I wish

1 January 2014
From the 2012 archives.

There was a common misconception when we were on the book tour that the way Hanno and I live works best for older people who have the time for it. I've written here before about how that's not right, that this way of living would suit anyone living in the country, suburbs or city, whether single or married, straight or gay, young or older. It's here for all of us, there is no doubt about that. I have thought a lot about this and I know that you can change the way you live no matter what age you are; all you need is the will to do it. My regret is that I didn't start sooner.

I wish I hadn't waited so long to change.

My right time came when I was burnt out and miserable and I doubt I could have done anything else. We made a complete change and luckily for us, it turned out well. I can't help but think about Hanno and I living as we do now but at a much younger age. There would have been different choices made, no doubt, maybe we would have ended up in a different area, but we would have spent much more time outside the mainstream celebrating life and being who we really are. So when is the right time? From experience, I doubt there is one right time. The sooner you can simplify your life, the better you'll be for it.

I was talking to young man the other day, his first child will be born later this year. He is ready to settle down and start a family but where he sees difficulty, job uncertainty and not enough money, I see opportunity and independence. When I was his age I thought that a baby must be born into a family using newly bought clothes and equipment. I know now it makes no difference whether what you have is new or old, what matters is that baby is loved and the family it's born into is stable. Stability, love and calmness will see every baby through. All a baby really needs is to be fed, to be warm and secure and held in loving arms. Everything they need can be gratefully accepted secondhand from friends and family, or made for a fraction of the shop price. Babies, as well as older children, are not deprived by this way of life, they thrive in it. Looking on Freecycle or in op shops, and telling your family and friends you're looking for certain items, will open up a new world, and show you that when security and love are provided in full measure, happy healthy babies thrive, even when there is very little money.

I wish I hadn't wasted so much.

I have always know that work is the key to a good life. When I was younger, I watched as my parents worked their whole lives. As I matured, I took on their work ethic but I left out an important part of the equation - working in my own home. The older I got, the further I moved away from the notion that being at home is the major part of everyday renewal and that home is where we rest and regain the strength to deal with the stresses of the outside world. Our homes must be far more than just the place we store our clothes and sleep in every night. Turning the shell of a house into something much more and doing the house work that every home requires, may very well be the making of you too. I know now that making a warm and comfortable nest for my family and me was as beneficial and important as any of the paid work I ever did.

I wish I'd worked that out sooner.

A home has the power to nurture and strengthen you and your family. Not only can you be your true self in your home - you can do anything you like there. If you want to work all day or read all day, if you want to make your backyard into a mini farm, if you want to set up a small business, if you want to teach your children about the night sky or how to plant a seed, if you want to enjoy time with visiting family and friends, if you want to reinvent yourself, there should be no one there to tell you not to. And when you really understand that your home is your safe haven, when you change your home to suit you and your family, this place you've chosen will be the making of you. Your home can have more influence over you than any other place. And the beauty of all this is that all homes have this potential power - tiny homes furnished with hand-me-downs and scrubbed-up op shop finds, rented flats and apartments with bricks holding up the shelves and smart homes with modern everything. Because it's what goes on in the home, the love given and shared, that makes the difference, not the newness of the building or the price and age of the furnishings.

I wish I'd know that when I was young.


  1. We changed where we lived while in our thirties, by buying our smallholding and to a large degree we changed HOW we lived, growing, cooking preserving, milking. But the joy of home living after many years of work to pay for our home feels relatively new to me. I am now retired and in my late 60s and relish each day as I look around my home and welcome my grandchildren, friends and some less fortunate folk who come to us. I too wish that I had taken a little more time to value the simple pleasure of running a home. I would have found the time if I had realised how fulfilling it could be.
    I hope that 2014 sees you continuing with your valuable blog.

  2. Hi Rhonda
    I have only recently found your site and blog.......it is all beginning to 'sink in' and make an impression.
    Thank you and happy new year to you and Hanno

  3. When I look at the waste in my life from the last I could weep. I am now 42 and only just getting my act together. The money I wasted going out, buying clothes and make up and thinking I new better than the advice my mum gave me, better late than never. Now I only buy food and essentials, but it is a lot of catching up. Thank you for your lovely blog.

  4. Thank you Rhonda for a timely and gentle reminder. We also look forward to more garden time in 2014, it's the best antidote after a day in the office. Christmas brought a sewing machine for me, and despite having never used one before, I'm making some progress: I've sewn, from a 50c op-shop baby cotton blankie, a bunch of wee-wee wipers. It might sound extreme, but flushing forests and money down the drain is crazy. I hope to considerably reduce this one expense in 2014, alongside making more soap, stocks and more.

    Looking forward to reading your blog this year. Happy New Year to you and Hanno :)

  5. What a lovely post. I admire your blog and way of life immensely.

  6. Your post with so many "I wish I'd done" reminds me of something my father used to say: the two saddest words in the world are "If Only". There's no using wishing we'd done something instead of what we did - it's done and past and can't be undone. Somebody else had some more words of wisdom for me a few years ago: "We don't make mistakes, we made choices. Sometimes the choices we make lead us down a path that is not where we want to be, but all you need to do then is turn off that path onto another".
    I feel sorry for people whose home isn't their 'castle'. As you said, home is what you make it, although I am very much aware that there are many people who don't have much say about their living conditions. But regardless of whether we rent or own our space, those of us who can choose a lifestyle are fortunate. As you said, we don't have to spend a lot of money to make a happy nest for ourselves and family.

  7. Happy New Year Rhonda and Hanno and all the family, long my your blog continue, and thank you for all the wonderful guidance over the years

  8. Great post. I'm in my 40s now and live a much more frugal life. In fact we often wish we'd started before we ran up a lot of debt in our 20s. Since we had our son 8 years ago we've finally realised, being happy with your life, not aspiring to be like everyone else is the most important thing.
    Happy New Year

  9. My parents worked and worked all my childhood, to pay of their loans, so they could enjoy growing old together. Sadly my mom died at age 45. She worked all her life and for what? That teached me to live life NOW and not waste it away for dreams to far away in the future. I love your blog - it inspire and teaches me so much. Happy new year :-)

  10. Thank you for your words, l find great pleasure in reading your blog and will continue to do so. We began simplifying our lives a few years ago. Now, a few years down the line, l realize it is not as simple as l first thought yet all the more enjoyable. I could never go back to a more wasteful way of living and will continue down the road we have chosen. The greatest challege has been and still is convincing bigger children and teens of our retrieved values. The youngest child has grown up with it and thrives big time. I am beginning to see great benefits as time goes for the older ones too. Creativity and outdoor activities instead of computer time, family time instead of a dozen organized activities. It is an exciting path to follow, even if not always so easy. My nephew read the following quote: "only dead fish follow the current". Swimming upstream can be a battle, but that's where we are headed. Happy New Year to you and Hanno and your family. Pam

  11. Loved this post and the comments.

    I really liked the comment "only dead fish follow the current". That really hit home. I will come back and read more of the comments later

    Happy New Year.

  12. Lovely post. I was a career girl going up the corporate ladder as a bank manager and had planned to go back to work after kids. Life through some curve balls and I ended up being a stay at home mother and a homeschooling one at that too. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this was going to be my life's path. I fought it often as it was NOT what I planned for my life - sometimes you have to let go of what life gives you and when you do it turns out pretty grand. I've loved being a kept wife for over 20 years keeping house. I look back now and I've been really lucky. Love Leanne

  13. Thank you Rhonda for this timely reminder . I don't know when I started doing things my way but I suppose it was in my late 40's. Although we had always had a vegie garden and I had always looked for a bargain in Supermarkets and clothing stores I didn't actually go to Op shops till later , I suppose I was embarrassed ... Silly me . Now I love Op shopping and have found many useful things. Another great place is the Tip Shop, the things that people throw away make me feel sick. We use old fly screen doors as fences as they can be moved easily, helps keep possums out and I use one over my strawberry bed, lets light and rain in but keeps the birds out. I recently got a perfectly good useable clothes airer, absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. I too have moments when I say "I wish I had...." but there is no point in grieving for what might have been. I have always said "Enjoy every day as if it was your last" because we just never know what is round the corner. Wishing you and Hanno a very happy and healthy year in 2014

  14. So very true, Rhonda.. A great post..
    Happy New Year my friend. xo

  15. I think this is a great post. I think it's so important to look forward instead of looking back with regret.

    The first thing I did on New Year's Day was stroll out to my newly established vege garden and pick cucumbers! The seedlings I planted were a kind of symbolic beginning....my one thing to start with...as we begin a simpler life instead of continuing with our stressed and chaotic one. Now I have more cucumbers than I know what to do with!!!

    I've cleaned out the linen closet too. I mended a handtowel and have set aside some old and soft pillow case fabric for new napkins that I will sew (it can't be that hard, right????) and I also found some old lace curtaining that I am going to sew up into fruit/vege bags to use at the farmers market instead of bringing home paper bags. My Mum gave me a soap making course for Christmas:) That's something to look forward to and a new skill I'll be able to put to good use.

    I don't think it matters what your family is like or what reasons you have for wanting a simpler life. We are a family of three with a young child wiht some additional needs. But I think it can work for us more than trying to do everything will. I think everyone just has to find their beginning and then make a start to find out what works in their own situation.

  16. When I look back, on my forty years of marriage and raising a family, I can see what a blessing the choices we made have been. We were poor and chose to live on one income so we could raise our children by hand.
    We had to use Thrift and bargain furniture, and gifts of furniture from family. Those family pieces are treasured now and will be handed down to our family when we no longer need them. My husband always had a garden and I learned to can and put by, we never had animals, but composted our yard waste, and have enjoyed organic veggies all our married lives. We went through several couches and dining sets that were used up by our active children and we never worried that things got broken or ruined because the family was more precious than the furniture. I only regret putting so much money into our house because we lost it in the recession, but a nice young couple bought it on a short sale and love the garden and will raise their family there. I did get tired of never buying new or having to make do, but now I don't have to and I enjoy sewing baby cloths for my grandson who will arrive in February just like I did for his father when he was new. I am looking forward to a long life enjoying my garden ( in our rented house) grandchildren and teaching my children how you make a home out of an empty house.
    Happy New Year everyone!

  17. Great inspiration! Thank you. I enjoy your blog immensely, as it brings me back to what I know is true. The last comment "everyone has to find their own beginning" is very liberating and positive. Excellent post and great comments from your readers! Happy, Healthy New Year! PS...how do you make a wee wee wipe? (forgive me I'm in California) I have a new grand baby coming in a few weeks and would rather use cloth(assuming) than a disposable paper wipe. :)

  18. Really enjoy reading your blog Rhonda. I still work in a very responsible position and find that the simple life at home really does help to cope with work demands. It really just grounds you! We still have some way to go but everyday find joy in live a humble, simple existence.

  19. So wonderfully said Rhonda. Thank you. I love your book and have gained so much from it, as have my family! We are expecting our 3rd child this year and will continue to aim to live simply and within our means. Looking forward to using more from your book in 2014.


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