If you want to live a simpler life - identify your needs

8 January 2020

"Why are those pots upside-down on sticks?" - that's the question I'm asked more than any other. The second most asked question is this: "How can I start to live a simple life?"  Well, that's easy - stop shopping for things you don't need.  Of course, you could also take it one step at a time and start budgeting, menu planning, cooking from scratch, batch cooking, and making your own soap and household cleaners. You could mend your clothes, plant a vegetable garden and keep chickens. You need to keep up to date with your world, I do that via crikey.comThe Guardian and by maintaining a thoughtful connection with my online tribe; and you could lobby your local MP to find out their view of climate change and what they're doing about it. But if you want to start living more sustainably in a way that will help you save money, pay off debt, cut down on paid work or retire early, don't go shopping for "stuff". You don't have to prepare in any way, you don't have to research it, you don't need any special information or skill. You just stop. And you can do that right now. Today.


I shop for food at Aldi, Woolworths and local markets and haven't been in a shopping centre since 2016 - when I was on my last book tour. I stopped shopping in department stores years earlier and if I need to replace something in my home, I make do with what I already have or try to find it second hand. If that fails, I'll make a quick trip to Ikea, or shop online and purchase that single item without looking to see if there is anything else I want.  The notable exception to that is if I'm upgrading an electrical appliance. Then I make sure I get the most energy-efficient appliance and hopefully something that can be repaired. I'm always mindful of having responsibility for what I buy from the moment I buy it until it's worn out - when it goes to landfill. I don't want to live my life knowing I'm adding more to the outrageous mountains of landfill which are not just in my neighbourhood but also in every community across the country. Wanting something because it's fashionable or wanting what I see on TV isn't good enough, in fact it's extremely destructive. If I don't need it, I don't look for it and I continue to live very well without buying things I don't need.  And I'm happy doing that, it actually makes me happy. I have fewer things to look after, more money in the bank for my future and because we have decluttered many times to rid ourselves of past excesses, we have more than enough space for grandkids, visitors and hobbies.


I reckon quite a few people already do this but if you're not, have a think about it. It is definitely a step in the right direction for many, many reasons.


Things are constantly changing here. We learn new skills, drop old ones, add and subtract what we need in our changing lives and all the while, try to live as simply as we can. While we're doing that, we're getting older and losing the ability to do heavier chores while working on ways to remain in our home, enjoy life and nurture our family. As we move closer to our final years - we're both in our 70s and Hanno will be 80 this year, we focus on leaving our land in a better way than we found it. We've been growing food organically here for over 20 years but soil health and backyard wildlife is still something we work at every day.  We both hope to live older lives that are simple, frugal and worthwhile. I write about our methods and show photos of what we do, sharing recipes and ideas, to show that if we can do it, everyone can.


I'm feeling joy and optimism at the thought of living well here at home during the coming year. We're in fairly good health and we have new projects to keep us busy and interested. The fires and the outcomes from them will take all of us Australians a lot of work to put right if we have any chance of returning to some kind of "normal".  If you need a push, my suggestion is that you stop buying "stuff", stop recreational shopping and identify what your wants and needs are.  Then shop only for your needs.  I promise you it will get easier as you go along.


And finally, hello to all the newcomers here at my blog. There's been a big influx over the holiday period. I hope you find what you're looking for here and take what you can to change your life in meaningful ways.  Have a happy 2020 everyone.  ❣️

49 comments

  1. Great post. These fires will hopefully act as major motivator for people to make real and sustainable changes to their lives. We have our own green challenges and a 'year of less' challenge we are working on. As you have found we are also far happier living a simpler more sustainable life. There remains to be far too much consumption though, I hope the message of the environmental impact of that continues to sink in and resonate with the wider community. Because goodness we need it too.

    xx

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  2. Such sensible advice! I am always deeply suspicious of individuals, websites etc. that want me to simplify but first I have to buy something from them - always seemed counter-intuitive.

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    1. Yes, that's crazy. If you have to buy something to start living simply, you're going in the wrong direction.

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  3. Happy New Year to you too, Rhonda. Today I met with Margy to plan for the year for our simple living group so we look forward to some interesting workshops. Of course we always have room for our favourite guest speaker ;-)

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  4. I have been a person who has not wanted to be in the stores for about 20 years now. If i am in town for more than 2 hours i feel stressed. I do shop online but this year i am having a " no spending year" where money will only be spent on the necessities and not on quilting fabric ( have heaps) wool ( ditto), books ( last purchase was Rhonda's The Simple Home- my Christmas present to myself) . I plan to spend less time on the computer. It is not hard to not want to watch a lot of TV with the rubbish on there- and we will see how we go :-) Having a peaceful means much to me

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  5. I've certainly cut down on buying in the last year. I also document my frugal journey over on my blog. I find it helps to write it out and be able to give others advice as you do. My biggest challenge at the moment is thinking ill get a cheap one then it breaks and I have to buy it again. Im slowly moving towards spending more to get quality and reduce on waste also.

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    1. You're right, Jacinta. It pays to buy quality when you're looking for appliances.

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  6. Every year I tell myself I need less and less. Rhonda, you give such sage advice and I love you for it.

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  7. Hello Rhonda, I had to smile, remembering that I was one of the ones who once asked about those upside-down pots. We are loving life without shopping for stuff. Decluttering our house 3rd time round and enjoying it. Too much stuff is so energy draining. So very saddened by the fires your country is batteling with. Really hartbreaking. Though watching from afar, my prayers go to all those affected. Pam in Norway

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    1. Hello dear Pam. You and a few hundred others. LOL Thanks for your kind thoughts. I hope you're well. xx

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  8. Today was my first real day off work this year so far.I am spending the day starting again with your books. Then along came this post,how timely! Thank you.

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    1. Good timing Anne. I hope you find what you're looking for in the books. xx

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  9. We adopted this lifestyle 12 years ago to reduce huge personal debts. After we had cleared those, we started overpaying the mortgage, spurred on by my husband's two life threatening illnesses, surgery and redundancy. (Now back at work thank goodness). We became mortgage free at 53, two months ago and will continue simplifying our lives because we enjoy it. I hate shopping and can't bear clutter. Also, I object to consumerism for environmental reasons.

    Here in the UK, many people are commenting on how dreadful the fires are in Australia and the pictures we see are heartbreaking. Our thoughts are very much with you all at the moment.

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    1. I'm really pleased you cleared your debts, Susan, and that your husband has recovered. My fear is that a lot of people see the fires and don't connect the dots. They represent a tipping point to me. I hope it will be the beginning of a huge turn around in materialism.

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  10. You are right, Rhonda, cutting back and buying only what you need does get much easier over time. Once you start trying to cut back on buying needless stuff the urge to go shopping decreases, removing the temptation to add that special little something to the basket 'because you're worth it'. Shopping is like any addiction, break it and the sense of release you feel is wonderful!

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  11. Thank you for your blog. Just Thank you.
    Patricia/USA

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  12. What ARE those the upside-down pots on stick?

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    1. To stop us losing an eye when we bend over to do something in the garden.

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  13. We've just returned from a long road trip for family reasons,going up through the middle of Victoria,Nsw and QLD.to avoid the fires but it reinforced the heartbreaking drought.Hundeds of enormous trucks carrying hay to Qld, bless you all. It reminds you to treasure every drop of water and home again how precious home family and lovely friends and neighbors are! So good to turn on the 'i'pad after two weeks and catch up with my other favorite neighbor Rhonda x

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    1. I hope all is well in your family, Jenny. I think this summer will have most of us rethinking what we do and how we do it. xx

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  14. Rhonda, I think you are absolutely spot on when you encourage people to stop shopping, it really is at the crux of many of our personal and environmental woes.

    I have kept a little book for many years where I write inspiring quotes and words of wisdom. Here's a quote from your blog (or possibly your first book?) that I wrote down many years ago.

    "Happiness is not on sale at any store, it's a homemade commodity".

    Madeleine

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  15. Hello, Mrs. Hetzel. I got your Down to Earth book for Christmas. I am absolutely loving it. I especially appreciate your "Simple Life Through the Decades" section. It has given me the permission enjoy my children more and teach them how to keep house. This has made me more relaxed in general. Also overhauling the budget with my husband. He is the primary earner so I am putting on the mantle of primary saver. It's just lovely living this way.

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    1. Hello Naomi, please call me Rhonda. Thanks for introducing yourself.

      I'm really pleased the book is helping you. xx

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  16. A great post Rhonda that reminds me to keep looking for ways to simplify. It was lovely to read you feel joy and optimism for the new year! This inspires me no end. Happy 2020!

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  17. Thank you Rhonda for your simple, sound advice...it is revolutionary, profound and worth doing. I hope you and yours are safe during the fires.
    Sincerely,
    Joy
    Mid Atlantic USA (Maryland near Baltimore)

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  18. Hello Rhonda,

    so lovely to read your post today. Thank you for your advice on how to start or continue living a simpler and more meaningful life. Your words of encouragement are much appreciated.
    You have been a source of inspiration since I first started reading your blog a few years ago.

    We have chickens, fruit trees and a vegetable garden. I make bread, fruit bread, bagels, flatbread and baked goods for my family. Some of your recipes have become family favourites and are requested often.
    Our plums and apricots are ripe now so I will be making a plum cake using your recipe and I will try an apricot version as well. Your whole orange cake is still the most popular one here, especially when our blood oranges are ripe.

    Yesterday I made apricot jam with our home grown apricots. So inexpensive to make and so superior in taste and quality to anything available in the shops. Your advice to preserve excess garden produce makes so much sense. It feels very satisfying knowing that we won't have to buy those products.

    There are many delicious savoury dishes that I make using recipes or ideas from your blog.

    Thank you dear Rhonda for all that you continue to share with your readers.

    Best wishes , Maria xx.

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    1. I think I could move straight in with you and your family, Maria. It sounds so comfy and familiar. I'm glad the blog is helping you with the work you do in your home. xx

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  19. I wholly agree with you, we don't need more STUFF! Experiences are what's important, and quality at that.
    Blessings to you and yours in 2020.
    daisy@MapleHill101

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  20. I rarely comment to anything online but this post made me reflect. I'm in year two of creating a home (homestead?) for my older years. The garden is started but had challenges last year. The plans for the little house I'd like to build are evolving but coming closer to fruition. I look at all the stuff I brought out here with me and make plans to haul about half of it back into town to someone's yard sale. I made mozzarella and ricotta cheese for the first time a few weeks ago to go along with homemade pasta and freshly baked bread.

    I've been lamenting how far behind I am from where I wanted to be by this age (60) but when I really stop to think, I'm farther along the path that I thought. Rhonda, thank you so much for the years you have passed along wisdom and ideas. I've been a long time reader but a rare commenter. Your down-to-earth view of life is inspiring - and challenging!

    Thank you - Connie

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    1. It sounds like you're living well there, Connie. And you've probably already worked out that the older you get the less you need and want. Enjoy. xx

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  21. Hello Rhonda.
    As usual your post is great, and you are a great source of inspiration for me.
    Thanks for all this.
    Here in France, we are very attentive to what is happening in Australia.
    I started making bags for kangaroo babies, so i feel like i'm doing something to help...
    Best wishes to you and Hanno

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    1. The fires are heart breaking, Pat. The winds have whipped the fires up again this afternoon and we're expecting more losses overnight. Thanks for helping our native animals, they need all the help they can get. xx

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  22. Hi Rhonda :)

    I've just found your blog after reading your book 'down to earth - a guide to simple living' & I really wanted to thank you for sharing so much wonderful information, as well as mindsets behind things. I've read A LOT of different books regarding minimalism, simple living, low waste, low impact etc. and although they've all had great advice & information, I really resonated with your words.

    I'm a 28 year old stay at home wife, my husband and I live off his single income. We live in Victoria, Australia (so nice to find fellow Aussie advice, our climate & lifestyle is a bit different to other places). As a crafting & gardening enthusiast I've found I do quite a lot of simple living things already, but it never quite felt like enough... there was one part in your book that really spoke to me...
    "housework never ends, so don't try to finish it" (that entire chapter really)

    I've tried so many different cleaning routines & ideas, schedules etc. but breaking it down to do 1 task in a few categories... (dishes, pets, laundry etc.) has had a huge impact on the way I live day to day. I do suffer from depression, ptsd & anxiety, so some days its harder than others, but even on the less good days I can manage this new routine/way of thinking. So thank you, so much for helping make my life a bit easier & a lot better :)

    I'll definitely be keeping an eye on your blog from now on :)

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    1. Hello Ash, I'm really pleased the book helped you change your mindset and organise your work schedule. Understanding how YOU fit into your housework really is a huge step in making it all happen. It looks like you've done that and are now moving on to creating the life you want for your family. Good luck with it and yes, make sure you come back here and read through what's already here and what I'll add in the coming months.

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  23. Why *Are* the pots upside down?

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  24. Your home cooking looks delicious. I do a lot of subtracting, too. My dad died recently, and I am the only one who appreciates and wants to care for the antiques. They are so well made. He has lots of glass food storage containers for leftovers, too. They are all different sizes. I'm even wearing the wool and alpaca hats that I knit for him. (He was getting cold watching his grandsons' soccer games.) He lived frugally until age 88, at home.

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  25. Rhonda having followed you for so many years and having read all your books, this is one of the best posts I have read. With both my husband and I at the age of both you and Hanna it brought reality to us both. Please keep posting as we grow old with you. I cannot thank you enough. We are still people as we grow older and we still want to live our life at the fullest. Rhonda you are inspiring us all to keep valuing and enjoying our life with a purpose xx

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  26. I always buy second hand whenever i can , You can still have a nice home if you pay a few pounds for the items that you want , i want to try and grow more food this year all i have at the moment are a couple of apple trees and some herbs xxx

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  27. Happy New Year to you too Rhonda and Hanno!
    What a good way to start the New Year with a timely reminder about what is important in life. It´s about freedom in many ways isn´t it? Freedom from debt as soon as possible in life, freedom from trends in fashion and housing, freedom from those whose business it is to separate us from our hard-earned incomes and influence our daily living. The simple life gives us control over our lives. Maybe it has to be done in stages but the rewards are all the sweeter for that. Thank you for all the encouragement.

    Our hearts go out to Australia and we´ll be making a donation. Having friends living there - and soon family, we´ve followed the news carefully. May it end soon and may lessons be learned and action taken.
    Ramona/Sweden xx

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  28. Rhonda, just want you to know that you and your family and your country and all have been in our thoughts and certainly in our prayers. Thinking about the loss of so many precious little animals hurts my heart too. The post today is so right on. Instead of buying and bringing more and more into our home, we are getting rid of as much as we can. Everything that we donate, share or sale makes us feel lighter and lighter! Blessings to you. Carolyn in Florida

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  29. Happy 2020 to you and your family Rhonda. Thank you once again for your blog and for reminding us what's important in this life. :)

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  30. Great advice here, especially for those approaching retirement. Don't know if you're aware of local 'Buy Nothing' groups on Facebook? People post photos of things on there that they are getting rid of, they give them away for free to whoever wants them in the group. Sort of like a virtuous circle; one persons trash is another's treasure.

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  31. Yes I think its just wonderful to realise there is a whole enjoyable and meaningful life outside of the material worldI The one aspect of slowing down that I have enjoyed is realising I dont need anything more. When I look around I can always find things to repurpose and reuse!

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  32. Great advice Rhonda! When I lived in the city I was so bored I would go shopping for something to do! Now I have so many pprojects I hardly habe time to shop for essentials.

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