Adding value to life

27 March 2012
According to the Wikipedia, value adding refers to "extra" feature(s) of an item of interest (product, service, person etc.) that go beyond the standard expectations and provide something "more" while adding little or nothing to its cost.

I like to think that Hanno and I have added value to our lives simply by the way we live.

I often think back to a young woman who attended one of my workshops at the neighbourhood centre. She listened intently to everything said, then right at the end, she said: "You mean to tell me we don't have to live like this?" "No," I said, "you can live however you see fit." She was astounded. She'd never considered the possibility that life may be lived beyond the consumerist model. There is a choice to be made here. You either go with the flow, do what is expected of you, don't make waves and be the mirror image of all the people your age, or you can step outside that mainstream bubble, make your own decisions, envision the life you want, then work to make it happen.

You can add value to your life and make it better.  Much better.

You will make choices every day you're alive. Will I get up at 7am or 8? Eat breakfast or have a cup of tea?  Get married, or remain single. Spend or save? Live according to your values or go along with everyone else? I have never been a follower, and regardless of the consequences, I've always gone for the interesting option rather than the safe one. I have lived a most remarkable life and I think one of the main reasons for that is that I don't take the easy option and often the paths I walk along are not main roads, they're back streets. I am convinced that those back streets and all I experienced along them, added value to my life.

There are certain questions you can ask yourself and  what you do as a consequence of your answer may help change your life and might also add value to it. 
  • Can I learn how to do for myself or will I continue to buy convenience?
  • Am I strong enough to take on my debt and pay it off as fast as I can?
  • Will I make my own cleaners?
  • Will shopping in a different way and stockpiling save me money and time?
  • Should I grow vegetables?
  • Should I learn how to knit and mend?
  • How can I set up an effective recycling system so I can cut down on the waste products leaving my home?
  • Will I try to become more self reliant?
  • What will make me happy?
  • What can I do today that will make my life better?
Simplifying your life isn't just about the practical things you do every day - although that is a big part of it - it's also about creating a better life for yourself, discovering your own level of "enough" and being prepared to step outside your comfort zone and reconnect with real life again.

One thing is for sure, if you do change how you live, those life changes have the potential to make you content and satisfied. I well remember when I first started working in my home, making soap, cooking from scratch, baking fresh bread every day, it made me feel so alive! Simple things like cleaning the floors and rearranging furniture and appliances to better suit how I worked, made me feel that what I was doing really mattered and that I had regained control of my life. Decluttering opened up my life to let new possibilities in. In the space of one week I went from avoiding housework and thinking it was below me, to being challenged by it, and wanting to make my home a haven for me and my family. Doing what I had believed to be menial work was the making of me. I felt that if I could get my house in order, get back to healthier living, become more self-reliant, and strategise how to shop in a more mindful way, we would all be better for it. I regained the desire to care for my family and we all reconnected and became stronger because of it. That same desire slowed me down enough to let the stress melt away. Here in my home, I learnt how to live well, without many of the modern conveniences that prop us up and that we pay for with our lives.

I am not going to tell you that this is easy, because it's not. It can be time consuming and, at times, difficult. But you know what? It makes you happy, it helps you believe in your own abilities again, it makes you believe you can do almost anything; and maybe you can. I remember when frozen peas first came on the market, and when TV started, those two things went on to convince us all that we would save a lot of time buying convenience foods. Then we all got credit cards and started a whole new form of problematic behaviour. At the time we were told that all these new things would make our lives better. What we weren't told was that we'd have to work more to pay for things to be done for us, work more to pay for clothes and jumpers because we were too busy working to make them ourselves. Now, on top of those things we work to buy, we work more to pay for people to wash our lettuce leaves and cook or partially cook our food, to fabricate and package cleaning rags that we use instead of cutting up our own, we work more to buy chemical cleaners and laundry products that probably add 20 or 30 dollars to the grocery bill when we could use vinegar, bicarb, soap, borax and washing soda that cost a fraction of that.

And the good part is that you don't have to dive into this full-time like I did. If you're younger and don't have the time I have, you can do it your way. Just fit a few of these things into your life around what you're already doing. Do what you have the time to do. Making bar soap will take about 30 minutes to make enough soap for a family of four for about three months. It will take about 15 minutes to make enough laundry liquid to do that same family for 80 machine washes. Cook from scratch on the weekends. Start packing school and work lunches and drinks. Do the small things first and see how it makes you feel and how much you save.

Stepping back from convenience, being content with less and learning a few old skills has the potential to change your life. I know that to be true because that is what happened to me and it added value to my life. I hope you decide to dip your toe in these simple living waters and realise you can add value to yours too.


  1. Your posts are always so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. :)

  2. Thanks Rhonda, loved this post

  3. I just want to compliment your writing on this interesting, coherent post. Just a nice piece of work. Thanks for it.

  4. Ahhhh, so beautiful! What a lovely and reaffirming way to begin my week. Thank you, Rhonda :)

  5. Hi Rhonda,

    at this moment my simple life is taking a step back. I experienced that having another baby is taking much of my time, so I have to reclassify my doings. That means that I still learn how to do for myself, but in a more less tempo than I hoped I would. And yes.. I know that I am strong enough to take on my debt, but with a baby in the house.. Costs do rise.. But then again: different shopping and stockpiling saves me money ;o) And as you know: we do have a vegetable garden. Okay.. lots of work, but hey.. the rewards! And is there any better way to learn my little one the lovely wonders of nature?
    The last skill I learned myself is knitting (lovely thanks to you-tube!). After a couple (too much, my husband says) scarfs, I now am knitting for my baby. What a great feeling it gives me to see her handmade cardigan grow!

    What I just want to say (the story is long enough, I think, sorry!) is that it is possible to have little children and take mini steps towards a simpler life. The words that always help me are: does this (what has to be done) helps me towards a self-sufficient satisfied life? Than I'll do! ;o)

    Love from Holland!

  6. "Doing what I had believed to be menial work was the making of me"

    What a beautiful thing to say! Before I quit work to look after home and husband I spent 11 1/2 years as a cleaning lady. I felt sorry for my clients, as they didn't know what they were missing! I often got to know their homes better than they did. Some of them looked down on me, some worshipped me, but none of them understood why I did what I did. I loved the work - but I don't miss it. I'm ever so glad to be home, almost a year now, baking, gardening, living the life that both of us want, in spite of it being against what both of us were raised to believe was 'right'.

    Thankyou Rhonda, it was partly thanks to you I found the courage!

  7. Thank you for this post :-) On Friday 30th March I will leave my Full Time job to begin my career as a Stay at Home Mummy. I am so looking forward to keeping my home, baking again, crafting and all the other things I currently do not have time for. I really beleive my whole Family will be happier as my Partner will not be as tired as he will not have to do so much to help me, I will not have a back log of jobs that takes over my weekend preventing me from having Family time. I cant wait!

  8. Oh Rhonda I always find value in your wise posts. I myself m much like you my husband and I are frugal but never feel deprived. We have always been frugal as we both grew up very poor and watched our parents struggle. This was a great lesson for us. We have taught our children the difference between wants and needs and want them to be as happy with our choices as we are.
    I hope everyone can find their happiness as you and Hanno and we have.Sometimes one persons happiness comes in a different form than others and that is not a bad thing.
    It is wonderful when you can just be happy.
    I can relate so much to Christine your last comment. Working hard cleaning houses for people that were not happy and had lots of things they had no time to appreciate really makes you open your eyes. I do not miss that job but I am so glad I did it and saved my money to get me to where I am now happy and free. Thank you Rhonda for what you do for others struggling to find their happy place. B

  9. Hi Rhonda,
    I have been following your blog for over a year now. We have changed our lives to a simpler life. We sold our city home and bought a 80 year old farm house. In doing so we are now debt free. We also now have a bigger garden and I hope to get some chooks soon. I make bread, sew, knit and shop more wisely. I am not working now because I have been battling cancer for the second time. It took an illness for me to realize the my lifestyle of want, work and stuff were making me more unhappy. I found you blog and it was like the heavens opened up and I felt it in my heart that was the life I have been looking for. My family have said I seem so much happier and content. I just wanted to say a big big THANK YOU Rhonda.

    Carol -P.E.I. Canada

  10. Hi Rhonda,
    I'm so grateful that from time to time you remind us that our simple life doesn't have to look exactly like yours.
    .When my marriage broke up and I bought my 'renovator's delight' I planted an orchard, put in vegetable beds and a chook shed, baked bread, started renovating - all while looking after 2 kids and running my own business full-time. Of course I burnt out and felt like a bit of a failure because I couldn't do it all.
    When I came to my senses I realised I could scale back a bit and still have a wonderful,simple life on a smaller scale. I reduced the area I garden and amazingly it still gives us plenty of food in spite of a bit of neglect!
    You remind us to take pleasure in what we can do. I loved your post today :)

  11. It is so rewarding to learn to do for yourself what you have depended on others for. I recently learned how to use a drill and made my own raised beds and compost bin out of scrap lumber. All I can do is smile when I look at my garden this year. I'm challenging myself to see how much I can feed our family from it.

    You are such an inspiration, Rhonda! It thrills me to be able to figure out how I can use what I have to meet our family's needs. YouTube has an endless supply of "how to" videos and tutorials that can teach one pretty much anything they need to know about creating/making/planning what they need to build/make/create. In case someone has a question about something they need to make and aren't sure how to move forward.

    And it's so much fun to

  12. Thank you Rhonda for a wonderful inspiring Post,again!you really put me in the right mind set every day,xx Carol

  13. I love waking up and reading your posts first thing - it puts me in the right frame of mind to face the day. Thank you!

  14. Rhonda - I so enjoyed your post and, as always, feel very encouraged. I have to remind myself frequently that the small things I do each day do indeed add up. Right now with a full-time job, husband, adult children and grandchildren who I'm very close to, I have to pick and choose what I'll spend my time on. Recycling, using natural (although store bought, most of the time) cleaners, making rags, stopping use of paper towels in the kitchen, knitting and sewing - things like this make me feel self-sufficient and close to the earth. Hopefully, as time goes on I'll incorporate some of the things you do such as making laundry detergent and baking bread regularly.

    Thank you again -

  15. Hi Rhonda
    I'm lucky with the way I was raised that being frugal is second nature to me! My mother had to 'make do' alot but this is good thing because i absorbed all of those skills. I have alway baked and cooked from scratch. Bought most of my clothes from the Op-Shop. Made gifts and generally loved being at home. I have just given up working outside home to help my husband with his business (builder) and while it was a hard decision I feel deep down I have made the right one. I have still to get settled into a new routine but can't wait to get there. Back to caring for my family more - even though our children have moved out, it will free up time to do more for them if they need it. Thank you for your lovely blog and the constant inspiration I need when I feel I can't do it anymore. You are truely an inspiration.
    PS I hope to purchase your book one day!

  16. I totally agree with Pammie above. I don't start my day without reading your posts and feeling enlivened with what the day holds.

    With a new baby on the way - now overdue - and a toddler and a husband who works very long hours, I do need to choose which skills I will use to simplify. Sadly our garden gets no sun in winter so gardening in winter is not an option, but I adore sewing (something a dear friend is re-teaching me as I haven't done it since high school) and making cleaners.

    Have a wonderful day.


  17. thanks once again for a reminder to take things easy and slow and enjoy the ride.

  18. A beautiful and inspiring post. Thank you Rhonda. Sometimes you just need the support to hear that it can be done and it is worth it.

  19. Great post! Wonderful words of wisdom! And you always seem to know just what I need to hear! Thanks! Darlene

  20. A friend online and I were chatting today on the phone and she mentioned she really appreciates some of the blog links I have sent, even if she cannot live entirely the same way, still there is so much there and if at some point we HAD to make more of our needed things, we could go there and get the information. I knew she was mostly referring to your site! Thanks for sharing. I admire your lifestyle so very much.
    Elziabeth in NC

  21. It's easy, you do what you can in the time you have. I work full time but we still manage 'the simple life' as much as possible. Prioritise what you like doing and what you need to do in the time you've got spare. Simple really :). Plus there's nothing like a home cooked meal made with homegrown or local produce with freshly baked bread to go with it!

  22. Hear hear!
    I am really enjoying the beginnings of the simple life. I have a very, very long way to go but I am loving it. Thank you for another great post.

  23. I love the photos you used today Rhonda, especially teh one of you and the one at the end of the pups - so cute

  24. Beautiful writing that inspires one to live life in a more "natural" rhythm, reduces ones heart rate & blood pressure, & supports those who, may find little support from friends &/or family, enjoy living a life conducive to smelling the roses everyday.


  25. Hi Rhonda,

    I just want to say thank you so much for your post today. I really, really needed to hear each and every word. Today, I felt a major guilt trip over the new items I have bought and my attitude towards consumption. I have been lusting after lots of clothes and wanting to look more professional.

    However, I need to be more mindful and remember that my goal is to really live a simple lifestyle. I love the life that you have created and so many others-- I know I can do that too. One step at a time.

    Thank you, thank you.


  26. That picture of you is just lovely!

    It is amazing how much we absorb messages of a consumerist mentality without realizing it. I often struggle with the argument of "is it worth your time?" which usually means "is it worth your time financially?" Sometimes the answer to that is yes, it is, but sometimes it's not, but yet I still want to do those activities, because there are other benefits to them that cannot be measured financially.

  27. Rhonda,
    This post was super inspiring, but more importantly for me, it's the fact that through your blog and book, you demonstrate in a very practical way that happiness and contentment can be gained by simple living.
    You walk the walk! And as you very honestly said in this post, yes it can be hard work and time-consuming, but it's so obviously worth it! Thank you.

  28. Rhonda, thank you for your wise words. When I first became a stay at home mum it was not entirely by choice. I lost my full time job the same week I found out I was pregnant. I was the DIL that my MIL thought would be too busy with her career to even have children (I had three in 5 years!!) It took nearly losing my second baby, and an illness four years later that affected my mobility, for me to fully appreciate what my life truly had to offer (and that it couldn't be bought at a shop). Although I struggle in some areas, like decluttering and housework (thanks to chronic pain), I am now grateful for the lifestyle my family has, all because I decided to continue to work in our home for my family. Like you I have always taken a different path but now I realise what a great choice the back roads really were.
    I have just discovered your lovely blog and look forward to reading more!!

  29. Such a good post, sending it on to my sister and my daughters. Thanks you Rhonda!

  30. I love your post, Rhonda. We have always had to be frugal and I grew up that way as well so it wasn't too hard to continue living that way after getting married and my husband had health problems and couldn't work. I used to think I would be called 'second hand rose' when I used to buy our clothes at the op shop in the eighties before it became trendy. Good for you for reminding us all that it is possible to live the 'simple life' no matter what age we are.

  31. I always enjoy your posts Rhonda, this one really spoke to me as did the one where you mentioned the frugality police were not going to turn up at my house! lol. I become so overwhelmed by all the things i think i should be doing - baking everything find scratch, baking bread, making yoghurt, making my own cleaners, growing veges etc... That i get so overwhelmed i throw in the towel on it all. So after reading a previous post i decided i would start with small steps that fit with my life now and work towards the end goal slowly to make the changes stick. Thanks for the inspiration, if anyone is interested and wants to join in i'm blogging about it each month too. Thanks for making it feel achieveable

  32. Rhonda, I adore your blog and your writing. I'm a stay at home wife and mom, and practice a lot of the things you discuss because I enjoy them, and out of necessity. My husband is self-employed and I help with that. But I am haunted by this fear that I, myself, do not have the means to support my child if I had to. I have this overwhelming push lately to create my own income, but I just can't go out and get a job,it's just not that easy for so many reasons. I'm having a hard time putting my question into words, I guess! Basically, I wonder how simple living skills are going to be enough to take care of us financially should the need arise. I know my garbled comment isn't much to work with, sorry!
    Thank you for your time and encouragement,

  33. g'day rhonda
    love your blog, been reading since I saw you on ACA at red rooster, monday before last.
    I love how you explain the homemaking, if someone told me years ago that it was part of a self sustained lifestyle I probably would like it better. the last few days I have been trying some of the ideas I've seen in your earliest blogs (reading them from the start, 2007)
    thank you
    selina from kilkivan qld

  34. BRAVO!!! :) xxxx

  35. Rhonda your posts are always inspiring, this one was brilliant. I read it to my family tonight and they sat mesmerised listening to every word. While we've got a long way to go, my husband and I are already on our way to living a more simple life and you know what, it's the best thing we've ever done. Our young adults are right into it, making soap and learning to cook real food and I'm so happy that we've had the chance to share the benefits of simple living with them. It's got to be the way of the future.
    Thank you. Serendipity2000

  36. Fabulous post Rhonda, really cuts to the heart of the matter.
    Noting the changes we have gone thru as a society and comparing the way we used to do things to how we do them now, how we have been seduced and how we have such short memories that the older ways of doing things have been forgotten by most people.
    I remember the more relaxed lifestyle we had when mum was at home looking after the house and feeding us. I often try to think of what it was that made it so relaxed. As I am trying to find that feeling again but unable to. But you have hit it on the head!
    It was all the things you said above and the fact that we were not inundated with advertising and people trying to sell us stuff all the time. Telling us what to do. I think this progress to where we are today is responsible for the generation gap. It pulled the younger generation away from the older and made the differences obvious and told us the old ways were outdated. And so we felt the older people were out dated too!
    Very sad really.

  37. In response to Mrs A's anonymous comment above. I have been a SAHM and Homeschooling Mum for 14 years now. I understand not being able to go out to make your "own money". I'm sure I've read here on Rhonda's blog that every dollar saved is a dollar earned. You get to create wealth by saving it. Make a game of it for yourself by keeping a tally of how much you've saved each time you shop compared to what you used to. That difference is what you've worked to earn.

    Also Rhonda, a very timely post for me. Love the photo of the furry babies in the car!

  38. A lovely and inspiring post. Great advice to begin with one or two things. Looking at the whole list can be overwhelming. I'm already doing some of these things and now I have the inspiration to add a few more. Thanks. I am a new subscriber to your blog and I am enjoying it immensely.

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