main recommendation to you, to read whatever you can get your hands on and then put into practice on a small scale whatever you can where you are.

    Best of luck to you!

  10. As a suburb dweller and a working woman in a very large city (Los Angeles), I'd like to share that it can be done.

    First two pieces of advice that were given to me. Don't give up on things even if it takes 5, 10, 20 years because regardless those years will pass any way and if you can learn a little each year you'll be farther ahead than if you do nothing.

    Also, take it one step at a time or you may become overwhelmed - I can atest to that - I didn't listen. Pick one skill - cooking from scratch, soap making, whatever and learn it, then move to the next.

    Also, you'll find that your home in the suburbs will become your sanctuary - a place where you come home to the real you. And having this makes it easier to deal with everyday work, etc. And it keeps your eye on the goal.

    And like Rhonda says - learn to knit/crochet and you can do it on the train - it's relaxing. I don't take the train but there is a park across the street from the high rise I work in and I take my lunch (brought from home) and my yarn and I sit and crochet during my lunch hour. Helps to keep me focused on the simple life I desire.

    I hope we can all encourage you to take the leap :0)


  11. Thank you for your wonderful advice. You're a very wise person. I moved from little country village in Scotland, to Cairo in Egypt. Home and family life are so important to me. My husband has a demanding job, and he still manages to make time for me and our four children. It's nice to come home after the bustle outside to our little sanctuary, and to take tea together, talk about the day, and share news as a family. I still bake cookies and scones in this far from the countryside city of 18 million people!!

  12. Boy do I hear myself in that post. I am a 29 year old SAHM and I can only share with you the things I have had to learn along the way. I have 5 children and own a 1/4 acre lot. It might seem like a lot, but it's small when I have 4 boys and a daughter running on it. For 3 years I have put off 'simple living' because I am in the city and felt like "as soon as I get my dream cottage I will learn knitting, quilting, baking etc" Well a year ago I decided that I wasn't content because I was 'waiting' to move on. So I decided I am going to live like this is the house I will be in forever. I planted a small garden, filled all my flower pots with herbs or other vegetables. I made a small shelf to keep my fabric and craft supplies on and keep them readily available. I pulled out the cookbooks and taught myself how to bake bread, grind wheat and make healthy meals. I have taken the small amount of earth that I do have and I give it 100% of my attention. I gather my kids around me at night and read to them. I homeschool and make use of the flowergardens to capture bugs and learn about nature. I am living like I am exactly where I want to be forever and it has made all the difference. Make the home you have now your safe haven. Surround yourself with things you love. If you want to learn how to bake bread, buy some bread pans and display them. If you want to quilt, get a small basket and put some fat quarters in it, ready to go. I have found that the most simple things bring me the most satisfaction and my life is different now. I am content and happy and have MADE my house a peaceful place to be full of my own touches and love. Good luck to you! Don't wait for the things you love, surround yourself with them now. Put a planter on the window, get a knitting basket next to your favorite chair. Quilt a pillow to keep on your couch or chair. It worked for me!

  13. I think that simple living can be done anywhere. She is in the perfect position to learn the skills she needs to one day be the SAHM, but not living in the country doesn't keep you from making meals from scratch, recycling, veggies on a balcony, cutting back on gas, etc. I'm a suburban soccer mom, and don't have the gorgeous garden that you have, but I knit, quilt, sew, cook, can, etc. I think she is in the perfect position because she hasn't incurred the debt (I hope) and continue to move forward to her dreams. It takes time to achieve the life you want, so learn the skills you need to live simply and begin applying them now. There is a blog in Seattle calle onegreengeneration , and she talks about living simply in the city.

  14. I once read about a woman who dreamed of living in the countryside. Eventually, she stopped herself dreaming, and thought about what she wanted to *do* in the countryside. Bake bread. Read. Walk. Feed ducks. Grow food. Sew. Make jam. Keep chickens.

    She made those things her new years resolutions, and made each of them happen without spending her life working in a job she didn't enjoy to save for an expensive house in the countryside.

    I live in a city, and it's a great place for a simple life. Easy, walkable access to organic food, friends, no need to drive everywhere, a little space to grow food, lots of parks, public transport to the countryside, the list is endless!

    City and country each have their advantages, but don't put off living the life you want just because you're not exactly where you'd like to be right now....

  15. those train rides are wonderful for studying. Start studying for you country life and pick up skills where you go. Your dreams will come true while you do this then you will finish it off in the end by buying your house in the country but you will wont be starting totally from scratch. Love your blog Rhonda!

  16. wonderful advice!!! and I love that you referred to this person who is 27 as a young girl. I'm turning 27 in 9 days!! That makes me feel better! :)
    Have a wonderful day.

  17. I have to respond to Angie--your post struck a chord with me and brought tears to my eyes. I too have been waiting to be content when things change--we move closer to family, have some land, etc. I think I am going to print off your response to keep as a reminder to fully live now. To not wait to start fully living when everything in my life is just how I want it, but to embrace our circumstances now. I have a tiny tiny yard, so gardening is not really possible right now, but I do have access to resources in our city where I can learn to knit, can, etc. Thank you for the gentle knock on the head to shake me into some reality and to stop putting my life on hold :-)

  18. Well amen that is very good, yes we can have all the things in life as simple or complicated as we wish, me I like simplicity, love your post dear. Hugs Barbara

  19. I can relate completely to this. We have been so completely wrapped up in paying down debts and starting to save that sometimes I feel spent. It's ironic that, in the UK at least, it can work out more expensive to cook wholesome meals, home bake bread and hand craft gifts and furnishings than to buy them, unless you are very careful. For a long time I denied myself many of the things that I needed to make my life what I wanted it to be. Now I think that I have struck a balance. I still budget carefully, I try to source most of my tools and materials second hand and I look on Freecycle and in charity shops regularly.

    It can be really hard to come home from work and get on with those things that you need to do. I started out by focusing on the things that I found truly relaxing and soporific like crochet and knitting and reading inspirational material. Gradually I rebuilt my spirits until I was able to tackle the bigger things like decluttering and organising. It can be done and it doesn't have to be rushed.

    We are bringing our son up in a rented terrace in the city; we are commited here for several years until my partner finished his course; and I know that we can make it work for us. One day hopefully we will have an acre, but until then we can get along just fine.

  20. Just wanted to add my comments to the mix.
    Like your emailer, my husband and I were living in the city, catching the train to work, with a dream to one day live in the country. It took until I was in my late thirties, but we are there now.
    Rhonda's advice to train yourself to live on one wage is good, and one we did ourselves. That discipline has meant we have always lived within our means, without debt. That in itself is freeing, wherever you live!
    In the meanwhile, living in the city is no barrier to getting yourself involved in the activities - cooking, sewing, gardening etc - that will hold you in good stead wherever you are. Just do it!

  21. Hello Miss 27, I’m also 27, engaged and learning to simplify my life while living in the city. My parents live on a farm so I know how much hard work that can be, thus we have decided to live in town near the botanical gardens (for space) and run our little cottage as a city farm. Best of both worlds I think.

    I’m sorry you feel so distraught living in the city, I know it can be too busy and overwhelming at times, but like what others have said here, there are gems you can make the most of:

    Learn how to garden, make organic pesticides, compost etc at a community garden. Trouble shooting is learnt over time, so start now by surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people. These communities often have workshops too; cheese making, cooking etc.

    I agree with Rhonda, if you want to knit start today! What a way to enjoy a train ride.

    Visit your libraries, a wealth of inspiration at your finger tips, did you know they’ll order in books for you?

    Learn how to stockpile and eat in season, you’ll need these skills when you move to the country. This is easy to do in the city while everything is at your finger tips.

    Also I suggest you do a 100 Thing Challenge, reduce your possessions to the essentials which will make your move easier and less expensive. It’s easier to sell unwanted items when you live in the city.

    Good luck, I hope you’re feeling more empowered. I like that quote of bloom where you’re planted – very sweet.

    ps. Rhonda your dill flowers look beautiful

  22. hi Rhonda Jean
    As you know I live a very simple life in the 4th largest city of USA. I have the best of both world. I do all the homey things I love along with having everything at my finger tips. We are moving next month to a smaller home and I plan to make my country dream life right there among all the hub a buba. I already have my seeds ready to plant.:)Along with my soap supplies.
    I would love to have her visit my blog and see what I do.

  23. Fantastic advice Rhonda and very similar to that of what i told my daughter living in Texas, suburban, with hubby and 3. The 'living' you want can be done anywhere really. Make a start because those years go by while your thinking/dreaming about it. A long train ride is the perfect place to start. Write down your goals, if you haven't already done this. Prioritise, and start now. Knitting and stitching can also be done on the train, what a wonderful way to start your day, lucky you!
    Make the most of the time you have now, make it happen...in no time you will see and feel your life heading just the way YOU want it.
    All the best..:)

  24. Love it!!! What wonderful advice. I am just a simple country girl and make the most out of everything. Well said girl!! ~ Laura

  25. In reply to Angie - your post was absolutely inspirational!! - Thanks so much for your wonderful words and telling us about your life - fantastic!!!

  26. I know exactly how she feels. I'm 27 and I too long to get out of dodge so to speak but am stuck in an urban environment. But I'm trying to learn what I can while I'm here so that when we do move to that blessedly secluded spot, I'll be well prepared. Excellent post Rhonda!


  27. I really hope your emailer can take a lot of strength from your post and from everyones responses.

    There are certainly ways to live a more simple life while still living in the city. I live in a little flat in a main city, with my 2 kids and husband. A SAHM, we saved before we had kids to be able to be in the position that we could live on one wage.
    In the city I find there are a lot of food choices to be hand (not as many as I would like) but they are there. Being able to buy as organically, sustainably, locally and ethically as money allows.

    I cook from scratch, make sourdough, preserve, upcycle, use public transport with the kids and utilise a LOT of parks and playgrounds.

    Even if you just start by doing one thing this month that helps lead you down the path that you would rather be living it helps. Next month it could be two things, and then like I found, it just snow balls.

  28. Just like wanting Happiness, Simple Living is NOT a destination but a Journey.
    I have lived in the country with lots of room and as Rhonda says, there's disadvantages, and so some 25years later am back in the city after the childrens high school education and now wanting to be closer to them in their careers. But that doesn't stop me on my Simple living journey. Yesterday I made yogurt, soup, soap, and planted seeds.Last week picked Jam Melons on the side road and made jam.
    Something that I found great when I started a family to slow down, was I decided Friday was a special day, and after school, locked the doors and didn't answer, phone off hook, no visitors,curtains pulled and homemade takeaways of tacos, movie after tea and few lollies.This became such a hit, that 28years later, I'm still doing it.Cost nothing!Make a routine!
    As for the small, gardens, start rosemary and garlic chives in pots, and find a copy of a CD called "Grow Your Own Drugs" no it's not that sort, but simple herbal remedies and is UNBELIEVABLE. Norma

  29. Rhonda I could not agree more, nothing worth having ever comes easy or overnight! It is a hard slog making a life (not a livnig but a life) and each little step is movement in the right direction. Even if soemtimes you go backwards, forwards is still an option. While you are young and have no children it is the ideal time to set up your household the way you would like it to be.

  30. Debbie, Ontario, CanadaJune 30, 2010 9:24 am

    I was feeling quite the same way a few years ago and I live on a rather large lot in a farm town. Funny how it takes a comment from someone we don't 'know' to give us our light bulb moment. I know have gardens everywhere growing herbs, fruits and veggies. I made it my mission this year to seriously can and freeze and bake bread.

    Miss 27, if all you do right now is make a collection of simple homemade meals using in season food and homemade snack food etc., you will be well on your way to that country life you so want. Good luck and I hope Rhonda gave you your light bulb moment.

  31. Your post is an insane coincidence. (Or if you’re familiar with the Celestine Prophecy, perhaps, it is not a coincidence after all.) I “am” your 27 year old, except that I am 29...and I've recently just had an epiphany.

    We CAN have the lifestyle we chose here and now. -I rent a home just a few k's out of Brisbane. I have started a vegetable garden in pots as the earth is acid from a huge old pine tree in my yard. I compost, I have 3 chickens -I am only just starting, but in 6 months, at the rate i am traveling, my partner and I will be almost self sufficient in our rented city home.

    We've got to bring sustainability and the values of living simply to the city. This is where the battle is going to be fought.

    It can be done, and as much as space and design may be a set back in the city, we have so many resources readily available to us to make up for it and then some.

    If anyone is a Brisbane local, feel free to contact me for networking. I’d love to meet anyone in a similar position with similar values.


  32. Thanks for such a lovely post. I am new to blogging and I am so thankful to find your blog. I am a stay at home Mom trying to make the best choices for my family with less artificial everything. I get criticized for not allowing my girls soda, etc. but I'm looking out for their health. It is so nice and comforting to read a blog of someone who understands.

  33. Hi Rhonda Jean, I'm trying again after all. One of my most liberating experiences was when I realized that I could live a simpler life on a busy road on a small block in Brisbane.
    Jill of Laidley

  34. A great response to your reader. Where ever we may land we can make the most of if we use a little ingenuity and imagination. It truly is more than just location, It's what is inside you that you can cultivate that will make you the happiest.

  35. This could not have come at a better time for me. Thanks for your encouraging thoughts :o)

  36. to original poster: i know EXACTLY where you are coming from.. dont despair! i too am 28, married with a 12mth old son living in Sydney (how much more suburban can you get?)
    I grew up here, but my dream has always been to move to the country.. but until we have renovated our house and got ourselves out of debt its not going to happen for a long time.
    there are so many things you can do NOW to start living your dream.. i am learning to cook from scratch, bake, make yoghurt and cheese, getting better with my sewing and knitting.. i use cloth nappies on my son and clean with natural products... i try to meal plan and buy only whats in season.. we are living off one wage still even though i am back at work and budgeting to save as much as possible.
    My next step is the garden.. i really want to try my hand at growing my own veges and being a little more self sufficient there.
    Your post has inspired me, because i thought i was the only one my age wanting this kind of life.. our dreams will come true one day, but preparing oursleves now and educating ourselves as much as possible NOW will only help us later on.. and a kitchen counter full of fresh baking and a handknitted dishcloth has the same affect whether you are in the country or the city! xx

  37. Such wise words Rhonda and such wonderful comments from your readers. We live a simple life just 3 km's from the CBD!

  38. this post is right on!!! I am single and live in a small city..and I used to think I had to wait until I lived in a house or in a house inthe country to have the self-sufficient lifestyle that I've dreamed about. Please tell your dear reader...that it's possible NOW...and not to wait. I'm doing it step by step. Meals can be made at home anywhere!!!...and the more she learns to make at home, she'll be able to save more money!!!! it's true. Practically speaking for myself and my father...we share an apartment..and we're both currently unemployed...so those self-sufficient skills have really helped us make good use of the money we do have...and it works...It's very tight, but it works :) :) :)
    I also think the idea of living on ONE income is fantastic. It's hard work..but it would be a great way to save for the house they are dreaming about :) :) My grandparents did just that!!! My grandfather would support the family on his income...and my grandmother used her income to pay for the house..and they were able to completely pay for the home much, much quicker than their friends!!!
    If you are willing to live like no one else, than you'll be able to live like no one else :) :) I would encourage her to start now...It'll make her happier!!! Thanks for sharing this, Rhonda!!!
    Hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  39. Lovely Rhonda, I'm a 22 year old girl living in the city, but grew up on land in rural NSW. Growing up, I thought my parent's lifestyle was irritating and stupid, but I learned a lot through osmosis, it would seem. With trips to 'town' occurring once a fortnight, things like sliced bread just didn't happen and the chook bucket is something I find myself looking for about once a week in my Sydney apartment!

    I have to say, that it wasn't until I moved to the city and settled properly that I found myself missing the slow lifestyle I was used to, realised that our home grown vegetables were actually superior, that home made bread tastes better and warms the heart more, that there is a definite part of the day to be reserved for sitting and knitting and drinking tea, particularly at this time of year. Now I live an inner city life of farmer's markets and six am rises so that the bread does (slowly, lately!) because this is the routine that makes my heart and mind happiest. I do not have a partner, but I do have housemates and they are always amused by my goings on about the house and my objections to their "organic" shampoos (never serious) but they enjoy the things I make. Living slowly is not ao much of a luxury, not so expensive or so unusual as I think many people believe, and I think many more will come to it in the near future.

    I adore your writing and look forward to it, and am glad that other girls of a similar age to me are thinking the same way. Feel free to forward my details to the young woman in your email if she would like someone to talk to about strange matters of house cleaning and fig bread!


  40. In the past I have spent too much time wishing I had the ideal situation to live the simple homemade life I want. Then I realized if that is how I really wanted to live I could do it no matter where I live or what my situation is. My garden may not be large enough to accommodate all the produce I would like to grow, but I can grow most and purchase the rest at a farmer's market. I may not have as much time (since I work full-time) as I would like to make everything from scratch, but I can make most.

    I think your comments about trying to live on one income now and talking about goals with your spouse were very important. Our relationships are more important than where we live.

  41. THANK YOU RHONDA! I am in almost the exact same position as the girl that wrote to you, that I feel like your post was almost written for me!

    I have started doing a lot of what you mentioned, and have just recently wrote about the things I have started while still in the city in my blog www.pathtolivingsimply.blogspot.com

    I agree with you that its probably easier to start doing all those things while still in the city because the resources are so much more available. I bet there aren't too many Spotlights (fabric) stores out in the country!

    Thank you so much for your always-inspring posts!


  42. Remember that British comedy 'The Good Life'? I used to love watching that as a teen and found it rather inspirational... self-sufficiency in suburbia.

  43. Hi Rhonda,

    I haven't been by for such a long time and it was lovely to have a cuppa "with you"! Lovely post and one I can relate to having made the change from country to city to country living. Am loving being on acreage but it is all the same really and those in the city can do almost as much with the space they have and buying as local as possible!

    Many Thanks.

  44. a good reminder for my 30-year-old single self, working in the city, as well. bravo, rhonda.

  45. thanks for a lovely post...my life in the country bring all these things you mention and not a day goes by that I am grateful for having(and being able to do) it all.

  46. What great comments on your wonderful post Rhonda! One thing that the young lady needs to really think about is, when she gets to the country, what is she going to do with herself?

    Don't go there without knowing what you really want. It's not going to make you happy. You need to find your happy BEFORE you make that move. Ask around amongst your friends, if anyone there makes pickles and if so, can you help them the next time so you can learn that way. Do online searches for raising animals, the feeding and the costs involved in it.
    Start now. Make lists of the things you want to learn: knitting, quilting, growing your own berries and peaches, canning, making her own applesauce, cold processed soap, raising and butchering your own chooks. Then, while she is still working and bringing that extra money in...start buying the things she is going to need. This is really important, especially if she doesn't have these items yet and actually getting them is very costly. I had to buy a digital gram scale for soap making and it was over $50. US! A pressure cooker, water bath and the canning jars are also very expensive. Here in the US, most canning jars are > $8.50 a dozen. Start scouting out the wonderful thrift shops in the bigger cities and picking up knitting needles, crochet hooks, intact clothing patterns, canning books. Take trips out to the country, especially in the areas you both really like. Keep making those lists of things you want to learn and then just do it. You can pick fruit and make your own jam or buy it from the market and make some at home. Just because you live in the city doesn't mean you can't grown your own herbs, they are prettier then most house plants anyway! Look into the free programs in your area for gardening classes. Your local church may have knitting or quilting groups and most of those ladies love to share their knowledge. Keep your eyes open when you go out and about. Have you seen a garden you admire? Ask the gardener questions about their techniques, they would probably love to share with you. Learn to make your own breads, buy some good bread pans that will last a long time. Your dough bowl is important too. Get some good basic cookbooks and make your investments wisely. If you enjoy good pasta, consider a pasta machine. Just the cooking part of your life can result in a costly investment. Don't buy something because you think you need it, rather, buy it because you know you will use it. Don't buy a big crock unless you know you will utilize it for saurkraut and/or brined pickles.

    Start downsizing your excess baggage and start stockpiling the things you will need. You'll find when you have lists/goals, you will learn to relax, and become a happier person. Then when you do get to your utopia, you will have most of what you will need to start living more simply.

    Good luck to the lucky girl, now go get a good notebook and start planning your simple life, Elaine

  47. What a wonderful post! This really touched a chord in me. I live in quite a big city, though admittedly in a quieter part. I long to be in the country and spend most Saturdays at a local farm. However I try to bring all the important elements of that country life into my suburban home.

    I agree with the knitting on your train journey. I knit in the car as my DB drives us to work. Embroidery is something you could do on that journey too.

    Good luck in your quest for the life that makes you happy!!!

  48. Sage advice that I hope will be rmbraced. It is so important to live with what we have NOW, and to not only think of the life one WANTS to achieve. But I guess there are many cliches saying exactly that! So many readers demonstrate an ability to live simply in various circumstances - whether they be in the city or country, apartments or houses. It is about a mindset and the embracing of selected skills.

    On a light note, Rhonda, where did you purchase your dish racks from?

    Tracy (Brisbane)

  49. Trust me when I say that living in the country is not the dream it is cracked up to be. The grass is not always greener! Rhonda makes some very valid points about the issues.

    For my part, hubby and I moved to a country village about 5 years ago. We've experienced very bad weather compared to our city friends, including a mini tornado at the weekend and we rarely ever get those in the UK. As we back onto fields we have no protection from the wind. We've been snowbound on two occasions.

    I work from home some of the week and the rest I go to a client's office. It takes me some time to get there as we live so far away.

    Going out for the evening is a major event because of the distance to travel.

    I miss some of the sights and smells of the city now. I miss the variety of food shops and independents, I miss being able to walk to the theatre or cinema, I miss all the wonderful restaurants and the amazing variety of people. We are some distance away from the shops so we rely on a nearby supermarket, which is not what I would like but I would have to expend a large amount of petrol to use independent shops.

    I would miss the country if I moved though. I have a view. A large back garden to grow things in. A community I never had in the big city where everyone was a stranger.

    But I can tell you I started out in top floor apartment with a window box of French green beans and a passion for trying country crafts. It snowballed from there. I made my financial plan and stuck to it, being lucky that hubby was of the same mind as me when I met him and willing to pool his resources with mine to make it happen.

    If you can find a way to live the 'country life' in the city, you will be well prepared for when you finally make the move.

  50. I moved from Manhattan to the "country" two years ago, and I think that, if it's simplicity you're after, the city's the place. You usually can't grow your own food (although there are many community gardens), but you can do everything else. And there are serious advantages. Out here, living the "simple" life, we have a car, a truck, a boat, two trailers, a boat, a rototiller, a logsplitter, a string trimmer, and lots of other stuff to try to coax food out of our 2 acres and the water around us. Between the house, the vehicles, and the equipment, our life is much more complicated than it ever was in New York. Satisfying, yes. But I couldn't call it simple.

  51. I'm sorry to be critical but long walks down quiet lanes and ducks on ponds can still be had in the city? I don't know which cities you have in mind but it certainly isn't the one I'm in.
    No green spaces in the middle of this city and to find a park to walk somewhere green would mean a journey of over an hour and then a charge to use the park. Ducks? Sadly no ducks there either. Without a car we are confined to the inner city as public transport is too expensive for our very limited income.
    We're in a cramped apartment with no outside space, not even a balcony for a few pots.
    So, whilst your comments about homemaking, knitting, cooking etc. are feasible I think the city you lived in was different to this one.
    I yearn for green spaces but know it's merely a daydream, reality tells me this is our life not only now but for the future. Work keeps us here, and the idea that we could live on one wage and save the other is preposterous. If you knew what we have to pay for this tiny apartment you would understand. There are no cheaper alternatives (believe me I've tried.) Getting to work costs money too, my husband tried cycling to work (it took him over an hour each way)and then was knocked off his cycle by the horrendous traffic. Time off work then meant no income from him.
    By all means tell us how to bake etc. but telling us that long walks down quiet lanes and ducks on ponds are easily accessible is fantasising.

  52. Strange Rhonda as your lady could have been me 2 years ago. I too long to live in the country on a smallholding and we do have practical finance plans in place to make it possible but not for a few years

    For now we are living as much of the dream where we live now , but i can understand your lady's frustration. After finding your blog and following for a while i became quite disatisfied with my life and was quite envious of your position.

    Now i am much happier with my lot as i realise everyone elses dream is different and i have actually achieved a lot , i would say to this lady live the life you want now to the best of your ability

  53. Beautiful post! I knit on the train every single day, and wouldn't have it any other way :-)

    (PS - by living in the city, think of easy access to all those yarn shops! :-D)

  54. I live in the city in an apartment, and have been working on doing just this myself. It's a bit of a process since I'm working on my dissertation at the same time, which take a lot of time, but gradually I'm adapting to the city and creating a life more like what I want to be living. My apartment is coming more together as a home, I have a few veggies and herbs growing on the balcony, I cook from scratch, make ginger beer, knit, and even sew sometimes. The more I do, the more accomplished and content I feel (an interesting combination, I think). Really, your advice is great and so hopeful - there's almost always room to live the life that you want where you are now, it just take a bit of figuring out and the desire to do so. And the more changes you make, the more changes feel possible and the easier it gets, at least in my experience.

  55. good advice for anyone i feel, thank you for saying it so eloquently. there is just no sense in waiting passively in a state of limbo for the life you want. you must make the most of what you have and live fully, no matter where you live or what obstacles you face. otherwise you'll look back and feel like these years have been wasted.
    "life is what happens when you're busy making plans"-john lennon

  56. Rhonda-Jean, that is the wisest, most profound and rational argument I have ever read for simple living. Advice in there for everyone, everywhere, in every phase of our lives.
    Thank you.

  57. The only thing is: I cannot knit and never have been able to. Still, I love to cook and garden; so that is something. Some of us are just not handy at everything!

  58. Oh dear, all good intended advice can go awry.
    No matter how many bars of soap one makes if you have little skill and no way of improving and can only work in poorly paid jobs then sometimes there is no way out and up.
    Some of these comments from others who have much sound so patronising.
    Denise F.

  59. I grew up in the Country. As a girl I dreamed of moving to a BIG CITY and living the LIFE. The grass is always greener on the other side. In my pre-teens we moved to the suburbs (for my Dad's job). I absolutely hated the suburbs, I would rather be out in the country or in a BIG CITY. Then as a teen we moved into a more urban suburb and I thought I was getting closer.
    When DH and I decided to buy a house we made a decision to purchase in the city. Taxes were low, we could find a property that we could fix up, and flip (5 year plan) and then we would decide where to go from there. Its been 10 years and I love living in the City. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I love being on top of festivals and work that I can bike or bus to and not have to drive a car.
    Don't get me wrong I long for the quiet serene of the country, but I need interaction, so for us its the city.
    I am in the process of turning my Urban plot into an Urban farm that mixes the best of both worlds.
    Who knows when we retire and the girls move out and have families of their own, I might decide to sell my homestead and move, but I don't know if it will be to the country or say Seatle. What I do know is that I don't want to live in the Burbs, its just not for me.

  60. mamie in TexasJuly 01, 2010 1:46 am

    For the young city girl at 27, Trust in the Lord to help make these choices. As a working professional, living in the country,(in Texas of all places), Work while you can and SAVE MONEY! I would urge baby steps on the path to the county. If you can't find contentment in your life as it its, it may also prove elusive in the country, when you are waking up at 4:30 am for milking. I have done both, I admit, I went back to work.

  61. Excellent! Well done! Whistles & claps! Great advice...I wish I had gotten it 25 yrs ago when we 1st married. But, gratefully, I did find that plain, simple truth & did just exactly what you have suggested. And, like you, I now share much of that info on my blog.

    Thank you for being so willing to nurture this young lady along w/your good advice. I hope many will read this & take heart as they work toward their dreams.

    Blessings from Ohio/USA...Kim<><

  62. Like everything in life the more often you do something the easier it is. Therefore like others have said, if you start doing what gardening you can now...order seeds, bake breads,can, learn to buy frugally, do stitching and such now those skills will already become part of your life. When you do get to have the place that is what you are looking for, you will be able to get settled earlier and more comfortably. Yes I agree with everyone who says to be content with where you are now. Contentment is a way of looking and living life that makes you and everyone around you more peaceful. In life there are always new skills and lessons to learn. Learning to be at peace with yourself is one of them. Live for today and work towards tomorrow's dream. Sarah

  63. Wonderful reading this post and all the responses.

    My advice to our young friend would be to learn what she can--and also take advantage of what's special about city living. I'm not sure where she's living, but most cities have a lot to offer in the way of wonderful, free or inexpensive experiences (free nights at the museum, art galleries, concerts and plays in the parks). Soak those goodies up while they're available, as well as planning and learning for the future. Don't miss the now while you're looking forward to something different!

    I've lived in Manhattan and in the deep country. I'm now in the suburbs. Been happy in each place.

  64. I needed this one...just delayed our moving dreams another year-plus, and it's too easy to think that everything has to stop until you've reached Point B...looking forward to reading at home, absorbing it...thank you Rhonda!

  65. I know I am a couple of days late. This blog has always touched my heart. The story about the girl living in the city is my story. I always longed for the time to move to the country. I have lived in NJ in the United States for a very long time. Through the years of my longing to be in the country I have taught myself many things. I learned how to make soap, bake bread, make clothes, raise food just to name a few. Through all this I found out you don't have to live in the country to live like a country gal.
    Learning to be content in what God has given me in the place I am in was a lesson hard learned. It has also been great meeting like minded people in the blog world. Since, I do not live by people who want to do the things I desire. My kids were brought up in suburbia but with a Mom who lived as if she lived in the country. Live for today, because you don't know what tomorrow will bring.

  66. Many times, we don't look around at what we have already, and completely miss the opportunity to make the most of it. I say to this young woman, (not much younger than I! :-) ) just be thankful for your surroundings, and don't wait. Do it.. make all the dreams happen right where you are, it doesn't have to be in the country. You can make your changes as easily anywhere, including the city! Country life is not easy either, and can actually chase people back to the city for simplicity. Country life means working harder with the land you have been given. So just enjoy what you have now and when you do have your little country plot, you will know what to do! Best wishes!

  67. Tracey, the white rack is from Howards Storage and the red from Spotlight.

  68. Even when we can`t fully realize all our dreams about simpler living, the baby steps and small changes we can implement do make us feel great, and we can be proud of all our little achievements. Eventually, we can learn to find a way that suits us and our surroundings, wherever we may live. I`m slowly getting there, too. Thank you Rhonda Jean, your wise words and encouragements do the trick!! Also wanted to thank you for a brilliant Bread and Butter Pickle recipe. We tried it whilst camping, and love it!!

  69. Simply living is simple living no matter where you are. I live of a full working farm in Canada. I wake up to cows needing milking 365 days a year twice a day, no holiday's. Sheep that I love dearly but I believe spend their whole lives trying to figure out away to kill themselves.Firewood to cut (6 bush cords) each year to heat our house.250 acres of hay to bring in each summer.I could go on but to say living in the country is simple is an understatement. That being said I never lack things to do, places to walk, plants to grow, sunsets or sunrises for that matter.Like so many have written living simply is a state of mind, and only you will know when you have reached your comfort zone. Wanting it doesn't go far without action. Your action can take place anywhere you live.

  70. Great post. When I got married 10 years ago (I'm 30) I made myself learn something new every time I felt like I was bored of the same old, same old...or not content with my life. In a rented house that we weren't allowed to do anything to the house or yard (ie paint, grow things) I learned to quilt and mend and basic assembly cooking.We were there 7 months.
    In an apartment above a business (no yard or outside, it was in an industrial area) I learned to cook with real ingredients (not assemble with packages), bake bread, eat organic and whole foods, raise children, run a household, cook for relaxation, homeschool, make good cleaners and not use any bad chemicals, use cloth diapers,quilt and sew better, can homemade jam (yes, I bought the fruit), made pasta and more. We lived there for 3 years.
    Now we have a 75 ft. by 100ft. lot with a house. I have learned to can applesauce, peaches, pears in addition to the jam. We have a medium sized garden that I get some of our berries from but I buy from the farmers market to supplement for canning. I buy all of our fruit for canning. The learning to garden and take care of a yard are huge things for me and I lump them together here, but in my mind it was learned one flower bed or type of plant at a time. I get to hang out laundry on a line. I have learned basic home repair. I have worked on every piece of plumbing in the house. We have lived here for 7 years now and I can't even list half of the things that I have learned. Most recently I sewed my own curtains. Next I want to learn to paint furniture, then make soap and sew slipcovers. Oh, and can cherries. I have big freezer now and I am learning to use it more like an extension of the pantry. last fall we bought half a cow.
    In the future I want to use more of my garden area efficiently.
    Starting small is good practice. I learned alot of indoor things that I still do but that gave me the freedom to concentrate on the outdoor things. Could you imagine being dumped onto a 20 acre farm without the skills or practice to take care of it?
    Oh, I live in the city with neighbors on all sides. The population is 30,000 within city limits but with all the little communities it is more like 60,000.
    When we do move to the country there will be more garden, more canning, an orchard, chickens (although we could start small where we are), and more yard work. Otherwise my life will be the same.
    Remember...You will learn something with everything you learn to do. Sometimes that thing you learn is: you NEVER want to do that again. (for me- making pasta)
    Also Remember...Write it down. Make a list. Each little accomplishment. Each little step towards where you want to be. It is good to go back and look at.
    You will be amazed and proud.

  71. I used to dream of a "life in the country" but now find I have the best of both worlds in Madison, WI. It is a college town with lots to do and awesome farmers markets, but a short drive to the "country" - hiking, camping etc. I will echo what others have said - I do more "from scratch" now that I have the city's resources, vs. living in a smaller community. We get a box of veg weekly from our CSA farm (community supported agriculture), which provides a huge portion of our groceries for the week. Madison is fortunate to have a great pool of CSA choices, but I know they exist in other areas too - my sister in Brooklyn, NY has one too. I also have access to grocery stores that sell items in bulk and this is an affordable way to cook from scratch - you can get dried beans, rice, flour and other staples. It requires a time commitment to cook this way, but if you are organized on the weekend you can get a jump start on meals for the week. Both my husband and I work full time, so we have to meal plan, but the reward is healthy home-cooked foods. We actually save a lot of money by staying in on the weekends and doing housework, cooking, crafts, etc. - things we enjoy doing and we aren't wasting money by going out to eat or other expensive recreation. Also love to invite friends over for dinner - good times, good food, saves money!

  72. Hi there. I am a 26 yr old SAHM of two and i am living the dream right now. We have just built a brand new family home on 1/2 an acre in a small town. We have put in 100000 L water tanks so that we will never need to have mains water and have a septic system that waters the garden- not the vegi patch though:) I love to sewing and anything crafty. I love making handmade gifts and making things for my 2 boys. I have always been able to cook from scratch and atm am loving baking bread, muffins and biccys for my boys. I am wanting to learn how to make my own soap and am thinking of trying to make my first batch in the next few weeks. Next year i might take on jams and preserves.

    As far as our difficulties out here there is a bit of travel. To get to the best nearest shops where i can local produce (but not organic) is a good 40-50min car trip. There is never a quick trip to the shop to get milk and that means that you have to be very organized. Also atm our block other than our house is completly empty and it is going to be a huge job to get it to how we want it to be (one thing at a time). We are still in the planning stages so that we will get it right somehow. We are looking at making our own wicking beds for vegtables as rain fall out here isnt high.
    The other downfall of being out in the country is that it can be a little isolated esspecially if there arnt people in your same situation- there arnt very many young mums out there who are trying to live a simple life,I have no one to share ideas etc about living simply. Thank god for blogs!!!
    I am loving it since moving from the city. I have learnt that all this doesnt make me happy, I have to be already happy within myself all the rest is just happy delicious icing on the cake :)

  73. We've talked about starting a circle in our community of older women and younger women, creating dialogues about mothering, being thrifty, the challenges they faced...guiding and loving each other. This post is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom...I'm living the country dream but the debt and renovations are making it challenging. I love all your tips...with three small children, everything seems impossible and overwhelming. But now you've got me thinking I should just go ahead and paint our bedroom!

  74. It was in Brisbane (a city!) that I first began my learn about simple living. I was 20, had moved there from NSW south coast and was living with 4 others. Our number 1 house rule was that food for the home had to bought in as natural a state as possible. We ate frugally but well, and always shared the evening meal lovingly with whoever was home for dinner. They were lovely dinners! I've lived in capital cities around the world ever since and continue to expand how I live simply.

    I currently live in a 2 bedroom apartment in Sydney, with husband, 2 children (ages 6 and 4) and a cat. My kids go to schools where they are taught how to live: they play, bake, make, sew, crochet, knit, felt, sculpt, keep chooks, grow vegies, learn musical instruments and paint. They're also very good at Maths, spoken language (not quite reading yet), and asking and understanding how things work. TV viewing is allowed for only 1-2 hours on weekends (not during the week) and I make as much as I can for our family. What I can't make, I try to buy from someone else who has handmade/grown it, or buy 2nd hand. And we're not alone! Our whole school community shares these values. We hope to live in a place with less traffic one day, but right now we're living very well indeed.

    Warm wishes for your journey.

  75. Awesome.. Start living the life you want to live where you live. I am going to remember your advice for my oldest daughter married to a military man who is serving out his 2nd year of a 5 year commitment.

  76. Isn't it marvelous how many people respond with tips, tricks and ideas when someone want to live simply.

    You don't have to wait to do that until you move to your "little bit of heaven".
    It took me over 20 years to move to my current house in the mountains, but while I was waiting, I learned to cook simply, I grew herbs, I leaned to crochet, knit and to slow down inside my country home in the Los Angeles suburbs!

    Having been 'poor in money' most of my simplicity was learned because I had no choice. I am content - I am happy, very happy. I have learned to do what I can to live simply, but not all things are possible, like gardening. I have too many trees on my property to put in even the smallest garden. I have one 4 foot square piece of dirt where things will grow OK, but not great. This year I have strawberries. I share a garden with friends, so I will have fresh food to carry me through part of the winter. I sew, bead, quilt, knit and crochet. When I had a bit of extra money I would purchase craft supplies, only on sale, so that I now have things with which to continue my crafting. I sell a bit for extra cash ... sure comes in handy to fill the gas tank or pay for those extras that we have to have once in a while - like a drs. appt. or pet food.

    I could go on and on about my living simply, but there are so many wonderful comments that cover lots and lots of tips, that I will stop.

    One quick tip that everyone else has mentioned is "Do It Now" as you will be totally ready when you do get to your dream location.


  77. I always enjoy a visit with you Rhonda~

    This sounds like a wonderful Introduction to your book. Definitely a message here for everybody.

    Thank you so much for all your encouragement toward simplifying and living the life we love rather than waiting for perfection.


  78. I too have had dreams of country living - a bit of land, lots of chooks and fruit trees, wide open space and peace and quiet. I realised recently though, that like Rhonda said, city living does have some advantages. Some of the things I really value are in the city. We live right beside a wonderful walkway which we use almost every day. It's a 15 minute walk to our local bank, supermarket and shops. My parents (and their vege garden!) are a 20 minute walk. If I move to the country, I will lose that. If I live on land, it will be much harder to go and work with the desperate poor overseas for a month at a time (a big dream of mine), because our land will need our attention. So for me, I am having to weigh up the things I value and want and decide what is most important. We might still get land one day. Or we might not. But in the meantime, I am trying to focus on the good aspects of the lifestyle I can now have, and do the simple living things that fit where we are at now...such as gardening, making yoghurt and bread, decluttering our stuff, and so on. All the best to your readers as we each walk our paths towards contentment and fulfillment. Amy

  79. We were very much living a simple life when I was 27. We lived in a normal block, it was in a medium sized town, but it could have been anywhere.

    I had two small children and they had a very good life. It was very country.

    This is similar to another post where the writer said they couldn't vege garden while renting.

  80. I am another who will never move to the country (my husband's a software engineer, so he will only have employment in a city, and we have ageing parents here). But any urban permaculturalist will tell you that with care, you can be almost self-sufficient even in the city. Moreover, your carbon footprint is smaller because you have access to public transport and everything is closer. However, there is one thing to consider about the city: is Mrs 27 living in the right part of it, in the right house? Look for an area close to transport as well as duck ponds (Shona, I am less than 30 mins' walk from the nearest ducks and this is not unusual in Australian cities; I am sorry your city is so barren). Look for a place with a back yard you can garden in, too -- though if Michael Mobbs can garden in Chippendale, we can do it anywhere!
    Most of all, be clear about what The Country will do for you that you cannot do for yourself. I suspect that the answer may be "not much" that you can't do in suburbia.


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