Do you feel it too?

18 October 2010
I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a couple who have been following my blog for over a year. They have two children, both are working outside the home but have reduced their work hours to spend more time together, they're growing a garden this year for the first time and are doing a lot of the things I do here at my home. But they don't feel they're really living a simple life and wonder when they'll feel it as well as live it.

How long is a piece of string?

There is no answer to that question. I felt I was living more simply the week after I started committing myself to conserving rather than consuming. I think it's a change in mindset that happens when you really feel compelled to live a certain way and you know deep down in your bones that you're doing the right thing and you'll never go back. There is also the element of working out what will work for you in your own life. Copying what I do isn't going to work for everyone - each person will have their own path. This is handmade living at its finest, there is no one size fits all.

I don't think you need to identify a reason for living simply. I used to, but I've changed my mind. My reason for changing was that my way of life was making me sad. The things that used to comfort me made me sadder and I realised that not only was endless spending bad for me, it was pointless and environmentally unsound. I had turned "green" back in the 60s and 70s so it didn't take much of a push to get me back on that familiar path again but when I started thinking about changing, I knew what my reason was and I thought everyone else would have a specific reason too. Things like peak oil, climate change and the global economy peppered my earlier posts and then I realised that while it's fine to be motivated towards a simpler life by those things, it's also intelligent and sensible to change just because the lifestyle is so enriching. There doesn't need to be a reason.

Another Eureka moment.

So to that couple, I say that you should sit and talk about what you're doing. Are you happier now? Examine what difference your changes have made to your lives. You say you've reduced your spending, you're paying off your debts, you're cooking from scratch most of the time, you're recycling, repairing and producing some of your own food in the backyard. It seems to me that you're doing well and if you're not yet on the road to a simpler life, you're certainly on the road away from mainstream living. Do you have any friends who have simplified? Sometimes we need to see our life reflected somewhere else to connect the dots on what we're doing. Can you join a permaculture or organic gardening group? Can you connect with others at your local markets or at your children's school? Turn off the TV and have no-electricity evenings with the whole family. Join the forum, there are many people from all over the globe there, all with a similar ambition for a simpler life. You might find someone close to your location, or you may find your answers there somewhere on the hundreds of pages.

In the meantime, keep doing what you're doing, be mindful when you work, continue to read books and blogs that inspire you, and believe in yourselves. You've already taken the first important steps, building on that beginning in the practical ways of day-to-day living and working towards your goals, will help form the belief you're seeking. Above all else, don't give up.

I have no doubt there will be readers here who will have some ideas for you, so read the comments attached to this post, there may be hidden treasure waiting.


  1. Little steps, one at a time - it took you many years to settle in. as you are now, and you're still amending things as you go along. I think it's a continual evolving process :-)

  2. For me, I think it's a process (but then, isn't it always?) And within the process there are a lot of times where things still don't feel simple- they feel busy, or difficult, or frustrating, or even just mundane, I suppose, since simple living doesn't always feel simple, or at least as simple as I expect or hope that it will. I really do think it's cumulative, though - my living gets simpler all the time, I think, and understanding that, and also understanding that there will always be new ways to understand simplicity, new challenges to meet, and new things to learn helps me to remember in the moment that I am living more simply all the time.

  3. What a beautiful post. Living simple is different for everyone. However it is done it is done slowly and with ones own personal choice.


  4. It's a process and I just don't make too many worries over it :) :) I do what I can...and when I've got that down, I'll add another step :) :) THanks for sharing this with us :) :) Have a lovely week, Rhonda. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  5. I went to a movie a few years ago about an elderly woman who was on her death bed. The family had rallied around to be with her. During the film we saw flash backs to her life and loves, much of which was unknown to her children. She would go from consciousness to delusion, back and forth through time. Her children were trying to make sense of it while struggling with their own “dramas” in the end her dying words to her daughter where that none of it mattered in the end. All her worries over her indiscretions, her failed relationships etc, they were part of life and in the end didn’t really matter, she had lived and that was that, she died peacefully and happy. It was really beautiful and thought provoking.
    I think in life we try different things, we live, we love, we succeed and sometimes we fail. We change things when we find we aren’t on the right track for us, or we should do anyway. There is no set way or time frame to accomplish things, we just do what we can and assess as we go and make little tweaks to our lives, or sometimes complete overhauls. At the end of our time like the old lady, we hope to look back and be happy at what we’ve done. Life is a journey not an instant just add water.
    i guess, dont be so serious, let it go.

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    It took me a while to understand that "living simply" doesn't mean that living is easier. In fact, sometimes it is more work, but many aspects of living simply are oh so much more satisfying and contentment-building!!!


  7. One point you hit on really made me sit up,the point you made about having some like minded friends. A couple of years ago we moved back to our home town and away from friends who were interested in living simply,communally and sustainably. I must admit our new circle of old but very dear freinds just don't seem to care too much about these things and it really is hard to not get caught up in the consumer push. Kind of like salmon swimming up stream really. But now that I have read what you said and digested it a bit I think it might be a good thing to find those kindred souls that help support the simple life values, thanks for your insight.

  8. O.M.Gosh! My soul sister waaaay across the pond! My daddy used to say that, and I have been saying "How long is a piece of string?" since my kids were little and would ask questions that had no answer!

    Living simply is a process, and each person's goals are as unique as they are I think. I don't think it is so much an "A HA" moment as it as an "AHHHHH". We all have to reach our own recognition of comfort in simplicity.

  9. Wonderful post as usual. Yep just go with the flow and like Heather said just do something and when that is an actual part of your life add another thing. Things as simple as hanging our the washing instead of using the dryer can be so liberating. Or making your own mayonaise when you run out instead of adding it to your shopping list. I would also add that linking up with like minded people is a very good idea. It is hard to be an island in the sea of consumerism. Forums are great but real friends that can share in your life are priceless. It's like the old saying goes "You are the company you keep". Cheers, Wendy

  10. The couple in the blog sound so much like my Hubby and I lol. We are taking baby steps along the path to simple living. We are making our own dishwasher powder, laundry detergent and liquid hand soap. We have "greened" our cleaning liquids. We home cook most of the time. I am learning knitting and crochet. We have started veggie/fruit growing in earnest this year. I still feel like my life is full of clutter and is far from simple, but we are slowly but surely moving the clutter out and refusing to buy anything which isn't necessary in our lives. We feel happier in that we have a path to follow now instead of just ambling along through life. Sure things could be simpler but at least we know we are on the right path, the one that we want to be on and in time we will have our lives decluttered and feel more confident in our day to day chores.
    I think any thing you change in life takes time to become "routine". Every time I make something from scratch I have to go back to my little notebook to find out how to make it, but slowly I am starting to find that it is stored in my brain and it has become second nature,,,,isn't that what simple living is all about in a way,,,,,the art of being kind to the planet and our wallets and to have the day to day things become as easy as taking a shower or making your morning coffee.

  11. When we started out to live a more simple life I thought it would take a long time to feel like we were really there, fully.
    Now some of it has become so "normal" I don't notice it much.But I do have days when I feel that because it dose feel so routine and normal that we are still not there.
    It's an up and down thing here. We are constantly tinkering what we are doing so maybe we won't ever be done but for us it is the journey not the end point.

  12. As I gradually build my new simple life the thing that I see most is that the things I used to think of as important, just aren't anymore. Simple!

  13. Gorgeous post Rhonda. As we pack up to move house, I have realized just how much my life has changed in the past year. There was so much less junk to worry about- the pantry was just glass jars filled with supplies- not package after package. And the change has made me so much happier because I feel in control of our consumerism. It doesn't feel like a trap but a privilege to be able to buy. Hope you're well the garden photos look lovely. xo m.

  14. I actually find living simply is really very complex!

  15. Sometimes I think I'm living really simply, when I'm working in the garden, watching the cats (I have no TV), cycling, this year the high point was when I pulled up my first ever new potatoes. I know I have made a difference when I hear my daughter telling her friends what it is I do, and when she buys me a hand cranked kitchen machine for Christmas.
    Teaching our children is an important step in the whole simple life process. When the effects of peak oil start showing themselves, our children and grandchildren will have a head start and be able to teach and help others to adapt to a changed world.

    By the way, there is mention of food prices rising in a few months, I have let some of my food stock dwindle lately, so stocking up on certain food items while they are still cheap, is my simple living task the next few months.

  16. Urbanadaptation, I feel my life is often busy and mundane and I believe that is part of the process. Yes, and life gets simpler all the time and even though "simple" isn't the best and most descriptive name for this way of life, I see "simple" and "busy" and "mundane" as being the opposite of "complex, "passive" and "abnormal", so all good. Semantics, I know, but it would be great if we had a name that really named what it is we're all doing.

    I think we're all feeling similar things and as we all know, this is a journey, not a destination.

  17. GUess it depends on what you consider to be "simple living". Simple as in "less work" surely isn't going to involve making most stuff yourself. (^v^) Simple as in "back to the roots" - well, it's a bunch of work, but it's pretty good.

    (I love making bread, but I still use instant mashed potatoes - strange, isn't it.)

  18. I have just foung your blog and I love it!! I grow a few herbs in pots along with tomatoes and lettuce and I feel like im living the simple life lol. far from it! I do try to make changes for the sake of my little boys but its hard. I have an online fabric shop and work from home so I can get caught up in work very easily and leave things to the last minute which always sees me reaching for the quick fix. I must learn to manage my time better!

  19. living simply is not the easy road..but the richer one..i am working on it..

  20. Yep me too, we live a very simple life and love it, I have learned to be content with what I have, that really makes the difference, if you are always wanting bigger better you will never be content with what you have, it is a long process with lots of living and loosing, but when you realize it I would not change what I have now for anything in this world. Hugs my friend.

  21. As wholesome and important as it is, I don't believe living simply is quite worthy of being the purpose of anyone's life. There are so many facets of life that are wonderful (family, friends, culture, history, science, and Faith, etc) and these can actually be neglected in the quest for living Green. I would suggest that if a person is feeling unfulfilled in their quest for the simple life, that is not because they haven't yet 'achieved' it, but really just because it is not meant to be fulfilling in and of itself. It is all the different aspects of our lives, set against the backdrop of simplistic living, which make life worth living. Living simply is only meant to be a WAY to live so that those other much more important things can be more fully enjoyed and pursued.
    That's my philosophy on it, anyway. I find it so helpful to remind myself of it, so that I don't become judgmental of others or sloppy in my real purposes.

  22. I think you "hit the nail on the head" when you said we all need to find our own path, or something to that affect. If the emailer is trying to live someone else's simple life because they think they should, they won't find happiness. I read blogs for inspiration and find gems in what other people write that I can apply to my life, but in the end I make my own simple path that works for my me and my family.


  23. You know, sometimes it can feel like you are standing still and not moving forward with your plan...that's when I like to make two lists:

    1. What I have already changed
    2. What I still want to change.

    It always makes me happy to see how much has been achieved and inspires me to get moving again.

    However, I do think the standing still times are good relfectives times too!

  24. I'm a regular reader but not a commenter, but just wanted to say I feel it, and a lot of the changes we've made around here have been inspired by you and D2E xx

  25. As a child I was lucky enough to spend time on several small farms belonging to my grandmother and varying aunts and uncles. Even 40/50 years ago, some of these places would have been regarded as old fashioned. My grandmother, in particular, continued to live as if in the 1930's, when the farm was in its heyday. She spent one day each week baking bread, one day on laundry, one on cleaning etc. There was one indoor cold tap and a toilet at the bottom of the farmyard, over a stream! One of my aunts lived on a rented, 40-acre mixed-farm. Cows were milked, calves raised, crops grown and eggs sold for pin-money. Her only mod-con was a fridge, not acquired until around 1970!
    No one had jobs outside of these farms. They all had thriving vegetable plots. Meat was reared, killed and salted if necessary. Living by the seasons was essential.
    Life, in many ways, was simple. We never went shopping - all we needed seemed to be there.
    What it wasn't, though, was easy. It was hard, physical work. Women and men had their roles - not through sexism, but according to strength and skill. Even children had their responsibilities, and we never questioned it. We ate what we were given.
    I doubt whether many would want to go back to such a hard way of life. Now, as then, living simply needs planning and application, and a mental shift in what we think we need.

  26. A lovely post, thank you. I always enjoy your blog, though I dont read every day. How did I not know you had a forum too?

    Personally, I sold a business last year and we are taking a year out to discover our next move. We are doing many of the simple things and enjoying it immensely.

    For me, the most important thing is to know when something is right for you. To be able to overide also those external "shoulds". Outside influences are the biggest thing that causes dissatisfaction in my experience, go with what's right for you, down that road lies satisfaction and happiness.

  27. We feel like that too at times. We are a family with two young children at primary school. It is harder to make that 'instantaneous change' when you have children because there are still things you need to cover costs for such as school related costs(even public school) and we have chosen to have both children taught music ...something they love and will be a gift for life.
    There is an inbetween time where perhaps one partner works /or you cut down your hours. It is probably the toughest time as you change over to a new lifestyle and it is really easy to get sucked into the treadmill again as the material world calls.I don't know how many times I have gone back to work before I realised it was okay to slow down!
    It has been fun trying all sorts of different things and finding the 'bits' that work for us as a family with young children. We have milked a goat ...and then the goat started eating all our food and we had to sell the goat....but gosh it was fun!!! We have sold some of our own produce , then moved back to producing just for ourselves and friends and family.
    Make sure that you are choosing the right 'bits' for you. It is okay to experiment , you don't have to be perfect , it is more important to be enjoying it. Sometimes you will get out in the garden, sometimes you won't , but every little tiny thing you do makes a difference in our world and in your world.
    Everyday that you live like this builds wonderful memories for your children and makes you a much more interesting and educated person. Join in blogs...maybe start your own(its' not that hard) and find people in your community that are 'just like you'.
    don't give up ,and don't put too much pressure on yourself. Just change the world a little at a time.



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