15 December 2010

Being satisfied with enough

I had two emails recently from women who are new to all this and they're hesitating to dive in because one is not a good cook and the other lives in an apartment and doesn't have a backyard. Let me say this loud and clear (again). The way Hanno and I live suits us at our age, twenty years ago, even ten years ago, I would have structured my simple life in a different way. And because there are no rules, no ONE way of doing it, and because one of your aims should be to live a happy contended life, YOU alone decide what you'll include in your life. I don't expect any of you to live exactly as we do.

I want my life to provide me with:
  • a reason to get up every morning;
  • interesting and productive work;
  • contentment that  occasionally explodes into happiness;
  • a framework in which to live simply;
  • the opportunity and continued ability to learn skills that facilitate our lifestyle;
  • a strong and generous family circle that supports every member of our family - when we experience the good times and especially when it's tougher;
  • opportunities to express generosity, kindness and empathy;
  • the strength to be a role model to the younger women in my family;
  • and the enthusiasm and perseverance to take charge of my home and make it a place of comfort, welcome and warmth.
I hope that everyone wishing to change how they live would make a list similar to mine so that values and goals are clearly evident. You'll get yourself all tangled if you decide on change and just expect it to happen. It won't. Write down what you want to happen, then put plans in place to make it happen. Nowhere on that list does it say anything about cooking or backyards, but those things are implied in several of the points, so you'll need to be perfectly clear in your own mind what you hope to achieve.

As soon as I closed my business and gave up paid work, I wanted not only to be fulfilled by my work at home, I wanted to enjoy it too. I wanted to work hard, which was lucky because I work harder and more consistently now than I ever have, and I wanted to produce as much as I could at home and use my intelligence to learn the skills I needed to do that. But even though I wanted to work hard, I didn't want to feel deprived and I wanted abundance, enrichment, happiness, satisfaction, pleasure and fulfilment to be part of every day. I got that, and more. If my goals had been different, for instance, if I had wanted to open a little Etsy shop to sell my sewing and knitting, I wouldn't have been bothered with the garden because I wouldn't have had time for it. I would have spent time looking for a good fresh food market instead of growing food and keeping chooks. If I was younger and had children I would have spent my days homeschooling them and teaching them the practical tasks of a home and garden. If I worked for a living and lived in a city apartment, I would have taught myself all I could about container gardening, found a fresh food market, paid off debt, started green cleaning, got rid of all the disposables I used to buy, taught myself a craft and been as good at my job as I could be.

The choices are yours to make, not mine. So take some time to think about what you want, write it all down, then do it with enthusiasm and passion. Do one thing at a time. You'll find that when you do one thing, it naturally unfolds into something else and that is exactly how I moved into this new life. For example, when I decided to cook only from scratch, I had to learn a few new recipes so I had enough meals in my repertoire to satisfy the family. That lead me to stockpiling - which I had to learn about, that lead me back to preserving and learning all about food storage. You'll find, just as I did, that one thing leads to the next and what first appeared to be a simple thing contains many aspects that you'll need to learn.

Above all else you have to work out for yourself what is enough. What is your level of enough? That is where the real simplifying comes into play and unless you can change your mindset to want less, to not want to be like everyone else, and to be satisfied with enough, you'll find the going very tough and you'll probably go back to your old ways. I encourage you to read all you can, visit here and other blogs, read books and take time to think about how you can fit into this life. But in the long run, it is you who decides what your life will look like, and you who will decide what you're capable of doing each day. Don't let anyone tell you that you're not doing it right. There is no one way of living simply, there are thousands.

The way Hanno and I live is enriching and beautiful, even though it might just look like a lot of hard work to others. We have enough and we're satisfied and thankful for it. I hope you will say the same of your lives in the near future.



  1. Your wise words never fail to inspire me. I think I have the balance right for now, with part-time work and the rest of the time enjoying the home life. Didn't you Aussies once say that 'work is something you do in between having fun'? If the work is fun too, then we're all laughing! Mine isn't always fun but the fun times more than make up for it, and that's what it's all about.

  2. Goodmorning Rhonda,a great post as usual, I have joined in with your ginger beer making also,as soon as I read your blog yesterday I got up and put it together,on Thursday can you let us know sugested bottles and about how many we will need so we can be prepared lol, I seem to remember reading in a very old blog of yours that you used plastic am I remembering right?last time I made it many years ago I used the fowler ones with the clip lids,many exploded lol it was a hoot but the ones that made it were delish!I am going to enjoy this little project as I told myself there was not enough time as you gave me the urge to get to it.Thanks Rhonda due to many things going upside down lately i have not commented for a while,I needed to let you know there are so many of us enjoying your blog and we have not disappeared just gone into htbernation so to speak.Carole xx

  3. Amen. This is a fantastic post.

    I pulled my daughter out of school and began homeschooling her in November. I love it. I am making the life that I want it to be.

    Thank you for your insightful, wonderful posts.

    God Bless.

  4. Thank you for the reminder! I think I tend to compare myself and never quite live up to the expectations...I have come a long way...and as new opportunites for simplifying present themselves, I will continue to grow and change.

  5. You are right on the money! It can be easy to get discouraged in the beginning because you can't have "it all" at once. Just doing a few things can be rewarding. If you waited until you could do it all, you'd never do anything.

    Simple living is possible, even for a city-dweller, but it looks a lot different than if you live in the country. You probably don't cut your own firewood and keep livestock. Replacing disposable items with non-disposable ones is one thing that every modern person can strive for. Replacing electric appliances and tools with hand-operated ones (where reasonable and desired, of course) is another one. I get so much more satisfaction out of five minutes of grinding my coffee every morning in a hand-cranked mill than I ever did out of twelve seconds of an electric blade grinder. I get far more satisfaction, and exercise to boot, out of splitting wood with a maul and a wedge, than I would with a gas-powered splitter. That doesn't mean that I don't use a chainsaw when it comes time to bucking logs, though! I'd love to live the life of the Ingalls, but that's not the world I live in, so I focus on doing what I can, what feels rewarding, and what feels like, as you say, "enough."

  6. What a thoughtful and thought provoking post. It's come at exactly the right time for me as today I found that a day a week steady job. (I'm a supply teacher) has ended but I'm trusting that something will turn up and in the mean time ways of cutting our expenses are in my hands and I can work hard at building a lovely home for my family. Thank you Rhonda. Love Penny L xx

  7. I like the phrase you used:
    'contentment which explodes into happiness now and then.' It insinuates that sometimes we are quick to get bored because we fail to be okay with just contentment- we insist on explosive, exciting experience all the time. It's just not realistic, attainable, nor sustainable to live with that expectation.

  8. I am so happy I found your blog. I have always lived pretty simply but now am delving deeper into what that can mean and just how much more simply and back to the basics I can live. I appreciate your wise words and hope that one day my blog might be able to be helpful to others as well. Thank you so much for being here and for sharing you experience.

  9. Enriching and beautiful, indeed! Even in our early 40's we're changing the way we live, and it is very exciting and rewarding. I don't want to have to rely on someone else, or even the grocery store. We take for granted that these things are here now, but the fact is that they might not always be. I love knowing how to garden, can, raise our own chickens for meat and eggs, and eat more healthily while doing so.

  10. I love to hear you say this (again) Rhonda and I don't think I'll ever tire of it because it acts as a reminder when I'm veering off into trying to live someone else's life that mine is more important and what I choose to do and want to do is what I 'should' be doing, not trying to emulate someone else.

    It's a long road, I've found. A couple of years ago I was trying to do all the things the people I admired did alongside other aspects which were important to me. I thought I was doing it wrong and that somehow the right way was to give up my life and do what these others were doing.

    Of course that's not helpful and definitely not the route to personal satisfaction and contentment. It's taken me to fairly recently to realise this fully and also to keep on my own road as much as I can. I do veer off and also get entangled in all sorts of things that aren't quite as important as others but I'm feeling fairly happy now that I'm on the track that suits me.

    I also think that it's a very lucky person who all of a sudden knows what they want and can change their lives quickly to accommodate those wants. For me and I suspect most people, it's a slow road with many diversions and twists and turns along the way.

    Thank you, Rhonda

  11. I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed the surprise on my friends' faces when they learn that we don't subscribe to the paid TV channels/Satellite TV--at the moment, we say we can't afford them, but even if we could, I don't know if we'd get them. And we live in South Africa where there are only 4 regular (unpaid) TV channels. DVDs, books, taping TV movies and a computer download from time to time are fine. "More is not always better". And that applies to much more than TV!

  12. I find sometimes that I will get in a hurry and get something that I think I "need" to make life easier, simpler, etc, only to find I didn't really need it and I wasted time, money and energy on getting it.

    Slowing down and taking the time to really think about what I want out of life is indeed something I need to do.

  13. Congratulations on achieving your list. It is a fine list and I whole heartily agree with your statements. Life is a journey my friend . We must enjoy the ride and take what we learn, and help others along the way. Your happiness can only be determined by you.Do what you need to do. Be happy no matter what that means at the time, even if it is not the same thing that would make another happy. Just go for it. I love my life but trial and error have gotten me here. Thank you.

  14. It often seems to me that our idea of pleasure as "ease" comes from previous generations who worked in hard manual jobs from dawn till dusk, and equated pleasure with rest. If you can make enough to live on doing something you like, work and play are the same thing really. Not always easy to do, but worth trying.

  15. Hi Rhonda, this was a great post today, yet another thought inspiring one. I think so many of us look to your blog for that warm, cozy feeling. You are I guess like a mother figure to many of us. This may sound silly lol but as my mum is now in a nursing home with dementia, I have lost the person that I used to ask how to do things the "old fashioned way", the more economical way. You, to me at least, are a wealth of knowledge and are my "mum" symbol of the internet, the one person who won't preach at me or make me feel dumb, but just explain things with gentle encouragement.
    We do have a long way to do go with our simple living plan. My husband is a spender and I am a saver who is trying to slowly convert him. We have our good days and bad days but right now he has no choice he has to save as he will be moving from one job to another and we will be without an income for 2 months. It is stressful but we are really knuckling down to get through this time.
    Thank you again!! I think we all love your way of life and the contentment which shines through your posts.

  16. Good post and a note to the gal in the apartment. If she is truly ready to garden, many cities have garden plots that are available to rent and will gladly rent whole, half or quarter of a plot.

  17. Rhonda you have hit the nail on the head once again. Making the decision about simple living is a first step, there are then more decisions to make and skills to learn as we develop our simple lives.

    Three years ago I couldn't sew AT ALL. Now I can sew a little bit, imagine where I'll be in three years time. :)

    And it's fun, that's the best thing about this journey, it's un.

  18. Your wise words are such an inspiration!
    I have always had this itch (if you will) to live simple..my husband however was a spender. In the past five years (more out of necessity) we have re-arranged our lives to live simplier, and my husband now feels the release of it all. First we started composting, and the neighbors thought we were nuts, until the compost filled two boxes and we grew our garden! During this time we also audited our utilities, (gas & electric) and adjusted that to our needs not waste. Together we built a food storage of foods we love to eat...foods we enjoy and I cook from scratch. This past Summer our plans was to purchase and install rain barrels, due to circumstance that did not happen, but it will, I'm not discouraged , in time everything will fall into place.
    The point to any newby is, start small, and feel good about what you do, then build from it.
    from Michigan, U.S.

  19. Inspiring post Rhonda and I agree with it all. My husband and are retired, we live on a 5 acre block, very close to town but we have chosen not to have livestock including chooks. We grow herbs and fruit but very limited vegies and that is our choice. WE have lived an `acreage lifestyle' for 15 years now and we have been through horses, cattle, chooks, dogs, cats etc. and we have decided `no more'. I don't bake bread, once again a choice, but we do live very frugally. I buy around 20 really nice bread rolls each week for $3.50 from our local IGA and freeze them. We also support our local growers by shopping at our weekly Farmer's market which has really reasonable prices and quality fruit and veg. I think the thing is that it is all `OK' as long as you are happy and fulfilled and feel that your days are productive and enjoyable. Each individual's `down to earth' choice will be unique to them.

  20. Rhonda, I agree with what you have written!

    Being content is key, and it is so interesting to note that as we take the steps to live simply and to opt out of keeping up with others, we are more easily content.

    Have a wonderful day!

  21. By the way - do homeschool my children and they work alongside us as we go about our day taking care of the animals, dogs, chickens, horses, and in the garden. We want them to grow up knowing things we had to learn as adults....it is a joy!

  22. my family try and live a fairly simple life too. what i aim for is being able to go to bed at night and feel good about the day. knowing i have reduced and recycled where possible, knowing i have trod lightly on our earth - these things make me feel happy. i know there is more i can do, but heck, you need to be able to improve with age??!!
    i love your blog - and i especially love that shot of your chicken. i think the secret to a happy life is to have chickens - they never fail to put a smile on my face :)

  23. A beautiful post! I recently returned to part-time work and though I really do enjoy it, for us it's just not working and I am taking small steps now to incorporate a simpler life. The money issue is still not resolved, but I think making small changes we can do it and be happier in the long run

  24. Hi Rhonda,
    How well your words resonate with me, it's all so true what you say, especially how one thing leads to another, little tributaries threading out and providing more support for the main base of a happy and contented life. I wish I could have known all this at age 20! But, now I marvel at how much my daughters, aged 14, 15, know of sustainability and take things such as organic, chemical free, home made as the norm. They don't flinch when they see me knitting or grating soap for my laundry powder but are equally at home doing all their school work on computers, as they need to in 2010. You've had such a busy year Rhonda, I hope you can rest and relax over Christmas.

  25. Good morning Rhonda,
    Another gem today, thank you.
    To the lady who felt she was not a good cook. It really is something you just learn over time.My mother never taught me how to cook and when I married my husband, who was Italian, I was belittled and laughed at by his family when they came to visit us. I had cooked a large pot of vegetable soup. They were all very good cooks. My soup was not the thick soup they were used to. I carried that criticism around with me for many years and would tell people I was not a good cook until I realised that I can cook a really decent meal with what I have in my garden. I don't have the money to spend on exotic extras to add and enhance the flavour of my dishes, but over time I realised that plain cooking is so much better anyway. I have gleaned quite a lot from Rhonda's and other similar blogs but one thing I do is to keep it simple. You are probably not such a bad cook as a simple cook. Check out some simple recipes and just see what you're happy cooking. After 40 years of marriage I have only just learned how to make my own pasta (Rhonda's recipe of course) and it's delicious and my husband loves it. So hang in there and keep trying and don't be put off by what others might say.
    Thanks Rhonda for allowing me to express my opinion on this subject.
    Blessings Gail

  26. This post is similar to the post a wrote on my blog where I listed all my immediate desires and future goals to help me better understand what I truly need right now. I had been finding our house search very daunting and difficult only because my mind was cluttered with all the ideas of what I should be doing. By writing my goals down, I discovered that I do not need acres of land or a farm. What I need is a big enough garden, space to teach my children at home, and in a location that we can be close to their friends. As it turns out we had already seen the house that satisfied all those needs (with a few extras) and so my house hunt became a whole lot more simplified!

    Great post Rhonda!

  27. Dear Rhonda, Thank you for taking the time to encourage everyone else. Your words really resonate with the way I feel right now. My husband and I are in a position where we know what we want one day--an acre or so of land where we can live sustainably and self-sufficiently. In many ways, it's similar to the way you live.

    Right now our goal isn't feasible. So, in the mean time, we do what we can. We keep our goal in mind, and learn the skills we think we might want/need as we go. Ultimately we'd like to grow all of our food. We don't have room for that now, so we are learning about gardening and growing what we can in the room we have. In 2011, I plan to learn how to make our own cleaning supplies and soap.

    I think people should remember that part of a simple life is the journey getting there. It doesn't happen over night. :)

  28. I LOVE your list. Thank you for posting that!

  29. Intentionality, hard work, and contentment. I ♥ the emphasis you put on writing down your aims & ordering your life and choices to achieve them. YOUR aims (stated early in the post) are so well-stated. Thank you for your generous sharing of your life and wisdom.

  30. Hello! I've been reading your blog for a while now, first time to comment and all I can say is what a great "mission statement."

    To the gal who isn't a good cook- practice! I wasn't always a good cook, could burn rice better than anyone though, but now I can say I can really cook. Keep at it!

    Thanks for your inspiring blog posts Ms. Rhonda! :-)

  31. Beautifully written Rhonda. Thank you.

  32. Such a good post Rhonda. Again! I think it is a message which you may need to express often because new people are probably finding your blog every day. But the message that each of us needs to decide our own take on the goals of simple living and the techniques to achieve it, and even the motivation for it - this probably needs to be restated for all of us from time to time. Sometimes I think I have to go over everything I know every morning all over again!

    And no person will probably have the same ideas on this throughout all his or her lifetime. Our situations change and so must our aims and strategies.

    I do truly appreciate, as so many others do too, it's clear, the dedication you have brought to this blog which has been going on for several years now, years in which you so generously share your life and your thoughts with all who find their way here. Thank you!

  33. encouragement is right! i sometimes find it difficult to just settle in to what is happening immediately, and do what i can, and go from there. some days a basic routine is really enough. x

  34. Hi Rhonda and others that read comments,

    I love that you mention how each of us has to decide what 'enough' is.

    I too live in a city apartment and am well acquainted with container gardening, and I adore it, even though the ammount of light my balcony recieves distresses me on a bi-weekly basis.

    At 23, I have the luxury/curse of being on a pension because of a mental illness and knowing from my country upbringing that gardening is something I find soothing and rewarding I was drawn, once again to the path of my childhood, in organics, pickles, breadmaking and a low-chemical lifestyle.

    When I left home five years ago the only meal I was confident in producing was vegemite on toast, cold tofu and a salad. Now I have a marvellous collection of meals under my belt and a total addiction to pickling things. At the moment I'm making coffee flavoured biscotti from stale cake I have lying around for Christmas with my family.

    I think that both the women you have spoken with need to realise simply that any small inroad on ANY path that they which to go down will prove immensely rewarding. Even something as simple as switching to vinegar and bicarb and lemon around the home gives a sense of satisfaction on top of the one of having a clean house! And joining community groups, chatting with people at markets and enjoying a good cup of fair trade coffee are some of the most wonderful and simple pleasures in this world (from this 23 year old's perspective!) there is no step too easy on the road to frugality, and every week of dodging the supermarket makes you smile.

    I love your blog, and the community that surrounds it. You do marvellous work, I hope you have very happy holidays!

  35. Thank you so much for this post! It was just what I needed to read. I currently live in an apartment, and will for quite sometime. Lately I have been feeling discouraged because I feel there is so much I can't do, like garden. Thank you for pointing out the things I CAN do, and pointing out that there are many paths to simplicity!

  36. This post is such good timing for me too Rhonda Jean. It being Christmas, and me being on a tight budget, I have been grappling with how to apply these principles (well, my version of)of simple living to this season of excess (which is how so many people live it).

    I've taught mysdelf to sew this year, beyond my rudimentary high-school lessons, so I decided to make most gifts on my sewing machine this year.

    They aren't elaborate gifts, but I am proud of my efforts so far and it is gratifying to discover how much I have learned and how empowering this new skill is.

    I like your advice to write down how we want our lives to be. Brilliant advice (again).

    Thank you.

  37. What a delight to visit your blog, Rhonda. I don't visit as often as I used to, but when I do find the time, I enjoy it so much. I'm striving to live a simple life too, though my simple life is no doubt very different from yours as I'm in a different season (little children, husband working long hours outside the home, and much more). I think of you as a kindred spirit. :o)

  38. As always,you have hit the nail on the head!
    Neither my husband or I work-he is a disabled Iraq War veteran and is on VA disability.Together we decided to do more for ourselves. This way we are not only providing for our family and working together, but feeling productive,which is especially important for my husband.
    It is very true that once you begin one aspect of living simply,more naturally follow. We started raised veggie beds,which led to composting and rain barrels. We have chickens,which led to turkeys and next year possibly goats.We make our own hand soap,which led to laundry soap. We make candles.We split and burn wood. We make our bread and baked goods. People comment on how much unnecessary work it is,or "do you do all that to keep busy?" We don't look at it as that. It's satifying, very gratifying,and not busy work. It's life work!!!

  39. This was just what I needed to read today (particularly the staying focused and working at your goals one small step at a time parts). Thank you!

  40. Thanks Rhonda. Lovely post. I'm glad that you never get tired of saying this over and over again. I know this myself but sometimes I get so wrapped up in a new task that's not working for me that I forget that I can honestly say that it isn't for me and move on to the next possibility.

    Merry Christmas to you and your Family.

  41. This is a great post. It really encouraged me to set some goals for myself.

    I quit my job recently to stay home with my kids, but now I struggle with actually waking up and doing stuff. I'm so used to other people telling me what to do, it's hard to manage my own time now.

    Thanks for this post; there is much food for thought. Keep 'em coming!


  42. wow, you really said a lot here, a lot I needed to hear! And so beautifully stated: "a reason to get up every morning...contentment that explodes into happiness occasionally." Thanks for the reminder that creating the life of my dreams is worth every effort.

  43. I haven't been following you long but this has to be one of the best posts I've read on your blog. It all comes down to making your life the one you want it to be, the best you can and with what you have.
    I only had one glass bottle explode when ginger beer making and fortunately they were stored in the garage in a big cardboard box so the mess was contained and it was only the one bottle that we lost. We had a plant going for about 2 years so that makes it about a 99.9% success rate!

  44. This is for your inquirer who lives in an apartment.

    I am an older woman who lives very simply in a small apartment. I can't have a real garden, but do have herbs and some veggies in pots on my porch. I can still recycle, reuse, reinvent and upcycle. I use the library instead of buying books and magazines, read newspapers online, and purchase very little beyond basic needs. I take advantage of all the free events in my city and travel when I can. Right now I am visiting my former home in another state and I have enjoyed a free ferry ride, walking through the City Park, a $1.00 streetcar ride, and window shopping.

    Life can be rich and full even when lived simply.

  45. Thank-you for writing something so inspiring to me. I am going to keep this one! Reading your blog and the comments of your followers makes my heart ache with the sense of connection I feel to you all. I am so thankful for the internet that allows us to peek into each others minds and lives and feel kinship to people all over the world. This year my family and I have started on the path to simplicity and sustainable living and I am so uplifted by people like you that encourage me.

  46. There is so much wisdom in this post. You remind me that how we make a simple life is not "one-size-fits-all", but is determined by our individual circumstances and passions. I need this reminder at the start of this new year. Thank you for helping me to focus on our family's unique journey and not to wander off in every direction.


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