Tuesday, 20 June 2017

How to start up a Simple Living Group

Pauline from Happy Retiree's Kitchen recently asked me if I could do a post on how to start up a Simple Living Group. I did write a post some time ago but I can't find it now so will do a new one and hopefully label it well enough so that I can unearth it down the track :-) This is how our Simple Living Toowoomba group began.......

A number of years ago, Rhonda Hetzel and hubby Hanno visited our city library as I think it may have been part of the book tour for Rhonda's first book Down to Earth.  The meeting was packed out and afterwards one of the ladies there asked if anyone would be interested in a simple living group and those of us who were keen jotted down our contact details. Then Margy, who was to become our co-ordinator, arranged a get-together where we discussed what we would like to learn and how to go about it. 

We were fortunate that we had a free venue available to use which had a most wonderful kitchen with room in there to seat over thirty people or so plus a hall where we could hold our swaps and any workshops that were hands-on and required more space. 

 So a date was organised for our first meeting which was to learn how to make cauliflower pickles and on the 2/9/2012 four of us including the presenter attended our first Simple Living Toowoomba workshop. That was just the start. Since then we have had a great increase in numbers attending the workshops and have met some very interesting people over the years.

 One of our frequent presenters is Racheal from Birdsong Market Garden who recently held the workshop on winter skin fixes that I mentioned in my last post.

 She and her hubby Rick did an excellent workshop on how to make sausages. 

Chris from Gully Grove show us how to make sourdough last year and her post  "The" Sourdough Tutorial has become quite famous as many people I know now use her method of making sourdough.


 Mandy from The Old Dairy who is shown here with Margy our co-ordinator during a fermenting workshop, has shown us how to make soap and candles. We have learned how to make cheese, pasta, sauerkraut, no-dig gardens....

.... Tunisian crochet...

...cider and mead...

 ...rag rugs - this is an extremely popular topic and I think we have had three rag rug workshops so far....

....beekeeping and the list goes on. 

What we do is ask those who are attending what they would be interested in learning and whether there is anyone there who would have the expertise to teach the particular skill to the rest of us. If  there is a group in our area  that holds regular meetings like the local beekeeping club, then we will ask them if one of their members could come along and share. Usually people are only too willing to share their knowledge.

Depending on the particular workshop and whether the presenter has to purchase items beforehand for a hands-on session, the charge is normally $5 or $10. 

Recently we had to find another venue and were very fortunate to be allowed to use a room in a church with a great kitchen. We did have one meeting in a venue provided by our local council for not-for-profit groups in between changing venues. 

So if anyone is interested in starting up a group in their area perhaps you could ask around amongst your friends or ask your local radio station if they would spread the word that something is in the pipeline. Once you have a few interested people then look for a venue. Your local council might have a room available or your local library or if you are involved in a church group perhaps you could use the church kitchen.

Sometimes it is easier to meet in someone's home for the first few meetings and this would be fine if you wanted to learn how to crochet, knit, sew, make rag rugs and so on. Racheal has workshops for smaller groups at her home on a regular basis and recently showed how she makes bone broth.  Once your group is up and running then contact your local newspaper and see if they will advertise your group for free as often they will do that for local groups and also do the same if you have a local radio station. Some shopping centres have notice boards where you could also advertise.

Also another idea is to have a homemade and homegrown swap. In our group we bring along up to five items and can take home five items. If we bring two then we can take two. Normally we have a cuppa and then the swap before starting our workshops. 

So there is a little bit of information about how our group started up and I hope it might be something that some readers find helpful. You would be amazed how many people are interested in soapmaking, baking sourdough, making rag rugs etc. these days. Some might like to discuss how to minimise their food bill or plan their menu for the week so they aren't tempted to buy take away food so often.  Just ask around and you only need a few with the same interests to start a group.

 Let me know how you go. 


  1. It's hard to believe that the group has been going so long already. Time really does fly when you're enjoying what you're doing.

    1. Yes Barb I didn't realise it was that long till I checked the date over on the SLT website.

  2. I wish there was such a group in our area. There could be one, but I don't know about it. I would have to travel three hours to the city for such activities, which wouldn't be so bad if I knew ahead of time when they are on. Not sure how to find this info though.

    There is a fermentation course on in a nearby town in early August. My friend and I are interested in attending so I must get on to that one :)

    Thank you Nanna Chel for passing on this information about starting a simple living group. I think I might ask around and see if anyone is interested. You never know...


    1. Tania the people who attend the fermentation course are probably interested in learning other simple living skills so that is a good place to start.

  3. Love this idea. Thanks for sharing tips.

  4. What a wonderful group to be part of, Chel. So much knowledge and skills and tips in one room!!! Meg:)

    1. Meg it is amazing what skills people have and sometimes they don't realise that others would love to learn the same skills.

  5. Good post Chel, very informative, I too didn't realize we had been going that long.

    I just wish there was a group like this when I was a young Mum, those years you need all the help,you can get. ..life would have been different with a start that included Simple Living skills and supprt of such a group.
    A good start is to put up some of those notices with the contact phone number tags at the bottom, there are usually heaps of notice boards around any town if you start looking. A 5 minute info talk at the end of a meeting for church, kindy, playgroup or craft group would work well too.
    Some short info announcements over the P A at yoyr local Farmers market would also help,people connect to your group start up.

    Good luck to everyone trying to get a group started, so nice to have like minded people helping each other.

    1. Margaret, I remember a few of us used to bake bread when we were first married but once children came along we seemed to get too busy. A but of a shame and thankfully things are changing now with so many young mums learning the old skills.

  6. This is a very good idea and post. Now if I can only retain the thought long enough to do something about it!

    1. Ha ha Kathy....of course you can retain the thought! You aren't that old :-)

  7. Chel, thankyou so much for taking my request on board and writing up such an informative and fascinating post on how your group started. Congratulations on 5 years of stimulating get togethers. There are so many great ideas here from you and also in your friends comments. I'll start gauging interest amongst friends, and as you say the time is right as well as more and more young people are interested in learning the old and traditional skills. Thanks again for being so generous with your time and information. Best wishes, Pauline

  8. Thank you for posting this. I wish there was this sort of group here. May have to start it myself, but it won't be for a year or so, and in the mean while I'll ask around and gauge the response to the questions.

  9. You're so blessed to be part of such a brilliant group! I'd love to know if there's something similar in Townsville.

  10. this is a great idea Nanna Chel, i use to have a group of friends when we lived in the mountains and we got together once a fortnight.
    we live quite far out of town now, however i really like the idea for starting up something here and hopefully making some new friends and learning lots of new skills.
    thank you for this post ;)


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