The first steps towards simplicity - REVISITED

27 June 2012
Hanno's surgery went very well yesterday. We're going back for a checkup this morning but it all looks good and he's feeling fine. Thank you so much for the kind messages and prayers for him. He asked me to thank you all for him. He read everyone of them.

This post is from 2009.

Some of the lemons ready for juicing next week. Leaving them sit for a week makes them juicier.

I've had a few emails recently asking about how it's best to start living simply. I've written about this before but it's always an area of interest and often the first step is the most difficult.

This is a swarm of bees that settled in our orange tree.

Simple living is not about grand gestures - it's not moving to the country and it's not giving up work to become self sufficient. It's more about little things - small steps that make the way we live mirror our values. I believe that simple living is about being an individual - stepping away from the mainstream and living the life you want, even when that life is very different to those of your family and friends. Now I'd be the last one to tell you what sort of values you should live by. One of the best things about living in a free and open country is that we make those choices ourselves. So it would be wise to take some time out, sit by yourself, or with your partner, and write down the values that are important to you. For example, for me, it's important that:
  1. I live in an environmentally sound way;
  2. I want to limit the amount of chemicals in my home;
  3. I want to reduce waste;
  4. and make as much as I can for myself.
I have other values that I live by but these four will serve as a good illustration of what I'm getting at here. Now that I have those four things, I would then make each of them a category to work on. In a note book, give each category a page to itself - write the value at the top of the page and then, over the course of a week or so, bullet points ways you can change your life to reflect your values. Some of the ideas you come up with might be easily achieved, some will be difficult but the point is to identify what you want in your life and what you need to do to make that life.

Above all else, don't copy me or anyone else whose life looks good. This way of living means you evaluate your life and make the changes you want. If you copy someone else's life, you'll be faking it. Now having said that, let me also say that if you evaluate your life and it ends up being similar to my life or your best friend's, then that is fine, as long as you went through the process and identified that is is what you want.

Lemon and coconut cake - recipe below.

When I first started living this way, I was in contact with many other women on a forum who kept telling me that simple living was about slowing down, being mindful and taking time for oneself. They told me the practical things I did everyday - the bread baking, keeping a simple home, green cleaning, preserving/canning etc, were homesteading, not simple living. I never believed that - I think that a simple life is the whole kit and caboodle. It's the way I feel about myself, my home, and the way I live, it's slowing down and being mindful and it is the practical expression of all those things in the daily tasks I do each day. The philosophy of it and the expression of it are part of the whole. The values you live your life by are expressed by the practical tasks you do each day.

The last mandarin.

Another helpful way of thinking about a simple life is to just think about the things you do now, and try to make them more simple - focusing on less rather than more. Draw a line in the sand today and say to yourself: from now on I will stick to my budget; I will reduce waste and never have my rubbish bin more than half full; I'm going to stop buying so many disposable products; I'm going to cook 50 percent of our meals from scratch - then add another 10 per cent in a month, then another; I will shop for groceries only once a fortnight (month/ two months); I will teach myself to knit. Your list may not look anything like that because it will suit your life and family, but it will give you a focus to work on and bit by bit, you'll be simplifying.

In my simplified life today I'll be tidying up the bush house, starting off some vinegar with wine left over from the wedding, taking photos of the garden, having my eyes checked by the optometrist, and cleaning the front verandah, as well as a few other things. Thank you for all the wonderful comments and emails you've sent my way this part week. I don't always have the time to respond, but I read every word and appreciate you taking the time to make contact with me. Often I'm quite overwhelmed by your comments and every day I'm thankful that my blog makes it possible for me to connect with so many of you. I hope you have a beautiful week.


  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • 125 grams butter (¼ lb), room temp
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 ½ cups self-raising flour, sifted OR 1 ½ cups plain (all purpose) flour with 3 teaspoons of baking powder added
  • 1 ½ cups desiccated (shredded unsweetened) coconut
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  1. Place the coconut, lemon juice and milk in a bowl and let it sit for an hour. This will sour the milk.
  2. Preheat oven to 175°C (350F).
  3. Place sugar, butter and lemon rind in a large bowl, and beat until light and creamy, this will take about 4 or 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each one.
  5. Fold flour and coconut mixture into the butter mix. When it's combined, place it in a round greased and lined cake pan.
  6. Cook for 50 minutes or until , when tested with a skewer, it comes out clean.


  1. Glad to hear Hanno is doing well. I think of you often!

  2. I like what you have to say. I'm pleased to find out that I'm not too old to change my somewhat wasteful habits. I will soon be a pensioner and will have to make the pennies count. I am pleased your husband is doing well.

  3. Oh gosh I have to get my daughter to try that cake. Lovely post as usual.

  4. Glad Hanno's doing okay. Best wishes to you both.

  5. Hi Rhonda
    Glad to hear Hanno is doing good. I love these links to your older posts as I just started to follow your blog about 2 years ago. So reading some of your older posts that I may have missed is great. Thanks you for the wonderful posts and keep it coming. I so look forward them each day.
    I do have a question though. I have found since I have changed my way of life that some of my friends wondered off and some think I have lost my marbles. That part I am finding hard. I didn't have a whole lot of friends to start with and sometimes I find it lonely. I'm sure you probably already posted about this but I am sure I'm not alone with this feeling. Maybe give us your view or experience on this.

    Thank you, Carol

  6. Good on you Hanno, bet you're busting to get back to your shed! Have a rest first though! Rhonda, your advice (and recipes) are always just what I need to hear.
    Vicki xx

  7. G'DAY,

    It is fantastic to hear you are both well, the rain has come at a good time here on the Sunny Coast, does the garden well(one of my sons has just informed me that there is not enough rain, I think he wants to ride his boogy board in the drains around the house).

    It has been a great time to read some of your old articles, and as I was reading them, I realized that I am slowly following your path, but in my own way, and we are changing into a more simple, frugal and sustainable lifestyle, my health has improved and the family is happier.

    With the kids on holidays and it's wet I am showing them how to make soap, hand wash, lip balm, face cream, candied peal, jam, marmalade, and how to get to know your neighbors. The other day my boys and I met a new neighbor that have been there for years and said G'DAY, they had heaps of lemons on there tree and we swapped a fresh jar of pear jam for 2 carry bags of lemons, great to make candied peal, lemon butter and freeze the juice for the following year, The other neighbor we visited is a baker and we swapped a jar of orange marmalade for a regular weekly supply of stale bread to help feed the chooks, .

    Better go, taking up to much space and could talk for hours about what we do, make and future ideas.

    Have a TERRIFIC week.

    Matt, from

  8. Hello everyone!

    Hi Matt, I hope you're well too. We will be over as soon as this current busy time comes to an end.

  9. Glad to hear Hanno's surgery went well and that he is recovering well.

  10. Glad Hanno doing well, He will notice such a difference in his sight. Here's to a speedy recovery Hanno.

  11. Glad it went well Hanno, cataract surgery is amazing these days isn't it.

  12. Hi Rhonda glad Hanno is OK.
    I have taken steps slowly to a more simple life, over past two years. First step for me was to cut my work hours to four days five hours a day so 20 hours.
    Next was to shop around for all bills, and cut back on spending. Next was to cook, bake and become a better homemaker. Then vegetable garden extend from one bed to three. Then came my new babies the chooks. I then found I didn't need the extra money, easier to save the money than to earn it. With my savings over the two years, next week a 3Kw solar power system is going in.
    Thank you I find life way more fun this way Di

  13. Di, great news. Keep up the good work.

  14. Hi Rhonda, great to hear Hanno's operation went well.

    I love reading your old posts as I only found your blog earlier this year, so havent seen a lot of these.

    It's interesting that you mention about reducing the rubbish in your bin. Each week when I take the bin out, I look at how little rubbish we have in the bin, and take pride in this! It has become one of my little markers of success on my journey to a simple life!
    The more I grow our own food, cook from scratch, make cleaning products, and buy less "stuff" the more proud I am!

    Wishing you a speedy recovery Hanno!

    Sarah from Jimboomba

  15. Hugs to Hanno all the way from Alberta :) So glad you are well.

    I spent the day doing many different simple living tasks and was busy from early morning until evening. Laundry cleaned with homemade detergent was hung on the line, tasty, nutritious food was cooked with fresh garden produce, eggs from our hens and meat from a local farmer. The weeding and seeding of my garden brought great satisfaction, as did watering it with collected rain water. Cleaning the garage was long overdue and didn't take long... I gathered things to donate to charity and did a little bit of house work with homemade cleaners. I was busy all day, yes, but I was not harried. Occupied productively, moving at my own pace with no deadlines, I feel at my best. Those are my very favourite days... I enjoyed every single moment of today - it was a gift in every sense of the word. This simple lifestyle really does feed me in ways that I never thought possible just 5 short years ago. Thank you for your inspiration and shining example - I am forever in your debt XO

  16. Wonderful that Hano is doing ok and that his surgery went well!
    I have to admit that i love reading your blogs every day and following your reading on the weekends.. through your blog i have learnt and am still learning to simplify our lives, and our home life... we have found our way of saving and simplifying and that is working for us!
    Rhonda and Hanno..... THANKYOU SO MUCH!XXX

  17. I am pleased Hanno's surgery went well. Cataract surgery has changed so much from when I was nursing.It is interesting reading your older posts, Rhonda. It is a good time for reading as it is pouring here in Caloundra where we are holidaying.

  18. Sorry, I missed somehow missed reading the article where you said Hanno was having his eye surgery. I am glad to know he is doing well. I had both my eyes done 7 or more years ago and both now are better than they were before. With the new lens they put in when they take the cataract out I have for the first time in my life thin glasses and can see so very much better! It is amazing! Take care Hanno. You are every bit a part of us here as Rhonda is. You are a team. Sarah

  19. Aw, I love what Little Home said! It is so true that the "ordinary" makes up the bulk of our days. I really do think it's important to recognize how meaningful those daily tasks are. I love that summer offers me an escape when I need it, too - work in the garden always awaits, and for me, it is the most tangible way of seeing the importance of my work here at home.

    Regarding starting (or re-focusing) on a more simple path, I've noticed that as I strive toward more simplicity, I have a better sense of what feels "right" for me and my family. It's easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by what others are doing or saying, but that voice inside me is more honed than ever, and it always brings me back on track.


  20. Living simply is just the best. No matter what steps you take to get there you will get to your own simple lifestyle your own way, we should all remember that and and simply do the best we can. We don't have to dash off and live 'off grid' in the middle of nowhere to have the kind of simple life that we feel comfortable with.

    I'm reading your book slowly and enjoying every page, I moved to living simply a few years ago and it has been a long slow but rewarding journey, we are almost there, not that you ever really get 'there', but it feels as though we are going in the right direction at last.

    It's brilliant to be able to read some of your older blog posts.

    Sue xx

  21. So glad Hanno's surgery went well!
    Had my fingers and toes crossed that all would be well ;)
    My dad did not have such a lucky experience.

    Trinidad & Tobago

  22. Hi Rhonda,
    This is the first time I have commented but I have been reading your blog for some time now. How inspiring you are! I was wanting to begin to live more simply when I came across your blog some time ago. Now I make my own sauces and preserves. I try and shop only once a month (which has been hard lately since I've just moved and have yet to re-begin my raised vegetable bed). I can do some basic knitting and sewing but want to learn more when I can. I have learned a lot about de-cluttering which has been very helpful. I love reading your blog! I'm really looking forward to reading your book when I can get it! I wish Hanno all the best and am inspired by you both!

  23. I so want to make that cake right now but its almost bedtime and I will probably wake up the kids with the electric beater!!!!!! Will wait for tomorrow...

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