Select Page

Simple Living Lessons From Grandma

I’ve learned a lot about simple living from our beloved Tsh over the years. There are so many little things in my life that I can trace back to her posts on The Art of Simple.

From little green practices to big parenting decisions, Tsh’s good influence is woven into the fabric of my life.

But Tsh wasn’t my first simple living guru.

That would be my Grandma Eleanor. Hers was a different sort of simplicity.

She wouldn’t have thought of simple living as an intentional lifestyle choice so much as a necessity.

Like many folks in her generation, she lived through hard times – hard times that required frugality, resilience, sacrifice, and ingenuity. These are the virtues I seek to cultivate in my own life, so her example is an inspiration.

Lessons in simplicity from Grandma

Here are three of my favorite lessons learned from Grandma Eleanor:

If you can get paid to do something you love, do it.

According to family lore, Grandma Eleanor made a little money skating in the Roller Derby during the Great Depression.

She went on to make a career out of her favorite hobby: knitting.

If you bought a sweater from Yonkers in the seventies or eighties, there’s a chance my grandmother knit it. They would send her a pattern and a big box of yarn, and six weeks later she would fill the box with impeccably finished sweaters and ship it off to the department store headquarters.

A small house can be a perfect home.

My grandma lived in a tiny house before tiny houses were cool. Somehow my entire family of five would stay with her in her motor home on our visits to Iowa. What that house lacked in square footage it made up for in love, hospitality, and good cooking.

Lessons in simplicity from Grandma

Bad habits can be broken.

Grandma Eleanor smoked for a long time.

A really long time. She tried to quit a few times, and finally did when she was well into her eighties.

By that time it hardly seemed necessary – after all, the cigarettes hadn’t exactly shortened her lifespan. But she wanted to quit, so she did.

Whenever I think I can’t kick a bad habit, I think of my Grandma’s last pack of Pall Malls.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Stephanie

    I LOVE that picture of her hands. They remind me so much of my own grandmother’s hands before she passed away. I didn’t think of them as beautiful then but looking back that’s exactly what I’d call them. She was always using her hands to serve and love and I miss them so much. What a lovely way to honor your grandmother. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kizzy

    This is part of the reason I want to pursue a simple slowly lived lifestyle. My grandparents and great-grandparents had similar experiences and I often wonder if they still had a better quality of life than we have.

    • Shelli Breault

      I am 62.. and truly NOT comfortable in today’s world. I feel vulnerable and far to serious EVERYDAY.

  3. Annette Silveira

    How did our grandparents live so simply with many children and really hard work to keep things going? My grandmother did lots ofseasonal field work, she made chicken coops, and she baked the most beautiful wedding cakes in town.
    They also lived in the most impossibly tiny house. Two bedrooms, with four girls and a boy sharing one room at one point. We had so many family dinners and holiday celebrations there over the years. Fantastic memories.

  4. kddomingue

    What a beautiful picture of your grandmother’s hands. My Grandmama died when I was 24 and my daughter was only three months old. I’m 57 now and still miss her every day. My Grandmama’s​ hands were rarely still. They were always in motion cooking, sewing, patting a child as she rocked them, making a quilt, crocheting a doily or a tablecloth, gardening, mending, clapping out the rythmn to an old gospel song, sroking a child’s hair, shelling peas. The only time I remember her hands being still was when they were folded in prayer. Her hands were wrinkled and twisted with arthritis, the skin so thin that it seemed like you could almost see through but they were beautiful to me. Every movement of her hands spoke of love and grace, strength and hard work, patience and endurance, creation and giving…..but most of all, they spoke of love.

  5. Ketan Jawale

    Thanks for sharing…
    My Grandma always taught me to have a faith…
    She always scold me whenever I misbehaved, that time it felt like insulting but right now I am feeling blessed because of my Grandparents.

  6. Sabung Ayam

    My grandma lived in a tiny house before tiny houses were cool.

  7. Jan

    I miss my Grandma, also. She was more gentle with me than my own Mom. Grandma truly loved me for who I am not what I produced.

  8. MelD

    Yes, this. My grandmother died in February aged 100 3/4… almost to the last, she was always busy, had lots to do. So much of what you say resonates (though she would never have smoked!). Her house, a typical English one, was about 700 sqft with three small bedrooms, 2 downstairs rooms, one bathroom and a tiny kitchen. For 5 years, she rented out the largest bedroom and front parlour to a growing family (two of the children were born there). Then she had other lodgers in two of the bedrooms, one of whom stayed for 25 years until his death, others with whom we are still in touch. She cooked and kept house for them, as well as her husband. Later she worked in a café, then a flower shop, and later still helped elderly friends by cooking a Sunday dinner for them and having my grandad take it over, or visiting them in care homes or hospital.
    Family and friends were always welcome and she always found room and food for everybody, though she was never extravagant. Ten people slept in the house during the time we held her wake, which she would have loved – she was the top layer in 5 generations, 3 of which stayed in the house, including 4 great-great-grandchildren, it was full of life! She was frugal, having been brought up after the 1st world war and living through the 2nd – she wouldn’t have dreamed of putting more than 1 egg in a cake or living above her means in any way, always making do and mending, sewing smart, fashionable clothes for herself and my mother: they were always beautifully turned out (and the house always tidy and clean!). And she sewed not only clothes but soft toys and clothes for them for me and other young relatives and friends. She also had a reputation for traditional celebration fruit cakes which she decorated with enormous skill – Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and weddings all had her wonderful creations at their centre. She enjoyed making baskets (which she gave away), going to pottery class and for a while, ballroom dancing, and I don’t know about breaking bad habits, I’m not sure she had any/many, but I do know she cautioned us all not to be greedy and to share and always put others before herself! If I can be even a fraction of what she was, I will be grateful. What a woman to look up to!!

  9. Shirley Bisschoff

    Thank you for this! My great-grandmother died in 1987 when I was just 8 years old. I consider it such a privilege to have know such a beautiful, selfless soul – even for so short a time. No matter how many of the family were around, she never failed to make each of us feel very special and very loved. Through-out my life I have strived to be a woman she could be proud of. I will miss her always.

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.