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Ok, I’m just kidding. There really is no one definition for self-sufficient living as each individual and family tends to determine what their own definition is.

Just as children have their own ways of exploring the world, homesteaders and others seeking self-sufficiency must explore in their own ways, too.

However, most of us hold true to a few tenets of self-sufficiency, or as many call it, sustainable living.

We DO like to do things ourselves whenever possible because we enjoy creating a superior product that’s tailored to our own family’s needs. Other times, it’s because we like/need/prefer/have to to stretch our dollar.

We DO like to be frugal, as we see wasting resources as being ‘insufficient’ and therefore contradictory to the whole self sufficient/sustainable mindset.

We DO strive to either produce and/or locally source as much of our own food, medicine, and other fundamentals of living ourselves, IF and WHEN we can.

We DO have an innate desire to constantly learn new skills and often find ourselves waist deep in new projects on a constant basis–part of the fun of building a sustainable lifestyle. And if you also consider yourself a homesteader, well, let’s just say our projects can get out of hand at times…

Which brings me to the next one. We DO tend to collect not only projects, but critters as well. What typically starts as a few tomato plants and a couple of laying hens for the family’s daily meals, quickly turns into dreams of home grown pork, beef, duck, at least 100 tomato plants, 30 cucumber plants, rows upon rows of sweet corn, bees for the family’s honey–I think you get the picture. A bit compulsive at times. Oh, and don’t forget about the dairy goat or cow. Got to have one of those. And guineas for alarm bells. The list goes on…

Now, for what Self-Sufficiency IS NOT: At Least for Us Real People

sustainable living, self-sufficiency,

It is NOT the mindset that we have to do everything that every other person striving for a sustainable lifestyle is doing. As a die hard homesteader myself, this is the one I sometimes forget. Because I interact with sooo many homesteaders, I too can fall into the trap of thinking I’m not ‘sustainable’ enough if I’m not making my own cheese, milking my own cow, or whatever the person next to me is doing. And this is crazy talk. Everyone’s personality, goals, and family are different, so everyone’s elements of sustainable living will be, too.

It is NOT the mindset that we can’t ever go to the store and buy bread, ketchup, cheese, or fill in the blank. After all, most of us do have full lives to live. And quite frankly, some of us simply don’t like kneading bread until the cows come home or pureeing tomatoes for weeks on end. (Did I just say that out loud!?)

It is NOT true that all of us are off-grid. Most of us have no issue with using our electric washing machines, dish washers, hair dryers, even our battery operated toothbrushes. When we do use electricity, however, we make sure we don’t waste it. BUT, there are many who go completely off-grid and use purely hand or solar powered counterparts. Nothing wrong with that. We’re all different in our preferences.

It is NOT the idea that we must grow, hunt, and/or gather our own food; although many of us do. In fact, many folks striving for a sustainable lifestyle live in apartments and subdivisions. Yet, they can still be homesteaders who grow their own kitchen herbs in a windowsill, go to the farmers market for their produce, make their own herbal remedies, etc. It’s all about the mindset, not how much we do,

It is NOT the idea that we all wear tattered, worn out clothing because we’re too broke to buy new ones. But if you happen to drop by unannounced, you will likely see us in just that type of clothing.

It is NOT about living in poverty–who wants that? Although a large paycheck is typically not a primary goal as we find ourselves not craving the typical extras in life that so many in today’s consumer based society do.

And most importantly, it is NOT a mindset of thinking we can, or even should, do everything ourselves. To be truly self-sufficient and sustainable, we must build community and share in each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Where one has mastered tomatoes, the other has mastered grass-fed beef. Share and spend locally. That’s sustainable.

No matter how hard we may try, eventually we must learn we need to rely on the help of others to be truly self-sufficient.

Self-sufficiency doesn’t look the same for any two people; yet we all share many of the same tenets. It is through the sharing of each of our gifts that we obtain the knowledge, skills, foodstuffs, and other necessities needed to create our own sustainable lifestyle. After all, each of us has only 24 hours to the day, and we must sleep at some point–although there are times that we feel like we don’t. So don’t get caught up in a cookie cutter idea of what a sustainable, self-sufficient, homesteading lifestyle looks like. Heck, my own family’s lifestyle is much like the leaves on a great oak tree–each season brings a different look with no two seasons ever being the same. And we like it like that. So make this lifestyle your own, one step at a time.


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