"Getting" the simple life

21 July 2010
I continue to have a sprinkling of emails every week asking for tips on how to start living a simpler life or how to continue once the first step has been taken. I thought it might be a helpful exercise to list some tasks and skills that might help you move towards simplicity or to remain on the path. But it's not that simple. We all live in different ways. Age, or the stage of life you're at, will determine more than anything else how you're living your life right now. For instance, those of you in your teens and early twenties will probably be living differently than those in their late twenties and early thirties who have young children. People in their late thirties and into their forties, whose children who have grown, will be different again. Those my age, will have different priorities and goals.

However, there is a a loose framework we can be guided by and that involves looking at:
  • the way we eat
  • shopping
  • living well on less
  • housework
  • being green
  • the work we do
You will find that when you look at all of these areas, as they relate directly to your own life, that each of them is linked to the others and the way you do one of them will impact on all the other areas.

If you're not growing your own food, the best way to go is to eat seasonally. Eating what is in season will give you the freshest and possibly the cheapest food. It is really difficult to know what is in season when you're shopping at a mainstream supermarket because most of the fruit and vegetables will look fresh, even when they're not. Often their apples will be months old and just out of storage, tomatoes and eggs might be weeks old and if you're not a gardener yourself it's difficult to tell the signs to look for. If you can, shop at local markets and ask the seller when the produce was picked. If you can't do that, and supermarkets are your only option, do some research on what is in season in your area, and also be guided by price. When it's tomato season, they're cheaper. When berries or bananas are in season, they're cheaper. In winter, when cabbages and kale thrive, they're cheaper.

If you can, buy organic produce. If you can't buy all organic, buy what you can and be happy with that.

Cook from scratch. This will cut out all sorts of preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings. If you don't cook at all, start with two simple recipes that you know will fit well into your lifestyle. When you're comfortable with them, add two more. You don't have to do all or nothing. Small steps towards your goal will work well.

If you're still out there wandering through shops looking for things to buy, stop. Having more will not make you happier, more fulfilled or the envy of your friends. It will just use up the money you work hard for. You'd be wiser to use that money on paying off your debts.

Take control of your shopping, cut down on the times you go to the shops; if you shop weekly for groceries, go fortnightly instead. The more you're in the shops, the more you'll spend. Plan your menus, stockpile groceries and don't waste food. Cook from scratch - it is cheaper. Use your leftovers. Get rid of disposable products. Make a conscious decision not to use plastic bags or bottles. Instead of buying the numerous expensive commercial products in the cleaning aisle, buy white vinegar in bulk (at least two litres/quarts at a time), bicarb, laundry soap, borax, washing soda - also known as soda crystals, soda ash or calcium carbonate, and learn more about green cleaning. (I'll have more on this tomorrow.)

Make up a budget and stick to it. Reading a sentence like that when I was a shopper would have made me cringe. I know better now. Now I know it's just a tool that helped me get my life back. I have some posts on budgeting and using the envelope system to help me organise myself. It's really liberating to get this part of your life under control and to be able to ignore advertising, turn your back on fashionable flim flam and be your true self.

When the penny drops and you realise that everything you buy will cost the hours of your life you spent earning that money, you will be ready go to the next level and work out a plan to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Being debt free means you're not beholding to any one or any bank. When you walk away from mindless consumerism and pay that last payment on your mortgage or credit cards, it will be one of the most memorable times of your life. On that day you will become a genuine independent and you'll live better and breathe easier because of it. Being debt free means that you don't have to make life decisions based on money. You can cut down your working hours if that is what you wish to do or you can continue working to save for travel or those things that are really important to you.

This post is getting to be quite long so I'll finish the rest of the list tomorrow.

What I hope I've demonstrated here is that moving to a simpler life means you take control of your own life and move into the driver's seat. Simple living is not passive. It requires that you make decisions and act on them. You will no longer be driven by what others have but by what you want and need instead. It usually involves more work but it is work that brings many rewards and is life affirming and enriching. But if you "get" it, if you can open up the elements of your life and really examine them, if you develop routines and a daily rhythm to this life work, if you can turn you back on what you're constantly told you want and want only what you need, then you will build a life like no other.


  1. How wise those words are, once again. It`s such a pleasure to read through your blog.

  2. I was sad to see this post end....such good advice! Looking forward to reading more. :)

  3. I'm loving your blog Rhonda Jean, and this post, like so many you write, is exactly what I needed to read right now.
    Thank you.

  4. is on tender hooks for tomorrows instalment. will be very useful as I am about to have my finaces and my skills pushed to there limets. I just hope others are willing to jump on board. Rhonda what do you do if other family members dont jump on board as well?

  5. This post is so true! DH and I never go "shopping" now in that sense, because I would always end up discontent that we did not have all the "nice things" we "should" have. When I stepped back to look at it, I realized I never actually wanted those things until I saw them, all lined up in those shiny displays.
    Life is much fuller now. I'm quite addicted to the simple life. My garden is nearly overwhelming me, but we are still making it bigger this Fall because I just love it!
    There is such satisfaction when I make a batch of laundry detergent, a pot of soup without chicken bouillon powder in it, and a loaf of my own bread. Not to mention sewing, knitting, you name it!
    Sometimes it makes me sad though, to see those mall parking lots jammed with the every-day rush, with all these people running around trying fill up an emptiness with stuff that will never satisfy. I know they would probably laugh at me because I don't own an ipod, I don't know the latest sitcom or movie star, etc. but if only they knew!
    Really looking forward to tomorrow's post!
    The Girl in the Pink Dress
    PS How are you doing lately? Still thinking and praying about you. Thank you for still posting.

  6. Can you recommend an easy cookbook that follows the seasons?? Love your Blog--read it all of the time here in Atlanta, Georgia!

  7. We're growing some of our own veg for the very first time (though my father had an allotment all the time that I lived at home) and it's great to be able to pop into the garden and cut a courgette for dinner etc. My 4 year old is very excited by it all and rushes out each morning to see what has grown overnight, bless him!

  8. Loved this post. Thanks. Having the last of the store bought canned beans for dinner tonight. Cooking with dried 'rehydrated' ones from now on. Yeah me. Small changes are my path towards simplicity. Thanks again.

  9. Great post. Thank you for your concise and sensible words.. I love checking in and reading your blog to get ideas on transforming mine and my young family's life. Soap making is next... I'm just trying to figure out where to get a stick mixer from for under $20! Thanks again :D

  10. I have to share a recent comment I over heard my husband saying about my frugal ways " She is the only women I know who writes a list of things we need to find / purchase at thrift stores ". And I do write lists of things we need but purchase ONLY when found second hand.


  11. Hi Rhonda. The Urban Homestead has a great food pledge which I find helpful.


    If not from backyard, then locally produced
    If not locally produced, then organic.
    If not organic, then family farm.
    If not family farm, then local business.
    If not local business, then fair trade.

  12. Great post Rhonda. I totally agree with making a budget, I also use the envelope system, it's how we ended up being able to save up to buy our farm.

  13. Another terrific post. I have been thinking a lot about living the simple life I have chosen. The term "simple life" can mean different things to different people. Buying a loaf of bread at the store is simpler than taking the time to bake it, but "simple life" to me is a mindset. It is a way of life, a coming home, back to the basics. Some day I may write a post about those thoughts. You though, have writen them much better than I ever could.




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