12 December 2011

Real life

Newcomers to the blog have sent a few emails recently asking how to start living more simply. I wish there was a clear answer to that but the truth is that simplifying is a rubbery customer that moulds around one's life to fit it like a glove; there is no one size fits all approach.  Some of you will be coming to this like we did - you want to live well while spending little money. The fact that it's a healthier way to live, it slows you down and connects you to your family is one of its many beauties and advantages. Others will be more overtly political and want to reduce, recycle, rethink and will probably join community action groups. Others will solely see the green options a simple life affords. Some will want to declutter and be more mindful. No matter what your reasons, there will be a way of living more simply that will suit you.

I am a very practical person and when I made my change it made sense to me to not only try to be thrifty but to do that by making as much as I could at home. Not having to buy commercial products saved us a lot of money and, more importantly, gave us the opportunity to reskill ourselves so we could do everything we wanted to do. Most of us have moved so far away from the old ways of doing things that it seems at first we'll never get back to basics. But for us it's been a wonderful and enriching experience. We are just normal people so if we can do this, everyone can - in their own way and time. Remembering what our mums and grandmas did when we were growing up, Hanno and I have been able to get back to those old ways and have discovered ourselves and a rewarding life while doing it. We started by shopping in a different way, that lead to learning about food storage, enlarging the garden, adding more chooks, adding more water tanks, worm farms, composting enough to feed the garden, making soap, preserving and freezing food, sewing, mending, recycling, reusing and many other things that used to be commonly done by all our families.

There is a big difference though. We have modern equipment now and while some of these tasks are time intensive, it doesn't take as long as you would think to make a lot of the things that are commonly bought. For us, bread making is now part of our day. We make soap and cleaners far less but even making a batch of soap that will clean us for three months, only takes 30 minutes. We know exactly what we're eating and putting on our skin and that has made us healthier than we used to be. Living this way has made us happier too. There is a connection made when you work alongside someone who is concentrating on tasks that help in day-to-day living. That connection isn't there in the same way by just picking up groceries at the shop, it's the tasks themselves that make the difference. That connection has made us happier, we are both focused on daily tasks that help us live this chosen life and while we do a lot of work in our home, we have a lot of rest time too.

So what should your first steps be? Well, think carefully about your reasons for change. What do you hope to get out of this? If it's for health, start with food and cleaning products. If it's for the sake of frugality, start with shopping and cooking from scratch. If you're a crafty type or are good with your hands, stop thinking of your crafts as a hobby; they're part of the work you do in your home. In most simplified homes there is a lot of modification to be done. If you're a great seamstress, painter, carpenter, or handyman, that will add more value to you as a skilled person. Whatever you start with, learn as much as you can about what you're doing, be mindful, stop multi-tasking, and slow down. If you're working full time and want to start simplifying, start by changing things you're already doing - like the way you shop, you might start a stockpile - that will save you money and time and when it's complete, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it. You could also start cooking from scratch more, maybe do some batch cooking on the weekends, learn how to take full advantage of your slow cooker, start cleaning with vinegar and bicarb and pack lunches for everyone who goes to work and school. Start tracking your money so you know what you're spending. Stop recreational shopping. You'll find that whatever you start with will lead you on to the next thing; just starting opens up all sorts of options and possibilities.

I didn't know what was waiting for me when I changed how I live. Back then there were very few blogs and no Australian books about the kind of simple life I wanted. I made it up as I went, you can too and there is nothing stopping you making a unique life unlike all others. So read as much as you can, then take control of your own life and do it your way. Don't let anyone tell you you're not doing it right. Don't be put off by family and friends who don't understand what you're trying to do - show them. It's tough at the start, but exciting too because this lifestyle will take you from being a passive onlooker to being in the driving seat. But as your life slowly changes and you become more satisfied and focused, your own life will provide the motivation to continue.

Way back then, I didn't know I'd be more confident and content than before. I didn't know how imporant my way of life would become and that it would change me completely. I thought I was just changing how I shopped and cleaned; but it is more, so much more. Had I know what I know now, I would have changed sooner. But if you're new to this, if you're yet to take those first steps, dive right in. This is significant change you're about to embark on, it may be simple but it's also meaningful, fulfilling and heart warming. This is real life.



  1. What a simply lovely way to look at this gift you've given yourselves and all of us too! We have taken many steps this year to simplify and being extremely practical, it has been painless!
    Thank you for all of your inspiration. Many blessings...

  2. Wow, food for thought there. I am trying to live frugally, it can be difficult when you work full-time and time is precious. I stockpile some items when it is on special offer, saves time and money.

  3. Another great post Rhonda.

    When I first started down this road about 15 years ago I read everything I could get my hands on. I discovered that people have radically different approaches to living simply... I'm remembering the woman who simplified by buying all black socks and rose colored sheets so she wouldn't have to look for pairs, vs. the guy who was raising and slaughtering pigs in his backyard.

    For me the goal was to find a way to live without having to have a job. I am happy to say that I accomplished my goal 5 years ago and now thoroughly LOVE my lifestyle. But there were fits and starts along the way.

    I'm thinking about the quilt that I decided to make from bits of old clothing that were stained, torn or otherwise beyond repair. It seemed like the "simple" thing to do... until I figured out that I HATED quilting, and realized that I really didn't need a quilt in the first place, and discovered that if I did need a quilt, I could buy one used at the thrift store for less money than it cost to buy the thread to make one!

    Anyhow, my advice is to keep your eyes on the prize... whatever the "prize" may be for you, and try to focus on reality. In other words, focus on things that really do make your life simpler, rather than on the "pretty picture" of what you envision "simple" to be. And don't get discouraged if everything you try doesn't work out. It's all really just a grand experiment anyhow!

  4. Very well said, Rhonda ;) :) It takes simple steps and no one has to rush into a simpler life all at once :) :) I think it's great, because you can make it according to what suits you :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  5. A great post As usual.
    I have been trying to remember what it was that prompted me on this path of simple living. I had always been interested in health so was careful about what we ate and put on our bodies, but not really living simply. I think I started when I looked around and saw how much we were consuming as a society, so in a way I'm more politically motivated, but meanwhile I embrace the fact that it costs us so much less to live ( in terms of cash as well as the planet)we have good health, we are more connected to each other as we work along side each other and other members of similar minded people, here in reality as well as in blog land, we are more content and satisfied. So Rhonda, yes I agree with you, find out what motivates you and start from there, the end result will be the same, I think.

  6. Rhonda you mention recreational shopping. I strongly beleive this is the curse of our times. Just as much as poker machines.
    I have friends who have no time to do anything you mention because they shop- shop - shop. For rot- rot - rot as far as I can see.

    Meantime we continue on the path we started to travel 27 years ago when we first bought our 5 acres and did a very big recycle - a recycled home. That was an adventure we are still working with - but it is very much home even to our grown children and now grandchildren.

    We have never been able to grown a choko vine to production in all this time but this year we have 3 going - that is our aim to get our own choko.

    In the mean time we continue with chooks, fruit trees, herbs - a smallish veg garden that will grow when DH retires - if he ever does.

    This morning I have a loaf of bread cooked and card making bits and pieces out to do the last few Christmas cards. Porcupines for tea as we are having a rainy day and they smell good in the slow cooker. Life is very good to us.

    Rhonda sorry about your clucky hen. Just a thought, as we have a rooster and let our girls sit on a few eggs when they go clucky. You might get better results if you let cluckies actually sit on the ground with food very close ( like 2 ft away). We have a little Aframe we use directly onto the ground. It may not be good in storm season. Don't ask why it just is. But it will give you good results normally. An experienced hen will know when she can go for a walk and have a dust bath etc. and when she has to sit tight but if they decide to sit tight they need that food close.

    We had a young hen taken by a fox or so we thought. When 3 weeks later she walked out of the bush with 16 beautiful chickens. We found the nest and she had hatched 100% - just left to nature, with all her own eggs and a nest straight on the ground.

  7. Great post Rhonda - as usual. A little off topic but I need to ask what you use on your tomatoes to keep the bugs off? We had a few lovely large tomatoes growing and when I went to inspect them my finger went right through to the middle. I have tried an organic approach where I put paper bags over them and tie them up - apparently the bugs aren't smart enough to find the hole. I'll see how I go with this method, but just wondering what you used. (Oh, and I was very saddened to read the update on your chickens, Rhonda). Kindest Regards, Miki

  8. These sort of posts are always so encouraging. Your corn looks like yellow pearls!

  9. Great post and we are all motivated for different reasons. Mine was suddenly becoming a sole working parent with 2 small children and a load of left over expenses courtesy of the ex and with no forthcoming child support. Full-time childcare was expensive as I lived a long way from it so I chose to leave my job and care for my children at home.
    Fortunately I could sew and I had a great book which included sections on preserving and freezing foods and I started a vege garden.
    I'm in a better lifestyle now but I still keep the habits I learnt 20 years ago as there's a joy and a feeling of accomplishment in eating or wearing something you've grown or made yourself. One doesn't need employment outside the home to feel productive and useful.

  10. I think when you make more room in your life - JOY has a chance to flood in.

  11. I'm so glad your here to share your wisdom, knowledge and advice to the world Rhonda, You explain things just so perfectly.
    When I decided to live my 'Simple' life I never realised just how rewarding it would be. When people say "How do you possibly find the time to do that" and "Oh my God, what are you doing now", why are you doing that?" I smile with deep contentment because I enjoy the quality of life it brings me, then I try to explain that is really quite 'Simple'.
    I think its all about home studies educating, being aware of the possibilities of doing it yourself. Luckily we have people like you and there are many more interesting Blogs and Books to read and learn and spread the word. A little encouragement and inspiration goes a long way.
    Remembering also, that the beauty of this Day and Age is that you can work things to fit into your lives, no pressure, you don't have to do it all and you don't have to do it all of the time, a few small things even occasionally can make a big difference to ones lives. Once you start down that path though, be warned there are so many Avenues to explore...you'll never turn back. :)

  12. We were raised being frugal as were most people we knew. That we already had knowledge of and were comfortable living like that. Our relatives had farms but other than just a few plants none of the families in town had kitchen gardens. The relatives always shared and we canned and used that. Same with small animals. So we had to learn this part of living now on our own. There is always something to learn or learn deeper about. This lifestyle though not easy on your body at times is a lift to your spirit. We never stop advancing in this lifestyle. That is part of the fun. :) So much of what we are relearning as countries now our forefathers did everyday years ago. From recycling...even using baskets instead of plastic bags etc when shopping. They made their own cleaners and soaps. Reused clothing and thought twice about throwing anything out that still had use. They knew about crop rotation and natural fertilizers. Baked and cooked from scratch and had stockpiles. They walked instead of using other transportation of the day whenever possible. They had a wonder and a love of country and home. Think of it, so much of what we are doing now to help or earth are skills that people years ago thought nothing about...it was just part of life then. When you are reading history related books, or biographies etc. or talking to older relatives they have much to teach you. Yes we just have to start with one new habit or skill and from that one we will add another and we are on our way to a better way of life. Each person and family has their own idea of what that life should consist of and also along the way at times our thinking changes and we reroute the path. That is ok too. Just start. The path is well worth the effort. Sarah

  13. Wise words Rhonda...i really enjoyed reading this post...thank you!
    It was while reading your blog a few years ago after we had moved to acreage and i had felt something was missing for awhile that i became motivated to change my life. We are still taking small steps and some things we can achieve at the moment...some things not; but a heartfelt thank you to you as it was writing such as this post that led me onto this path and the opportunities and satisfaction it brings along the way.
    I love the way you explain and simplify things...have a lovely day xx

  14. What a lovely post. I started to live simply because I wanted to be a stay at home Mum. I'm now 4 years into my new life and love it. I'm so happy.

  15. "the truth is that simplifying is a rubbery customer that moulds around one's life to fit it like a glove; there is no one size fits all approach."

    How true. What's simple for us would be so complicated to a peasant living in rural China. It's a learning experience and there is joy in the journey. It's hard going because it's not easy swimming against the tide and unlearning 'habits' of old isn't a walk in the park but once the hand is on the plough, you don't look back and just keep forging forward with the deep satisfaction that comes from a well earnt rest at the end of the day from truly having lived.

  16. It took a while, family and friends laughed at us and even my husband didn't seem to like the way I was changing our lives.
    Nowadays family and friends see what difference it makes in our live and even my husband now teaches others to live more simple.
    My advice (thanks to Rhonda): do it one step at a time. Don't want to live simple in a week. Take a little step each time and you will see you will succeed.

    Good luck and love from Holland!

  17. I see that your photos have Improved is it a new camera or are you using a new template .. But they look great...

  18. Excellent post, Rhonda! I agree completely that this is "real life" and once you start down the path of living simply, it's rather impossible to go back! And how true that tasks like making bread or growing food are so satisfying, in that they connect us more to our own lives in a way that buying things at the store cannot.

    You advised not to be put off by family and friends who don't understand--I am struggling with this right now. My sister blatantly told me she didn't want to exchange gifts with us this Christmas because, in her words, I always MAKE THINGS. I guess she feels she can't compete--which is ridiculous, because there is no competition in my mind! I just enjoy making things for people, and I'm a little hurt that she wants to avoid that. But, I'm trying not to let it bother me.

  19. Imagine something tragic happens and your income is cut .. a lot. Try living for a while from the reduced income, without dipping into your savings, if you are fortunate enough to have any. I live off disability income due to a car accident and consider myself so BLESSED to have it, with drug coverage, basic dental and of course, gov't health care - Thank God for that, I mean it!

    Compared to my working days, living in Toronto, my income is NO where near what it used to be, and at the same time I have made my life simple - don't smoke or drink, don't go out to movies or the bar, don't use illegal drugs, get tattoos, piercings, fake nails, rarely get a hair cut, I dye my own hair, I don't play bingo, scratch tickets or lotto (okay, rarely .. only if it's REALLY high! LOL), don't have cable TV or satellite TV. Mum and I do eat out, it's a way of socializing for us, at a small local diner, where the coffee keeps coming, food is homemade and everyone knows your name. :-) We entertain ourselves with yard-saleing in the warmer months, again .. it's a way to socialize and get out for a few hours.

    Keep a log of every penny you spend and WHAT you spend it on, including taxes, tips, parking fees and the totals of all those 5 cent plastic bags that you had to buy because you forgot to pack some for your shopping trip.

    Christmas is coming up, are you going into debt for it? Are you purchasing expensive wrapping paper and bows? Do you REALLY need to? Some of the BEST gifts I have received are tins of homemade fudge, cookies, tarts, squares. I LOVE this for a Christmas gift. One year a friend and I made bath bombs and soaps for gifts, it wasn't expensive and we had a blast, made for a great memory too. Oh .. and I reuse gift bags. LOL Also, years ago I made gift bags with Christmas fabric.

    The less you have, the less you have to worry about. There's nothing wrong with having less in your life, I have come to enjoy it.

    Keep smiling and thank you for your blog.
    Julie Andrea aka sundayschild

  20. Mahek, same old camera, nothing news here. I'm just enlarging them more. In fact, two of the photos above are old - one six months, one a couple of years. But thanks for the encouragement.

  21. Hi Rhonda, I've been reading your blog for a little while now and I love the content you put out. I recently started to make the transition into living a more simpler life. I was driven by my need to craft and be creative a whole lot more. Which I absolutely love. That in itself has opened up other doors as a result. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in February and the change in our behaviour means we aren't nearly as stressed about getting things for our child because we are happy with second hand items or making everything ourselves. Thank you for reminding us all that living frugally is a good way to go.

  22. This is beautiful Rhonda. Thanks for sharing.

  23. I'm smiling - far way in Oregon, in a coffeshop, reading this post. I appreciate the sharing of yourself and your life. Thank you. :)


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