20 March 2012

Some thoughts on simple life

I've had a lot of reasons lately to think about how we live. All the interviews I did to promote the book brought up many different questions and the interviewers asked not only how, but why. Our lives have been put under the spotlight and it caused me to examine again, what we're doing here and to see how these changes effect us on a daily basis.

The most frequently asked question I've been asked lately is if this way of living is only for older folk. I can say with absolute certainty that how Hanno and I live would suit anyone, young or old. I believe the earlier you start living with a frugal mindset, the better off you'll be, but there are entry points at every stage of life and no matter when you start, there are benefits to be gained. Yes, we oldies have more time and we can do more making, mending, baking, recycling and gardening, but if you're younger and you start doing those things, they'll have much more impact on your entire life, not just in the final third of it. 

So what are the entry points? I think you should start with what is most important in your own life. If you're struggling with debt, start by getting serious about paying it off while you stop further spending. If you're a young family who are trying to eat well on a low budget, start by changing the way you shop, then stockpile and cook from scratch. If you're a single person, start by making your own laundry liquid. The recipe for it is here. By doing that, not only will you save a lot of money, you'll be cutting down the chemicals you have in your life.

You could also start by planting a vegetable garden, or if you've already done that, fruit trees. This will give you fresh organic vegetables for a fraction of the cost you'll pay in the shops. If you have a small backyard or a large one, or if you live in a unit and the only soil you have for growing is in a few broccoli poly-styrene boxes full of potting mix on the balcony or porch, use it, grow it and you'll increase your well-being in many different ways. If you have no chance of growing anything, and that may be the case if your time is taken up with children or looking after elders, or your job, take time out on the weekends to look for a good local market, and buy your fruit and vegetables there. Get to know your marketeers, ask them where they grow their produce, or where they buy it. Not all market sellers are genuine, they might just be onselling boxes bought from somewhere else. When you find your idea seller, stick with them, be loyal and I'm sure you'll be rewarded with good quality produce fresh from the farm.

If you're an old chook like me,  (or even a young chook), start knitting dishcloths, teach yourself to make soap, cook from scratch - all those soups and stews based on bone broths we used to have in the old days. They're good for you! Get out grandma's cook books again and fire up the stove.

And while you're doing all this, be kind to yourself. Take time out to have a cup of tea during the day, even if you're really busy. It will make a difference. Reconnect with your family. If you've slipped out of the habit of eating at the kitchen table, start doing it again. That 30 minutes can make a family a stronger unit. That is the time when your children will know they have your attention and they can tell you about their day and what will be happening tomorrow. Take every chance you have to listen to your children, if you stop listening, they'll stop telling. Invite the extended family, or if they're too far away, your friends around for family lunches. This is a good way to socialise and develop friendships without it costing too much. Be a role model for your children, be the person you want them to grow into. There is no good in telling them to be kind and generous, to not smoke or to drink in moderation if you're not doing those things. Children learn what they see, not what you tell them.

There is a lot to be said for a simple life. For me, it has changed me for the better. It has opened up my life so that at a time when I thought I'd be getting quieter and slowing down, I'm doing the opposite. It has given me opportunities to be generous. We have the freedom of being debt-free. I feel content, I look forward to each new day. My life is interesting, it never gets boring, I feel in control. This way of living gives you that. I will never forget the day when I took charge of my home and decided enough was enough, I was determined to get my life in order, to do things the way I wanted to do them, not how my friends were doing it. I wanted to march to the beat of my own drum. When I made a promise to myself that from that day on, my life would be custom made and not conforming to what was expected, I felt a weight lifted, I felt liberated and in control of my own future. I knew then my decisions meant something and I felt I had my life back.

Now that I can look back over this past decade of a more simple and gentle life, I thank my lucky stars that I changed when I did. Had I not faced the truth of my spending and shopping and made those early difficult changes, I would not be where I am now. I have found that very few good things come easy. That's just life I guess. I hope you have the strength to face your own changes and commit to them, even the difficult ones - especially those. It won't be easy but if you can start repaying debt and cutting back your desires, it will lead you to a better life. And from where I sit now, there is no better way to live.



  1. A resounding "hear, hear" to you, Rhonda.

    "my life would be custom made" - I LOVE that. What a perfect phrase!

    You are always such a wonderful, and gentle source of encouragement. Thanks.

  2. I appreciate this post so much. My soon-to-be husband and I just purchased a half acre parcel in the middle of the city so that we could own our lives a little more. We've both dreamed of this day and we're absolutely terrified. We both work full-time plus some and we're afraid of the amount of work but when I read your posts like this, I remember that I'm doing this for a reason. And that my life is mine and I want to be able to live it the way I believe. And if that means more work instead of going out to the theater dinner, that's the way I want it to be. Hmm, this post might be kind of muddled.

  3. There is no better way to live indeed. It will be very rewarding as time passes to hear stories from people who stumbled upon your book and changed their lives because of it. I grew up frugal, making from scratch and making do, and have continued to live my life this way. Reading your blog gives me a nice nudge to carry on, even when the world around me seems intent on debt and overconsumption. Cheers for us homemade chooks!

  4. Rhonda, you are a great example for all of us learners out in this wide world! We all have different ways of trying to live more simple. You give us the inspiration and hope that we are on the right tracks to finding our own way of living that final simplicity we seek for ourselves.

  5. Hi, Rhonda, im am sitting here in the uk feeling overwhelmed at moment, so your post has come at a good time, i am disabled i havent much energy and i feel im out of control, my husband does a lot for me and works fulltime, but i want to do things myself around the house but i take a lot longer so he tends to work around the house before he goes to work,i do the paperwork etc., but even there got a lot of it! any ideas how i can slow our household down. thanks Lisa.

  6. Oh yes, I totally agree! I am a mother of two young children (5 and 1) and still learning. Little steps at a time will help you to do the changing well. You can not do it all in one day. If you want to do that you will be frustrated in the end and quit much too soon.

    I think it is much better to learn it as young as you can. Then it will become your way of living instead of still learning.

    Lovely post!

    Love from Holland

  7. This is a wonderful post Rhonda, I am enjoying your book so much. I was fortunate that my parents grew some of their own vegetables and dinner was always eaten at the table, Sunday lunch was a roast and sat at the other dining table! Now my parents live in a retirement village and still each meal is eaten at the table, I love them for the example they set in many ways for me. Every night we sit for dinner and you are right, this is the time children talk, I cherish this time. I love how you talk about the simple things in life, because they are really the most important. Thanks again, kind regards, Ann

  8. I've been thinking of you lately, Rhonda, as I've been reading a new book by Laura Vanderkam entitled "All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending." It's an interesting read, and there is much that I agree with. Her basic premise is that we need to re-think the traditional "big purchases" (pricey engagement rings, a house with a huge mortgage, etc.) so that we can focus our resources on the items/services/experiences that bring us the most pleasure.

    However, there is one chapter entitled "The Chicken Mystique" that kind of (ahem) ruffled my feathers a bit. The author pretty much pooh-pooh's the idea that the "trendy" "simple living" approach to life (raising chickens, growing vegetables, etc) is an efficient way to actually make life more simple. She questions whether or not the savings in such ventures - both in terms of time and money - really make sense if one is trying to have a calmer, simpler , more sustainable life. Why not get a job, she asks, that "makes a difference" in our world gone mad with getting and spending - wouldn't this make more far-reaching changes, and also make more sense financially? Why spend all that time and energy just to get eggs one could purchase at the store for just a little bit more?

    Of course, even ignoring the fact that there just aren't very many jobs out there right now, let alone gratifying jobs that work to make the world better - I kept thinking, you just don't get it, Laura Vanderkam. The beauty of this kind of life is IN the work itself - in the mindful care taking of our homes, families, planet. Living this way is almost like an ongoing meditation - not that it is always peaceful and zen-like, of course. Maybe I will send that author a link to your blog . . . the "chicken mystigue." Hmph!

    Sorry so long!
    Kate in NY

  9. I agree there is no better way to live. As busy as it is sometimes, I wouldn't have it any other way. And the interesting things there are to do, there's just not enough hours in the day. Love it.

  10. Hi Rhonda, it was lovely to see you on Today Tonight last night. My husband and I were really happy to see you and Hanno. I said to him that it was strange to hear you speak after "listening" to you for quite a few years ~ LOL.
    Congratulations on the success of your book, we have a copy and I have bought two as gifts and introduced a friend of mine to it, who also bought two copies. Going great guns!

  11. Hi Rhonda,
    I loved this post. I am 27, am a full time high school teacher supporting uni student husband and live about one-two kms from Brisbane CBD. I home cook and have drastically cut our weekly eating out budget, I clean with vinegar and bi-carb and do a little but of mini stock-piling (tiny, tiny apartment). We can't have a veggie patch but grow one or two herbs on the balcony, I am aiming to do a but more sewing (no machine so all by hand) this year, starting with a baby shower coming up. I received your book for my birthday on wednesday and have devoured it, the orange cake is frozen in two batches in our freezer as we speak. I'm young, I go out too often, I'm not planning on children, but I love the simple life, or at least my version of it. A greener, relaxed life based on my local markets and meeting my local businesses is wonderful. My suburb can feel like a village on saturdays! All I need to do is figure out how to have a compost or worm farm that my landlord won't repeatedly remove!

  12. Oops, the bridie person was me, Egad, having trouble with my tablet's editing.

  13. Thank you for this inspiring post - reading it is helping me to keep going in the direction of the simpler life I crave, even if I slip up now and again.

  14. I loved this post, Rhonda. It gives people places to start and doesn't add any pressure.This post makes sustainable living achievable for every age group.
    Glad you are home and enjoying the simple life once again.

  15. Nodding head emphatically. You don't have to be retired. You don't have to live in the country. You don't have to have chickens or a garden to live simply. It's more a mindset than any specific tasks or methods. One that wants happiness and health for the family, the community, and the world community. That is what informs simple living decisions. If it were only about money, we'd just get rid of everything, eat nothing but rice and beans and be truly content. But that isn't enough for the heart. The heart wants music and color and joy. How can I have those things when my world is suffering through greed and overconsumption?

  16. I watched the segment on "A Current Affair" last night and inspired by your comments. This blog has also solicits something for me: that our society expects us all to be heavy consumers simply to keep the economy afloat. But conserving your money and resources, rethinking what you really want from life, spending more time with loved ones: these things are far more important!

    Thank you for some much-needed, quiet wisdom.

    Ascha, Cairns QLD.

  17. Hi Rhonda
    Like many others, I saw the segment on Today Tonight last night and was so encouraged by what I saw and heard. I recently left paid employment for similar reasons to those you mentioned, and have started to wonder if I am really as mad as some people think. Comments range from - you're so lucky not to have to do anything to - how will you fill your day, you will be so bored. I have been tagged as 'unemployed' and looked at in horror when I say I was born to be a homemaker / housewife.
    So it was very encouraging to see someone that 'gets it'.
    I am off to the shops today to try and get a copy of your book.
    Thank you.

    Warm regards
    Janelle, Brisbane Qld

  18. Hello friends. There are many comments here I want to respond to but I'm busy this morning at the neighbourhood centre. Please bear with me, I'll be back this afternoon to respond.

  19. I love your "voice". You say what you say so well. It is a kind voice of gentle guidance and stout encouragement. I really hope your book is published in the US.

    I wanted so badly to join the swap, but made the decision that it would create more stress than joy for me at this time. I also recently decided not to overwhelm myself in the garden this year. I have a lot to plant, but if I don't get to it, I'm not going to beat myself up. I'll just go to the market!

    I'm gradually learning to do what I can without making my life harder by doing it. I think I'll make much better progress this way.

    I love your new picture too!

  20. Hi Rhonda I watched you on ACA last night and found u to be very inspiring. I'm not much of a gardener (my husband says I have a green thumb lol) but love to be one day, I have just recently started a compost bin so I'm on the right path. I crave for the simpler life and hope that one day soon I can quit smoking and get healthier for me and my children. I hope that we can soon reduce our overwhelming debt that constantly stresses us both. I do plan on buying your book as soon as I can find it as I've only just discoverd it exists. I'm excited to start implimenting some positive changes to our lives. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do.
    Jodie, Adelaide

  21. Saw you again last night on Today Tonight and then again on a Current Affair....both stories were excellant and you seemed like everybodies nana and I think what struck me about your post today was that it is those old skills from before the baby boomers that have been forgotten. It is like we have come full circle and some of us younger ones are beginning to see the wisdom of the wise. You and Hanno are doing a great thing by sharing what you know and do to the wider community and we are ever so thankful that there is another way out of this crazy consumer feed modern life.

  22. I am so happy that I found your blog. I enjoy it so much and you have inspired me. So far I have started making my own laundry detergent (which works great at a fraction of the cost) and we are baking our own bread more often. We have also been cooking at home more often. I don't have a garden space anymore but I am going to visit our local farmers market more frequently this summer.

  23. Lovely and inspiring post as usual.
    Saw you yesterday on "a current affair" and it was lovely to hear you. Great words!

  24. Rhonda, I appreciate you so very much. Your words are true and to the point. It feels like I'm reading words that my grammy and pappy speak to me everytime I see them. Thank you for being a woman who models a beautiful life for younger women who have less experience. We have so much to gain from your experience and wisdom. I am so very grateful that you take us on this journey with you and encourage us. Blessings to you sweet lady. ~Ashten (http://www.thefarmerswifeashten.blogspot.com)

  25. and there you were when I turned to tv on last night !
    I am a bit concerned about the reporter though, he seemed a little judgemental to me towards the end - especially of his 'soap making', maybe its just his age/male ? (made me a bit cranky - seemed like he preferred convience- bit judgmental!) I got a nice suprise ! cant wait til my bday in August - I have asked for your book for my bday !

  26. Just found your great blog, and I'm a new follower ~ so nice to meet you!
    Anne ♥♥

  27. Hi Rhonda,
    Saw you on Current Affair last night. I was able to say to Bluey, my husband, 'That's my Rhonda! The lady who showed me how to make laundry liquid on her blog!' even though we have never met, through the sharing of your thought, ideas, beliefs and values I feel that I do know you. Thank you for helping me to define my own understandings of how I want to be.

  28. Oh, so beautifully said! The freedom and liberation you speak to is something I feel more each day, and is certainly what keeps me going even when others are critical of my choices that so often go against the grain! Thank you for sharing this piece.

  29. The warm fireplaceMarch 20, 2012 5:25 pm

    What a wonderful post Rhonda you are such a huge inspiration, you have made me look at life in a whole new way, as my husband and i are laying the foundations for our simple life.

  30. Hello everyone! thanks for your kind words and for saying hello here.

    Lisa, your household will slow down if everyone living there slows down. Do your work slowly, you're not in a race. Don't worry if it takes a while. It will take whatever time it takes. And accept that on some days you will do more than on other days. Do your best and do as much as you can but if you have a bad day, rest and try to get back on your feet again the following day.

    Ann, you're Sunday lunch upbringing sounds a lot like mine.

    Kate, we both know that work makes you the kind of person you are. Working to become more self reliant, not only gives you healthy products - eggs, honey, vegetables, etc, it also give you strength and the knowledge that you can look after yourself and you don't have to work to pay anyone else to do your work for you.

    Thanks Kathy!

    Anon in Brisbane, keep up the good work. Also, look into the composting system called bokashi. It's all done indoors.

    Jennyr, you're doing the right thing by knowing your limits and working to them. Most things aren't worth the stress that comes with them.

    Thanks Ascha, that spending to keep the economy alice makes me really cranky too. Thanks for the kind words.

    Janelle, don't listen to them. Do what you do and stand tall.

    Good luck, Jodie.

    Lil, don't listen to the naysayers. Just do what you know is right for you and your family.

    Hi Jane and Bluey!

    Hi Jaime

  31. Going frugal is not really tough, I have found... we both work full time jobs, I have a part time job and my beloved writing, and still we try to do as much from scratch as possible. I have been cooking real meals for years, have started teaching myself how to knit (next winter I will add crocheting), and there are herbs growing on our balcony - and a tiny apple tree, since last Friday! I hope to expand this over the years, and now I have looked up where to get the ingredients for your laundry soap, and in Germany it is prohibited for private households to buy Borax due to the fact that it is highly poisenous and has got adverse effects on fertility... so I think I may skip that or try the replacement products to be found on eBay.

  32. Excellent blog.
    I've been someone who has 1/2 commited to this lifesytle but I am now really trying to make the change. Reading your book and your blog keeps me motivated.
    Thank you Rhonda.

  33. A brilliant post, we started our simpler life just over 3 years ago and have recently decided to make it even simpler!!

    You can start anytime and really reap the rewards. As you say it's good to reconnect with why you do what you do every so often, it helps you focus and enjoy all the more the way you live.

    Sue xx

  34. A very inspiring post thank you. I'm in my 40's and still just doing little bits here and there - I love my homemade dishcloths and my veg patch is being revamped this year - it really is never to soon or to late to get started.

  35. What alternatives would you use in the laundry detergent if you cannot use borax? Would adding the same amount of oxy-clean like detergent be ok or would that product contain too many chemicals to use on the ground if you use gray water? Beth

  36. Rhonda, thanks so much for your post. Your writings help me so much. I'm writing to ask about the canning jars in the first picture. Are they an example of recycling jars for use in a water bath? Any litmitations on size of jar you can do this with? Thanks for all you do. SJ in Vancouver Canada

  37. Beth, you can leave out the borax and add bicarb (baking soda) instead - same amount. You can also add oxy-clean for a heavy duty detergent, but only add that to the mix if you're making the powder version. Add it to the washing machine if you're using the liquid.

    SJ, yes, that's what I use - old jam and pasta sauce jars. I know they're not recommended in north america but it's commonly done here and in the UK and we're all still here to tell the tale. They'll last quite a few water bath sessions. Just check each time for dents, scratch and rust. As soon as they're showing aby signs of damage, dispose of them.

  38. I may have missed out on this information at some point. But when and where will your book be available in the states?

  39. rhonda thank you i needed this.

    it was always your blog that spurred me onto a simpler path 4 years ago this month!

    thank you is not nearly enough!

    karen in usa

  40. This blog post has come at a good time for me! My husband works two jobs and we have a toddler and another little one on the way. I had been thinking that I discovered your blog at the wrong time, because I barely seem to get everything done as it is, but your tips for doing a little bit at a time, when I can, have encouraged me. Thank you!

  41. I found your blog shortly after my husband and I decided it was our ultimate goal to live off the grid eventually. It has only been several years since we began this, but it has been one of the most amazing and rewarding learning experiences. It is a great life change and I'm glad we chose to make it while we're young. Thanks for all of your inspiration!

  42. Thanks Rhonda,

    My DH and I are on a mission to be debt free. We need courage and it help me to come here everyday.

    Thanks for everything you do for others!
    Have a great day!

  43. I love reading your posts they give me such a lift on days I feel over whelmed and encouragement to keep going for my goal to just live simply and be in control of my own life.

    Thank you Rhonda for sharing your life with all of us, you write so beautifully.

    Donna from the western mountains of Maine, USA.

  44. Great advice Rhonda. I keep coming back to this blog to remind myself to stop being such a consumer. I see how much plastic wrappers and waste is chucked out as a result of my consumerism and it makes me sick. A simpler life where more things are bought second-hand or made from scratch is definitely more fulfilling and beneficial for all on this earth. It was after reading your blog last year that I was able to re-evaluate the way I spent money on things and how to become more astute by buying second hand. This 'frame of mind' has helped my husband and I stop being renters and own our own home. Now we can look at new ways to save and live simpler lives. Vegie garden is next on the list!!

    Thank you again Rhonda!

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    lovers however this paragraph is really a good piece of writing, keep it up.

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