Last time I talked about self-sufficiency, we discussed the importance of food, but there are many aspects that need to be looked at. One aspect that I think gets overlooked when people (myself included) want to become more self-sufficient is that it requires a big change in mindset, and in more ways than one.
For as old-fashioned as I am, I am also accustomed to the ways of the modern world. We have modern conveniences everywhere you look. While there is a place for modern conveniences in the homesteading world, we need to find a balance. There are all of these great tools that make life easier in one way, but they make life harder in ways that we don’t see because the effect isn’t direct. You want a washing machine? Fine, but you have to earn enough money to buy one, then earn enough money to buy the detergent, then earn enough money to operate it, oh, and don’t forget the cost of the water bill! (It’s a little different for us, we live in the country, use a well, and I make my own detergent. The point is that it costs us beyond the initial investment.) Then because washing clothes is so easy, we can own more clothes because we don’t need to wash them regularly. But now we’ve created more work because we have to wash all of those new clothes, and we still have to go to a job to earn the money to pay for all of it. That’s just one example! Take a look at all that is around you and do the same thing for each appliance, gadget, toy, you name it, and it really starts to add up.
We think the only way to wash our clothing is with a washing machine, but that just isn’t true. I recently read an article that talked about how a business was donating washers and dryers to some schools where children weren’t attending because they didn’t have clean clothes. Their parents couldn’t afford laundry detergent. While I appreciate what the business did, it just made me think how sad it is that people don’t recognize that they can wash their clothes by hand with a bar of soap. Laundry detergent is expensive, so I make my own. It lasts a long time and costs next to nothing. We have lost so much knowledge and it’s heartbreaking.
People didn’t always have refrigerators. They had ice boxes, and before that they used natural water sources (streams, rivers…) or cold spring houses. Before that they found other ways to refrigerate or they went without. People traveled less, walked more, or rode in a wagon or carriage. I’m not going to be buying a horse and buggy, but we would live if we didn’t have two vehicles. It might mean that I get to travel less while Scott is at work, but it would also mean I got to travel less (I’m a home-body, so I’d be okay with an excuse to stay home), and that we would spend less money.
Money has been an odd motivator for me in all of this. We are not making the changes that we are so that we can have more money. We are making these changes so that we can have less. With each change I make in the name of frugality: switching from disposable to cloth diapers, drying clothes on the line, growing our own food, I begin to marvel at how much we accept as the norm, as the way things should be, and how much we do for the sake of keeping up with society. I never wanted that. I don’t care about fitting in.
I found out recently that white bread became a trend during the Victorian (or Edwardian) era because the wealthy could afford white bread. Its white color was a sign of purity, something they valued in a strange way during that period (white food, bleached skin…), so people started to eat white bread because it was popular, and it looked more “pure” than a normal bread. Not because it tasted better or was healthier. So bread-makers sought out ways to make white bread more affordable for the average Joe. How many countless things do we have in our lives that we eat or use and never stop to wonder where it came from or why?
The change of mindset doesn’t just have to happen to me or to Scott. Our kids have to adjust, and our closest family and friends have to adjust. We aren’t as available as we once were, and we have a lot going on. Our cell phones are gone and if you want to call, you can expect to reach our answering machine. It caught me off-guard that changing our lifestyle would affect those around us the way that it has. Our parents, siblings, and friends all have to adjust to our changes. It’s not that we expect them to buy chickens and start a garden (though I highly recommend it 😉 ), we aren’t telling them that they are bad or wrong for living the way they do (we don’t care, though we will share what we learn), it’s that we are more difficult to get in touch with, less available and don’t reach out as much as we used to. It has unintentionally caused some hurt feelings, and I didn’t see that coming. They love us and support us, but don’t always understand, so they are adjusting.
Some around us have lovingly said “don’t feel bad if you decide it’s not working,” or “you aren’t a failure if you change your mind,” and I know it’s true. I’m not being hard on myself. If I seem stressed out, it’s because I am learning to let go of the “old” ways, and transitions aren’t easy. This homesteading lifestyle isn’t supposed to be easy, but it would be a lot easier if we could stop worrying about all of this “stuff.”
The biggest change that I am dealing with at the moment is our battle with stuff. We got rid of so much before we moved…SO much… yet we still have too much. How on earth did I let this happen? We live in a society of stuff, so stuff has become normal to me. If you look at the history of the world the amount of stuff that we have is obscene. It’s embarrassing. And I’m not just talking about what Scott and I own. It is going to take me a long time, but I am determined to simplify. But as I have said before, we do so many things-have so many hobbies-and with that come tools and materials, we are embarking on a long journey of organization, and while we organize, we will get rid of more clutter.
So I cope with the changes as they come. Saying we want to “get rid of this” or “do that” is easy to say, doing it takes an adjustment. We still don’t know what changes we will all make, but I am beginning to see that we will end up making a lot of the changes we weren’t sure about to begin with. We pray that God gives us guidance to make the right choices, that we know what we should hang onto and what we need to let go of. And we pray that we can inspire others to make changes they have been wanting to make but haven’t had the courage to do so yet.
My most recent change is the switch to cloth diapers. Next I’ll be going through the kitchen, researching what tools were commonly owned and why, and making some more changes to the way we do things. What changes are you making? What do you hope to change that you haven’t had the courage to change yet? Don’t forget to leave your comments below!