The Simple Life

What follows is the Introduction to Rhonda Hetzel’s excellent little book The Simple Life. Our journeys have been very similar.

If you’d asked me 12 years ago if I could see myself living the kind of gentle, simple life I have now, I would have thought you quite mad. Back then, when my days were focused on the almighty dollar, deadlines and stress, most of the time I believed I was living the dream.

I think I slowly realized that there was little time for my family or for myself and my career took all my energy and most of my time. I don’t know if it was just sheer luck or the hand of fate that stepped in, but at a certain point I hit a brick wall and couldn’t go on with that kind of life. I knew I needed to do things differently. I wanted a simpler way of living. So I closed down my technical writing business and embarked on a new journey. Since then I have discovered happiness right in my own home. And now that I have found true joy and fulfillment, I can see that I’ve been looking for that kind of satisfaction all my life.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see why I was so attracted to this simpler way of living. My husband, Hanno, and I now have a lot more control over our lives. Our way of life offers us the freedom to live alongside, but separate to, the minefield of materialism that has become a large part of today’s culture. We’re living on much less than we ever did in the past, yet we have more independence. Above all though, we have become much happier and more confident, we smile a lot more and we have hope for the future. And that is a good thing because in the past couple of years, our grandchildren have been born and for them, and for all of us, there must be hope.

My hope for my grandchildren-and indeed for all children–is that they will learn many of the traditional skills that we are using in our home now and will use those abilities in their future. I hope they will see the value in doing that because unless there is a significant shift away from commercial convenience toward sustainable lifestyles, I wonder what their future holds.

My husband and I took a big leap in making the decision to change our lives, but we got to where we are now in small steps. Whether you are 20 or 50, whether you have kids or a partner, whether you have a mortgage or rent, you can make small or big changes that will allow you to slow down and work out how to live a simpler life and maybe even thrive.

20 comments on “The Simple Life

  1. smcasson says:

    I enjoyed the excerpt. Our story has been similar, except not so hectic and material-driven, and the wall wasn’t brick, it was our gradual realization that we want to be together with our family … all the time. Well, maybe the realization was that that was possible. Young kids really bring things into sharp focus.


    • Bill says:

      We’re weren’t materialistic by comparison to our so-called peers. But making the drastic lifestyle change has shown us that we were a lot more materialistic than we realized. We implemented a strategy of debt elimination and aggressive savings when our first child was born. It took a long time, and sometimes it seemed impossibly far off, but we achieved the our goals. I wouldn’t say I hit a brick wall, but I felt like I was fast approaching the edge of a cliff when I finally cut the chord.


  2. BeeHappee says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Bill. I had Ms. Rhonda’s book on my list for a while. I am slowly reading my way through Nearings’ classic “The Good Life” which is really excellent as well.
    I second Scott, having kids definitely changes your focus. I never liked the ‘standard’ life but could not figure out exactly why. When kids came along, I tried to work corporate job from home, thinking I can spend time with family. That did not go over so well, you can nurse a baby and chase a toddler while on a conference call with the bosses only for so long. None of it seemed right, and made me think, what an insane situation we have, when virtually from birth families are separated (what can be a more cruel punishment than separating kids from parents?), and we drive to the far away offices in the cars that we are working to pay for, with the clothes that we are working to pay for, to buy food that we are working to pay for, with children in daycare and school that we are working to pay for? Why not just get rid of those things or make them yourself, so you do not have to pay for it all.

    On the flip side, we watched a beautiful documentary last night, called “On the Way to School”. Simple life is portrayed there. It shows children in various countries making their trip to school, e.g. Argentinian children on a long horse ride to school, and a 2 hour trip for two Kenyan children. They go through the bush past the elephants, scared. My four year old asks: mommy, why are they alone, why is their mommy not going with them? I told him that adults were just too busy with work, food, smaller kids. It was difficult for an overprotected western kid to understand why children are alone.
    I do like simple life when it is by a conscious educated choice. I am sorry some people live simple life, poor life, by necessity and cannot wait to get out of it.


    • Bill says:

      I wanted to read Down to Earth but it seems impossible to find here in the States. I was lucky to find The Simple Life. Maybe I need to break down and get an e-reader.

      I haven’t read The Good Life but it’s one of Cherie’s favorites. They’re impressive and inspirational folks.

      I’m ashamed to say I was often an absentee parent during my workaholic days. Cherie stayed home with the kids and homeschooled them, and I could rationalize that my long hours at work helped make that possible, but the truth was that I had prioritized my job over my family. I often wish I could have those days back. We now know (as Rhonda describes learning in her book) that much of what culture is telling us about money and career are lies. We don’t really need most of what we’re working to pay for. As you say, it’s insane.

      I’ve been poor and I’ve been wealthy. I can say with complete sincerity that many of the people who are living simple lives out of necessity and feeling deprived of the good things in life (I’ve had that feeling) are victims of the lies our culture tells us. The reality is that once our basic needs are met, more money beyond that does not bring happiness. I know it sounds trite, but I’m confident that it’s true (and there is science to support it as well).

      Liked by 1 person

      • smcasson says:

        I’m confident you’re right too, Bill. My coworker says that happiness line is about $70k, (US national average) and I just smile.
        I am so happy I have my children’s childhoods in front of me when we as a family are being conscious about what we want and not letting the media tell us. You and this community are helping with that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        Thanks, Bill, now you made me look, and sadly, not one of the 40 libraries in our suburban system carry either one of Rhonda’s books. So I will ask them to order and see what happens. Maybe it is a discrimination against the Aussie authors. 🙂
        Yes, I agree with you on all the points. Sadly I had seen too many people, including my own grandparents, who, ironically, satisfied with their lives wanted something ‘better’ for their children, sending them off to the cities. Even in that same documentary I mentioned above, there is a scene of a Moroccan girl sitting with her grandma before the girl goes off to school, the grandma is spinning wool, and she says to the girl: go and study, so you can do better than us, be more successful. By ‘better’, I am almost certain she is meaning a more prosperous life. I am not against every possible choice opening up for these kids, and hopefully if they have strong foundations, they will find the right path for themselves. But sometimes it is all too easy to be drawn into the vicious cycle or ‘more’.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie Graves says:

    I’ve been following Rhonda’s blog, Down to Earth, for years. Thanks for sharing an excerpt from her book.


  4. Joanna says:

    I have never really wanted to live the materialistic lifestyle and made do and mend for most of our life. I still would not have dreamt I would be living the life I do now, especially in a country that was once on the other side of the iron-curtain to me


    • Bill says:

      I love your pioneer spirit Joanna. 🙂

      The collapse of the iron-curtain may be the most important world event of my lifetime, right up there I suppose with the invention of the internet. I was a child of the Cold War too, and I majored in Foreign Affairs while it was still going on. In many ways it defined the world. I wonder what paradigm shift we’ll be looking back on 25 years from now?


      • Joanna says:

        When people are worried about the future it is always interesting to look back and see how much changed in a very short space of time. What was amazing was that there was very little actual fighting, although the after effects still had much turmoil and more than we realised on the West. Independence was tough


  5. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, the simple life and low key lifestyle takes two to make it work if married or in partnership with another. My stumbling block when married was always unity of living the simple life style. Now that I’m single that is a decision that is easier to make. You are very fortunate to have a wife that went along with your lifestyle change decision. The choosing of a mate or partner is the most important decision in life, well, next to the spiritual decision. It can make life wonderful or make life terrible. Now that I’m past the cubical corporate working years, life has indeed slowed down a bit and is infinitely less stressful. Terra Nova Gardens has been a great way to give me a taste of country while living in the city. It’s way too late in life to try to build a homestead acreage.

    Speaking of Terra Nova Gardens. As you know I bought the vacant lot that houses Terra Nova Gardens from the city through a foreclosure purchase. The power company is wanting to replace the power poles along the front of the property that are on the road. They bought an easement right of 34 feet for a astronomical amount that was 10 times the price I paid for the property. Yes, I said 10 times. It was a good thing I was sitting down or I would have fell down. Now I have funding to do some extra things for Terra Nova Gardens.

    Have a great simple life day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      That’s great news for Terra Nova Dave! I like it when good things happen for those who do good deeds. 🙂

      Believe me, I count my lucky stars that Cherie and I have grown together on this path. When we got married I was a hard-working young lawyer, still in debt but climbing the career ladder. By the time we ditched it move to the country and raise vegetables for a living, I was a highly-compensated partner at a prestigious law firm. Many women would have steadfastly refused to be Lisa Douglas in that situation. But in our case Cherie wanted the change in lifestyle as much or more than I did. It could have ruined our marriage, but it has actually made it even stronger. But I believe it is vitally important for a couple to be on the same page and make those kinds of decisions together. Rhonda talks about that in her book. I would have stayed in that miserable lifestyle if my marriage depended upon it. I’m very thankful that it didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. EllaDee says:

    As you would guess, I like this. No matter how many times I read similar it’s good to see it out there. Reinforcing that there is a viable, rewarding, attractive alternative to corporate, commodities and consumerism. To steal a saying from the latter… Just Do It 🙂


    • Bill says:

      Amen. Even though I’ve already been down the road she describes, I was cheering along as she described her journey and the life-enriching decisions she made. I well know how scary it can be to reject the narrative our culture feeds us. But that is exactly what we need to do.


  7. ain't for city gals says:

    I think most of us that are on the same journey have been in your shoes and Rhonda’s….isn’t it ironic that what we couldn’t wait to get away from is what we are so eager to get back to.? I wish I could influence a bit my niece(who is a lawyer of three years and has a one year old who I take care of 4 days a week) but I know I really can’t….she has to learn it for herself.


  8. rhondajean says:

    Thanks Bill. It always gives me a bit of a jolt when I see posts like this.

    The folks at Penguin told me that Down to Earth, The Simple Life and The Simple Home (to be published March 2016) should all be available on Amazon. However, soon after the Down to Earth shipment arrived it sold out and I don’t know if there are backup books on the way. I hope so and maybe it’s something I should followup on. I’ll let you know.

    I caved in and went to a digital reader a couple of years ago. It’s the only way I can read Ben Hewitt’s books and a few others authors I admire. A couple of years down the track and now I love that ipad reader and appreciate being able to travel around with my own library in my bag.


    • Bill says:

      My wife loves her digital reader and she’s told me often that if I try it I’ll like it. We’re thinking of taking some time off in a few years and living in a travel trailer a while. A digital reader would definitely be advantageous then.

      I really enjoyed your book. Even though I knew some of your story, I was taken by how similar our journeys have been in many ways. I kept interrupting Cherie’s reading to read passages from the book aloud to her. She’s writing a book now that tells the story of our journey and many of her conclusions and tips will be very similar to yours.


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