Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and in my case that's certainly true! Since we live in a rural area, it's not convenient to run to the store each time we run out of something, so I've been on a path of learning to do more for myself if for no other reason than to eliminate the need to drive to an adjoining city to purchase something.
But here's the thing — I've found that voluntary simplicity's an almost addictive activity. The more I learn to do for myself, the more I challenge myself to do even more.
Sure, I started this journey decades ago for environmental reasons when I lived in the city. I'd discovered that the plastic tub my favorite yogurt was sold in wasn't recyclable, so I sat out to see if I could make my own homemade yogurt to eliminate that daily piece of landfill-bound trash. As it turns out it was way easier (and CHEAPER) to make myself than the advertising folks led me to believe.
Hmmmm... wonder what else was I misled about? Is it really too difficult, complicated or time-consuming to do things for myself? I've been pleasantly surprised to find out the answer is almost always: NO - IT'S EASY!
Voluntary Simplicity is Less Expensive
And here's a bonus: Being self-reliant is almost always also less expensive, sometimes by quite a bit. Each task I take up is another drop in our budget bucket by way of money not spent. The less money I need for our day-to-day life, the less money I must earn at my job. So, I started pouring those drops into the bucket as fast as I could. I learned to cook from scratch, make my garden more productive and to preserve what the garden produces. Awesome! What else can I do?
I have a higher-end dryer but I started hanging my laundry under that beautiful blue Texas sky using free solar energy to dry our clothes in the summer months. I use clothes-drying racks inside during the winter months to dry our clothes as well as add moisture to the dry winter air inside our home. Good, I like it. Now what else can I do?
Repurposing is Powerful!
My battle cry these days is "use what you've got." We repurpose what we already have instead of throwing it away and buying another whatsit to fill a need — everything from repurposed spray bottles to hold our homemade cleaners, using an unused hay ring to keep cattle away from a newly planted tree, an idle water trough to slowly trickle water and keep a fruit tree alive during the brutal drought, and we even used repurposed barn wood from our 1880s barn to build a Reclaimed Lumber Rustic Headboard for our guest room. Yeah, as you can see, this self-reliant thing really is addictive. The more you do, the more your mind automatically turns to self-reliance when a need arises, and that's a good thing!
I started doing more and more for myself and over time, all of those small savings meant I was able to leave the corporate job that I hated in the city and move to this rural Texas area I love. Now I'm living a life that truly speaks to my heart, and I'm afforded the time to live according to my values and decide what's important to me and my family. My time is now my own, and I make sure it's spent wisely and productively.
Do What You Can, Where You Are NOW!
But we're all in different places in our lives — some are just starting out on their own, some are raising a family, some are empty nesters — and all stages in between. But no matter if you live in a small apartment or have acreage in the country, voluntary simplicity offers something for everyone since self-reliant steps can be based on the time and space you have available now.
Since I'm at home during the day, my time is spent doing self-reliant things such as gardening, cooking from scratch, raising chickens, making my own cleaners, etc. A stay-at-home mom may have less time for such activities, even less for a parent with very small children or babies. Perhaps even less for someone that is sitting behind a corporate desk between 9 - 5. But you can use the time you have available in your circumstance — the important thing is to start where you are.
Start using cloth napkins and shun the repeated purchase of disposable napkins. As a matter of fact, look at all your disposables and see if there's a better way. Or grow some of your own food. Don't have a place for an outdoor garden? Plop some small veggie plants into containers on your balcony. No balcony? Grow herbs on your kitchen windowsill. And everyone no matter where they live has to clean — learn to make your own cleaning supplies and you'll save money, plus homemade versions have less chemicals in them. Win/win. One of my favorite cleaners is a simple soap-water mixture placed in a repurposed spray bottle — why complicate cleaning?
So start today. Don't buy into the advertising telling you that you aren't capable of doing it yourself! Learn the simple things you can start right now and build on it as you gain confidence. You may find, like me, that the difference you make in your life can be game changing!
This article was written by Tammy Taylor, owner of the ~Taylor-Made Homestead~ blog. Tammy lives & works on a NE Texas ranch and writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, MIY, DIY and living as gently as possible on this big blue planet we call home. You can visit her Homestead Blog – or follow her on Facebook or Pinterest. Find all of Tammy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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