A simple life

28 September 2016
I think Hanno and I have been pretty succesful in changing our lives from one of stress, expense and disorder, to a life of relaxed contentment, getting value for money, routines and organisation. It wasn't easy at the start, mainly because I didn't know then what I was looking for, but now it's just how we are. A lot of people ask me about how we settled into this way of life, how we paid off our debt and how we maintain a lifestyle that gives us so much. The hardest thing is changing how you think about success and what you believe you're entitled to. If you continue to believe you should have everything your friends have, if you always reward yourself for doing the hard yards or if you can't get your spending under control, you'll struggle to live simply. On a more general level it's got a bit to do with self-control, moderation, prudence and cutting back where you can. You work to use less of everything - less electricity and water, fewer products, less waste and packaging. I'd also add less travelling and only essential flying, although very few people seem to agree with me on that. For me, it's in my top ten.

Recycle furniture
 If you have the time, grow some of your own food.
If you can't grow a lot of food, grow herbs and fruit. They don't take a lot of time and they'll save you money.

Giving up buying everything you want is difficult because not only do you give it up today, you're giving it up over and over again for years. You're always cutting back and looking for ways to use less. You will get used to that but it's tough when you start. We've lived this way for many years and now cutting back is more about getting value for money instead of buying the cheapest of everything. I look at my budget as a whole instead of individual prices and if I can buy everything I need with my budget, I'm happy. That might mean a bit of juggling some weeks - I might not buy something so I can afford fish or a better cut of meat, or it could mean living off the stockpile for a couple of weeks so we have the food money for something else. We know what we can afford and stick to our budget, but when it's needed, a bit of juggling helps us to always stay within budget while having all we need.  And that is a choice for us.

Here are a few reminders of what we can do to help simplify and live within our means:
  • Spend less than you earn. Not just today and this week, but all the time.
  • Look for value for money instead of penny pinching.
  • Make up a workable and realistic budget and stick to it.
  • Start a food stockpile.
  • If you don't have enough to pay your monthly bills, cut out unnecessary expenses like mobile phone, cable TV, magazines, coffee at the cafe, bottled water and drinks etc.
  • Cook from scratch.
  • Never waste food, eat your leftovers and have a couple of meatless meals every week.
  • Take lunch and a drink to work and school.
  • Recycle, reuse and repair.
  • Monitor your electricity, water and gas use. Learn how to read your meters.
  • Turn off lights and TV when you leave the room. 
  • Turn off stand-by appliances when you're not using them and when you go to bed.
  • Stop buying cleaning products and make your own using soap, bicarb, vinegar, washing soda and borax.
  • If you haven't already done it, think about putting in a vegetable garden. If you've already got one, think about adding fruit and herbs.
  • If you have no space to grow vegetables, buy your fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey at a local market. The prices will probably be cheaper than the supermarket.
  • Check out your local butcher shop. The prices will probably be lower than the supermarkets and the quality of meat better. 
  • Try bulk buying with a friend to see if it works for you.
  • Teach yourself to knit and sew. There are many sites on the internet with very good instructions, tutorials and sometimes, videos. 
  • Make your home the kind of place you want to spend time in. Invite friends around instead of going out for coffee or drinks.
  • Be content with what you have. If you're tempted to buy something you can't afford, think about how you'll worry when you can't pay your bills and how that stress will affect you.
If you've already got a garden, think about adding a few chickens.
Plant fruit trees.
Make do with what you've already got. Repurpose and recycle.

Focusing on budgets, buying and growing food, cooking, baking, cleaning, all contribute to how you feel each day. Setting targets for yourself and reaching those targets gives you a feeling of control and achievement. It may not be how other people live, it may require juggling, but you'll slow down, live how you want to live and regain some balance in your life. At the beginning, not every day will be good but the certainty of your chosen path will keep you going until things improve. Take small steps towards your new life, be proud of each achievement and you'll slowly create a different sort of life. It won't be the same as the way I live, it will be your unique work in progress, a life that you've pieced together knowing what you need to thrive so you can live the way you choose.


  1. Thank you. I love this post, and it's encouraging to me. Small steps.

  2. I actually have a question about natural cleaners, and seeing that item in your list of steps to take reminded me of it. For the most part I clean our house with vinegar and essential oils, and it takes care of the everyday business. But what about when you have a bad germ (such as a stomach bug) run through the family and you really need to disinfect everything? My instinct is to start spraying bleach everywhere, but maybe that's extreme. Will the natural cleaners work even in such situations?

    1. Helena, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil or lemon myrtle oil will add an antiseptic element to your homemade cleaning products. All these are oils indigenous to Australia but I think you'd be able to get tea tree or eucalyptus oils in the US. You could make up a spray of vinegar with tea tree oil and use that as a spray and wipe when your family is sick.

  3. All of this is what I tried to explain to my 33 year old daughter this morning. It seems that there are so many expectations now such as eating out and stopping for coffee. Apparently in her circle your life is not good if you cannot do these things. It confuses me since she was not raised that way.

    1. That is the world our young people are living in, Lana. Could you show her the benefits of inviting her friends around for coffee at home with homemade cupcakes or scones? Good luck. It's a minefield out there. xx

    2. lara im 31 and no one i knows lives this way. My family all think im nuts. But when the hard times hit i know i will be ok, so im ok with them laughing ๐Ÿ˜Š

    3. I find that the less I go out, the more I enjoy it when I do go out. Since it's then an occasional treat I tend to savor it more than if it's an everyday thing. That said, I do "splurge" a bit and buy the type of coffee I like to make daily at work, and occasionally I try to re-create some of my favorite take out meals at home, like chicken tikka masala. I feel like that keeps me happy and balanced!

  4. What a wonderful and encouraging list. I think we are more towards the front end. It's continually getting better, and we are defiantly bettering our situation, but there do seem to be ups and downs and chaotic spells. It really does make striving toward that simple goal a priority. Thank you for sharing such inspirational words.

  5. great post again Rhonda, & so encouraging. I am a bit (or a lot) of a patchwork fabric & wool 'collector', to the point that my stash is a bit overwhelming, (actually it's taking over) & while I have been working on living with with less my stash is my achilles heel -- so over the last few months I have been working hard on using what I have & not buying more, so far I have been disciplined, & have made some headway, it has given me a real sense of achievement, & I like the fact that I can now go into a (favourite) shop & only buy what I need (& not all the pretty's), predominately sewing threads, so, keep the inspirational words coming, & I will keep sewing, knitting & destashing

  6. I get re-energized with these posts. Thank you. Lana it is so normalized to eat out and have coffees a few times a week. We have times when we have a run of it through circumstances and I find it gets tiresome to be honest. It doesn't feel like a treat and I cringe at the expense. Besides my coffee is so often not hot! I make a better one with our stainless steel thermos plunger๐Ÿ˜Š Rhonda is right, it's nice to be hospitable and have friends over.

  7. Thanks for the great list Rhonda. We have a decent sized veggie garden, herb garden, many fruit trees and 3 lovely hens that provide more eggs than our family can use. I make most of the bread we eat and bake cakes, muffins, and slices for school and work lunches. I make all our meals and baked goods from scratch. A significant part of our shopping budget goes towards meat and fish despite having 2 or 3 vegetarian meals each week. Our local butchers are more expensive than the supermarket and since "cheaper" cuts of meat have become trendy (ie lamb shanks, shin beef) they aren't as economical to use as they used to be. I would love any ideas on how to buy meat & fish without spending as much money each week. We are continually told to eat 2 or more fish meals each week but this isn't financially possible for the average family. I won't buy imported fish.
    I'm about to bake your 5 minute bread Rhonda. It's wholemeal spelt today. Thanks for a great recipe and the inspiration to live in a simpler but more meaningful and satisfying way. Maria ☺

  8. Rhonda, I hear your voice in my head all the time, not in a stalker kind of way, but in a wise woman way. This year, I put up more than 450 jars of food for us from our garden and things we foraged, like apples from the National Park, berries from the roadside and pumpkins from picked over patches. I pack my lunch, carry water, and, if I buy snacks, I get them from the Dollar Store where the packages are smaller and I can keep them in my car for when hunger strikes while I am out and I won't buy the larger, more expensive single snacks. We combine our trips and, sigh, I have finally convinced Mister to cut back our cable (going without would make him twitch). Slowly, so slowly, we are getting there! Thanks, Rhonda, for being my inspiration!

    1. By the sound of it you're doing a great job, Matty. :- ) xx

  9. thanx for the gentle reminder Rhonda
    great post & loved the photos but is the purple stripey vegetable?
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

    1. Hi Selina, the three purples together are turnips and the big purple is Kohlrabi.

    2. thanx!
      our markets grew kohlrabi but no one had any idea what to do with it, perhaps you can share how you use yours in a future post for all of us not familiar with nontraditional veges, please?
      thanx again for replying

  10. You describe pretty much how I live. I wouldn't have it any other way!

  11. I think this small step approach really is the key - you need those little victories to keep you going and focused on the bigger picture, especially when feeling that you're deprived a bit or "doing without."

  12. Hi Rhonda, it is good to revise what we do all the time and watch that we are not back sliding. I have lived the simple life most of my life it is just how we were bought up and I have to say my preferred lifestyle. I would if I could afford to set myself up that way live like my Grandparents did, off the land needing only a few essentials from the store. thank you for your wonderful blog it is nice to know that other people out there live as we do. from Judi

  13. This is the same old advice you've been giving since I started following you in 2008. Such good, simple, honest advice that works. Thank you, Rhonda.

    Cheers - Joolz xx

  14. A lovely inspiring post, thank you. Like you say, it takes time and can feel tough denying ones self things at first. Strangely though, after a while the mind starts to follow and eventually one nolonger wants so much. That is such a lovely feeling of acheivement. I agree about buying the best quality one can afford, it does save money in the long run. Pam in Norway

  15. What a great encouraging, practical no-nonsense post. Rhonda at her best.

  16. Thank you, this is a great post, you make me want to start doing more of things you mentioned, and when I read your blog I feel like I might be able to...Thank you again. Woo xx

  17. This post is so encouraging to me! I printed and hung it where I will see it often to help keep me focused. We managed to lower our electricity bill by $10 last month just by turning off fans and unplugging appliances! Your comment about not rewarding myself after a rough patch hit home...it will be my focus this month.
    Can you elaborate on finding value for money not penny pinching? I think I get it, but my mind keeps turning it over and needs a little help sorting it out ;)
    I appreciate you so much, Rhonda!
    Hugs from NM

  18. This post is so true Rhonda, and you've been able to impart the thought beautifully. My favorite part is: "cutting back is more about getting value for money instead of buying the cheapest of everything." This was a lesson learned several years ago for us too. Partly for environmental reasons and partly for financial ones. We research our purchases and price is not the first thing we look at, but customer feedback and reputation come first. In the end I'm happier with the performance and less likely to have to replace it soon. Although sometimes the best thing is inexpensive too. I cook with my grandmother's cast-iron skillet most nights. She got it as a wedding gift when she married my grandfather back in 1934. Now THAT'S some quality!

    Thank you for sharing this post.

    ~Taylor-Made Homestead~

  19. I am so envious that you can grow your vegetables out in the open with no protection from the pests. I have 8 fully enclosed raised beds which keep out the possums and birds but the rats still get in. Last night they ate over 50 large carrots, so you can imagine the problem. Yes, I do put out bait, but when it rains the bait turns into soup! The rats won't touch the water-proof wax blocks, who can blame them when there are so many fresh juicy carrots! I'm almost ready to give up on growing vegetables after nearly 50 years.

  20. Tag Rhonda, I just found you looking up whether or not I could safely use old jars for homemade jam. My children were suddenly hankering for homemade nectarine jam and I came across your canning instructions. I have been reading as much as I can from the archives- thank you! I chose to stay at home ( leaving a PhD program) when I was pregnant with my first daughter over 18 yrs ago. We decided someone needed to be the homemaker, and since I also wanted to nurse her, The simple choice was me. Long story short, I am so relieved to hear someone encouraging or at least proudly defending what we do! My kids (18,15,13) have been homeschooled for the last five years and we get compliments about our family all the time. Guess what? I am really sure me being home for them did most of the polite/intelligent/ compassionate stuff others see and mention.

    Oh- and funny in one older post you mentioned dear Hanno wanting things to be perfect all the time. My father was from Germany and I have this problem. Marrying a Lebanese man, and living in Lebanon for the past 13 yrs has forced me to loosen up- although my kids and husband do joke with me about my OCD type behavior. I just wanted to thank you, and also mention your candid and warm posts on aging have also been very helpful to me as I move into the about to leave the nest stage with my precious girls. As you said, very few positive views of this part of our lives. Take care and thanks again for so many useful articles, your presence is such a blessing.

  21. Hi Rhonda, As always I really enjoyed reading your post today. I must say that I was proud of myself when checking all the points you mentioned and seeing that I have been a "good student". Except for the gardening as I am hopeless (with the help of possums and other "neighbours"), nearly nothing grows here... Still I persist planting for pleasure and whatever grows is a bonus, it's a bit survival of the fittest in my garden.

    I just wanted to add one more economy : washing one's hair with bicarb soda and vinegar. I remember you talking about it in one of your posts, and it has taken years for me to be ready, but I switched to it about 3 months ago and my hair looks sooooo much better and is healthier. No more greasy hair after 2-3 days, no more costly "magical" products. It took time for me to reach this point but what a revelation ! Thank you for every single advice and your wise words.
    Happy Corinne in the Blue Mountains

    1. Everyone is ready in their own time, Corinne. I'm pleased you tried it and it's working for you. :- )

  22. An excellent post Rhonda. The extensive list is a good reminder of the many ways that I can reduce spending that I might have let slip by the wayside. And new ways too. I have the pleasure of growing my own veggies in the allotment, and the time (being retired) that I can cook from scratch. I use your 'recipe' from your book for my washing liquid. …. but I still need to hone my skills and that is where your list comes in. I love living the simple life and the peace of mind that comes with it. I don't feel that I'm missing out on anything. Thank you for sharing. Jean



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