Living a deliberate life

12 March 2015

Originally published 15 December 2009

I enjoyed your post. I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? I have tried to be more deliberate in my life, but I have children and I teach them at home. It's certainly a challenge to take from your posts and apply them to my busy life, but I have learned from you and the others. What's really working for me is to take one change at a time. That was great advice. ~ Anonymous

This is a comment from those made yesterday. I'm sorry I can't name the person who wrote as she is only know to me as anonymous. Anonymous, I wanted to address your comment today because I think "living deliberately" can confuse some of us. My interpretation of deliberate living is that I have intentionally taken my life in the direction of my values. I needed to sit and think, and I needed to work out for myself what was important to me. I knew how I didn't want to live, but what exactly did I want? When I changed, I knew I didn't want to keep spending and rushing around like a loon but I had to replace that with something, and that required me to decide on what my core values were and how I could live by those values.

I deliberately focused on my values - generosity, kindness, independence, self reliance, self respect and respect for others - and I made my everyday life reflect those values. That, to me, is living deliberately. You make a deliberate decision to live a certain way and every day make sure your life stays true to that. It sounds like a huge commitment, and it is, but it is done in small steps, every day, without fail, deliberately following that path.

I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau about 15 years ago, well before I made my changes towards simplicity. I have no doubt that book, and in particular this quote below, influenced me more than anything else; although I didn't know it at the time and only made that discovery in retrospect.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience ... 

It still takes my breath away to read those words. I am trying to live deep and to suck all the marrow out of life; I want to know if life is mean or sublime, and I want to know it by experience. I do not want to read about it in a magazine or a blog, I want to truly experience my life every day, and every day it is deliberately focused on the values I want to live by.

Now to answer your question: I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? Living deliberately isn't reliant on who is living in your house. It is the decision to discover your real values and live them, on purpose, everyday. That is important when you're raising children. You want them to live to your values until they have grown and are capable of making a sound decision for themselves on how they want to live. Hopefully, by that stage, your life and the way they were raised will influence them towards the kind of life you want for them. So for instance, deliberate living would be to decide you want to pay off your debt: you want to homeschool your children: you want to instil in them the values of care for others, kindness and generosity; you want to be healthy and connect with nature. Once those decisions on values (whatever they are) are made, everyday from then on, you would make sure your every day life reinforced those ideals, and deliberately move your family towards them. Every day you would deliberately work towards the outcomes you want by the way you homeschool, the behaviour you model for your children and the example your life sets for those young eyes. You would make sacrifices to pay off debt, even when it's difficult, you would continue to homeschool, you would plan into your homeschooling a few nature days and read books about the natural world. You would do all that deliberately - even when it's difficult to do.

Walden, and in particular the quote above did more for my resolve to live as I do than anything else I've read. As I said I read it many years ago, but reread it when I started to live a slower and more deliberate life. That second reading made me certain of the truth of Thoreau's words and I have tried to live true to them ever since. Walden is available free online here. I have it quietly tucked away on my computer and frequently revisit it. It is fine inspiration. It's not an easy read because it is written in the vernacular of the 19th century, but if you decide to take it on, I'm sure you be rewarded for the effort. It would be a great holiday project to read a little bit of Walden every day and if you do that, I hope you gain as much as I did from it.


  1. Hi Rhonda,

    I think this was and is a great post! I have asked exactly the same question: whether a simple life is more difficult to realise when you have children. What if one of those children has additional needs or requires complex care or therapy which is time-consuming, very costly and/or stressful? What if extended family live far away and you mostly do all that's needed by yourself?

    For me, when things are this much more complicated, it is the very simple things in life that offer a little respite, a A walk in the garden to pick some vegies, making something homemade to nourish everyone's body and heart, a little bit of knitting thrown in if it's possible to catch a moment in time for it.

    I'd love to hear how others with children who have additional needs incorporate simple living into their lives too.

  2. Thankyou for sharing this today. I bookmarked Walden and will definitely take a boo. It looks like it would be something to read when sitting quietly and alone.

  3. I ADORE Walden. My old, well thumbed, dog eared copy has travelled with me across the country, and is one of the few books I will never give up.
    I drink in Thoreau's words when I need to remind myself of the life that is waiting for me in the (hopefully) not too distant future, as our son takes his tentative steps out into the wide world when he finishes Uni this year.
    A move to a (more) deliberate, sustainable life is where hubby and I are headed, then.
    Oh, to have a large medicinal herb garden again - a deliberate decision made years ago, to treat myself with herbs rather than synthetic pharmaceuticals, and, one that has reaped great benefits.
    And to pluck seasonal veggies, fresh and free from pesticides.
    And, to once more, have dear hens clucking in the garden as we did long ago.
    These thoughts keep me going.
    And, your blog here is very inspirational, Rhonda. Even though I rarely comment.
    Your books are also on my wish list. I know they will be of great value :)

  4. I have four children, so simple isn't quiet and not always easy either. The hardest part is outside influence. Explaining time and time again why we make the choices we do and why we don't go maintream. I firmly believe though, that is deeply important to aim to live according to ones values and that our children will benefit greatly as time passes. I want them to know who they are and what is important to them. I want them to dare to live the way they feel is right in their hearts, regardless. Deliberately living according to ones values. You said it perfectly. I had to smile the other day. When the post came, my youngest opened the box and sighed; "Oh l do loathe these commercials! All they ever want us to do is waste our money on stuff we don't need atall!" Bless him. For me, living deliberately is all about seizing every moment. Loads of stuff is useless, time together is priceless. Pam

  5. I think for my family (I am 30 and a SAHM, hubby is 37 and works full-time, and we have 2 girls aged 6 and 2.5 years), in this 'child raising season', I just have the mentality of 'doing what I can'. We ARE limited by time and money (isn't everyone?!), but we can still adapt how we want to be living to suit our circumstances. I don't think living simply is an 'all or nothing' way of life, it IS more about doing what you can do with the resources you have, and what gives you pride and pleasure.

    I would LOVE to learn to knit and sew properly. It would give our lives a whole other level of simple living, and save us money in the long run, but at the moment it is impractical for me to dedicate the time to learn (and I know my 2.5 year old would unravel my hard work!) It bugs me that I can't sit and knit things like dishcloths, but for now I DO have the time to do 'what I can', such as growing fruit trees, and using the fruit to make jam. I CAN dedicate half an hour every few months to making washing powder from scratch. I CAN try our new recipes I find and figure out new ways of cooking and baking food from scratch to feed my family.

    For me it's a lifestyle, but it's not something that has an end point. There won't be a day in the future where I will have learnt and mastered and applied every single aspect of 'simple living', because there simply aren't enough hours in anyone's day.

    That's my thoughts on that subject anyway ;)

    Rhonda, I thought you may be interested to know, I've joined my school's PFA committee and we are hoping to do some different fundraising for the school this year (it's previously just been icy poles and pizza) mostly with 'special order days' where we have a product (eg, home-made muffins) for sale for morning tea, but they are pre-ordered so we don't end up with left overs and wasted money. Part of my job was to source a recipe, and then figure out its costings.

    I grabbed my copy of Down to Earth and used your 'basic muffins' recipe and calculated how much they each cost (dependant on different flavours) and what could we sell them for etc. Here are my findings:

    All prices are from Aldi unless specified

    Plain, unflavoured muffins = $1.24 per batch (approx. 12 large muffins), or $0.10 per serve

    Blueberry = $1.24 + 1.99 = $3.23 per batch, or $0.27 per serve

    Banana & choc chip = $1.24 + $0.50 + $2.42 = $4.16 per batch, or $0.35 per serve

    Apple & cinnamon = $1.24 + $3.00 + $0.18 = $4.42 per batch, or $0.37 per serve

    Double chocolate = $1.24 + $0.11 + $2.42 = $3.77 per batch, or $0.31 per serve

    Suggested pricing: $1.50 per muffin, or muffin and a fruit juice $2.50

    Basically, you're helping my daughter's school make a bit of extra money without out laying much (just some time from parents who want to help!).

    I hope that all made sense! :)


  6. I love this post. I bought a copy of Walden and am slowly working through it.
    Living deliberately can be a way of giving meaning to the things that you don't enjoy by reframing them. Before I quit my job and whilst I so desperately disliked what I was doing I tried each day to come up with something positive about being in that job and how it was part of the journey toward my dream. (even if it was sometimes just the income) This way I felt empowered that I was making a choice to live each day deliberately. Not just a cog but someone with a plan and on a journey.


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