Minimalism and homesteading have some clear similarities. Living with what you need, seeking peace of mind, and simplifying your life can overlap in these two worlds.
But if you look at the source of minimalism, you’ll find you’re often trying to get more efficiency out of a true necessity of life. To simplify and reconnect with the basics of food, water, and shelter.
Maybe events in your life are taking you down this road. Maybe you’re tired of big corporations abusing the system. Or, like my case, maybe it’s both.
What I learned about minimalism
Two years ago, I sold 98% of my things and moved into a van. Goodbye rent, hello road. And just like roads have their bumps and potholes, so did my life with my van.
But what I learned is that minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything and not having attachments. It’s about getting rid of the things that you don’t need and bringing more intention about what you get attached to.
Which is why it’s important to bring principles of minimalism to homesteading. Not only will it reduce the amount of work, but the cost and space you have to provide.
Take garages for example. You would think they were designed to house a car, or maybe even a good place for a home gym. But what do we normally find? Boxes. So. Many. Boxes. And they’re probably things we don’t need and haven’t touched in years.
To avoid falling into this same trap with your homestead, all you need to do is keep it intentional. Be intentional about the items you bring and if they no longer serve a purpose, consider giving them away.
So, if you’re interested in both minimalism and homesteading, why not merge them? To get you started, here are 10 tips to becoming a minimalist homesteader.
1. Balance prepping and minimalism
This one is probably one of the “meatier” tips out there. But it can be one of the most useful to find your level of minimalism.
When you’re on your homestead, your goal might be to living off the land as much as you can. That could also mean establishing food and water security.
Prepping can help with this as you can collect rainwater, preserve food in jars, and live off-grid. But if you’re wanting minimalism, then having 200 jars of apple sauce is probably not the best use of space.
For example, maybe you don’t need a year’s supply of jarred food. Instead, three months might be enough in case of an emergency. And those three months could buy you enough time to ramp up food production if a situation does occur.
There’s not one answer here. The best way to balance prepping with minimalism is to identify your climate, food needs, and any potential natural disasters.
2. Decide on automation
Automation is so nice. It’s one of the perks of being human. Timed sprinklers, drip irrigation, and even permaculture are forms of automation.
You could have a machine for every task you do on your homestead. But having all the bells and whistles can take up a lot of space, cost, and don’t forget about maintenance.
Some love using drip irrigation, while some prefer the tried and true watering can.
Just like prepping, your level of automation is up to you and your goals on your homestead.
While it’s a good idea to walk around your homestead and ask yourself, “Can I automate this task?”, don’t go overboard. Stick to what you need.
After all, sometimes the physical work you put in brings the most rewarding results.
3. Reuse items
Paper towels, old clothes, and plastic bottles can be reused easily on homesteads. You can turn the paper towels into compost. Use old clothes for hand rags. And the plastic bottles can serve as plant containers or mini-greenhouses for your seedlings.
As a personal example, like some others, I use my egg cartons to grow my seedlings.
Also, consider which items you could replace to be more environmentally friendly. If you use plastic silverware occasionally, consider buying a biodegradable kind, like one made from potatoes.
There are many everyday items that you can adjust slightly to give you a more green homesteading experience.
4. Downsize tools
Depending on what you’re doing, you generally only need a few tools on a homestead. If you have a few acres or less, you probably don’t need a large shed full of tools and equipment.
Some of the most essential and minimal items for any homestead are:
- Garden fork
- Tiller (disregard if you’re doing no-dig)
- Hand saw
- Tape measure
- Watering can
Of course, there can be other items that may be essential to you which aren’t on this list.
Keep durability in mind. If the wheel on your discounted wheelbarrow keeps breaking, that’s just one more thing to repair.
Don’t dismiss spending a little more for better quality equipment to last you through the years. The last thing any homesteader wants is to be running to the store frequently.
Lastly, for some of the larger equipment like tractors and power tools, consider how many times you’ll need them. If it’s once in a blue moon, renting them might be a better option than buying.
5. Be clear about space
As a minimalist, most things should have a purpose.
For example, if you have a shed full of junk, clearing it out and organizing your tools can save a lot of headaches down the road.
Naturally, some spaces will have overlap. For example, your kitchen might also be a place for your seedlings or grow-lights.
But just like our garage example from earlier, if we’re not clear about what purpose the room has, junk will start accumulating in it.
6. Take inventory
As boring as it sounds, taking inventory is one of the best things any minimalist can do.
When we’re used to seeing something every day, like clothes we never wear, we learn to ignore them. This is why it’s so easy for useless things to pile up.
If we don’t stop and look at our rooms, belongings, and property ever so often, we’ll overlook things that could be causing clutter or damage.
And decluttering is a prime focus of minimalism.
With the clothes example, if you do have clothes you never wear, try putting your hangers in the opposite direction (hook facing out). But just once. After this, every time you do laundry, hang your clothes do it as you normally would (hook facing in).
If you do this over a few months, you’ll easily notice all the clothes you don’t wear (as the hooks will still be facing the opposite direction). This will make your spring cleaning much easier.
You can do the same with any items you have on a homestead.
It might not seem like much, but these small items can also take up mental clutter. We can start to feel relief when things finally have a place they belong (even if that in the trash).
7. Grow what you need
I recently did an example design for a half-acre homestead, and while I’m not a great designer, I found how much food you can grow on a small piece of land.
Overall, I learned that each person in a family could get enough food from a garden the size of 200 square feet. And a half-acre could feed up to three to four families.
If you find yourself getting too large of harvests (a good problem for sure), you may want to think about downsizing.
You could save quite a bit of time and energy by simply growing what you need.
This doesn’t mean your garden beds don’t have to be empty.
Consider growing what’s in season and limiting winter food storage. Try replacing some of your annuals with perennials. Even reducing the variety you grow will help keep it simple.
If growing what you need is a goal of yours, then grow the plants that you know work well and double down on them for better efficiency. The same goes for livestock.
“No-dig” is becoming a popular practice for many gardeners and homesteaders as it helps preserve healthy soil.
Many people are trying to mimic the rich soil in forests that are results of fallen trees and mulch from leaves. This untouched ground has a complex community of bacteria and beneficial organisms for plant growth.
But another great benefit of no-dig, obviously means that you don’t need to dig for your plants.
The few exceptions would be for trees or larger root vegetables. But, if you have the chance to look into no-dig, I’d highly recommend it.
9. Practice minimalism outside of homesteading
Minimalism doesn’t have to stop at the homestead or your backyard. Much of your life could benefit from minimalism. From digital clutter to physical belongings, there might be opportunities for you to explore and optimize.
For me, it was trying out van live. For you, it might be reducing the thousands of photos on your phone. Or giving away a few of the five pairs of rain boots you haven’t worn in years.
Depending on what priorities you have on your homestead, automation, prepping, and minimalism can be balanced. There is a wide range of what kind of homesteader you can be. And minimalism can be what you make it.
Minimalism isn’t about tossing everything aside. It’s about slimming down what you don’t need and being more aware of what is going on in your physical (and mental) space. And a minimalist homestead can often mean a more efficient one with fewer headaches.