Changing your mindset and living your values

At first, staying as motivated as you need to be to live this kind of life looks like it might be too much. I worried if I could stay on track but I had a shift in thinking and it became easier, immediately. Changing your mindset will help you stay on track too. Let's face it, when you're just starting out on this journey and your best friend invites you to go out for coffee or lunch, or to cruise around the shops together or go on a weekend away, it feels like it's just too good to turn down. You might not have a good reason to not go.

I changed my mindset - or how I looked at the common things in my life - by thinking about what I wanted out of life. Did I want to wander aimlessly though shops looking for things to buy? Did I want to remain disconnected and feeling empty? No, what I actually was to feel more alive than ever before. I wanted to be able to get up every morning knowing that the work ahead of me that day would help strengthen me. I wanted to feel more comfortable in my own home than in a shop. I wanted to find myself. I used to live in this body but I'd gone missing in action. I wanted to find my way back home.

I did a lot of thinking on my front verandah. I stared out into the eucalyptus trees and while wrens and willy-wagtails swooped through the trees, I wondered how I could reconnect with my home, how I could enable my family to live on a reduced income, how I could find happiness again. I used to be happy with the simple things in life. What happened?

On those first few days of sitting and thinking, I thought about what I valued in life. I wrote it all down so I could add to it and wouldn't forget it. I used that list in my book, and here it is again, my constant reminder:

I want my life to provide me with:
  • A reason to get up every morning
  • Interesting and productive work
  • Contentment that explodes into happiness occasionally
  • 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 – during 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
  • The enthusiasm and perseverance to take charge of my home and make it a place of comfort, welcome and warmth
It's quite easy to write a list like that, it's much more difficult to write a list that truly reflects your wishes and then to live by it. I'm pleased to tell you that, so far, I'm living to that list and still feel very strongly about the values I listed.

So how did I go from a workaholic who shopped, to someone who was calmer, kinder and values-driven? I changed my definition of what success meant to me. I used to measure success by the amount of money I made and spent. I had shifted from my working class roots to someone who thought that buying too much for my children would make us all happy. It gives me no pleasure typing that out and I just realised I was frowning as I typed. But everyone is capable of change and over those first few weeks, my successes were good bread, how many eggs I collected each day, having my family notice the change in me and being a much nicer person to be around. I'd stopped being competitive and negative and tried to make improvements not only in my home but in my heart as well. It felt good!

Simple life isn't just about the practical things you do every day, it's also about how you feel about yourself and those around you. When I look back, I barely recognise that old me. I'm no push over now, I say what I think and I'll stand up for what I believe in but I'm not on a crusade to convince everyone that I'm right. I'm much more tolerant and accepting of everyone's view and changing my mindset, changing my view on what success was, that did it for me. I live in a softer place now.

So if you're at the beginning of this journey or if you're not feeling quite right about how you're living, I  encourage you to take some time out, sit and think about what you want out of life. Think about what you don't like about your life and yourself and then try to picture what you want. Write down that new life in short sentences to make up your list. And do it in pencil so you can edit it and make it the refined list you'll happily live with for many a long year. I am living proof that you can change your life with a pencil and a piece of paper. All you need is the quiet time and the will to do it.

Have you had a similar experience to mine or did your change happen in a different way? I would love to read about how your changes started and it may be just the thing someone else needs to read today.


  1. Wow. I cannot remember one singular moment that caused me to change. It could have been my divorce, or mall-wandering, or just too much TV made me realize that my life was wasting away on the couch and in the stores. I wasn't happy. I wasn't content. And I certainly wasn't living to my potential.
    Whatever it was, I chose to put down the remote control, and to lift myself out of my situation. It wasn't a quick thing, and took hundreds of small steps. Each small change lead naturally to the next one, and as I changed, so did my friends, family and eventually I found that happiness cannot come from outside - only from within me. Sure, I can find temporary thrills, but lasting happiness has to come from myself.

    Whatever it is that causes this change is a good thing from within. An admission that what I am doing now is so much more "real" than the imaginary life I was leading by watching the TV, and buying things that I didn't need or really want.
    Rhonda speaks with so much more eloquence and clarity than I do.
    Keeping it simple,

  2. Like you, I found myself no longer satisfied with the status-quo life. I wanted MORE. I knew that the simple life was not a life with less work - oftentimes quite the opposite. But while it's less work to buy that onion at the store, it's more meaningful to plant, weed, water & pull it fresh out of the garden. Everyone is different, for me I needed to earn a living doing something that spoke to my soul. The 9-to-5 grind just wasn't doing it for me. So we started living frugally, paying off our bills and finally several years ago we made the leap of faith to quit our corporate employment and live and work right here on the ranch. This work is hard, but oh so meaningful to me. I learned that to live the life I dream of, it took several steps to attain. Start taking those steps now!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  3. The change! I have only been "full time at home" for a month. Before that I had been "part time at home" because I worked on the farm with dh. I homechooled our 2 youngest children through their schooling AND worked on the farm milking cows/ feeding calves and whatever else I needed to help with.I can tell you that was the worst days of my life. I tried to do it all and I was MISERABLE.We made a bad choice becoming self employed and all I ever wanted to do was stay at home with the children and be content. When we went out of business we then had a loan of $80,000 + 10% interest pa. We wanted to be back on wages and spend time with our family. I STILL had to work so we could pay the loan off. It took 6 years of using my total wage to do that and we lived on my husband's wage. NOW I am feeling content. I can "potter" and not feel rushed. I am calmer. Yesterday I went into town and thought while driving there " oh I must go and see what the Op Shop has today" After going to the Dr and getting the groceries I drove straight home because I desired to get back to cross stitching the funny little pig I am doing and plant some onion plants that look in the shops. :-)

    1. Good on you; you stuck with it and reached your goal. Like you, I prefer to be at home than pretty much anywhere else. I see several of our neighbours in their cars off into town 2 and 3 times a day - always at full tilt. I can recall that feeling of competition just on the drive to work, where getting from one red light to the next was a race and you felt like you'd done a day's work even before you began.

      It is an adjustment not least of which in expectations, but I feel that being real and not trying to fit a mould that someone else has formed; has been the best outcome for me.


  4. A post l really can identify with! My big change began when l got cronically ill and was forced to live with less and change the way l thought. At first l found myself getting very depressed because l could not buy what "everyone else" was buying. Norway is a very rich country and it is easy to be overwhelmed by other peoples economy. However, one day l started to think. What was l really grumbling about? Wasn't my family always fed and clothed? Didn't we really have more than enough? Yes we did! I began to realize that l had longed for a simpler lifestyle for a very long time without realizing it. I was brought up on homecooked meals, produce from a big vegetable garden etc. Mending and repurposing, making do and saving for things we wanted was such an important part of my lovely childhood on a farm. I felt homesick for all that and all the lovely clever people l grew up with and realized how much their values meant to me. Turned out my husband had much the same backgroud and he was very happy l felt that way. We are on a journey and we learn more every day, every season. The biggest challege is convincing the children of our values, why we want to make do, save, repurpose, live a bit differently. I believe they are learning more than they realize and these values will give them a better platform to stand on when they grow up. That was a looong comment, l could go on and on. All the best, Pam

  5. My change to the simple life started when I was pregnant with my youngest son. I was a part of a group of mom's with young children. They cloth diapered, breast fed, ate healthy, etc. Their choices piqued my interest and six years later...I am so different, so much more at peace, so loving life. The simple life is such an adventure. Always learning new skills and seeing how we can live from what God has provided are two of my favorite things. It has definitely been a journey and I know I will never be "there". Almost daily I have to remind myself not to be distracted by the world and what the media has to say. I have to remind myself to stay focused and remember what I value in life. Life is so exciting now! I love keeping house and home is my favorite place to be.

  6. Our change started with a toddler who has an auto immune disease which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We now live a much healthier simple life as I started researching everything I was using in my home and feeding the children. I am thankful for what we have we live on acres so I have a big vege garden fruit trees and a chicken run which the kids love the hens are just so funny. Your book was the first I actually bought on this subject from our local organic store and I refer back to it often. I am 30 with 3 children and a much happier person for this beautiful life.

  7. For me, being still a mother of two teenagers and working fulltime, isn´t easy, but slowly I´m trying to cook everything we eat from scratch, not having a garden I have to buy all my veggies at the shops but I try to buy only those which are local.
    I try to learn new skills, I bake my own bread, cookies and pastries, I knit and I try to live a bit different and focused on my own values.
    Not easy, but not imposible either.
    Thanks for your help Rhonda!!!!
    My kids love your bread!

  8. My change happened when somehow, my husband and I found a way to get by on just 20,000 a year living in New Jersey. We were renting at the time, but my home state is pretty much considered a suburb to NYC and so it is a very, very pricey state to live in. After that we knew we could handle pretty much any financial setbacks if they happened. Around that time I had found your blog and got interested in baking bread and we joined a local CSA. Now, still in NJ, we live in a more rural area, and I stay home with my son, doing my best to cook all meals from scratch, knit, attempt to sew again and keep a vegetable garden even though we joined a CSA this year. I admit that there are times where I wish we could eat out more or I could buy some really nice new clothes or some frivolous thing for the house, but at the end of the day, our lives are rich with friends and each other and a pair of shoes or a nice pillow is not going to make or break that happiness. Besides, I only want it if it is on sale. Cheers!

  9. My change happened 17 years ago when I lived in inner-city Sydney. Some new friends inited me to stay at their 100 acre property in northern NSW. They were about as close to self-sufficient as you can get. They grew most of their fruit and veg, ground their own flour for sourdough bread,made tofu,fermented foods,saved seeds, and could make or fix almost anything. They worked hard but also had time to pursue creative activities and relax. They didn't have much money, their clothes were rather faded and old...but....I noticed they were all thriving and happy!

    Watching the sunset in the peace and quiet one evening, I just knew I was going to try for a different life. I'd always cooked from scratch, and tried to take care of the environment, but these people showed me that so much more was possible if I could just step off the Sydney treadmill - and so I did! I wanted a slower,more consciously-lived life, and that's still a work in progress.


  10. The warm fireplaceJune 26, 2013 8:18 am

    Wow Rhonda, you put into words how i am starting to feel, at peace with this simple life, its hard but satisfying, and making every penny count is a challenge in itself, i still feel i have a long way to go, but i am on the journey.

  11. Hi Rhonda, In many ways my journey has been similar to yours. I didn't write a list though. For me it was a more subtle awakening. Finding new and more interesting ways to spend my time, letting go of things that no longer worked, slowing down reconnecting, finding new friends. But if I were to write it all down my list would look very similar to yours. As each piece of my life that didn't work was replaced by something more "me", I felt so much more content. It started for me way back when my children were small and began with changing our diet for a healthier one. From there one thing has led to another. Healthy diet led me to look at healthy environment, growing my own food. This takes up a lot of time previously spent on other meaningless lifestyle choices. they had to go to make room for the new important stuff. And wouldn't you know it I started to feel much more alive, so much more in control of my life and started looking for more ways to take my power back, be more responsible for my life choices.

  12. People who come to your blog know what it's about however I am loving the revisiting posts because even though it's all written actually retreading how you got started and how others got started is inspiring. I also like that what you do is how simple living suits you and each reader can pick and chose parts of it or all of it or start with one or two t hings. It's not an all or nothing thing and can be built on gradually. I think because most of society particularly have a lot of the latest technology that it's normal and kids (my 9 year old) feels left out. Mind you we have a lot of technology anyway (computer, x-box and iPad) but everyone he knows h ad an iPod touch which are over $200. Both he and my daughter are taking about asking Santa to get it for them and I am saying that those are expensive items and it is inlikely Santa would be giving them an item like an iPod. I have the money and I could if I wanted to buy him one but I don't think it is necessary but I know it's hard for him when every one he knows has one. Yesterday we watched a series on DVD that was on SBS which we borrowed from the library called Eco Challenge" it was really interesting and the kids understood it all about leaving lights on, water usage and doing trios in the car with more than one job when you are out. It was a great DVD and it was two families over a one week period to learn how'd to manage t heir hotspots of water, electricity, transport and rubbish. I recommend you watch it. It was very kid friendly. Loving your posts this week. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

  13. I know what you mean about kids feeling left out. We also have computer, ipad and they have a mobile phone. That is enough l feel. We try to spend a lot of time with them and include them in our chores, it helps. What really makes my blood boil these days is when a friend from school told them their mobile phones were junk because there had come a newer version (my boys had theirs for christmas 2012!). We have talked a lot about this and l think they see the crazyness of it! Our values call for us to use our things until they break and only buy new or used-new if we are unable to fix it. The result of all our efforts the past few years is that our children spend much less time with pc games than their mates and spend more time outside and "climbing around. Santa is bringing skis this year, the old too small ones will be handed down. They have been asking for two years, and are very happy that they have finally grown out of them ;-). Pam

  14. Hi Rhonda,
    I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago while googling living simply. I am suffering from chronic illness and was in the depths of falling into a depression, unable to work and losing my 'identity' for the past 6 months. This illness is possibly going to stay with me and I had to find a different way of feeling, a way to turn this into a positive. So over the past few weeks I have been doing some soul searching, putting pen to paper, reading blogs and am finding I am feeling calmer and happier, there is a few reasons for this. One is I have a wonderful supportive husband who loves the garden and growing our own produce and I love to cook it and two, I realised I can be the stay at home mum to my daughter who has started in prep this year, that I always wanted to be. I am able to walk my dog to and from school with her, cook her muffins/cookies for her snacks and lunchboxes and just be with my family, no rushing to work. This truly is a blessing. I started our first menu plan this past fortnight and budget, saving us well over $100 with only 2 trips to the supermarket instead of 10!! I'm also finding turning the tv off and not buying into all the media about sales and what you should have is really helping too.
    Sorry for the long post but I'm really feeling excited about what each day will bring, even if I am sick at times. Today I have pea and ham soup bubbling away in the slow cooker and plan on making pizza dough from scratch to have with it.
    Thanks for a wonderful, positive and insightful blog :) Warm regards Jan

  15. Thank you for this blog and specifically, this post, Rhonda! Your writing always comforts and inspires me. I am going to work on my list, too. I want to make sure I am living a life true to my values, too.


  16. I love this post. I am on the same journey. I worked outside my home for two years - because I thought we needed *more*. I was miserable. Home truly is where my heart is, and I'm SO happy to be back here!

  17. On an aside - I keep checking at intervals for your book (ie Down to Earth) on and haven't yet been able to find it there. Do you know when it will become available that way?

    1. ceridwen, I'm meeting with my publisher in July to discuss the world rights. I'll know more after that meeting.

  18. Oh Rhonda, it's hard to describe how much I love this post. Like so many of your posts, it really spoke to me. I have a similar story to yours....I worked like crazy and I was lucky to make very good money....but I felt so empty and never saw my child. I was unhealthy and physically aging quickly. As someone with strong environmental concerns, I thought my life was quite wasteful and I didn't see how I was contributing to "a better world". While my society told me I was a huge success, I knew I wasn't. I wanted to be different. It was one of the hardest decisions ever but I left that job to stay home. It's not always easy ~ I'm constantly reminded of what I gave up. But I do have more peace and contentment in my heart now. I KNOW my children. I'm not the most domestic person but I'm always improving and finding pleasure in taking care of my home and my family. Your posts inspire and comfort me in my journey....thank you for sharing yours!

  19. Fantastic post! The changes in our lives happened when we moved to a bigger house after our 5th child was born. The house was lovely and roomy and NEW (which was what we thought we wanted). The space pressure was off at last! Soon after, the discontentment welled in me... That big beautiful home WASN'T making me happy because it took all day to clean it and I found myself shopping to fill up that great big house with meaningless stuff. Isn't that ridiculous? That's when I realized that we had made a HUGE mistake!

    We longed to return to our roots (which was a small home on some land so that we could grow a huge veg garden and keep chickens once again like we had many years ago). It took a lot of guts, but we did it! We sold that big house (and loads of stuff in it), bought a modest house 10 minutes out of town on 2.5 acres, and left the insanity behind. We got those chickens, planted a garden and fruit trees, started to shop at second hand stores for our clothes and necessities, made do with less and paid off debt. Happiness returned in short order :)

    While one doesn't need to live in the country to live a simple, satisfying life, it was an important element for us (returning to our rural living roots). Now, I hate to go to town, I hate shopping and I LOVE to be at home, working in my garden or puttering in my home. The happiness and contentment is AMAZING :)

  20. Thanks for this post Rhonda. I have been reading the blog and participating in the forum for quite a while, but lately I have fallen off balance. Reading this post is like stopping, taking a deep breath and remembering what 'it' is all about.

    Thanks again.


  21. The thing that gets me most about how you live is that you are so connected to others. I have no friends. Literally. Where I live is so trend conscious and I rarely get to meet anyone new. I have no family other than my husband, and so am mostly alone. But I have always worked and in the home, too. It must be nice to have a social network to share things in.

    1. Anonymous, I extend the hand of friendship to you. If you live anywhere near the towns where we're having the workshops, please come along as my guest. Email me

    2. Hi anonymous, where do you live? I'm on the out skirts of sydney and always looking for new friends :) especially ones that share the same interests of simple living, Claire

    3. Oh, my. I live in America. But now I feel as though I have a "virtual friend",and I do appreciate the generosity of your spirit. Thank you. :)

  22. My start to Simple Living began years ago as I realized that things didn't make me happy and I watched friends go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. I started thinking about my childhood on the farm and how things seemed so much better then. I live in an apartment and don't have any space for a garden but I buy at the farmers markets during the growing season and from the stores in the winter. I watch very little t.v.(mostly PBS), when my used computer died and couldn't be fixed I didn't replace it (use library instead. Last year I became very sick with inflammation and brain fog. Found out through a naturopath in February of this year that I am sensitive to gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. So I simplified further by removing these from my diet along with added sugar. With removing these things I have little choice but to make my meals from scratch. I will be trying knitting next and making my own cleaners. The steps may be small but they are in the right direction and I am so much happier and healthier.

    Jlynn USA

  23. Think about what you don't like about your life and yourself and try to picture what you want.

    Wow. I am, unfortunately, a bit of a glass half empty kinda gal, so I always feel a bit like things aren't right. But that phrase just made me think, just for the shortest of times and I realise there's not a great deal wrong with my life right now!! I will do the list properly though as I think it will help me focus on getting to where I actually feel glass half full ;)

  24. I can really relate to this Rhonda. I have gradually been shifting back towards simple living over the last couple of years, but everything has really fallen into place this year. I've been focusing on myself and my values this year and simple living is making much more sense to me since taking a good hard look at myself and my life. Reading your blog is also a great motivator :)

  25. I've always tried to live simply and it really came through when staying home full time on the birth of my first child many years ago. It really came to ahead 3 years ago when our house burnt down to the ground and we lost absolutely everything and had to start again from scratch. It's taken a lot of disciple not just going out and buying stuff because we had it before but do we really need it. Certainly a way to de clutter but I wouldn't recommend it. Thanks Rhonda, my recipes of home products has only grown and improved from reading down to earth thanks xxxx

  26. In my early twenties I left South Africa with my first husband on a tiny sailboat. No refrigeration, very little money but a burning desire to see the world. 14 years later we were still travelling, and had two daughters as well! It really is amazing how little money you need to survive. Having grown up in that environment my daughters are both very thrifty and I feel that is a gift that I gave them, to know that really you are OK without lots of stuff. I baked my own bread, cooked the fish we caught, home-schooled the kids, made their clothes. As we traveled we stayed in places long enough to get to know the local customs, foods and language. Living clutter free and doing for ourselves is something that has stuck with me forever.

  27. Rhonda, your last couple of posts are challenging me to buckle down and share some of my life's questions and journey. I will link to my thoughts when "completed."

  28. Oh, I am just loving your current series of posts! No matter what stage we're at, it's vital to be reminded of our path. Thank you :)

  29. It's hard to say when the change started. I became conscious of it when a job reduction forced me to make big changes--but I can see that I'd already been making them. Was it when I put my house on the market and the decluttering helped me realize how much I preferred less? Was it the divorce and what came with it--both a reduced income and the realization that things aren't what really matter to me? Was it the years of living a life that felt empty, and the moment I realized I couldn't live that way any more? I don't know. I think most substantive change happens in small steps, over time, and we often can't even see them until we look back and can find the pattern.

    Thanks for such a rich post.

  30. Always feeling driven, always pursuing the consumer lifestyle because everyone else did and advertising and movies told me to but never gaining the long term satisfaction. Slowly I turned from that, small steps without realising what I was doing I was pursuing what did make me feel good. I had an unhappy childhood and young woman hood, so at some point I revolted and broke away and discovered happiness in the simplest thing. Independence! Strength in independence!
    As I turned from the plastic world and made my life in the real world, close to the earth I realised I was on my own, a hippy greenie type person living amongst the consumers, that is hard feeling alone and ridiculed, even by friends. But my wonderful partner has come along for the ride and together we forge ahead. Then the internet arrived and I discovered I was not alone but part of a huge movement of people just like me and you Rhonda. What a great feeling!
    So now I proudly show people what I do and my friends are slowly picking it up in small ways. I will keep being a beacon to all I meet, just letting them knopw sutly that there is another way.
    On another matter, did you see four corners last night anyone. The story was about homeless people and people on the edge of it in Australia. I felt sad for these people and their situations which left no room to manoeuvre to safety. But I saw an underlying problem going on. These people were struggling to hang onto and be a part of the unsustainable way life that is consumer driven. They are on the fringe and cannot hang on because they don't have what is required to live this way. Money!
    If only they could see outside the box and choose a different path, the path to real freedom, the simple life.
    I am sure there are organisations and people out there who could help, but as you say Rhonda it is the mindset!

  31. Hello, I just found your blog today and have read your latest posts up to this one. Just what I needed to read today. Thank you. I'll be coming back :-)))


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