Q: When did you first start Choosing Voluntary Simplicity?

A: I sometimes think that Choosing Voluntary Simplicity started itself… beginning with the drastic lifestyle change we made about twenty-five years ago. The reason for that change was a tragedy that abruptly made us face how short life can be and also how easy it is to remain “in a rut” just because the changes you want will be difficult. It took months of soul-searching before we could admit (even to ourselves) that we felt trapped in work we really didn’t enjoy. We yearned for less stress and especially more time to enjoy the already simplistic life we had created at home. The hard part was walking away from the security of the thriving business we had built and into a very uncertain future… it was a very out-of-character decision for practical, security-minded people like us, but we have never regretted our choice.

Then early in 2007 our life changed again. I was confined to bed for nearly four months because of complications from a previous back injury. As you might imagine, those days and weeks, filled with pain and enforced immobility, dragged on and on and seemed like they would never end. I was determined to find something that would fill those long hours, and I decided to categorize the hundreds of hosta and garden photographs that were just sitting there on the hard drive. I had also been gathering all the information I could find about the various plants I was growing, and I started rewriting that information and matching it with the photographs. Someone suggested I use a blog format, so I did, although the “blog” at that time existed only on my own computer.

Eventually in late May and early June, when I was finally able to be up and about for short periods each day, I realized I now had even stronger convictions about what things in my life were important and what things in my life were not. I was amazed at how appreciative I felt about EVERYTHING, especially the “everydayness” of life that (like most people) I had previously taken somewhat for granted… the blue of the sky, the colors of the plants and the flowers, the sunshine… they all seemed so vivid… and my relationship with God, the people I loved, our simple lifestyle, and my home were especially precious to me. After months of not knowing if I would be able to walk again, even limited mobility made me feel so very grateful. And as I became able to add some simple, everyday chores back into my life, just being able to do something productive again was a pleasure too. The present version of Choosing Voluntary Simplicity grew out of this gratefulness and appreciation for the NOW of my life… and my wish to share the how’s and why’s of our simple lifestyle, as well as the joys and blessings that this kind of lifestyle brings.

A more simple answer to the question of when this blog began is that I uploaded the first post online on June 4, 2007. :o)

Q: Who are you, and where do you live?

A: My name is Shirley, and I am married and the mother of two sons. We live in northern New England in a very rural area, complete with rustic stone walls, narrow dirt roads that are sometimes impassable during “mud season,” and an abundance of gorgeous mountain scenery.

By choice, we have always lived close to nature and opted for the simple way of life, so the philosophy of voluntary simplicity and a conscious and deliberate spiritual lifestyle was a natural, even years before I knew there was a term for it. This blog is a reflection of my principles and beliefs, including my enjoyment of nature, my gardens and plants, and the wild creatures that are all around us.

Because of a severe allergy, I bake and cook from scratch almost everything we eat, so I also share information I have learned about avoiding soy.

I have always loved being around and caring for animals. In the past we have had chickens (including many of the fancy breeds), guineas, geese, ducks, goats, rabbits, pigeons, doves, and an enormous pig who played with a ball and used a pine branch to sweep shavings into a pile to make her bed. I especially love birds and raising the helpless, featherless babies. Currently we have a goat, doves and pigeons, two talking cockatiels, a super-smart, super-talkative Amazon parrot, two wonderful cats, and two tiny lap dogs just bursting with love.

I love to read, especially very long family-type sagas that extend over generations, biographies, and history. I knit (mostly afghans), crochet (not so much), and sew (mostly slip covers), although I always would prefer weaving baskets to any of the three. I enjoy making soap and doing other old-time projects. I also like simple antiques… not the fancy stuff, but the dishes and furniture that ordinary people used every day. I have a collection of both new and old pig statues and an assortment of antique china heads… also a few cookie jars of cows with an attitude… although I’m not actively “into” collecting.

Q: What ideas would you like people to take away with them from this blog?

A: Mostly that being frugal and living simply are choices that will give you a better, happier, more productive life. I’m always surprised to realize how apprehensive some people are about embracing frugality or simplicity, and I hope to show by example that it is possible to live well… and normally… by living the version of frugality and simplicity that is the best fit for you.

It truly stuns and humbles me that so many people from so many countries are reading what I write. I am so grateful to the amazing number of people who have taken the time to write personal messages to me. Thank you… I appreciate them all so much… and I would love to hear from YOU.

Comments for this post are closed.



I always felt sort of a “kindred spirit” when I read the articles so well written on your website. Now I know why. I too, love old American pottery, birds (well, all animals…including my two little ankle biters!!), knitting, and literature about how families in early America lived. Because of my husband’s job (one for which I am truly grateful, indeed), we cannot relocate out of Miami anytime soon. But I do long for the day when we can get a little place out of the city and into the quiet where I can have a few chickens and a little veggie patch of my own.
Thanks for sharing so much. You give me inspiration and ideas while I await my day to live out in the country again!!


I wish you were my neighbor. We would be friends!

Jared D.

Nice to meet you! I’ve actually been reading your blog for almost a month now and decided that today I’d actually leave a comment to tell you how much I’ve been enjoying your writing. You write about the things that are becoming more and more important to me and I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks!


It sounds like you’ve really been through some bad periods but you’ve used the experiences to make positive changes in your life and outlook. I admire that. I’ve been through bad patches myself and I’m a little ashamed to say that I let them make me bitter for a while. I’m coming out of that now and I think I have to credit this blog as part of the reason. You’re right, some things in life are important and some things are not. You give me hope.


Hey, the new look is great!


Hi Shirley, your blog tag line is what I’m searching for and your blog is a constant source of inspiration to me. I know things won’t happen overnight but I will get there.
Thank you for your excellent writings.


from a young wife still in college. i enjoy reading your articles because it cuts the amount of research and work i have to do on my own by at least 75%.
thanks, your experinces and knowledge are helping others.


Your site is great. It has pushed me and my spouse closer to semi-retirement. We must live now and appreciate each moment. Thanks

Dayle A.

I just commented under your entry on one of the hostas (it confirmed the identity of an old hosta I have). I am so happy that my search brought me to your site. I now have it bookmarked and will be returning often, both to read new posts and to catch up on old. Very much of what you write parallels my own life. I grew up in a place and time where living simply was the norm, and I early made the choice to maintain that in my life. It is so much less stressful! And, as things turned out, having these skills and mindset made all the difference when an undiagnosed illness took away my ability to work and made me an invalid. I lost almost everything. I was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease, by then chronic. But I have been lucky: I found a physician who is expert in treating chronic Lyme, and with aggressive treatment, I am now leading a reasonably normal, though very simplified, life. I had to give up my career as an environmental analyst, but the result was the opportunity to pursue another love of mine: art.

Thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for creating such a remarkable blog that touches on so many of the truly important things in life.


I have always felt that it is the simple little things in life that we take for granted, and often don’t appreciate.

I am a novice gardenener from Northern New Hampshire. Unfortunately because of health problems and other distractions in my life, I got started late this year. As I was surfing the web this morning for information on growing bleeding hearts, I stumbled across your blog. And I am so glad I did. You have so many interesting articles here, and so much to read. So I will bookmark your blog in my favorites, and when I have more time I will return to read more.

Your blog is a wonderful inspiration, thank you for sharing Shirley


Your website information is so close to Buddhist teachings and I really enjoyed my visit. I wish you all the best! Keep up the good work.


I really enjoyed what I have read from your teaching on saving tomatoe seeds. I am an old lady who lives in the country and am just learning about a “blog”. My daughter and I live together with her two children and we are attempting to earn an income with it. I can really relate to your health issues as I have a few on my own that I am dealing with. The Lord is good and he meets our needs.
Any advise you wish to share would be appreciated. Your site? is just great. I will be reading many of your articles.
Thank you.


I just happened upon your site today searching info about Hosta seeds and hope to check it out further. I also agree with your philosophy. I feel like today’s society takes people away from self-sufficiency and being in touch with what is “real”, a connection to nature, growing our own food, appreciating contentment from simplicity. Perhaps there is a movement, a bit to awaken from the materialistic pull of this modern world and see the richness of embracing some of the old ways and letting go of ambition, spending our lives collecting “things” or being driven by power and prestige. Kudos to you for helping to enlighten others!


I am enjoying this site, it is fun to see that others are adopting a lifestyle that my husband and I have considered “normal” for our entire married life (35 years). We were both raised by frugal parents and that philosophy has served us well. We are farming 400 acres of barley with equipment refurbished by my husband. We heat mainly with wood and cook in the winter with wood. Now that our family is grown, we don’t garden as much but at one time we fed our family of three kids from our garden and with venison from our fields. It is a wonderful life. I might note here that our three kids got good educations and jobs and chose not to live this way, but as they age we see them drifting back this direction.


Hello Shirley,

I enjoyed your historical posts very much and hope you haven’t finished writing them. Old recipe measures have always fascinated me, as have cookery and housekeeping books from the past. History aside, thanks for the pure fun of learning how to take a bath!


I just want to thank you for this blog. You have been such a positive influence on my life. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your writing. Thank you for being you and for everything you give.


I check every day for a new posting because I love your writing so much.The gentler, simpler life is calling to me and my husband every day as we try and leave the corporate world behind.Thank you for everything


I came across your blog this morning, and I just love it! Thank you for all the work you put into it, and for your carefully chosen words and well crafted entries.


i teach environmental ethics and a course on the environment at north carolina state university and use vol. simplicity as an example of how we can actually begin to work toward solutions in our own lives. just wanted to thank you for a very excellent website … :)


Shirley, I just read a post of yours (about accepting responsibility for your life) and loved your statement: “However, I do strongly believe that even though you may not have control over everything that happens to you, you do have control over how you react to situations and events.” I’ve been trying hard to live by that philosophy for awhile now and it’s made a big difference in my life. Thanks for your blog, I will keep reading (and recommend you to others)


I found your site today and was charmed. It encapsulated so much of the way my family has been feeling recently and I wanted to say “thank you.”


Your blog is wonderful — so educational and thorough. I really like how you talk about all aspects of simple living, and don’t focus only on “cutting back” like so many others. I’ve been learning about and implementing parts of simple living for a few years now – we have no debt besides our mortgage, and we don’t seem to buy many “things”. We do have one weakness though — home improvements. It’s easy for me to ignore clothes, jewelry, cars, etc, but when it comes to new flooring, a deck, or new fence we’re ready to pull out the cash. We despise the renovation process, but love the result.


It was so heartwarming to read about you appreciating digging and eating dandelions. I try to dig at least 2 five gallon buckets. My 93 year old Dad has asked me to bring some to him in upstate NY. I live on an island on the coast of ME. I am trying my hand at living more self sufficiently with a garden, chickens and meat rabbits along with 3 German Shepherds, and two Maine Coon cats. Wish I’d started this before reaching 60+ years of age but I doubt my exhusband and 4 boys would have been very supportive of the project.


just wanted to say i have just found your blog/site and think i am in heaven…i have thought alot about how i need to “simplify” a bit more and will be using this site as a primer on doing it! i love the idea of having an ongoing place to read about the process…farming is a simple life generally anyway and we do farm, but with the boys almost grown, i have a bit more time to concentrate on slowing down more now…sorry…rambling, but just wanted to say thanks and i look forward to much happy reading.


It’s amazing how one can have an epiphany at age nearly-53! About 3 weeks ago I realized I had just watched a TV show that I neither liked nor could remember anything from. And thus ended the 3-year experiment with owning a TV. Oddly, disconnecting and removing the TV from my space inspired a major purge of extraneous electronics, knickknacks, old clothes, etc.. that is leading to a more “clean” living environment. Anyway – while one is in this process, “stuff” is quite important as one travels through life’s accumulations and pares away the extra. All in service of the goal of simplicity. I’ll be browsing your blog a little more, but your recent entry and comments on “stuff” caught my eye.. :) Rob


I share an apartment in a suburb of Boston. One reason we make such good roommates is that we both feel it is important to live mindfully and in as green a manner as possible.

We have both been going through a period of intense overwork and stress which has us looking more seriously at how we are living and what choices are within our control.

I have happily found your website and am delighted to have such a warm and commonsense approach to life – shared. I had adopted the habit of starting my day by reading the news on line and diving in to answer emails from work.

My new pattern is to read a entry or two from your blog – turn off the computer and sit with my tea, taking a few minutes to center myself and reflect on my priorities and goals before beginning the work day and interacting with the world’s priorities.

I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences. You remind me that I can always choose to live by my priorities rather than surrender to the pushes and pulls for other forces.

Dene B.

I just found your site through a friend on facebook.. you are living my dream! My family is also on a quest for a more simple lifestyle. I look forward to reading more of your posts..


My name is Mega and at present I live in Indonesia (I used to be in Reno, NV about a year ago. I just want to say how much I enjoy reading your articles and how I wish I could share your inspiring thoughts with others through blogs/websites which unfortunately I don’t have one. Thank you and Keep up the good works. God bless!


Shirley: I stumbled on your website while searching for info on hostas I’m considering purchasing. I’m glad you’re sharing your experiences with others. My husband and I have been moving in the direction of simplicity since we moved to upstate NY in 2001, and more so since he lost his job last summer. It’s worth it because he (and we) are much happier and less stressed! We are investing in our land, growing vegetables and herbs, planting an orchard, and doing worm composting (can’t do it outside because of hungry bears). We also gather wild food, especially blackberries (looks like a bumper crop this year). Please keep sharing your thoughts with the world.


Much of your “about me” blog, is about me,too! Although I shop once a week, it’s often among several food markets, depending on who has what on sale, because I check all weekly circulars. I keep 2 pantries, one here and one at the other house on Long Island. Also, bring my food there because Resort Area shopping is pricey, and I go back and forth frequently. Don’t eat out or send for take out food either. My big luxury is a MacDonald Cheeseburger and Fries on the 90 mile trip out there, mostly because their Restroom is clean.

I also love animals, and Volunteer at the local Animal Shelter when I am out there. Generally spend at least 6 hrs. a week grooming the Kitties. My own 2 cats are gone now, and what with stairs and heavy bags going in and out the houses, transporting another cat/s is too much. I do miss having an animal in the house, so I feed birds.

A few weeks ago at Passover time, got a Supermarket coupon for free Matzos, which I don’t eat, but took anyway because I couldn’t pass up a Freebie. The birds and squirrels loved them, almost as much as seed!


Hello! I just found your website and want to thank you so much. It is amazingly difficult to find a website that offers good information for simple living…that’s “normal” (if there’s such a thing)…and won’t condemn me for using white sugar…or tell me not to shop at certain stores…you get the drift. I just want a simple, warm-hearted, loving, beautiful life and your website is adding to it. Thank you!


I just wanted to say a quick hello and thank you for the wealth of information on your site. I have just gotten to that point where my fiance and I have decided to live simply voluntarily and start enjoying the simple things in life. Life is short and we didn’t want to get to 70 and worked in a job we didn’t like our whole lives (my partner works in aged care at the moment so he is seeing it a lot with the residents there).
I love how you have pointed out that being frugal and living simply don’t mean to deprive yourself, it’s just putting things into perspective and only focusing on what is really important, not ‘Oh i need that expensive brand shirt because (insert famous person anme here) is wearing it.’ We are in our mid20’s so are seeing this a lot amongst our friends.
I will continue to follow your very information blog and thank you for the effort you put in to posting on such great topics.


I just thought I would drop you a quick line to say how much I have enjoyed finding your blog this morning. I discovered it through a search for Sweetheart cookstoves (we have one ourselves, and find it excellent.)

We live in New Zealand, and hope to move to our rural property soon, building a wooden house together as a family, and farming our 7 acres. Your blog is going to be a great source of helpful information!


Each person’s thoughts are important. Thank you for sharing yours — you are such an inspiration and encouragement to me!


I just discovered your blog. I also am trying to lead a simpler lifestyle. I love to garden and watch my veggies grow. I love homegrown food and strive to eat healthy. Everyday I add something to my “Donation box”. It is “letting go” that gives me true contentment. Thank you so much for your blog.


Hello. I’d like to thank you for your inspiring posts. I’ve been thinking for a long time about ‘things’ and the way they don’t seem to make people around me happy. I’m a hoarder and i tend to buy things i don’t really need. But i believe certain changes in life are like seeds planted and eventually i’ll get there. But why i really wanted to write this piece is to say how eloquently you’ve put into to words how obsessing about not spending is not better than obsessing about spending. It’s a point often overlooked. It might seem trivial but i really liked that phrase. It’s one i shall use with your permission when people ask me why I would want to live ‘like a poor person’ (yes, they are not getting the point).


Really enjoyed reading your thoughts on voluntary simplicity. I have become fascinated because I have just finished a book called “Don’t buy it!” and it made me consider all the “stuff” we have. I am gradually de-cluttering my home and thinking twice before buying something. Enjoyed your space.


my name is Irina, i`m 23 years old and i`m from Romania-Europe. I`ve discovered your blog the other day and i totally loved it. There are so many tips and good advices here, that i can use and improve my life with so let me thank you for that!


I found your website by mistake, I am not even sure what I was looking for now! I have enjoyed taking a look at lots of different information you have here. I live in New Zealand and find your information very interesting. I have copied a couple of your recipes to try. Thank you for all the great work you put into it.


I found your site when I was searching for an article on Downshifting …since I was planning to write about my downshifting experience…which is an ongoing thing …and found myself enjoying your blog entries…and that i thought it’s worth sharing with my families and friends so..i made some links of your article on my blogsite. You’re such a breath of fresh air to the world..and deserve to have a million viewers…May God be praised for your works! Again Thanks.


I stumbled across your website and have thoroughly enjoyed reading the recipes for food and simpler living. Carry on, I’ll be sure to share this site with many friends and family :)


Just thanking you for the site. It’s good to have reinforcement to resist the empty temptations of a materialistic consumerist oriented society. Your site helps me do that.
Keep up the good work.


I just want to say that I found your blog by a search for making homemade katchup… and I love it… your blog that is!! I look forward to reading more of your blog in the furture. I have bookmarked it and am very excited at some of the information.
Thank you.


Hi there. I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed reading your posting about your super smart and super talkative amazon. I have the same. A super chatty and smart little double yellow head. She runs he house and tells on the cats and dogs when they misbehave. Your blog is in my list of favourites.
Thank you.


I ran across your site tonight. I have a deep longing for what you seem to have found. I am in a horrible job. I returned to the workforce two years ago after being a stay at home mom (due to divorce). I worry about healthcare but wonder how staying in a job that gives me health insurance but runs up my blood pressure will help! You have written some excellent things here. God willing (as He hold our days in His hands) I have set the date of January 1 of next year as my goal of being out of that job and living a totally different way of life. it IS what my heart is longing for. I want to be a writer. Thank you.


Love your blog!! Thank you for it!


What a wonderful read! I love this site we have a small farm, not as working as I would like it because we have made life too busy with external activities failing to see the rich busy work we could have right on our small plot of life. This is changing this year for sure…


I really enjoy your blog. Thanks!


I just discovered your website today while I was looking for wood burning cook stoves.

Anyways.. My ultimate dream is to live full time on a family homestead, the great thing is, because of this economy, my dream may be coming sooner than I thought I could have it happen!


I stumbled upon your blog while looking for egg-free cookie recipes for a friend’s child with allergies. I have been here for over 2 hours! I love it! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!


I don’t even remember what I was researching when I stumbled upon your site. I really enjoyed your article about CFL bulbs. Eeeek! I’m always interested in learning more about living “off the grid”! Thanks for the informative articles! kind regards, Victoria


I have been following your blog for a few months now and I have to say thank you! You make a great job and provide a lot of information to a lot of people. You are an example!
I am in a way to simplify my life and your blog offers me a big support. I hope you will blog for a long time and wish you all the best!

Mary E

I found your blog by chance when looking up soy allergy. We live in Maine, near Portland and I teach music form my home studio, but I wish we had more time even then. My husband keeps the house and cars in repair. I think I will enjoy reading your blog, since you seem to have touched on a lot of areas that i am interested in. Thanks, again-


I discovered your blog for the first time tonight after googling “country lifestyle”. It is refreshing to find an informative and interesting site that is also well written. I’m excited to read everything, as my husband and I may soon be headed down the same path!


Hi! So glad I finally found you again. I have read some of your posts a few months ago and thought I’d bookmarked the site. : ( …I hadn’t. I was telling a co-working about some of what I read and wanted to share more and read more of what you’d written but could not find the info/link. This week end I was ‘surfing’ and trying to remember what I had been looking at, reading, researching, etc. when I originally found you. Still no luck. I fell asleep on the sofa and after my nap woke up remembering a thread …and now, after several hours, and following the thread (through some crafting sites, and other places) …I found you again!! I’m very happy. : ) Looking forward to reading more and maybe chatting too.
…so I’m doing something I NEVER DO …posting a message to a complete stranger.
Well, I think that’s enough for now, this short hello has now become a ‘long babble!
It’s 1:27 am and I really need to go get to sleep or I will be one crabby crabby person. It’s Sunday brunch too and I want to make my favourite ‘farm pancakes’ for my son and hubby!
Good night Shirley!
: ) Pamela, land-locked in the middle of Canada


I just discovered your website yesterday and I just can’t get enough. You are so wise and I want to thank you for all the effort it took to put this together. I’ve already found several articles that will help me TODAY!
May God Bless you today and always.


Ever since I was a child growing up in a suburb of central Maine, I had a passion and yearning for rural living. I have found memories of a beloved great-aunt in Springvale who washed her hair with rain water from the barel in the yard and had a garden that seemed to stand 8 feet tall and resembled more an inviting forest. I have longed for a homesteading lifestyle for longer than I have known of the word. In the last 10 or so hours I have gone through most of your links and postings and I am enchanted and inspired. I look forward to staying intouch with your adventures and would like to thank you for sharing. I recently declared to my extended family members my inention to finally fullfill my dreams and at age 48, my siblings have expressed their subtle hints that they feel I’ve lost my mind. They are unaware that over the years and after my divorce, I really had done all this before. In years passed I lacked the resources, today I will chose simplicity and self-reliance for the fullfillment of it. Warm wishes to you Shirley. I look forward to staying current with your postings.


Hi Shirley,
I have just found your site and I love it. What a beautiful idea to help and educate people . AWESOME.
First that caught my eyes was growing Sempervivum tectorum in your gardens, for this is my favourite plant. It’s not only that is very decorative and beautiful and does not ask for much attention, but it has medical qualities too. This is the BEST medicine for earache, works miracles. Just wash the leaf with hot water, break the leaf and squeeze few drops into the ear. It can be applied on wounds and burns.
I used that on my children and myself for 40 years.
God bless


I rely on the internet more and more lately as a resource…for shopping, research, news, education…you name it. I must say that I really admire the thought and effort that you’ve put into your blog. Never before have I felt inclined to comment on a posting or contact an author. Not once. However, the content and structure of your blog…the philosphy behind it…compells me to voice my appreciation to you. I only discovered it an hour ago. What little bit I have read has been insightful and inspirational, as the subject matter is so closely aligned with where my husband and I now find ourselves at this point in our lives. I can’t wait to read more and I’m excited about sharing this site with my friends. Thank you for sharing this like you have. You’re doing a good thing here.


Hello from a fellow New Englander! I have been reading about Voluntary Simplicity for some time now and am starting to make some small changes. For me right now it is not about making a huge life change – maybe some day – but it is about being more genuine to myself and my family – less emotionally tied to work – and more thoughtful in what I “need”. Your blog has inspired me greatly and I look forward to coming back and reading more.


I found your blog when I was looking for instructions on grooming my dog. About two weeks ago.Since than I have also made the first attempt at cutting my own hair. (People noticed it was shorter but didn’t fall on the floor laughing).

Voluntary simplicity adds a new perspective to simplifying your life for me. I hope to come back often for ideas.


I just found your site. I found your writing to be of interest to me. I am a retired medical missionary. I have always lived simply. Its good to find others who share this way of life.


Hi Shirley,
Just found your site, and what a pleasure I got reading about all your simple joys! I was sadden to hear about your back troubles….but happy to hear so much good came of it. I was lucky to have back surgery years ago and have perfect health now! :) My living simply was a slow wake up call. One day was no different than another except all the “stuff” around me caused me to feel overstuffed and unable to breathe easy. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I went out and bought lots and lots of books…Elaine St. James was the first. I am a single Mom of two boys…22 and 16. They tease me of “giving away” their childhoods because I give all their old toys, games, clothes, to the Goodwill as soon as they are done. I focus on the richness of things and not the $$$ value. I live in a Condo in Northern California (Marin County) that heads up to open space. I have lots of birds, deer, and wild turkeys that come to visit. I have only a small deck…but my two Siberian Huskies sit on the deck and watch the wild parade go by on the mountainside. Not quite as rustic as your property…but lovely to me. I like a SMALL life….I invite in only the parts of this World that sing in my soul to me. I have raised my boys to value kindness and honor above all else. But insist on a sense of humor at all times!!!!! Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with the World…a brave thing to do. I am more of a private person…so I appreciate you giving of yourself in such a open, honest way!
:) Jody


Hi Shirley
I stumbled onto your site this morning while I searched for a cake mix recipe. It’s evening now and I’m still on your site! You have a lovely, informative and inspirational site, thank you very much. I found the cake mix recipe and also used it to substitute the packet of cake mix in my recipe. The cake came out perfect. Then I saw you were a soapmaker as well, just like me. We now live in South Africa and it’s more difficult to find soapmaking oils here, especially coconut. But, like you, we’re also spoiled with the natural soap. Need to make some very soon!
It was lovely meeting you on your blog.
Elza (South Africa)


Thank you for your site. You have helped me see that our family is not alone in our adventure! We are getting ready to make a huge change, moving our family out of town to pursue our ‘Small Life’.


I love, love, love your web site, and come here often to “toodle around” and just “be”. I embrace the concept of voluntary simplicity, and have made it my chosen lifestyle too. I feel so happy, healthy, and balanced living this way. THANK YOU for your beautiful and inspirational web site. You are a gift, and a beautiful example of living a peace-filled, full, and balanced life.


I am at peace when I am with nature and being creative, and I find solace in using the things god has provided for me…I cook and bake with a wood stove, I collect rain water and use it for washing my hair, I knit, I read, and care for my husband and son, enjoying my cats , horses and dogs, on the beautiful 10 acres of woods, mostly oaks trees….


I found your blog mainly on accident, looking for a recipe for peanut butter cookies to make for my husband! We live in Long Island, NY and we have young boys, two cats, and six chickens!!! I admire your outlook in life and the passion that flows in your pages for all that you believe in! We have always sought to tread lightly in this earth and work hard to give our children a healthy and happy home.

It is difficult for us to live in a place where materialism and appearances is the norm, but for work purposes we must remain somewhat close to urban centers… we are working on relocating, but unfortunately times are not good to sell our home! I truly enjoy your blog and look forward to advice and recipes on how to achieve our own embraced simplicity!


I have been reading quite a bit about Voluntary Simplicity. It definitely resonates with me and we already somewhat live that way. Fortunately my husband and I both have significant incomes from our jobs, though we have 3 kids and they are not cheap– also we live in the bay area CA which is very expensive. When looking to simplify I think about working less, different job, maybe no employer at all. Love your website– Thanks!


I just found your website and LOVE it. We are in the transition phase of moving into voluntary simplicity. It was wonderful to read your story (thanks for sharing). You are an inspiration to my wife and I and we will be joining you in simplicity soon!

To me voluntary simplicity is the medicine for what ails the first world (especially America), and all of the consumerism/advertising/processed foods/processed media/screaming that envelops us today. Choosing voluntary simplicity may be the only way to find peace. Thank you again for writing this blog and spreading this energy, I will enjoy exploring the archives and your new posts!


Just wanna say that as a 34 year old stay at home mom, I feel as though making life simple and wonderful seems to be so out of the ordinary these days. From the time I had my first daughter at 20, I have struggled with trying to make things easier and more “homemade” for my family. I think that your site is inspiring and a wonderful insight as to how more people should try and live their lives to make this world a happier more loving place. I look forward to reading more of your posts and Thank you again :o)


Dear Shirley, I was raised on voluntary simplicity, though my parents didn’t know that expression. During adulthood, I became spoiled beyond belief, and am now forced by circumstances to return to a frugal life. For now, we even must get food at the local food bank. I am grateful and I am adjusting, but want to go on to also find joy in my life again. Your wonderful writing is helping me. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Jan


Dear Shirley,
I have just had my Glenwood “F” delivered. We have some work to do before the hook up a new furnace so MY chimney is free again. I just found your web site and am delighted!


I was reading through your blog about “Living with a soy allergy”. I have a mild to moderate allergy to soy. With the right amount, I will get very itchy and sick to my stomach, also my ears will swell up a little and turn bright red. My allergy doc told me that soybean oil is fine to have as long as it doesn’t bother me. I am much better after cutting out everything soy related. I find that I have to stay away from a lot of generic food and sometimes I have to buy organic to avoid soy. It’s very frustrating at times if you misread a label. I couldn’t imagine having a severe allergy to this food. Along with my allergies to egg, nuts, and shellfish, it can be difficult to go to dinner with my family.


I enjoy reading your blog Shirley! I want to live my life more like yours… Thanks for the inspiration and great tips on gardening and cooking!


Hi! Just a quick note to let you know that your web site has given me so much encouragement and ideas. I am trying to simplify and downsize our lives and I am finding inspiration from your articles, quotes and thoughts. I also have a daughter who has a soy allergy that causes debilitating migraines. I appreciated reading how you have dealt with this issue in your own life and found myself feeling not so all alone in a world where soy is everywhere! Thanks for for taking the time to share!


Just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog! I bookmarked it in my favorites and when I have a few spare minutes (I am a stay at home mom of 2 boys) I go to your blog and read an article. I live in Alaska and about 2 years ago I got very sick and it made me re-evaluate my life. I kept saying, “I want a bigger SMALLER life” to my family and they all thought I was crazy. I googled, “Simple Living” one day and it changed my life. I just recently found your blog and I have enjoyed every article you have written. Thank you so much for sharing your insights! Take Care!

Linda from Missouri

I just stumbled on to your web-site. This is me! I’m looking forward to reading about all the subjects I love and hearing from other like-minded people.


Hi, I just found your website, and I think I just posted a message to the wrong category. Seems like we have a lot in common.Over the last 30 years or so, I have had a lot of back broblems, but doing fairly well now. I live in the country, and heat with wood. I have a wood cooking stove, but it’s not in working order. It’s just a decorative piece right now, but wish I could use it. I only paid $200.00 for it, and it is a pinkish/beige color. I make herbal soap from wild plants I gather on our farm, also make baskets from nature’s bounty, plus commercial reed as well. I love teaching others the art of old timey crafts, and the almost lost art of gathering wild plants that can be used for food, medicine, and crafts. I love your website, and will definitely save it in my favorites.


I found your site today while making a wish list for our upcoming transition to homesteading and hopefully an off-grid lifestyle. What a great site you have here! I love your piece about what $10 would buy.


Shirley, I stumbled upon your blog searching on Google for a link to a photo of a wood burning cook stove to send to our daughter. What a delight! I’ve accomplished positively nothing this afternoon besides reading some of your posts.

We are “Urban Homesteaders” always looking to simplify more than we have already. Yet with both my hubbie and I each owning our own businesses, our remaining time together is always defined by the household chores of bringing in wood, caring for the backyard chickens, cooking from scratch and resting :)

I wish you, your family and your critters the best this winter.

Sarah (Indianapolis)


Hi Shirley,
I just found your blog for the first time tonight, by accident. It happened to be the perfect antidote to some frustration I was feeling after reading an e-mail by my giant HMO. One response on their part was 30 days old. Two other comments (two weeks late) were so stupid as to be laughable. However, I wasn’t laughing. My blood pressure just went up. Since I live alone, there is no one to say, “Try not to worry about it.” I was looking for information on natural remedies and somehow found your blog. I enjoyed it so much, I felt better! Thank you.


I just wanted to thank you so much for all you’ve written on this site! I stumbled across this site a few days ago while Googling for homemade hamburger bun recipes and found yours (which I’m going to try this weekend), plus so much more. I’ve since been browsing through all of your articles and am thrilled to have more great resources to refer to, especially your writings about soy. I had never heard of a soy allergy before but after reading your articles I did some research of my own and am now convinced that soy is dangerous for everyone, not just people with allergic reactions!


I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I have the very same way of thinking and it is a pleasure to have someone else reinforce these ideas. Keep up the good work and I have got to get reading some more of your site. Thanks :)


When I stumbled upon your blog yesterday it was an answer to my prayers. I grew up in a small town (pop 46) but now my husband and I live in an increasingly urban area with our two daughters. Life has become increasingly chaotic with us both working full time we feel like we no longer have time for the important things in life. As I searched the internet for downsizing life and simplfying I found your blog. It was such a breath of fresh air, and I immediately felt some peace. Thank you for affirming my opinion on simplifying not meaning absolutes, not meaning dumpster diving for needed goods. Your blog is full of practical advice that I desperately needed. Thank you.

Connie F.

I’m very glad to have stumbled on this site and am pleased to meet you. I kinda think we might be neighbors-ish. I live in Cambridge, Vermont………..love your mindset.

Stephen [Steve]

Just came across the link to your blog while looking for information on orange-striped bumblebees. I have only seen one – I am pretty sure it”s the same one – twice on the last 2 days. My wife and I live in northern Colorado, about 75 miles or so south of Cheyenne, Wy. We’ve only lived here for two and 1/2 years, and the few bumblebees we have seen are yellow banded, one being at least twice the size of the other, and both being bigger than regular bees. This one goes to the ground and digs, but I didn’t see it stay-thought it was just hunting for something to eat. Where it dug is in a high traffic area for my two dogs. Any risk to possible babies? Will try to get a pic or two if I can and will send them if they come out-only have a Kodak easy share camera – no fancy lenses or what-not; am 68, so am not very quick either, but this is the first orange banded one I’ve seen. Has two distinct bands on the body-yellow on the tail and head. Can’t seem to find too much info with photos, so thanks for yours.

Katie V.

I am so thankful for your site, my son is 3 years old and hearing impaired. Due to this he has communication delays and cannot always tell us when something is wrong. After another MD visit with a rash on his bottom that was bleeding another bout of asthma and his 21st (he has been tubed) ear infect. The tested him for food allergies that he had not been tested for previously. He came back so highly allergic to soy and corn, the soy those was horribly high and we were after weeks of more and more testing told that the soy was the true culprit for his illness, throughout the years.. As a mother I was overwhelmed with this information because every single food product had some special code for Soy I was unfamiliar with. I have read your blog! And from my heart I cannot be more thankful, as my son goes into his school years his hearing and speech issues are of great concern that he will not be able to tell anyone about his allergy so it is up to me to protect him and I thank you for the information.


Hi Shirley,
I love your writing and values/lifestyle so much it is very much what I am working at growing in my life and I read your articles many times to build my confidence in myself for holding these ideas. Thanks so much for sharing and having the courage to share.


I found your blog while searching for what a dill head looks like. I am growing dill from heritage seeds but didn’t know what they looked like. I am attempting to make frig pickles and found your recipe as well. I can relate to you as I quit my job about a year ago and have stayed home working harder than ever. We started our raised and unraised gardens in February and I’ve been freezing stuff for a month. Made some bread and butter pickles last week and now looking for a good relish and regular pickle recipe but my cucs are so BIG I have to cut them up. Thanks for your info. I agree with another lady, you would make a great neighbor of mine. Ever considered moving to Texas? God Bless


Hi! I just stumbled across your blog this afternoon and have the last couple of hours reading your posts. I love that you live a simple lifestyle! I also think your recipes look amazing. I can’t wait to try the meatless meatballs (but I’m not telling my carnivore of a husband that they’re meatless!) :) I noticed in the above post that you love to read sagas that extend over several generations and I immediately thought of a couple of series that I love and thought I’d share with you. The first is called The Work and The Glory series by Gerald N. Lund. The second is the Children of the Promise by Dean Hughes. He has another series called Hearts of the Children that picks up with the next generation. Anyway, I LOVE all three series I mentioned, but especially The Work and The Glory. Just thought I’d share! :)
Thanks again for your wonderful blog!


I found your site because of your entry on day lilies. I really enjoy your accounts of a simple lifestyle. I don’t live nearly as simple a lifestyle, but I recently made a job change to pare down my work hours and leave time for taking graduate classes, as well as eating a nice dinner at home with my family. Thank you for talking about all of the changes you have made. Your writing is inspiring.


Found your blog when looking up some plant info on hens and chicks, which I have grown forever but recently killed! Love your style of writing and how similar our interests seem to be. Thanks for sharing your life here!


My garden is just being established and I stumbled across your site and would love to be able to use it to help me (a very visual person) set up a place of peace and beauty to offset my very busy life. Perhaps one day I too will become voluntarily simple in my life style.

thank you for sharing.


I just wanted to send you a quick note to THANK YOU for your wonderful website!!! I found it about 10 min. ago and I am thrilled! I try to live a balanced simple life full of joy and contentment. I have been searching for blogs and websites of this nature and I have found them few and far between. I am so excited to read the archived articles on here in the days and weeks ahead. :) Live simple. Live Happy :)


Dear Shirley,

I found your website today, looking for a wood burning oven/stove.
I am getting “all my ducks in a row” to build a house which will be self-sufficient.

You are an inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to share.



First may I say you are a joy to read. I have been looking for some “old” ideas to remind me that there are some real things left,simple things, that can restore us despite all the problems brewing all around us. My wife and I have a small farm in rural virginia and we are energy concious and frugal just like you. I would love to have a wood fired oven like you but I would be concerned in the summer time with the room becoming too hot. My wife would be the one that sweats in the kitchen but I’m looking out for her.LOL I would consider building a kitchen out of the house with some of the timber on the land.In Williamsburg a lot of the old buildings have the kitchen behind the house. In the winter the stove wwould be real nice in the kitchen. I love baking bread and a wwoodfired oven would be the tops. Thanks for sharing and have a great day!!Jeff


Thank you so much for posting the section on starting hostas from seed. I am going to give it try this winter and with any luck will produce some amazing hostas. I have been reading your blog now for over a year and it has inspired me to get back to the simpler things in life. I look forward to rising each day to tend my gardens without any other care in the world. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being you and for taking the time to share everything that you do.

Kindest regards,


I have been reading your blog with much interest. We have a lot in common – living in the boonies, a wood burning cookstove in the kitchen and a soy allergy!! I want to mention that the anesthetic of choice in hospitals is soy-based. Be very vocal with the anesthesiologist and wear some kind of allergy-alert jewelry in case you are brought unconscious to an emergency room.
Thanks for your wonderful thoughts and taking the time to keep the blog up.
Best wishes, Molly


I found the article on the year without a summer (1816) interesting. A 7th generation grandfather was a mail courier in Canada and had a farm (outpost) at Lake Temiscouata in northwest New Brunswick. That year he had to request help from the Provincial Governor due to crop failure as they had frost every month and snow on June 7th.


What a wonderful website – totally inspiring!


Thank you for the info on hollyhocks. I too believe in allowing plants to seed themselves. I have a large area of flower gardens and could never afford to buy perennials for the whole area. Sometimes allowing self-seeding does require a bit of judicious “weeding” to remove those that are too numerous, but even that process yields plants that can be passed along to friends.
Love this site–just stumbled upon it this AM. I found it to be very calming that there is someone else who appreciates the rhythm of ordinary life.


Shirley: It’s been a pleasure to ‘find’ you today and learning more about you. You’ve affected so many lives in such a positive way. “One person CAN make a difference.” Not only is your story inspirational, but so are the other stories I’ve read on your blog. As one of your readers wrote, your calm approach makes one feel one can try anything….and SUCCEED.

I think you should write professionally but then again, that takes time away from gardening!! then where would we be?

I have now spent the last 2 1/2 hours at your site and I need to go but I have this site saved for future reference. Thank you for providing more ‘sunshine’ today.


I found your site when searching for the answer to: “How in the world do I get boiled eggs to easily peel every time”? I would say it was purely accidental I “clicked” on your prompt while searching through Google; but I believe it was Divine Intervention that brought me to you!!
I’ve not had the opportunity to read more than the above-mentioned article yet since I’ve only discovered you approximately 10 minutes ago. However, I am SO EXCITED!! I know in my heart the Lord directed this path and I sincerely look forward to learning all I can from you…my Sister in the Father :)


I absolutely love your website. It is beautifully written and very inspiring. You are a true human being. God Bless!


I’ve been reading your blog for months and finally decided to read the section about you and then, of course, the comments left by some of your readers. I still have tears in my eyes. It must feel so gratifying to be so important to so many people! I really appreciate you and thank you – mostly for your post about boiling eggs! (LOL but very true)


I love your site. I appreciate knowing that there are other people like myself who want to take time to value what they have! Thank you for sharing/

Anna M.

Dear Shirley, So many people as well as me have accidently found your wonderful spirit and information. I was looking for equivalent measurements for spices. I found your wonderful charts. Much happiness in your new life. BTW, if you get too popular, you’ll be right back where you started.

William M.

I’m loving this blog. I think you can definitely add Northern Ireland to the list (this is not Ireland or Great Britain although your blog might think it’s GB, I’m not sure). Anyway keep up the great work.


Hi Shirley, I came across your blog a few months ago. This topic is very close to my heart, although I myself still have ways to go to live as simply as I would like to. But if anything keeps me trying, it is folks like you, who are a true inspiration. I have learned so much from reading your posts, and want to thank you for all of it.


I stumbled upon your website when searching for a mock-cable knit afghan pattern — what a lucky find. I have a fairly simple lifestyle in Santa Cruz, Ca; I had hoped to travel after retirement but now my husband is not up to it. This has actually been a blessing in 2 ways: it allows me to spend more unstructured time focused on god, and to have more funds to help our kids during these difficult financial times. Since we are located between the Santa Cruz mountains and the Monterey Bay, and surrounded by many state parks and beaches, it is not a bad place to be stuck!


Wow! i just logged onto my laptop and came across your title…. I just had to read it… I think my husband left it up when he was looking for a recipe….by chance, I stumbled upon it and I can’t wait to read more!


One of the most outstanding blogs I have ever read. I thank you for your well-said words, written so “simply” but yet leaving a very impressionable message. I moved to the country (northern New England as a matter of fact) eight years ago from a large city. It was culture shock to say the least. I have since adapted and can’t imagine ever going back to city-living. An added and unexpected benefit to living a simpler life was the emotional and spiritual healing that took place within me. I truly didn’t realize the turmoil I had in my soul that is now gone thanks to enjoying nature, quiet mornings on our property, the gift of silence, and a kind word from the folks at the local country store. Thank you for the work you do here. It helps more than you know.


Hi Shirley,
Still fascinated with your blog. I am amazed at how so many people realize “That Simple Is Better.” I was born and raise in urban Philadelphia, Pa. My parents both come from Georgia, whenever we visited i had always enjoyed watching my grandmother go about her daily chores,feeding the chickens, shelling pecans from her Tree to make pecan Pies and cakes,making homemade Butter and etc. I have been living here in Charlotte,NC now for nearly fifteen years and I am working finding just the right house (My husband and I) so that I can practice A Simple life…Its Beautiful and I do believe its the way God intended us to Live. I Love Nature,I Love Country Living, making my own products ,and Home style cooking from scratch. Simple Is Awesome.
God Bless Continue Your Work and This Wonderful Blog..So Happy I found You.

Remain Blessed,Warmest Regards


Love the article about the laundry that you found in your Grandfathers journal. The images were very clear. A good part of history.


I came across your site, and I want to tell you how wonderful I think
it is. I admire you, and hope to incorporate your ideas into my own
life. Thank you.

Richard C.

Dear Shirley,

I am preparing to sell the big city house where my wife and I have raised our two children in order to move to a small country home for our retirement years. I am using your blog as inspiration for planning a simple living lifestyle. Thank you for the great thoughts and ideas.