Simple life isn't a product

It can be a struggle adjusting to a simpler life. Some people think that the way I live is THE way and that is just not true. I live as I do because it makes me happy, it makes sense to me, I've got time to do a lot of things in my home, I want to live in a productive home and I want to stay interested and engaged as I move into older age.  If I were 40 years younger my priorities would be different and the way I lived my simple life would reflect that.


At every stage of life, from very young to very old, there will be a way to configure your life and home to help you live well within the framework of your values. Each stage is different and you will change and grow through those changes.  I am a retired woman, almost 70, no debt, with the luxury of time. I freely choose to live without holidays, we buy the best quality we can afford so that it lasts longer, we gave up magazines and pay TV, don't have Netflix and most of the time, we make do with what we have. But I didn't start living this life that way. 

We live on a pension now but we worked hard to set ourselves up before we received it so we would be able to manage well into our old age on what we have. I know that is not the case for a lot of people. Many people have far more than we do and many have less and struggle from week to week. I am grateful I had the opportunity make the choice to simplify. We don't have a lot of money but we have enough and that is all we need.




There was a comment from a new (to me) reader a couple of days ago. I followed the link to her blog to read that she is dealing with this very thing. She is struggling to fit modern life in with simple life. This was never a problem for me because I chose to live a slow simple life in a modern context and didn't want to return to the old times. In my opinion, anyone who yearns for the 1950s wasn't there to experience the sexism that was commonplace then. Our society is better now than it was then. It was slower back then, we knew our neighbours and spent time with family and friends, but there is more freedom and opportunity now, especially for woman and girls. The advances we've made since the 50s make me grateful to live now but I cherry pick some good parts of the old days - mainly living debt-free, cooking from scratch and homemade cleaners - and incorporate them into my daily life.


When I moved away from paid work I had the time to become more productive. I'd always been a gardener so we grew fruit and vegetables, and kept chickens because I wanted to produce as much as I could in the backyard. I wanted to use the land we owned and not just the house. I wanted to reduce the number of chemicals we lived with so I started making my own cleaning products and laundry liquid.  I shopped in a different way and stockpiled because we had less money coming in and needed to save every penny we could.  I still do all those things because I enjoy that lifestyle, it keeps me busy and interested in daily life. There is always something to do and I don't want to be a 70 year old who is bored and thinks there is nothing to do.


We have the trappings of modern life here and it makes what we do easier, but we would never have gone into debt to buy what we have. If we can't pay cash, we don't buy it. We both have phones because it's easier to keep track when one of us is away from home; they help keep us safe as well as being our phones. I communicate to you via a computer, I've used a computer every day since 1988. We have solar panels and a solar hot water system - both vast improvements in the old electrical and gas technology. We have a poly tank that holds 10,000 litres of water which is an improvement on the old 5,000 litre corrugated iron tank we installed 20 years ago when we first arrived here. I have a self cleaning oven, dishwasher, bread machine, stick vacuum cleaner, an ironing press and iron - all modern appliances that help us live the way we choose.


But if I were 40 years younger with two small children, many of my choices would be different.  I'd still be supporting my simple life values but my choices would be appropriate for the life I was living then. I'd have less time to do many of the productive things I do now but I'd have a firm base of simple chores I'd carry out. I'd make laundry liquid because it does an excellent job, it contains fewer chemicals than modern washing products and it's cheaper. I'd take food and drinks with me when I went out, I'd pay off any debt I had. I'd cook from scratch, cooking double portions when I could so I had a supply of home cooked meals in the freezer for those times when I just didn't have the time or energy to cook after work.


Life isn't always about practicalities. We can also use our homes as a safe and stable base where we build relationships and teach our children how to be decent people. That home base provides a secure space in which we all can be the people we are, interact with those around us and while we do that we learn (and teach) kindness, generosity, courage, strength, respect, loyalty, honesty, self-control and individuality as well as how to be part of a family and a community.


Simple life isn't a product, it's a creation that we all make in different ways. Many of us have the chance to choose how we live and what we do each day. That will be different at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80, and it's always changing to reflect how we earn a living, the amount of debt we have, our children and parents, how much time, strength and energy we have, and a hundred other considerations. Don't expect life to be one thing that remains the same. It's okay to be different. It's okay to do things your friends and neighbours don't do. If it's working for you, keep at it. Change helps you shed your old ways and replace them with values that support you in your chosen life. It also gives you the opportunity to improve and grow. In the end we become who we are and settle into life with who and what we love. It's only when you look back you notice just how much you changed over the years and how you reacted to different stages.

32 comments

  1. Although I read every single post, I rarely ever comment, but I felt compelled to let you know that this is a very timely reminder. Thank you for these words of wisdom, Rhonda!

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  2. How true! I am a little oder than you and we find our lives have changed as we got older we noi longer run an allotment nor do we have chickens - we get help for the garden chores we cannot any longer do ourselves but otherwise live much as you do. We are happy with our way of living even if our priorities are not the same as other people's nor even the same as our own were years ago. Keep up the good work and thanks for such an interesting blog.

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  3. You have a lovely blog and I am so glad I found it. I too am trying to move to a simpler life, but right now it is not so simple. I love to sew and make do and I love to cook and make from scratch,garden and raise chickens. I am going to love reading your posts and catching up.

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  4. Thanks Rhonda, beautifully written, as usual. Your words are so true and ones that I try and live by. We are trying to live a simple small life, and do so most of the time. We both love to travel and have just been on our holiday of a lifetime. We lived simply and saved every penny we could so we could afford this luxury. Living simply isn't about deprivation, is it? It's about doing what brings you joy and contentment, you can't buy that at the shops. Have a lovely day.
    Fi

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  5. Now that we live on disability after my husband's brain injury we have enough too and that is all we need. We have been blessed to own a vacation house in partnership for the last 17 years so we do have time away at very little cost since we own our share debt free. That area lives at a different pace than our full time home and people still sit on their porches and wave as we drive by and stop and talk to their neighbors when they see them out in public. The pace of life is relaxed and easy. That is where we plan to make our retirement home as we enjoy the slower pace and little traffic. So perhaps some would just enjoy living in a different location. We thought we would always live in this house but realized we don't have to! We don't have to live where there are traffic jams and air traffic goes over our house all night. Just my thoughts!

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  6. I enjoyed this post, the commonsense you've shared. Thanks Rhonda.

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  7. Very well said! Thank you for this post, it rings so true and I hope that it helps people find their way.

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  8. I enjoyed reading your excellent post. My parents lived exactly as you are living now, and they were great role models for my husband and I and for our children... So living simply and being content with your lot in life is a wonder gift to new generations.

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  9. I love your cute little table runner! Charming.

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  10. Rhonda, my husband is turning 70 later this year. Yesterday I watched him leap over the railings around our outdoor area in order to dash into the yard and fix something. He amazes me. Not even in my teens could I have leapt over those railings - though in fairness my legs are shorter. (Well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

    This post really resonated with me Rhonda. Those of us pursuing what is known as the simple life are all individuals with different values, strengths, weaknesses, talents and interests. So of course our lives are going to be different to one degree or another. The beauty of it is that we can become part of a community that supports and inspires one another, and celebrate the different ways in which we achieve our simple living goals and desires.

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  11. Beautifully written Rhonda and a very timely reminder that we are all at different stages in our lives and we mustn't expect to be at the same "place in life" as everyone else. Cheers Lyndie

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  12. A lovely gentle reminder to live the life that works for you and the season that you are in. I'm a SAHM with 2 kids under 4 and its just not possible to do everything but I choose to focus on a few areas and make compromises in others. My priorities in this season are to cook from scratch, grow what I can and parent with awareness. What I can achieve changes on a daily basis but I try and keep my values/priorities in the front of my mind and do what I can rather than focus on what I can't do. I'm getting better at being kind to myself in this area. Your words are always so wise Rhonda, thank you.
    Cheers, Laura

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  13. Thankyou Rhonda for such a deep & thought provoking post.
    Such a pity many younger folks wont read it or wont understand that they are frittering away the best years of their life & wasting their hard earned on momentary luxuries.
    I'm now on a pension & still pay a mortgage out of it.
    But I wouldn't give up my acreage for anything.
    I'm prepared to do without pretty much everything most others see as essentials in order to pay a mortgage on a piece of land with a modest house that makes me happy, keeps me active & fit, allows me to grow my food & separates me well enough from noisy neighbours.
    The world is just outside my front gate should I wish to join it! On occasion I do join in with the rest of the world, but it is always a great feeling to come home to chemical free simplicity, peace & quiet!

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  14. Great post, Rhonda. I really resonate with your statement; simple life isn't a product, it's a creation. It definitely ebbs and flows as we grow and change. In my twenties homemaking and simple living were not on my radar. Today, in my thirties, they fill me with so much joy and fulfillment that I can't imagine life without them.

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  15. Thank you again Rhonda. I have found the same thing. We have settled into a way of life that we are comfortable with. This has developed over our 29 years of marriage. Some of the most transformative stages have been in the last 2 months! We continue to tweak and adapt because life throws curve balls and also because being open to change and learning keeps us active. Every now and then I reflect and regroup by reading your books and visiting like minded, inspiring blogs. This helps me remain content and focused on my core values when surrounded by the must have culture coming at us through some media.
    As an aside your bed and bedding looks so pretty and cosy.

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  16. I really like how you always point out that one persons way of living simply will look different to another's. It is all up to your circumstances and time of your life. Beautiful post and I love your made up bed, I have the very same patchwork cover!

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  17. "We have enough..." That is one of my core values (having enough) and we are working hard to get to that point.

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  18. We are both very newly retired, at ages 69 and 65 in the US. Child a year out of college, house paid off. We choose, and have chosen for years, to do things ourselves that others pay someone to do for them. Hubby mows grass, fixes the tractor, he does some work on the cars, he painted the siding this summer, I've never had a house cleaner. We do cook at home most of the time, but eat out with friends or when circumstances, such as meetings some distance from home, make it a reasonable choice. I'm sure we'll make changes in what we do going forward.

    Friends of ours have made other choices and think (I think) that we are kind of looney. They've made their choices, and we've made ours. What surprises me is how many times they seem to choose to attend some (rather costly) event out of boredom, rather than out of sincere interest.

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  19. Thank you Rhonda, we recently moved to become debt free before retiring and going on the pension. We now life very comfortable and even manage to save enough to do the traveling we love. Thank you for inspiring us to live simply and enjoy the journey.

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  20. Thank you for another great post. We are still partway on the journey to a simpler life and at this stage of our lives that's fine. We hope very much to do more for ourselves when we have retired and every new skill we learn will help in the future. The kindness and good sense in your blog is a comfort to me in the hurly burly of life.

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  21. I love this lifestyle, making and growing many things myself. I so agree with your comment about not wanting to be a 70 year old who is bored and thinks there's nothing to do. Though it's many other things, this life is always interesting! I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed listening to the link you put up last post. Hearing your voice made it seem like you're not really all that far from here.

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  22. Your post is beautiful as always... I am trying so hard to simplify my life ..I am getting there slowly, thank you for your words of wisdom

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  23. My mom lived with us in her late 70's up until she died. I would often peek into her room if I hadn't seen her in a bit to make sure she was okay. Often, she'd have a plastic crate open, skeins of yarn on every surface, including her chair arms, and a pattern teetering on her lap. I'd say, "What are you doing?" and she'd answer, "I'm very busy. I have so much to do today!" That always made me smile. In my whole life, I never saw my mom bored. I hope I'm the same. So far, so good!

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    1. this comment will stay with me, thankyou.

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  24. Bula from Fiji, Rhonda! Thanks for this post. I'm so glad you don't idealize the past because every age has its challenges. I'm a working mother in my early 30s, with a toddler and another one on the way while I look after my aging father. At the moment, I'm struggling to find the balance between living the simple life and providing all their needs. So I just do what I can at this season of my life: When I shop, I buy what's on special and adjust my weekly menu plan accordingly, I take the bus to work everyday, and I mend what I have. Oftentimes, I feel like I'm not doing enough but your post reassured me that this stage of my life is temporary, and the way I live will change with my circumstances.

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  25. Love your post it's a comfort and a reminder that I am in the right path . I also try to live a simple life but sometimes think to myself am I just making things hard for myself . But when I butter my home made bread or slice off a piece of peppermint homemade soap I smile and think to myself it's so worth it

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  26. I also grew up in the fifties. My experience was a little different from yours but then we would all say that. I did not feel that women were regarded as inferior by the men in my family. They just didn't think that way. Working outside the home was regarded as a necessity to provide for the family, not as a badge of being better. Sometimes Mum worked but mostly not. Mostly 1 sister worked and sometimes didn't. Another sister did some part-time work. Both my grandmothers worked as they were both widowed with young families and not from rich backgrounds. The real reason for "equality" seen as paid work has been cheap energy and a desire on the part of many to keep wartime production levels racing on to make some very rich indeed. Just a born again cynic. Do enjoy your blog and always find something to think about or be reminded of.

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    1. Hi Jill, good to see you again. I'm glad your menfolk didn't think that way, my father and grandfather didn't either and my mother worked to bring in extra money when I was growing up. But in the general population women weren't paid equal pay for the same work as a man, and still aren't, university courses available to women were restricted and young women had to resign from the public service when they married, whether they wanted to or not.

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  27. This is a beautiful post, thank you. I'm a new reader to your blog and I'm going to enjoy catching up on all the posts.

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  28. I found your post very comforting as I am struggling to accept that I have to change our lifestyle because of my changing health. Looking at this through your eyes I've realised it's not an admission of failure but a necessary adaptation to new conditions.
    Maybe now I can tackle it in a new way; not as an end to lots of things we can no longer do but as some exciting new experiences which will allow us to live in a more simple style. We need not feel guilty about what we are letting go but be positive and unapologetic about being choosy how we spend our time.
    This month will see us planning and enacting a new life.Thank you Rhonda.

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    1. Creating new ways to live the life you want to live is one of the interesting challenges we face as we age or get sick. It's much easier when we're young to be flexible and choose one of the many options in front of us. But as you get older you have fewer options and flexibility isn't always an option. This is an entirely natural thing to do, Beachcomer, and it comes to everyone at various stages of ageing. The only way you avoid it is if you die young. We're the lucky ones but it does take planning and careful thought. Good luck. xx

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  29. Very thoughtful post. I'm 65 and my husband is 67 and he still works full time out of necessity. But we have strived to live a simple life. We garden, I bake bread and almost all our meals are homemade. We keep chickens too. I do think life is different at different ages. I certainly can feel I'm not 50 anymore. But all in all, it is a good life.

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