A comfortable place to grow old

When we first moved into our home we made quite a few changes. We pulled up carpets, built a new kitchen, added another bedroom and bathroom and built verandahs front and back. Fences went up. We also put in gardens and a chook house and Hanno got a big shed to house his tools, garden equipment and any future cars our sons might have. We, although we didn't know it at the time, were getting ready to live more simply and our house and land were evolving with us.



Our standard brick house was built in the 1980s and while it kept us warm and dry, there was something wrong that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Later on I realised that our house didn't suit the type of people we were. I wanted a productive home and our house just wanted us to sit back and take it easy. When we moved here we had a lot of junk we needed to store but then we decluttered and decided to stop shopping for junk and that made quite a difference. It gave us more space.

The thing that made the biggest difference though, and it didn't require us to spend a cent, was to repurpose the new spaces to suit the way we lived. I needed cupboards for my stockpile and preserving jars. I needed space to store ingredients for soap and laundry liquid and space to sew and mend. By moving things around, decluttering and thinking in a more mindful and organised way, all those spaces, and more, were created. Our evolution had begun.


I couldn't remember my mother or grandmother needing to store anything that was surplus to their needs. However, I remembered that when the seasons changed, mum would store away either the winter or summer clothes were weren't using.  In those days people didn't have extra money or credit cards so there was not much junk using valuable space in cupboards and rooms. After decluttering and stopping mindless shopping, our junk problem was resolved and we had space for everything we had. I also changed a few things in the kitchen and laundry because they were quite difficult to work in. Those changes made a difference to how I worked and how I felt about working. It started to feel good, I was beginning to see a purpose.


We all have different circumstances and expectations but all of us can benefit from changing our living space to suit how we live. For instance, if you do a lot of sewing, you should have a space to store your equipment and fabrics; if you write or paint, you should have a quiet space to do it; if you bake a lot, have all your ingredients and equipment close to where you work. Outside, your mower and garden tools will serve you well if they're stored in a space out of the weather and close to a work bench were you can carry out maintenance.

I guess the obvious and easy change for us was to create garden beds and build a chook house. That change alone, while not costing the earth, equipped us to produce fresh food right in our backyard. There are many changes you might make, you just have to look at the space around you in a creative way and with a focus on sustainability.


Out in the back yard, along with the gardens and chickens, you could think about water tanks or barrels. If you don't have the finances for that now, it might be something worth saving for if your climate is fairly dry, if you get all your annual rain in a few months, or if you have a vegetable garden. And even if you don't have the money for big tanks right now, see if you can set up a system whereby you collect rainwater when it rains. In addition to the 15,000 litres of rainwater we store here in two tanks, we have a couple of 200 litre tubs that, when full, can keep our garden going for a week. We just fill the watering cans or buckets from the tubs and transfer the water to the garden. It's more work than hosing, but we don't mind carting our harvested water the short distance. Make sure you set up your collector tanks close to where it will be used. Mosquitoes take about 10 - 14 days, depending on the type, to go from egg to mosquito. Harvesting the water within a ten day period will kill the larvae before they fully develop. Or, you could just scoop the larvae out with a fine fish net.


I think one of the downsides of many modern homes is the lack of cupboard space. Think creatively about your cupboards, if you have a big cupboard near your kitchen, or in the laundry or garage, that may suit your stockpile better than what is currently in it. Move pots and pans, baking supplies, tea and coffee making supplies close to where they're used. Organising your kitchen well will save you a lot of time and effort. It just takes an hour or so to think about how you work in your kitchen and then moving things closer to where they're needed.


Never forget to make changes with you and your family in mind, so make a space to sit with your tea and coffee. That space might also serve well as the place you talk quietly with your partner, read to the children, write letters, knit or stitch. You need a space like this just as you need a place to store your linens or groceries. Make the house suit you, not the other way around.


Modifying your home like this will make life easier. Make changes that suit the type of family you are. Your home is your biggest financial asset and one of the key tools you have to help you live according to your values, to raise your family in a safe and wholesome place and the one place where you can reinvent yourself and become a productive gardener, a committed sewer and knitter, a fermenter, baker, country cook or anything else you heart desires. Making a few adjustments to make it work as it should and have it accommodate the activities of your family, will make living easier. There will be some changes that cost money, just do them as the money becomes available, but many changes will cost only the effort you put in to make them happen.


When our modifications started working for us it changed the way we used our house and helped us change the way we live. Eventually I would write in my Down to Earth book: "I guess you would say we're retired but we still work almost every day, making bread, jams, relish, and soap, cooking from scratch, growing vegetables, recycling and mending what we use in our home. We aim to live productive lives ... we're pleased to be homebodies, finding satisfaction in our simple home and excitement and adventure in a backyard full of fruit, vegetables, chicken and wildlife. Rhythms, seasons and daylight rather than clocks, calendars and investment portfolios guide our days. We are in a fortunate position to be able to live this way and we both find it very satisfying to be active at this stage of life and feel enriched by what we do."  The way we live now came from all those early changes we made to make our home an easier place to work in and a comfortable place to grow old.

If you haven't modified spaces in your home yet, if you don't feel that your home really suits you, work out what you can do and start changing your life.  Take it slow and make some small steps. It really is a great kick start and it might be the thing you need to set you on track to a slower, simpler life.

30 comments

  1. This is a timely post for me - there are a couple of things I want to change in the house now that I'm retired- a bedroom to be turned into a craft room in due course and a small, comfy armchair to be put in the kitchen near the French doors which give such good light for reading or sewing. There's no need to rush - we don't have a suitable chair elsewhere in the house so I am keeping an eye on charity shops and sales until I find the right one at an affordable price. Nothing earth shattering or dramatic but small changes can make life more comfortable and suitable for the stage we're in now. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. PennyP if you live in Australia there is a fantastic online resource of free stuff called Gumtree freebies. You will find a lot of rubbish there but most days also plenty of good stuff handy to where you live.
      Although I have been looking for one thing that was commonly listed, now seemingly not available for free. But I know plenty of armchairs make it to the list.
      People give stuff away for all sorts of reasons. Often it just needs a good thorough clean or perfectly good but it might be out of date to the latest fashion.

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  2. I went to the library yesterday and looked for a book on cozy homemaking. Didn't find it, but I've found your blog and I think it will do very well.

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    1. You're very welcome here, Forsythia. Welcome. Both my big books reflect my blog and my philosophy, maybe you could ask your library to stock them. They're over there --->

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  3. Great advice, my house is almost everything I'm not and doesn't feel at all like mine, even though we've lived here 18 years now.
    Perhaps it's time I made some small changes to make it a place I like to be rather than just my work place. I want to move, closer to town and people, it's lonely here now the children are grown, so don't really want to spend money on changes that are purely personal. But maybe I can still make it feel more like home.
    cheers Kate

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    1. All I can say to you is, unless there is a compelling reason to stay a little longer, move now. We were staying put to give our son a familiar home to come back to during university, but realised we were struggling. We saw a house we liked and put ours up for sale and moved in less than 4 months. Our son assured us that home was not the house, but us and home was wherever we were.

      How lucky we moved, my husband was taken very ill 3 months after we moved and he would not have coped in our old house.

      In the last 3 years there has been a lot of upheaval with extra work needed to accommodate my husband's I'll health, but the joy of living in the right house is incredible. I barely remember what it was like to live in the wrong house for 30 years.

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  4. We are setting our home for our old age - we are in our early 60's but needing an extension on the house to give us a proper laundry space (currently stuck in a small cupboard in the hallway) and also a kitchen with workable space and storage as well as a 'wheel chair friendly toilet' for later on we embarked on many discussions about how to make the new extension take us through until our lives are over. I am sure that when the spaces have been created there will be some fine tuning but for the most part we are happy with what we are going to have built. I opted for an extra small room in the center of the house currently called a walk in linen cupboard for want of a better name but the room will have a built in linen cupboard on one end with cupboard doors then free standing shelves to store my craft items and yarn (could be used for ride a long toys for grand children to ride around the 'L' shaped veranda or aids we need when we are old and cranky) as well as brooms etc. We also have a walk in pantry - no overhead cupboards in the kitchen because I am on the short side and have trouble accessing them. Our extension will have all rooms built but fitting the walk in robe, pantry and linen cupboard will be left until we are sure of space and how we intend using them. I might even get a little spot in the linen cupboard to set up the sewing machine, one never knows. Next year we will turn our thoughts to the outside and the garden. Builders are not that careful and we didn't want to be worrying about the garden while they were doing their work. Lynette

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  5. I need to do more decluttering in my kitchen. I have very little cabinet space, but love my large, old fashioned, airy kitchen. I was lucky that there was already a chicken coop here when I bought the cottage. Planting fruits and vegetables has really given this place a feeling of home and comfort. I also really enjoy doing my writing work from home, and watching the birds and butterflies out my window. Thanks for sharing. You've got me thinking...

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  6. A lovely post Rhonda, that really resonates with me. I've recently changed the spare bedroom, that is rarely used for guests, to accommodate an extension of kitchen things, store room for our seasonal produce, cheese fridge,honey, beekeeping supplies. I donated the double bed to a local charity shop and found a free couch/sofa bed on-line. That room is now much more functional and can still accommodate two guests by moving a few things out of the way. Function over fashion for me. XX

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  7. What a great post I really enjoyed reading it. I'm so excited because after a year of not having chickens I bought a new affordable chicken coop from Aldi today [after the last one deteriorated after one house move and 8 years] so my kids and I will put it together today and get some new chickens over the weekend. Looking forward to daily fresh eggs again. One big change this time is to fence them off on one side of our small backyard. I was over all the chicken poop on our entertainment area. Go figure they have lovely green lawn to walk on and they used to sit at my back door but poop everywhere so I had had enough when we got down to our last chicken. This time they will have a grass run and their coop and I will have the entertainment area for humans.

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    1. That's good news, Kathy. Chooks will always stay as close as they can to where the good food comes from, ie your back door. When you have gardens and chooks, the first thing you should do is fence off. So you've done that now. Well done and good luck with the new peeps.

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  8. Hi from the SW U.S., Rhonda :-)
    This was beautiful and so inspiring.
    I'm 45 yrs.old. We are a one income family, have no savings, pantry's not stocked. Living pay-check-to-pay-check. We do own our home and have almost a 1/4 of an acre to work with. I long to help us live a sustainable, simple life. Comfortably prepped for growing old. But I feel so overwhelmed with where to even start. Feeling short on time and upset for not beginning so much earlier in life. Will your book(s) help with steps on where to start coming from zero? If so, which should I start with?
    Thanks so much-
    Much love,
    Kellylynn

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    1. I should have added that our house needs repairs. Addressing the leaking roof would probably be the best place to start....

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    2. Hello Kellylynn and welcome. I'm happy to help you so you don't have to buy my books. Maybe you can ask your local library to stock them (they're available in the US), but in the meantime, let's start here.

      Later in the week I'll write another post that will hopefully help you on your way to a simpler life. Can you answer these questions for me please:
      When you say you own your home, does that mean you have no mortgage?
      I'm guessing you live in southern California and it's been drought-stricken lately. Do you have access to water for a garden?
      Is it you or your partner with the paid job?
      When you say 'one-income family' I'm guessing you have children.
      What are your neighbours like?
      Do you have tools like spades, rakes, garden hose, sewing machine etc.?
      Can you sew or knit?

      Don't worry about starting later, I was in my 50s and Hanno in his 60s when we started. Just give me the info above and I'll see what I can come up with.

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    3. Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for welcoming me, Rhonda :-)
      How very kind of you. I will ask my library about getting your books, but am most willing to buy them. I know you're very busy and want to give in support.

      I'm really excited about your upcoming post with ways to start a simpler life!

      To answer your questions:
      -Yes, no mortgage. We own. Just pay our yearly taxes. Like I mentioned, it needs repairs- the roof. An uncompleted addition- it was a 2 car garage converted into two bedrooms and an extra living space that my husband made for our older kids. That have since moved out. We had a cement pipe under the house that went to the second (master bedroom) bathroom crack so we've been working on converting that into an office for me. Flooring needs to be replaced, cupboards are falling off, painting and other cosmetics stuff that can wait. Sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm thankful that we have a home.
      -I'm so sorry, our location was a typo on my part. I left out an important word-Texas. We are in SW Texas. I meant to delete U.S.
      -Yes, we have access to water from a spout in our backyard.
      My husband (52 yrs.old) is the one working. He is a security guard.
      -We are a homeschooling (because of our faith, learning disabilities, and terrible education system) family with 2 children still at home (ages 13 and 6)
      -Our neighbors are not very social. We have lived here for going on 19 years and haven't had anyone except my invitations for tea/coffee.
      -I do have the tools you mentioned! :-)
      -I can sew a little on my machine, but not knit/crochet....yet :-)

      I am willing to work hard, Rhonda. I'm just overwhelmed with where to start. There are so many directions to go and things to get started, the frustration makes me feel frozen.

      I'm very grateful for your reply-
      Thank you,
      Kellylynn

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  9. I'm trying to decrease my junk trouble.
    Coffee is on

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  10. Thank you, Rhonda. I needed to read this as six months in at our very first home, and me being 60 this year, there's a restlessness within to go through each room and space and think hard about whether it's serving me or whether I am serving it.

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    1. Excellent! Jenny, I think you may be surprised at some of the things that present themselves. This is not easy but I'm pretty sure you'll come out at the other end feeling much more settled and optimistic. Good luck.

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  11. While waiting for our current house to sell, we are making small adjustments to make life easier and less stressful. I am only in my 40's, but cronic illness is eating away my muscles and causing imobility and a lot of pain. One small helpful thing, was moving all the heavy things in the kitchen up to a better hight. Less lifting and struggle, more energy for homemade meals. Pam

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    1. Well done Pam. It was probably difficult for you to move those heavy things but I'm sure it will help you in the coming weeks. Good luck with the house sale and your health. xx

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  12. Yes , it's that time of the year isn't it ? Spring cleaning , letting in the light ....home making is wonderful ! I can almost smell your freshly baked bread ...mmmmm . hugs Debbie x

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  13. This is so true! The thing I've noticed with moving house almost two-years ago is it actually takes some time to see how we will use the space. So while we might want to jump into home improvements, or simply allocate a certain cupboard to specific items, that can change over time. I recently reassessed how we use our pantry, for example, and found by rearranging and regrouping certain items, it's now much easier to find things and utilise the space we have. Next step, the laundry.
    x

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  14. Please Rhonda, can you get translation back in service ? ;) Thanks

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    1. It's still in the side bar. I didn't take it out.

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  15. an awesome post, got my thinking cap on, i still haven't settled here properly & am thinking maybe i need to rearrange a few things, mmm
    thanx for sharing

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  16. This is a wonderful post. My husband and I are looking at a potential move from the SE United States to the NW Untied States for his job (3,000 mile journey). Knowing that we will not have the size of house we have now, this has me thinking about decluttering and simplifying our lives. This includes passing family heirlooms onto relatives if they want it. I feel relieved to be getting rid of a lot of things.

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  17. I am so grateful we started our simple living journey 25 years ago. the work along the way seemed so overwhelming. As I look around though, we just did it in little bites and now, I love what we've created. Every inch of dirt grows food or flowers. Every space in our home serves us, our interests and our needs. We have been in this moderate 1 level home for 28 years and will be here until the end as we've readied it for our older years. We're just 57 now.

    I share this to encourage everyone to start with a single step, a single change. They add up over the years and you CAN achieve your goals. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small successes along the way. That first meal out of your first garden bed? Priceless!

    Every change begins with a single step.

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  18. It is so enjoyable to read your post Rhonda. It also reminds me to work away at decluttering which isn't easy for some things which we are attached to sentimentally but don't need or use. I also use one of the bedrooms now, minus the bed, as my study, sewing room etc. Best wishes, Pauline

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