I’ll admit it. I’m a bit nervous for this year’s homesteading “season.” (Yes, I’m well aware that homesteading isn’t just a “season,” but the bulk of most homesteading work is done during the non-winter months… unless you keep a lot of animals, but even then…) Last year was really, really hard on us. We experienced some of the dreaded “homesteading burnout.” In fact, I’d speculate that Scott is still reeling from that burnout. Last year was our second year of homesteading, and just like all of the predictions, that’s when a homesteader is most likely to experience burnout. It’s when people are most likely to throw in the towel and quit. We were exhausted and worn out and beaten down and humbled throughout the year, but we still don’t plan to quit.
I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be a much better year. We’ve spent the last 6+ months learning to become organized in the house and in our daily lives. (Okay, fine. I’m learning to become more organized.) We’ve taken note of the things that caused us to stumble or struggle in the last two years, and we will either avoid those pitfalls or fix them altogether. We learned the different ways in which we stretched ourselves too thin, and ever since we’ve written up a list of family priorities, we’ll know the things we need to say “no” to and the things that we need to put first in our lives. We have a list of projects that need to get wrapped up this year, and now that I think I’ve finally won the kids over to my team (most of the time), I think I have a fighting chance of getting them to help me!
Our burnout last year was something that we felt throughout the whole of the season. In spring, we started off excited and strong, but deteriorated quickly. It rained SO MUCH, and then our allergies struck for a whole month, leaving Scott just about unable to work outside for any extended period of time without paying the price. I ended up with stomach issues from April through August. We had a hail storm. And there were so many predator issues. That’s not even mentioning all of the people who asked Scott for help with this project or that, and then who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be there for him in return when he needed a helping hand. Everything seemed to break (the van window, the 4-wheeler, the lawn mower… more than once… the tractor, ect.), and to top it all off, we were trying desperately to train the kids to STOP MAKING MESSES EVERYWHERE!!!! And we rounded out the important part of the season with our little guy in the hospital. Talk about taking a beating!
If I didn’t feel (if we didn’t feel) that this was what we were called to do, it would have been so easy to just stop and walk away. Truth be told, our faith is what kept it all going. Sometimes we face struggles because we’re fighting God’s will for our lives, and it gets hard and ugly and messy. But sometimes we face struggles because we ARE doing God’s will. Maybe it’s because He wants to refine us, but maybe it’s because there are bad forces in this world that don’t want us to do the good things that we are doing. Either way, we come out of the fire a little stronger than we were before.
I don’t think it’s fair to blame our burnout on homesteading in particular. Life just kind of kicked us in the pants last year, and we were (and still are) dealing with the “ramifications” of making a pretty big move (not in distance, but in terms of changes in space and set up… I speculate that it takes at least 2 years to really get settled into a new home).
I am pretty sure I talked about this at least once before, but the problem with “avoiding” homesteading burnout is that there is no way to know if you will be able to avoid it. “Don’t take on too much” they say, and that’s great advice… except for the fact that there is no way of knowing what will be too much for one family, or what kinds of hurdles you will face. I think that the only way you stand a chance of avoiding it is to make your plans, and then pick your top projects that “must be completed” for that year. And even then, there is still no way of knowing if that will be too much for you to handle.
How will you know what the temperament of your new baby will be? How do you know how well you’ll be able to balance the workload of a job away from home and homesteading, or homeschooling and homesteading, or housework and homesteading? How can you know how helpful your children will be in a given year or what kind of hurdles will be thrown in your path? How can you possibly foresee unexpected deaths in the family, or a loved one getting sick? You can’t. So you make some plans, set your goals, and if you don’t reach them, let it go. Don’t get stressed that you didn’t make it. Don’t worry if things didn’t go smoothly, because in the end, you learned something, right?
Remember that your homesteading vision is a glimpse into your future life, and that it will take time to get there. Write up your overall vision for your homestead. Then look at it and come up with a list of the “easy” steps you can take to get started. Then look at your list and break it down into your top 5 goal. Then look at that list and break each goal up into different tasks. Doing that can show you just how monumental your overall plan is and give you a more realistic look at how much it is going to take to achieve your goals. Then start whittling away at your list, little by little, but unless you need to set deadlines (such as for butchering animals or planting a garden), just don’t. Don’t set deadlines. And the best two pieces of advice that I could possibly give are this:
- Write down somewhere, anywhere, why you are choosing this life. You’ll need to know that and remind yourself often when things are stressful.
- Get organized. I know it takes time, especially when you are making a big change, but just doing it a little at a time will make a world of difference. And have at least some sort of a game plan! If you just keep chipping away at it a little at a time, it will get better!
For now, I’m anxiously awaiting another warm spell so I can get back out there and work on fixing and cleaning up things. In the mean time, I really need to work on cleaning up a few closets around the house.
If you are a homesteader and experienced burn out, what kept you going? What other advice would you offer to a newbie homesteader? Make sure to leave your reply in the comments below!