27 August 2010

Where to go from this day forward

We all seem to be on the same page when it comes to retirement and we all know that if your 20 or 70, simple living will help you live well all through your life. I'm guessing you've made a decision to be more proactive with your reskilling and debt payments, or you're already on that road, so what now? Well, I think you should examine your own home, and life, and work out what skills you need to do what you want to do. One of the wonderful things about living simply is that it suits everyone - those with money and those without it, younger and older, and those in the city or country. So taking that diverse range of people and circumstances it stands to reason that there is no formula that suits everyone. But this is about independence, we don't want to be fed formulas, we want to work out, for ourselves, what is needed in our own home. Some people will already know how to cook but not how to bake, some will sew, some will have to learn how, some will know how to farm their backyards, others will have to learn about container gardening, some will have water tanks rigged up, others will still be wondering if they need to harvest rain. The time has come for you to decide how you want your own home to function, what it is you need now and in the future, know to the last cent where your money is and how it is being used and when you have a list that will customise and simplify your life, work out what skills you need to develop so you can carry out your plan.

Too many beans - some need to be put aside for eating later. I always blanch the vegetables I freeze. It kills enzymes that sometimes lead to spoilage.

I did a series on simply life skills called the Biggest Kitchen Table that might help you with this. If you go to my blog archives, they start July 2, 2009. I hope some of the information there will help you identify what you need to do right now.

Six little packs of beans for two.

I hope you find, like I did, that even the normal tasks of the everyday will gently move you towards your goals. Washing up, sweeping the floor and baking bread sets the rhythm to my days that carries me through my tasks as if I have always lived like this and I was born to do it. Learning how to stockpile saved me time and money and that time was spent more effectively out in the garden, or sewing. The money saved helped pay for straw for mulch or canning jars or worms to be farmed. Simple living is an organic system in that all areas overflow to other areas, each task leads naturally on to other tasks, and most of the time it's like a domino effect - one small thing will lead on to many others. For instance, when I decided to start grocery stockpile, I had to find the space, which lead to decluttering an area, with lead to budgeting in a different way. Eventually, when the stockpile was set, I had to learn different recipes to utilise what was in the stockpile and marry that with our garden produce. Recipes were developed which lead to a Home Management Journal to keep them all. There are not many things in our lives now that aren't seamlessly connected to just about everything else here. It's simple and easy, and I hope that type of home develops for you too.

Now waiting in the freezer, next to the butter, to be used.

And just a tiny piece of friendly advice, don't compare what you're doing to what anyone else is doing. You and your family are unique and you'll set your own systems. Don't think that everything we do here in our home is something you should aspire to - we are two people just trying to do our best and make ourselves happy with what we have. You must do the same. We are all different and that difference is just one of the things to be celebrated in living this way. Be kind to yourself and to others. Forget perfection. It's over rated and it will burst your balloon every time. Treat everyone as you want to be treated yourself. Smile. Expect to make mistakes, you will learn more from a gigantic mistake than from anything else. And draw your family and friends close - that little circle of people will be your shelter in bad times and celebrate the good times with you. Honour and respect all of them and try to be a role model, even when no one is looking.

I'd love to know what your plans are now. If you have time, please share.


  1. Plans for my family's future simplicity.

    1. Continue with making my own bread project
    2. Learn to knit.
    3. Become better at sewing. (take a class?)
    4. Plan my gardens for next year (usually I just plant stuff, I'm sure I'll do better with a plan. LOL).

    For now that's my plans for this winter. Next year I'll be sure to add some more.

  2. im at that "planning stage" ive had numerous jobs that have added to my skill set. i cook, bake, make from scratch,sew, garden, collect water, have a library of fantastic books to teach me every skill i dont already know. i learn easily and are good at everything (except knitting) and i need to start composting or a bokashi bucket. now is the time to write up a map of where we are going. without a map you cant reach your destination right?. ive read blogs (yours and others) ive been inspired, enlightened, fired up.
    now is the time to put it all into action, stop dreaming of a bigger piece of dirt and make do with what i have. create my map and start my journey in earnest. today i start, it is 8am in nz im writing this while lying in bed, i have 3 hours before i go to work, i need to put down the computer, get motivated, the research is done, time for action. i came here looking for a gingerbeer recipe and found so much more. thank you thank you thank you.

  3. Since I stumbled across your blog, I have learned to make bread, attempted cooking from scratch (pretty hefty task as I am culinarily challenged), purchased a sewing machine, gotten my knitting stuff out and make 3 scarves so far (badly though), planted out 3 veggie patches which my partner previously looked after (he is too busy now) and stopped turning on the TV during the day. I practice mindfulness- for example, my little 3 year old girl layed on my lap last night while she had a drink of warm milk so I closed my eyes and took note of the smells, the feel of her hair, the sound of her breathing and the rise and fall of her chest... magnificent. I try not to dwell on the things I cannot change and I have paid off my credit card. I will try to get off the consumer merry-go-round but I find that starting this simple way of living requires 'things' like a sewing machine, seed packets, potting mix, wool, needles, bulk organic flour etc. I will curb my spending to essential only.
    I am proud of my achievements, although, everyone else things I am a little crackers@!\

  4. I always look forward to your blog posts. My husband, baby and I are in the process of transforming our lives into a simple and more sustainable existence. We realized that we are not happy with the cookie-cutter, consumerist American dream and are slowly creating the life we want to live. Your blog has such useful and encouraging advice, I really enjoy it.

    Thanks for letting us into your life and your home each day.

  5. I do so agree with what you have written down. I am in the process of moving away from the suburbs to my own property.
    I feel my multitasking approach to employment will allow me to semi retire at the age of 40-41. I am now 40 and am a qualified teacher, do some gardening jobs, child care, housekeeping jobs and worked in the zookeeping industry for over 10 years.
    My life purpose is to teach troubled children how to care for abandoned animals on my farm and finish the series of children's books I began last year.

  6. We're a reasonable way along the simple path: the budget has been under control for nearly a decade now, producing our own veg, fruit (when the trees mature), pork, beef, eggs and dairy (once Daisy calves again ;o). New challenge is how to fit a couple of horses into the simple life: expensive in terms of time and money, but oh! what a payback! (And the manure is gold for the garden :o)

    Hubby is Da Man when it comes to building and fixing things, and I'm learning knitting, crochet and my own bread only lasted 20 mins after it came out of the oven. Homecooked from scratch meals every night - save the odd lot of fish and chips ;o) The kids learn right alongside, and hopefully will have the skills for a contented life. It is THE BEST feeling to produce/do for yourself and your family, life is good!!

  7. We're working towards producing more and needing less. One thing leads to another it seems, and we've been enjoying fantastic meals of garden produce and our backyard eggs and wild game and feeling grateful.

  8. My family is just starting down our road to simplicity and I find I'm the one slowing us down. Some things I have found harder to let go of than others and I believe its from always growing up with them. I never figured out what else to do! So now, I feel like I am constantly waring with what I feel like I want and what I know I should do to keep going down the path of simplicity that I am 100% sure about. This blog is wonderful and I read it daily just to keep me on track and to remind me of where I want our lives to go but I have often thought it would be wonderful to have a mentor where I live. Someone I could talk in person to about what I am struggling with or just to learn from. I haven't found anyone like that so far. Anyway, ranting...but my family and I are just trying to get some traction going right now.

  9. So far this year...

    1. I have learnt how to home process wild harvested olives.
    2. Planted another 8 fruit trees, 5 fruiting vines & 25 strawberry plants on our 8oo square metre suburban block.
    3. Discovered wild harvested lillypillies make great jam and fruit deserts.
    4. Started using the road side verge for growing fruits like pomegranates.
    5. Harvested about 50% of our vegetable intake from the garden.

    My plan...
    1. To continue learning as much as I can about growing and storing fruits & vegies.
    2. Continue to bake bread, cook from scatch, stock pile, green clean and look for needed items and clothing in local op shops.
    3. Review our energy consumption and sources, and put in another rain water tank.
    4. Experiment with keeping fruit & veg in a home made root cellar.

    Thank you Rhonda.

  10. Well fall is coming up fast so my thoughts have been turning to domestic skills. My garden is my top priority and I have been learning so much about that. I checked on my compost after two months, and though you may laugh, I jumped up and down when I saw that lovely stuff! I'm afraid I'm not very skilled in sewing, and as we need curtains, practice is coming up. There is also rug braiding,more knitting, etc. I would like to learn how to make bar soap, but here in canada I don't know where to get supplies. I missed your biggest kitchen table series so I'll go bAck through those right now! Your beans looks wonderful. The Girl in the Pink Dress

  11. Good morning Rhonda,

    I find that I'm learning new skills as I go. I am tweaking some of my recipes to suit what I have in my cupboard.I darn socks and turn collars when they are worn. Some might say they can't be bothered with this sort of thing but it gives me pleasure and extends the life of our garments. We are living on a very limited budget but our life is so rich. The one thing that I would also stress is not to try to be too perfect as it will only frustrate you. Try to find some joy in all you do, even the jobs that are not your favourites. I hope everyone has a pleasant weekend.

    Blessings Gail

  12. I really like what you said about you might do something but I would do something else. I like to cook, bake,sew, make laundry soap, I'm looking forward to making bar soap. I use to be good with gardening but....I am allergic to all green things according to the testing the allergist did. So itching so much keeps me from enjoying gardening. I look for good buys at Farmer's Market and at the grocery buy when the veggies and fruit are in season. Thank you for helping us not to feel guilty for those things we are not doing and to celebrate what we do. You are helping us all so much.

  13. Rhonda,

    You are my virtual mentor!!! I look forward to reading your blog everyday...I cannot accurately explain how much you have influenced me and the decisions I now make. You are a true blessing!! And, congrats on the grandbaby.

    Stacy (USA/Ohio)

  14. I'm just getting started in earnest at green/frugal/simple living. I've got plenty of do-it-yourself gumption and skills like spinning, weaving, sewing, and cooking. Everything I'm learning now by reading blogs like yours is helping me add to that list to be better at gardening, canning/preserving and in general buying less and buying healthier.

    This year hopefully we can add in a fall garden, water storage, composting, and better money management to actually start saving so we can eventually move out of the city and get a bigger yard for more gardening.

  15. Hi Rhonda,

    I have loved your posts over the last couple of days.

    So far in the last 18 months, we have
    1. Had two successive successful harvest from 2 veggie beds.
    2. Planted another 6 fruit trees, and moved to a house with 5 established fruit trees.
    3. Learned to knit, preserve our own cordials and jams
    4. Moved from a breadmaker to making all our bread by hand
    5. Making all our own cleaning and beauty products
    6. Installed four water tanks

    My plan...
    1. This spring we are expanding our veggie garden to 5 beds
    2. I'm being given sewing classes for my birthday.
    3. Aiming to put in another rain water tank to run our washing machine and toilet off of
    4. Aiming to make our own sunflower oils from our sunflowers as well as our own seeds (like pepitas, and sunflower seeds)
    5. I'd like to start dehydrating some our produce from the garden as well as preserving and freezing
    6. Op shopping and stockpiling good clothes for my DS in advance (he is 3.5 and I have clothes until he is 5 currently using this method)

    I have to say I love and adore this lifestyle. I've never had so much joy in house keeping before.

  16. Stumbled upon you .. and am so glad that I did. I too like the simple life and have begun to grow, cook food; sew; crochet; knit; quilt; make my own cards; in fact, anything to do with better and more sustainable living. I have a new blog
    annabelleserendipity.blogspot.com with a new giveaway just started. Do visit. Can I put a link to your site?

  17. welcome Annabelle. Sure, link away.

  18. Hi, I love these posts, so many tips and good ideas. We have four and a half years until we retire, so are looking at ways to downsize etc to make our pensions go further. We are in the process of renovating/building a barge, which we plan to live on (cuts our costs down by about £1200/month!and it is bigger than our present house) We intend to take the barge over to Europe and spend a long time cruising the canals of France, Belgium, Holland and Germany and wherever else we can go. I will grow lots of fruit and veg on deck and use local markets/foraging for food. I will bake my own bread etc. We will have solar power and an aga for heating, hot water etc. Come over to the blog and have a look. Keep up the good work with your advice xxxx

  19. Rhonda, you have completely changed my life for the better!! Until I found your blog, I bought all pre packaged items and just wasted so much money on things. Now I bake my own bread and cook almost everything from scratch. I make my own cleaning prodcuts, and beauty products. My house has never been cleaner, my kids have never been happier, and I'm way more relaxed than ever. So thanks so much for letting us into your world, and showing us how to change our lives for the better :o)

  20. Hi
    I'm in the middle of knitting 3 blankets for myself, my husband and daughter so that we don't need to have the heating on so high when winter comes. Last year our heating bills were terrible.
    In winter my clothes just won't dry in my utility room so I usually use the tumble dryer and any radiators that are on. I've worked out that my dehumidifier uses about a quarter of the electricity of a tumble drier so on days when I am desperate I will use that.
    I've finally got round to changing the last of my light bulbs to be energy saving ones.
    Am baking my own bread and my peas and peppers were very successful this year!
    Thanks for your inspiration Rhonda Jean.

  21. Our top priority is to pay off our mortgage. We will pay off the first chunk next spring...and then start on the second part. Hope to pay it all off in 3 years time.

    Then we will finish all the work on the house that needs outside paid workers; and then start a serious savings programme.

    In the meantime I will continue to grow some of our own fruit and veg...bake goods...using green cleaning methods...and enjoy living simply.

    As part of the living simply part, I want to get out more for long walks, exploring and just noticing the beautiful countryside we live in more.

    And finally building community with friends and family...especially making more gifts myself.

  22. Rhonda we are now into year three so some things are happening without planning. The compost in three bins, the dug in vegie gardens, the water from the tanks and of course I cook from scratch.

    I need to refine things, and accept that I will be working for some more years and create schedules that help me manage what i want to achieve.

    A big thing for me will be rising earlier. I can fit in an extra hour of housekeeping and gardening if I take advantage of the lighter mornings. I'm not a person who can get up when it's dark but I think I can do better than I am.

    I'd also like to plant our tiny shop garden with a few veg but need to work out the logisitics.

    My sewing is at a standstill, I need to overcome that.

  23. I am lucky to have learned so many skills as a child. My mother is a true homemaker (besides her job as a school teacher) and she taught me to knit, crochet, sew, cook, bake, how to grow a vegetable garden and turn all the fruit and vegetables into delishious meals and canned, frozen, dries or preserved stockpiles for the winter.

    When my grandparents where alive, they had a farm, and every year my grandfather would take a pig or two aside for the family. Then the women got together in my grandmother's kitchen and spend a whole day cutting up the pork, making sausages and packing everything into meal-size portions for the freezer. If the children where curious, we where allowed to help - I remember being assigned to writing on parcels and plastic bags what they contained, while my younger sister got a small knife and 'helped' cut one of the pigs feet into tiny pieces :-)

    I strongly believe that this way of involving children in the familys chores is the reason why my sister and I know how to do so many things today. Some of my friends almost envy me my skills, but at the same time I see them tell their own curious children to go and play instead of 'beeing in the way' in ex. the kitchen. And yes, it is more work to cook a meal with a little helper at your side,
    but it is time and energy well spent, both while you're doing it and as an investment in the child's future. And you can make children eat almost anything if they helped cooking it.

    I don't have children, and I don't know if I will meet someone to have them with (I'm 36 now and time seems to be running out), but I have a nephew, and I know that my sister, my mother and I will continue the family tradition of including the children and we will teach this little boy everything he wants to know.

    As for my own skills:

    Last winter I took up woodwork. There is an evening class every monday during the winter, taught by a retired carpenter, in a nearby village. I manged to build 6 small drawers for an old cupboard of mine, and I was so proud!

    This year I'm teaching myself how to spin - maybe in time I will be able to make all the yarn myself for my knittings.

    And my sister and I have asked our mother to pass on to us her knowledge on how to cut up a whole animal, make sausages etc. - we where to young when our grandmother died (and the butcher-kitchen-days stopped) to remember how it's done. Buying a whole animal is cheaper (and the meat is often fresher and of a better quality) than the meat from the supermarket. But that will be next years new skill, because by then my sister and her family and I myself will (hopefully) have moved from the appartments that we live in now and into our own houses with room for a decent stockpile :-)

  24. 1.Enrol on a dressmaking course!

    2. Share knowledge with others and the wider community ie give talks to primary school children, encourage resourcfulness, sustainable and frugal living. Consume less and encourage others to support grassroot good business.

    Possibly try to finish where I left of in my lanquage a new language phase(over 10 years).

    Quite a task / feat for this formal sensitive / timid individual!

    Thank-you for being YOU Rhonda, your enhusiasm and creative spirit is infectious!

  25. Hello Ronda
    So true we are all our own worst enemy when we compare.

    Over here plans are
    get some manure for the compost
    Move my compost to a ground type one. It's in a big barrel type thing and I just cant stir it.

    Rest rest rest my knees not that the injections are in. In two weeks time follow the almanac for sowing the seeds.

    Detail and sort the estate. It is so far far behind. Now that I will have the energy and strength to do so, I am really so excited.

    Make another batch of laundry soap.

    Bake more now that our temps are getting under 100*f

    Eat off the land soon. The ground has been feral over the summer.

    Sew new curtain for the sewing table. I'll use some very bright colors. By studying fung shui I realized I got the two rooms on the East side mixed up. My sewing room is way too sedate.Needs a boost of color.

    I have plans for an apple tree

    Garden plots need to be confirmed to plans.

    Doing the budget catching it up and doing some projections. Last month alone we saved $60. just using the time of use plan and powering down after 1pm I am challenged to do even more cutbacks. We want to be able to do a little vacation trip in October Lord willing.

    For today I rest.

  26. What I do now:
    1. Grow a large garden.
    2. Can and freeze that produce
    3. Budget, clip coupons, watch our pennies.

    What I want/need to do:
    1. Grow a larger garden and maintain it better.
    2. Can and freeze more produce.
    3. Start another flock of chickens.
    4. Continue purging unused/unwanted items from our home.
    5. Organize our home and schedules better.
    6. Learn to knit/sew/crochet.
    7. Install a wood burning stove in our home for long, cold Nebraska winters.
    8. Quit one of my part-time jobs after some large medical bills are paid off and money put aside so I can spend more time at home.
    9. Encourage others to live more simply.

    Thank you for what you do here, Rhonda! You inspire me every time you post! :)

  27. This is the beginning of year 2 of my retirement. I continue to find ways to lead a more focused life, with a good blend of physical, mental and emotional exercise.

    My lifestyle is different from many readers here-we do not garden veges, but do keep a flower garden and a large park like yard. We cannot have chickens because we have terrible terriers, but do have a beloved gelding. I sew most of my clothes and some for others. We travel to the desert in the winter and live off the grid for part of that time.

    My blog focuses on my small efforts to be a responsible person on this Earth. Oh, and to have fun too :-)

  28. Dear Rhonda,
    I am 33 now and are able to stay at home full time to care for our 4 year old. My problem is that there are too many skills I want to learn and become better at the ones I know. My plans are
    1. Do a permaculture course(who knows when that might be!)
    2. Become more confident in knitting.
    3. Become more confident with my spinning wheel.
    4. Attempt sewing a dress pattern.(I can sew a fair bit but am nervous about doing a dress!)
    5. Extend my veggie garden and to include an orchard.

    This is a very small portion of the long list that is in my head! Lol!

    This is hopefully achieved in the next couple of years. Hopefully I will have another baby in that time as well.

    I really enjoy reading your blog. You have taught me so much.

  29. My plans for this next season:

    1. continuing to garden through the fall and winter

    2. simplifying meals and reducing food waste

    3. baking our bread, muffins, crackers, etc.

    4. learning new ways to preserve the harvest- fermenting, drying, etc.

    5. Slowing down and taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures of home.

    Thank you Rhonda, your posts always encourage and inspire!

  30. opshop
    your blog always leaves me inspired to live more simply, though I wish I could get my entire family to read and may feel the same. I like Meredith which a lived near a person that could be my mentor second and friend first, but I accept that is unlikely to happen and must accept that like minded people communication will be via your comments. I have tried to use the forum a couple of times but couldnt get it too work, perhaps I can try again. Thanks again RJ

  31. My plans are fairly lofty ones and they came about through the area we live in. First, we have an abundant supply of spotted gums in the area, and second, we have impoverished soil on slopes.

    I would love to learn how to fell a tree, become proficient with a chain saw and have a small, portable mill. I also want to learn wood carving. We have the natural wood supply in the area.

    I'll come back to why in a minute, but removing the trees, leaves the problem of the impoverished soil on slopes to erode away. That's why we're experimenting on our property, with what trees work just as well as the spotted gums, but aren't as weedy or potentially 30 metres high. They also have to improve the soil, rather than preventing things from growing like the gums.

    There are literally thousands of acres of land here (not all mine) that could be used to grow better things than lantana and eucalypts.

    If the need arises in the future where food becomes scarce, I want to be able to show neighbours how to improve their land and also how to utilise the natural resources on it - rather than burning them, which they seem to do a lot of.

    Back to why I want to do all these things with wood in the first place - there are simple machines which can be made from them, to help with self sufficiency. Things such as wooden mallets, spinning wheels, looms, butter churns, cheese presses and even coopers barrels.

    I want to start the process of how to make these things, and hopefully, pass that knowledge on to others who may be interested too. :)

  32. Rhonda, this post hits very close to home. At this point I'm in process of leaving one job, so wanting to take time before obtaining another, in order to put my "house" in order. Yet of course financial matters may dictate otherwise.

    Meanwhile I'm loooking to make some (positive) changes here in our home and do more for us...in order to not only preserve old skills (baking from scratch is fast becoming a lost art, I fear), but to improve my usable/workable skills, in order to save money and use less nonrenewable resources...it's a daily struggle. Do I select what is right or what is easy and readily available? And my husband doesn't always support my choice! So I must always be ready to justify my choices...which wears you down after a while. Society itself wears you down....

    Onward. That's my theme word. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. That's my other theme. It's not always easy, and certainly not always justifiable in the eyes of others, but if we know in our hearts it's the right thing to do, we need to keep on.

    Thanks, Rhonda, for your postings. Please keep on!

  33. I've enjoyed reading your blog! I also have a blog about gardening and will be doing some preserving and freezing of my surplus garden veggies soon.


  34. Your post about the water is the one thing that we have decided to work on in the immediate future. Other things I will continue is making our bread, raising our own meat animals & growing our own veggies. I need to add some other things to our garden next year like lettuces & cabbages but where I live it's quite hot so I'm not sure it will grow that well.(I need to do some research) I also am always working on how to cut our budget & have more savings. Hope you have a great day!

  35. Rhonda I have been reading your blog for over a year and just want to say how much I enjoy it. I love to read your thoughtful articles and see pictures of your lovely garden. This all takes a lot of work and thought..and I have learned so much from it! Thank you ♥

    Ellen in Dalarna, Sweden


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