Trying to sum up in one word, The Simple Home by Queensland author Rhonda Hetzel is difficult – but I managed it. It is quite simply an excellent book. I say this because both her advice and experience in living a simpler, more authentic life are both doable and inspiring. This beautifully presented hardback book would grace any coffee table, however, the contents are a worthwhile read. It is the follow-up to her bestselling book, Down to Earth.
‘Being in charge of your own life, and making decisions based on what you want to do rather than what you have to do, gives you a rare kind of contentment and shows you that every ordinary day offers magnificent opportunities.’ is Rhonda’s philosophy and it is powerfully threaded throughout the whole of this book. Having given up a life of living on a good income, Rhonda and her husband and family engage in a journey of finding a simpler, more frugal life where living within your means, recycling, sharing food, gardening and other simple but worthwhile pleasures become a way of sustaining a lifestyle, not just a belief. She trades her excess of fresh free range eggs for the neighbours veggies for example.
The book is divided into twelve months of the year and the reader is provided with a monthly goal of how to actually create simplicity and order into your life. January gives tips and advice on organising your year ahead, with calendars which keep you up to date with everything. February introduces us into budgeting and living a more frugal lifestyle – less waste, more productivity. March takes us into some wonderful simple but nourishing recipes and April into getting a productive vegetable garden happening. May is very special as Rhonda devotes time to organising a frugal but effective laundry system with hints on making your own cleaning and washing supplies. June follows up with some excellent advice and recipes on preserving your food.
We move into the cooler months and July provides recipes and advice on home baking and bread making. I loved August which is devoted to those almost forgotten skills of mending, linen care and recycling your fabrics – we rediscover the joys of the “rag bag”. By the time we read of Septembers’ treasures, how to make your own cream, yoghurt, cheeses and dairy products becomes a possibility. Simple to do easy instructions. October again follows the seasons with excellent advice on doing a chemical free but effective spring clean and November sees us winding down with the approach of the warmer months and a focus on body and holistic health. December is reflect, relax and rest a time to celebrate family and friends and to wind down after a busy year.
Rhonda’s whole ethos is about living a more authentic life – using what you have in your house and garden and sharing and swapping excess with friends. Food miles, sustainability, local farmers’ markets, food preservation and storage are all discussed. But the deeper meaning lies within the whole philosophy of this book. We as a society have become consumers mindlessly buying and consuming and creating waste with our excess. Longer working hours, busy family schedules and a consumer culture which celebrates ‘things’ creates a hectic and ultimately negative atmosphere for the human family to thrive. This book certainly made me think, coming at a time where my own lifestyle has changed dramatically and I am now having to rethink my priorities.
The Simple Home will not remain on your coffee table for long. It is one of those books that you will pick up often, to find the recipe for washing powder or the recipe for making your own yoghurt easily and quickly. What is extra special, is that as it is an Australian book, it actually translates to our seasons exactly. Having read American and European food/lifestyle blogs, one always has to do some mental arithmetic to get one’s head out of snow in December.
The reader can ‘grow’ into this book, taking the relevant chapter for the particular season. Budgeting for your year has some excellent advice getting the year off on the right foot. The advice is gentle but well thought out. By the time we get to December, the simple gifts are budgeted for, created or purchased, food is prepared and it is time to enjoy family and friends.
Rhonda is sharing her own experiences and advice, allowing us to be privy to her own world and to glean the benefit of her own experience. I would thoroughly recommend this book to any reader who wants to slow down and start to live a gentler, more authentic lifestyle. A wonderful book –
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