One of the things, I think, we learn pretty quickly when we embark on a homespun, seasonal, homesteading, DIY lifestyle is that while we may be choosing a back-to-basics or voluntarily simple lifestyle it can sometimes be anything but simple and easy. There are any number of reasons to choose a life of voluntary simplicity and homesteading – all of them deeply personal and absolutely correct, however; it's okay to admit that sometimes it's not all we thought it would be, that sometimes it's darn hard and that sometimes those ads for frozen TV dinners seem mighty appealing over making another meal from scratch and cleaning it all up. I've been on this path for a little while now and I can say I've learned a few tricks for those days when simple isn't easy that can help make everything less overwhelming.
This lifestyle is about effort and work and about carefully choosing a lifestyle philosophy. There's no way to deny that – it's not always roses and sunshine either. It's not always easy or simple but it is extremely rewarding and we can make it work in our individual ways by using a few coping mechansims.
Simple doesn’t mean you don’t put in effort or that you just lay back and watch things happen. Simple can sometimes mean more work, more planning, and even more thought put into your philosophy of life. ~ Rohan Anderson in Whole Larder Love
No one can do it all. No one. Find acceptable limitations. I can maintain a big garden, preserve food, run a small business, dabble in hobbies, and spend time with husband. I can not do all those things and have a completely dustless house, participate in multiple volunteer groups, and keep completely on top of current events. The house is neat but it is never going to pass a white-glove test. I used to spend a lot of time fretting over that and what it meant for my ‘homemaker' image. I found that one of my acceptable limitations is to have a neat house but one that always looks lived-in and would never make the pages of a fancy magazine. My gardens too are very productive and healthy but there are always weeds. I've come to accept that I have limitations, that I don't do it all, and I'm more than okay with that – I have priorities and that's more important in the long run for the lifestyle I choose.
There's a lot of freedom and joy in this acceptance. Realizing that we do indeed want to choose simple and that we can't do everything well all the time allows us to let go of those things in pursuit of what really matters. It's not always easy to say, to admit, that we can't do it all but none of us are superhuman, relax and enjoy the very human experience of limitation.
Live Within the Natural Cycles of the Earth
The earth has a fairly set rhythm and when we choose to set our lives to that cadence a certain predictably inevitably follows which can indeed make life easier. Canning applesauce happens when the apples are ready for instance, quiet time for reading and hobbies might happen more often during dark and cold winters. These predictable rhythms allow us to enjoy each thing, even when it might not be easy, as they are presented because we know they are only for this season and are indeed fleeting. It also allows us to revel even more deeply in the joys – those garden fresh tomatoes don't last all year and think of how very much they are appreciated and adored in their limited run in our year.
Living close to the earth takes a little practice but isn't terribly difficult, it's simply a matter of tuning one's habits and gets easier with practice. When there are long hours of daylight in the spring and summer, we tend to have more energy and do more. When the hours turn more towards darkness many of us naturally turn inward and rest more. Embrace the natural changes within the external environment, garden when it's time, eat and rest when it's time. These rhythms also help us accept our limitations because we understand that is indeed a time for everything – it's just never all at once.
Embrace the Current Season of Life
Much like the earth has a seasonal rhythm so do our lives. The life of a mother with young children is very different than the life of a mother with teenagers which is very different from the single woman or the childless woman. The life of a 20-year-old is very different than that of a 40-year-old and so on. Learn to appreciate and sit in each of these seasons. Enjoy and do what's important now without wishing for something different. Work towards goals and dreams but don't let the day pass by without recognizing and appreciating what it held. Just like living within the seasons of the earth, we're often building up stores in one period of life that will sustain us in the next.
Accepting the now of life and finding gratitude there goes a long way into making life feel easier even on the toughest days.
Because we do have to accept our limitations and because there are seasons both natural and timely we need to choose our priorities, our guiding philosophies wisely. Priorities are inherently personal in nature and vary widely. What's important to my daily life may not be for you and vice versa. That's exactly as it should be – these priorities are not about comparing lives or choices to anyone else but about achieving the goals and lifestyle you and your family most desire. Choose priorities wisely and make sure to look at them and daily habits now and then to make sure they're matching up. There's no right or wrong, use these priorities as a road map to make sure you're heading in the direction you want.
A priority for us to preserve as much as possible from our garden to sustain us through long Montana winters. That means we have to actively choose to do that work in those seasons. It might mean missing the concert in the park because the tomatoes are ready now. We all have to choose on a daily basis the work and leisure that is most important to us (and make no mistake leisure has a place in our priorities too).
Have a Plan
Some of us are more spontaneous than others and there's nothing wrong with that, however; it seems that having a plan even if we choose to deviate from it now and then helps make things easier if not simpler. Take time to list out what needs doing and schedule it as much as possible. Again, this will vary just like priorities but find what works best and plan it out. Having that plan helps create predictable rhythms within the various seasons and cycles that again help relieve some of the pressure and feelings of overwhelm that often accompany those moments when simple isn't easy.
This lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, of homesteading it can take a ton of effort and work and planning but it can also provide a huge satisfaction and joy in a job well-done and in a life well-lived. Don't be dismayed by the effort and work and days of not easy, but rather find what works for you and move forward. It all takes practice and the more you practice the better you get and the more joy there is to be found.