Sustainable Living Defined
Ok, I’m just kidding. There really is no one definition for sustainable living as each individual and family tends to determine what their definition is. However, most of us hold true to a few tenets of sustainability…which, by the way, often overlaps into the whole self-sufficiency mindset.
1. We like to do things ourselves whenever possible, depending on commercialism as little as possible (and this is where the whole self-sufficiency tendency gets started).
2. We tend to be frugal with all resources, not just our incomes, as we see wasting resources as being non-sustainable and insufficient.
3. We strive to produce as much of our own food, medicine, and other fundamentals of living ourselves, if we can. Then, we do our best to purchase from local farmers and other businesses whenever possible.
Now, for what sustainable, self sufficient living IS NOT–at least for most of us.
1. It is NOT the mindset that we can’t ever go to the store and buy bread or any other desired item. After all, most of us do have full lives to live. However, there are certainly those who choose to DIY literally everything from bread to clothes to everything in between. They are my heroes, but most of us tend to be a bit more in the middle of the sustainable, self-sufficiency living scale. Yet, I must admit, homemade bread is soooo much better than that weird store bought fluff.
2. It is NOT the idea that we all must wear tattered and worn out clothes because we’re too broke to buy new ones. Although, just being honest here, there are some years that are tighter than others and clothing may, at times, be more of a necessity than a luxury. Holes are not always bad or avoidable. Just saying…
3. It is NOT about living in poverty–who wants that? Although, ‘broke’ can certainly become a common household word. Especially in the beginning if you start out living on one income. However, most of us tend to find other income streams that make the tight budget a little looser.
And most importantly, it is NOT a mindset of thinking we can do everything ourselves. To be truly sustainable and self-sufficient, we must build community. That community provides a local source for those resources and needs we cannot or choose to not meet ourselves by our own two hands. Bartering, buying and selling locally, and simply giving one another a helping hand with no strings attached is what truly defines a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. And the friends you make along the way are some of the best and most interesting friends you could ever hope to gain!
Do I Have to Sell Everything!?
When we first thought about homesteading and growing our own food, we owned 50 acres and a huge house. We had a nice sized garden, horses, cats, dogs, and big dreams. At that was it.
Luckily, reality hit and we realized that in order to make our homesteading dreams come true, we had to downsize. That’s right. Downsize. Dramatically. Long story short, we sold the house and land and moved to another state. We now own 8 acres (half is wooded) and a very humble home. Nothing fancy here.
Does that mean YOU have to sell and downsize–no. It just means we did. We had decided I was to stay home with our two kids, homeschool, and take my time building a work-at-home career while we built the homestead. And we couldn’t be happier with our decision.
However, our approach was dramatic. MOST families choose to stay at their current location and jobs while slowly building their sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. The skills needed to create this simpler way of living are easily learned, practiced, and perfected even while living in the middle of a big city, in a neighborhood, even in an apartment. You DO NOT have to have lots of land, or even a small amount of land. If, over time, you decide your path is leading towards a move, then by all means, move. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking this lifestyle requires country living.
In fact, the important thing to remember is that the self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle is more about a mindset of living in a way that is sustainable–meaning it is a lifestyle that can be repeated on a daily basis while maintaining a healthy quality of life.
Start Small–Very Small
What do you see in this photo? Nothing? Look again. It’s our first step at our new home towards our goal of a simpler lifestyle. That water spigot and one other one by the horse pasture were all we managed to put in the first year we lived here. And while I have to admit I was a tiny bit disappointed at the slow pace, I was also deeply exhilarated as I began planning each step.
And that slow pace is exactly what you need to do yourself as you begin this new journey. I can’t tell you how many promising homesteaders I’ve seen start too big and burn out before the first few years have passed. Most of us have amazing dreams of growing an entire year’s worth of food our first season, only to discover there’s a whole lot more work involved than we anticipated. (And our budgets are too often a bit on the leaner side of our dreams, too!)
So start with a water spigot. Or three to four laying hens in a small portable chicken tractor. Or maybe your first step is simply spending a year building community and looking for local farmers and producers to supply your family’s needs.
Whatever way you start, just remember to start small. I met a young lady a few weeks ago eager to get started on her own self-sufficient lifestyle. Yet, even at her young age she had the wisdom to know she needed to spend an entire year studying on her chosen first step–beekeeping. It is those who are wise like her that will succeed in this new lifestyle, not just for a year or two, but for a lifetime.
So start small–and be patient. It will come with each passing day.
Here’s to dreaming big while keeping it simple!