I discovered this book in one of the best possible ways: by browsing slowly through a bookstore and seeing which books jumped out at me. I admit, it was the presentation of Down to Earth which grabbed my attention first. But after a quick flick through, I knew I couldn’t leave it behind in the bookstore. It had to come with me.

Rhonda Hetzel lives in Queensland with her husband, and this book is all about living simply: baking food from scratch, being self-sufficient, not relying on consumerism and surviving on simply enough. No more and no less than what you need. These methods of living are nothing new- they are what previous generations did instinctively. However, Hetzel believes people are slowly losing the skills required to really take care of oneself- cooking, cleaning, sewing and budgeting.

I found it surprising how engaging the book was to read. I’ll admit, I was a little suspicious at first- often books called a ‘guide’ are really instructions on what you should  be doing and why doing anything different is wrong. However, Hetzel makes it very clear that she understands that different people have different amounts of time, different priorities and are at different stages in their lives. She is retired, and can therefore afford to spend her days baking and tending to her garden and making sure the home is running efficiently. Yet she makes no assumptions or demands that the reader too should be able to do everything she suggests- she merely asks the reader to take away those things they believe in or find useful, and leave the rest alone.

More than a guide to simple living, I found it interesting reading about the changes Hetzel herself has chosen to make in her life. She openly admits that she found changing her ways difficult and daunting at first, but slowly she became accustomed to what worked for her. She offers tips on managing money, sewing, baking, cooking, cleaning and organisation, as well as including recipes for making your own soap and cleaning products. Having read the book, I am unsure how much I will really take away with me and use in practice, yet I found it such an interesting and mind opening read. Hetzel herself once lived the life governed by money and possessions that many people live, and really attempts to understand her readers. I would encourage people to check out her blog at http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com.au/ and at least see what she has to say. It certainly challenged my perception of some things.

Down to Earth: a guide to simple living

Viking, Penguin Books, 2012