19 November 2013

It is the journey that enriches us

This is the view from my work room window, taken yesterday morning.

I've had three emails in the past week from people who are a little confused about simple life. One said they're not doing everything Hanno and I are and asked if that's okay. The second said they've just started and were asking how long it will take them to set themselves up in this lifestyle. The third thought they had to be living on acreage and making bread every day, or off the grid and slaughtering chickens or at least living in the same way that Hanno and I live to be genuine and truly living this life. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I wrote back to all of them, reassuring them that their own choices were the right ones. Then I decided to write about it because I might have said something recently that gave them the wrong message.

As soon as you take that first step towards a simpler life, you're living it. Some of us will be doing more or less than you but there is no grade to pass, no percentage to aim for, no right location, no formula. When you make a conscious decision to spend less and then move towards simplifying your life, that's it, you're doing it.

One of the many wonderful things about living this way is that there is no single goal that everyone is aiming for. We all decide for ourselves what our goals are. And there is no prize. No ending. We are all after different outcomes depending on our stage of life. When we reach one goal, there are others to pursue. The real prize is the unusual and beautiful journey we take to live this way. It is for all of us to create the life we want for our selves and our families and that life is different for all of us, as it should be. Don't let anyone tell you that you're not living simply or sustainably if you're not doing this or that. That is just not true. I think that if you've made the change to live a more simple life, if you're slowing down, more mindful, becoming less of a consumer and you continue along that path, adding as you go, then you're in the club. You're in the process of simplifying and it is a process that lasts a life time.

There is no prescription for this and no set of rules. We all decide for ourselves what our lives will be and then work to make that life happen. Some days you will be able to do a lot, somedays you won't, that's okay. Remember, some of us will be balancing paid work with house work, some will be raising babies and homeschooling, some of us are retired and on a lower income, therefore trying to trim our needs to suit our budgets. We have men at home looking after babies while their partner works and brings in the money, people who are looking after loved ones who are ill or frail, we have young couples just starting out and divorcing couples who are going their separate ways. This is an unusual life choice, we are not doing what our friends and neighbours are doing, we're going against the tide of popular opinion. No matter where you fit in, live your life your way and if you're moving away from your old consumerist habits and living on less than you earn, then that is the marker. How we do that is different for all of us and there is no right or wrong way.

If you're trying to move away from the materialist trap modern life has become, if you're trying to live according to your values, if you want to step lightly on your part of the planet and you know that you can do all that by being frugal and living simply, then I applaud you and I encourage you to keep moving in that direction. Because that is what I'm trying to do too. Some days it's easy, some aren't but I always remember the place I started from and I don't want to go back there. This is much better, but it's not a neat package, it's a long flowing ribbon.


  1. A friend recently asked me how to go about living more simply and frugally in order to clear debt and spend less money. I said that I could tell her how we had done it but that I wasn't sure it would suit her as everyone has to decide what they need in their lives and what they are prepared to do without, and that differs for everyone. As time goes on and we near the end of our debt clearing mission, we realise how much money we used to waste on material goods, and that we no longer need many of the things we felt we had to have three years ago. Clearing debt has been good for us as it has encouraged us to live a simple life and made us realise what really matters in life.

  2. Beautifully said, Rhonda, and so many people need to hear it. I particularly love, "..live your life your way and if you're moving away from your old consumerist habits and living on less than you earn, then that is the marker. How we do that is different for all of us and there is no right or wrong way." Amen to that.

  3. What a great post! We seem to have thrown ourselves head first into this lifestyle and are just doing it anyway we can. I love it and never find myself comparing our lifestyle to others.

  4. Very encouraging Rhonda, thank you. Although this is something we have lived for a while one often wants to put it on a timeline, or compare to where others are at. Such a counterproductive habit that!

  5. I think one reason people may be thinking that they should be living a life similar to yours and Hanno's is because it seems to be so comfortable. Out from under a load of debt, everything is in it's place, good, healthy food right outside your door, there is little hurrying to finish this or that or rushing out the door in the morning amid children, briefcases, and commuter traffic. Who wouldn't want to opt out of all that chaos?

    Just starting out at various different starting places doesn't give a sense of the wholeness of your life and so many may think that they are missing a link and getting that link in the chain will automatically create a more simple, comfortable, manageable life for them. When in fact it's like unraveling a complicated knot ---- only, time, patience and persistence, and a well thought out strategy will get you there in the end.
    And, of course, just making a start is needed.

    Indiana USA

  6. Lovely post...and lovely view from your work room, thanks for sharing...

  7. Oh yes- I LOVE that description - a long flowing ribbon. Perfect.

    Today is a bumpy, funky day for me, but that's ok. A brighter one will soon follow. Not every day is sunshine and roses, fresh bread and sewing clothes... far from it. Some days are full of everything "hard". The simple life is not about easy and carefree living... it's work (and plenty of it), but thankfully, FAR more satisfying than a consumptive lifestyle (even on the hard days). Embracing the journey and accepting the unique lessons that we all must learn along the way is truly the gold nugget waiting inside each of us. Simple living uncovers that in a way that nothing else can :)


  8. Thank you Rhonda for this beautifully re-assuring and very encouraging post showing us that we are taking the right steps!

  9. I needed this reminder, thank you. I've attempted to cut living costs many times since buying your book but it's never worked out. Now that I have my own place, and have quit my desk job that was draining the life out of me to pursue a teaching degree, and possible casual work around studies, i'm finding it easier. This past week my partner and I got chickens and by the end of this week we are adding another 4 to our flock giving us 7 chickens in total. They really do give hours of enjoyment! I am now cooking from scratch managing to keep groceries to $100 a week. And later this week I will be attempting to make ginger beer for these lovely summer days :) One step at a time is the best way to get where we want to go that is for sure and even though it's taking time, i'm still getting somewhere. It is hard though, as you said your neighbours aren't living the same way. I'm 23 and my friends all like to go out and drink on the weekends and have little responsibility. We've just got to do what we enjoy :) and home keeping is what I enjoy. Again, thank you for all the advice and tips you give through this blog.

  10. I work on the principle that 'doing something is better than doing nothing'. Over the past year or so we have taken some small steps towards simplifying our lives. Just one or two things at a time but it is surprising how those little steps lead to others.
    We have become far more aware of the difference between our needs and our wants, we are prudent with our money and have found that our 'wants' are actually very few, if any. For us, not spending is not that difficult, but we have been surprised just how much that sets us apart from friends and family. The steps we have taken and continue to do make sense to us even if others find our way of life a bit strange - the fact that we don't 'do' shopping seems to be a curious notion to some! We know we don't have to spend a small fortune to have a good time and enjoy ourselves.
    The first thing I do every Monday morning is read the gas and electricity meters. My DH laughed at me to begin with, but now he's ready with the iPad to enter those figures onto our online statement and we can monitor our energy usage every week. We understand it's important to look after the pennies in order to save a few pounds.
    We'd love to have the space for chickens, or a separate laundry room, but we haven't. I used to get frustrated that we didn't have lots of space but now I accept that this is where we are at present, so let's just make the most of what we have.
    I can relate to those people who worry they are not making the grade in their simple lives - I sometimes feel I ought to try harder, or that our simple life is a diluted version of what is expected, (and yes, we do still travel), but we make changes that make sense to our particular situation, and the more we do, the more we appreciate why we do it. The simple life you and Hanno lead encourages me to continue taking small steps. As you said, Rhonda, it's a journey, and we all take different routes.
    Thank you for your wise words.

  11. Rhonda this is a little off topic but I'm very excited to know what those purple flowers in the second photo are called? We had that flower growing at my childhood house -- I'd love to get one now.

    1. Hello there , I think they might be lilacs, just beautiful and a heavenly smell . Hope you don't mind me saying Margaret in Tasmania

    2. Thanks for replying to this, Margaret. I remembered it but thought Rose had sent a PM or email so I messaged back. It didn't occur to me it was in here.

      So, the flower is a Buddleia. My mothers favourite flowers were lilacs but we can't grow them here, it's too hot. The Buddleia is the closest I can get to it. The other flower is a lace cap hydrangea.

  12. Rhonda, your post gave me goose bumps. It resonated strongly with me and helps to reinforce what I am doing when other folk don't seem to appreciate or understand my choices. Thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful writing.

  13. A great post Rhonda to remind everyone we are not copying and making our lives the same as yours but learning from things you have done that could help us to create the life that we want to live.
    In the past week I have finally made soap for the first time (soooo exciting and it is drying in the laundry and every time I walk in there I smell it and can't wait to use it after it cures in 6 weeks time). Also yesterday I made some Laundry Washing Powder and this truely took 15 mins and again this powder is going to suit me better than storing bottles of liquid to wash our clothes. Adding a new little skill every now and then builds up your confidence and makes me truely happy. My friend and I have now booked into a Preserving Course because I find all of that intimidating and prefer to enjoy a course with other people and learn a new skill at the same time. I can't wait to make some home made tomato sauce and bbq sauce, jams and the like that can be put aside for another time rather than having to be eaten within 2 weeks. My friend and I are on the same wave length when it comes to some of these skills for the "simple life" but we both have lots of friends who aren't into it and that's okay too. I have posted my soap making and washing powder experience on my blog below.

    I am still looking for the best white bread recipe for a soft texture for sandwiches.....if anyone has one I'd be interested. Someone suggested I look up "Vienna Loaf" and go from there. I've made your bread recipe but it didn't work and/or was too heavy. We make an amazing Foccacia Bread and I've made Turkish Bread however I would love a "go to everyday bread" recipe even for school lunches which means 2 slices of not so heavy bread. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia


  14. Everyone's comments has been just as inspiring as Rhonda's, a simple life is a continuously evolving journey of education of our basic human needs. For me the joy and satisfaction of this simple life is a huge part of my happiness. Everyone of you is a teacher, I have learnt and are learning many skills and ideas, just from you sharing your simple lifestyles. Every home is different so our needs will differ. I use the motto "Bloom Where You Are Planted" everyday. This quote is on my computer at work and in bedroom at home. I intend to bloom to the best of my abilities.

  15. Thank you, Rhonda, for another encouraging and helpful post. I think that sometimes, the idea of the 'simple' life can be quite overwhelming for those just starting out. There is now so much information out there, it's no wonder people get confused. I too wanted to be doing it all at the start - then it just gets too much, and you think that you're a 'simple life failure'. Not so! Just do what you can, as you can, and don't compare yourself to other people. That's the simple life equivalent of trying to 'keep up with the Joneses', I think - and rather defeats the purpose of the simple life. As you've often said, Rhonda, anything that you can do towards your goals of living more simply and authentically, is positive progress. I think that sometimes people need reassurance and validation that what they're doing is the 'right' thing. Thank you for reminding us all that we all have our own journeys, that will be so often very different. The thing about taking the turn towards simplicity is that the more you learn, the more you realise you have to learn. It's an exciting journey, and you are so right, Rhonda, when you say that it is the journey that enriches us. The more steps I take on the journey, the more enriched I feel.

    So I say - trust your own judgement, don't try to do too much at once, and be gentle with yourselves. I'm sure if you look back in a year's time, or even six months' time, you'll be amazed at how far you've come on your simple journey.

    Thanks again, Rhonda,

  16. Another timely affirmation for me, Rhonda. Thank you. I've never been the same since finding you in 2008 and beginning to realize what needed to be different in my life. I'm not yet "living beneath my means" entirely, but I'm getting there crawl by crawl and one day there WILL be a savings built up (if the car stops getting broken and pets stop getting into trouble...oy!). ... but in six years I've learned how to cook from scratch, knit, and I've gotten rid of a TON of stuff (more to go). Feels good. Still have spurts of buying at Target, the mall, etc. for a quality item that will LAST but overall I can wait for something to go on sale (thus allowing me time to ask if i really need it at all) or get secondhand, or even better, handmade/fair trade. My next goals are more homemade cleaners and a veggie garden (husband is skeeved by chickens so I may not win that one). Also to somehow work less than five days a week at some point. TOO much. Kudos to all making strides to live less stressful, more enjoyable lives not defined by STUFF. We are homebodies who love a couple hours out on the weekend here and there but mostly we love our nest and all the hobbies and love inside it!!

  17. Your post couldn't have come at a better time Rhonda.

    DD2 (18) and I were just talking about the skills we have and those we need to learn. She says she totally gets why we preserve all we do and loves helping me and wants to learn more. She said in the future she wants to have her own stockpile of food!!!! You can imagine just how happy I was to hear that. While she isn't into sewing, knitting etc she also said she understands why I want her to learn the basics so she can work out what she does and doesn't want to do when she finally has her own home. She also understands why mindless spending is such a trap and carefully saves her money for the things she really needs. If she "wants" anything, eg like a new book then it must pass the criteria of being something that she will read and reread. A one off item doesn't interest her.

    The message is getting through. Yes she won't "do" it all the same as I do, or you do, or anyone else does - but she will live the simple life her way and that's all that matters. It's all we can do. As you say there is no "one way" to live this lifestyle.

  18. Great post as usual Rhonda.
    It really is taking small steps, there is so much to learn, no one way of doing so many things.
    I wouldn't choose another way of life.
    Best wishes,
    Angela(south England UK)

  19. Really nicley written. We all have to live our own lives according to what our situation is. The key word is to start - thinking - about the choices we make and why we make them. Our path in life evolves as we walk, it is a challenging yet exciting journey. Pam

  20. Such good thoughts Rhonda. Sometimes I do think that whilst I eschew the mainstream consumerist lifestyle, it is a little bit easy to fall into the habit of "wanting" and "needing" the accoutrements of the simple life too ... if that makes sense. I get these set ideas of what the simple life looks like and I just need to get this and do that etc. etc. before we "get there ". Your idea of it being a journey that is completely individual - the long flowing ribbon of change and movement and living - really spoke to me. So much more honest. I'm inspired all over again. Thank you.

  21. Trying to recreate someone else's life is like trying to walk in their shoes - they just don't fit right! You need shoes that have molded around your own feet. It's fun to see how others live, though and maybe find some ideas that would work in your life.

  22. Very well said, Rhonda. To me living with intention is what is most important. I cannot live as you do for many reasons, but I can live simply every day in my own way. Thank you for your words....inspiring and uplifting!

  23. These must be brand new readers, Rhonda. You have been posting about making a change in your life that is individual and has particular meaning for years now. It is what makes your postings so valuable and interesting. Not everyone's circumstances are the same. I get plenty of ideas from you even though my life is quite a bit different from yours at this point. But any changes in a more organic direction are better for everyone.

  24. Stripped down to its rawest components, "Simpler" is just "Less complicated" isn't it. For one person that might mean growing their own veggies and making their own bread by hand. For someone else it means finding a good local baker who they trust, and buying bread with fewer additives, and buying veggies from a farm shop not the supermarket. We sit somewhere in between the two, at a level which suits our lifestyle. In the future we'd like to simplify further.

  25. Beautifully said, Rhonda...and just what I needed to hear right now, when my life feels so crazy and I am striving to keep focus on what really matters to me and mine.

  26. Great post and well said! And I never tire of reading your words on this subject! It uplifts me every time!

  27. My nan always says " Its the journey that is better than the arrival". I remember many months back now when I was searching for answers to this simplier life I was after and found your blog and others like it, I thought but how! How do I do it?! I read many of your older posts and the words that still ring in my ear are "just start and then one thing will lead into another and that into another" never a truer word spoken Rhonda! I started with bread, which lead me to baking cakes/desserts from scratch, which lead me to organic produce, which lead me to making my own cleaners, which lead to not using the dryer and now I've even got the knitting needles out. I'm excited to see what the next part of my journey is.
    Warm regards

    p.s. I had the most amazing ,if not seredipity I don't know what is. I had a comment on my blog from a lady and it turns out she is an old, much thought of but had lost contact with, friend that I shared a house with in my 20's. She saw a link/address to my blog on your blog Rhonda and had been reading my blog for awhile until one day she realised after a certain post I had written about my younger days, who I must be! We are now planning a catch up in December and have been emailing each other long overdue up dates of our lives over the last 15 or so years. Such a wonderful thing to have happen, so thank you for unknowingly putting us back in contact : )

    1. That's a great thing to reunite with old friends, Jan. I'm pleased my blog played a small part in it.

  28. A good reminder to start wherever you are, do whatever you can, and keep working at a simpler life. I've been reading your blog for about two years now, and I learn something new, or am reminded of something, with every post.

    I started my simple-living journey many years ago making laundry detergent, recycling and eliminating paper products (other than toilet paper!). Now I'm able to compost -- not allowed at my previous location -- and grow a garden. I'm cooking most everything from scratch, which I hadn't done in years. I hope to start with chickens next year, and maybe a pig the year after that. Canning/freezing/preserving food is on the list for next year also.

    Once the land is paid off, in a couple of years, I plan to start on solar energy production, especially for my well. I'll need a new pump in a few years, so it will be replaced with a DC model. So many things to do and plans to make!


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