When you hear the word minimalism, you might think of a lifestyle that means living with close to nothing. A lifestyle that includes only a handful of outfits, a single fork and spoon, and probably little to no plastic usage.
Well, you’re not wrong. Some people do live this way. But it’s a generalized view of what minimalism can be, especially when it comes to homesteading.
My biggest experience with minimalism was when I opted to live out of a van for two years in California.
I saw all the beautiful people living the van life on Instagram and I wanted that freedom and adventure as well (turns out it was a beautiful experience but without any of the glamour).
By owning only the few items that would fit in my van, I felt a sense of peace. The decluttering of my material possessions was part of it, but I felt lighter mentally and emotionally too.
While I don’t live this way anymore, I’ve taken many of the principles that I’ve learned and continue to apply them to my life and homestead.
What is Minimalism?
My time spent living in van taught me 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.
While you can start a homestead without practicing minimalism, incorporating it could make it an easier and smoother experience.
Minimalism provides the focus and simplicity that can make homesteading more obtainable and enjoyable. It can help you master one skill or task at a time, instead of taking on too much at once and getting burned out.
The 3 Aspects of Minimalism
While living with fewer possessions is the most well-known aspect of minimalism, other aspects go beyond the physical.
1. Mental and Emotional
It’s easy to imagine minimalism in a physical space. Little to no clutter, most items having a purpose, and maybe a simple design. But what about in a mental or emotional space? What does that look like?
For starters, we know we all have different brains and beliefs, but there are some common types of obstacles that can weigh our minds down.
Stay with me, we’re going to lightly touch on some psychology.
Irrational beliefs are one of the most central parts of being human. But that’s not an excuse to keep them around. They’ll only prevent you from achieving what you want from your homestead.
The first example that comes to mind is a friend of mine who was into gardening. She was good at gardening, but whenever a plant wasn’t doing well, she’d blame the plant.
“Dumb plant, why do you keep trying to die?“
The only problem with this mentality is that it’s not solution-oriented. Instead of searching for solutions, or finding out why the plant was dying, she’d wipe her hands and toss the plant.
Most gardeners agree that to achieve success in your garden, looking for the source of the problem will undoubtedly help you become more knowledgable and increase your yields.
And once you do find the source, search for the solution.
Whether it’s the amount of sunlight, water, fertilizer, or pests, observe and experiment with your solutions, and your skills will grow.
By identifying irrational beliefs, and approaching them with mindfulness (yes, it’s an overused word, but still underrated), our thoughts begin to take a relaxed and measured approach to how to deal with everyday problems on the homestead.
At some level, we all impose mental restraints on ourselves. I did it when I first started homesteading, and I sometimes still do it when I write for my blog.
“Who’s going to listen to me? There’s already a lot of information out there. How will I stand out?”
But the truth is, we all have value to add.
Yes, there is always going to be someone more knowledgable, but if you can help at least one person out there, isn’t it worth it?
Instead of feeling the pressure that you aren’t enough, pretend that you’re simply talking to or helping your neighbors.
Framing it this way helps you realize the conversation is actually relaxed. There’s also minimal judgment and it can be surprisingly fun to share experiences. This is what helps me whenever I get intimidated by the scope of a project.
Tossing aside your self-imposed restraints and jumping into the subjects that interest you will help free you up to enjoy the things you like to do.
This is a sensitive subject, but if ignored, can prove to be extremely draining and disadvantageous to your homestead.
Growing up, I had my fair share of toxic relationships. This included family, friends, and even coworkers. It wasn’t until later in life that I found out that moving on was an option. I thought I was stuck with them. Forever suffering.
Everyone has a different definition of toxic, so let’s see it from point of view of an expert in psychology.
“Any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”
Dr. Lillian Glass
Even today I have to remind myself that I choose to have positive people in my life just as much as I do for the negative. And while I keep the negative as arm’s length, I embrace the positive.
This has transformed not only how much energy I have mentally, but also my overall quality of life.
And as a bonus, I have much more energy to spend on learning about homesteading.
Along with mental minimalism, financial minimalism is one that’s not considered as often.
But having less debt, more savings, and automating it all can provide you with better peace of mind for your homestead.
Debt is the financial equivalent of having a garage full of junk; it feels daunting and you’re likely not going to get rid of it in a single day.
When it comes to minimalism, selecting which debt to take on is essential. Since debt can last many years, it’s a choice that should be carefully measured.
Some of the most common types of debt on a homestead are:
- Credit card
But above most others, homesteaders know the value of patience and persistence. After all, how else are we going to grow anything?
If the same will and determination from growing apple trees or raising livestock can be applied to debt, then it doesn’t stand a chance.
Saving and Financial Security
One of the best things about our current time is how easily we can purchase things. Want that new lamp delivered in two days? How about that mini-trampoline? Or this high-tech shovel? (is there such a thing?)
But everything is life is balanced. So, if purchasing becomes easier, then we’re more likely to spend more.
This is largely why 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
For aspiring homesteaders, this is something to consider. Fewer and fewer people are thinking about saving.
And it truly is tough.
Our brains constantly struggle with saving versus spending.
This is because, as humans, we’re not used to having so many things in abundance.
Just like our many ancestors before us, our brains are still wired to hoard the things we think we may need (even if they have no purpose).
So, unfortunately for us, the “spending” part of our brain wins most times. I call this “caveman spending”.
Caveman spending can take over quickly and do a lot of damage before it’s caught.
Which is why this next one is so valuable.
While automation is more related to self-sufficiency, it’s a great goal to attain minimalism on your homestead.
By automating the majority of your bills, deposits, savings, and more, you not only free up your time and energy, but you no longer have to make decisions about what to do with your money. This is where you beat the “caveman spending” part of your brain.
No more deciding what to do with your paycheck, tax return, or lottery earnings (lucky you). It’s all taken care of and funneled in the right accounts right when you get it.
So, in the age of the Internet and online shopping, why not take advantage of automating the things you deal with most frequently?
If you could automate your garden by setting up systems for planting, watering, and harvesting, would you? How is finance any different?
Ah, minimalism in its physical form. Here’s one that we can wrap around head around a bit more.
Separating Want vs Need
Separating wants and needs falls under “caveman spending” again and is much harder than expected.
Generally, the difference has to do with how you picture yourself using the items on your homestead. If you’re already performing a task countless times a day and want to purchase something to save you time or money, then it’s probably justified.
When I had to get rid of everything in my apartment to move into the van, I was drained from all the decision making. When you ask yourself “Do I need this?” with hundreds of items, it can get exhausting.
But I found a few ways to make the process of removing junk easier.
Here are three tips I learned in downsizing and getting a more minimalist lifestyle:
- Do a little bit every day
- Make two piles (one to keep and one to get rid of)
- Sell or donate (don’t just trash)
Impulse purchases (“wants”) can quickly take up much of the space in your homestead. The initial burst of happiness disappears shortly after the purchase arrives, and you’re left with something that’s not very functional, only to occasionally glance at it.
“Needs” are harder to identify, but they soon become pretty apparent.
If you’re interested in minimalism on your homestead, then paying attention to this distinction is valuable and can even save you lots of cash (and space!).
Whether you find yourself contemplating a purchase, or getting rid of past purchases, start by asking yourself how you’d use it, or if you used it previously. From there, you will get pretty good at being able to spot the difference.
Investing in Quality
Everything is super convenient today, but unfortunately, this also means disposable.
Microwave dinners, drive-throughs, and basically everything at the Dollar Store is designed to be cheap and tossed.
It helps our wallet, but sadly, convenience hurts two things that are directly related to homesteading.
- Our health
- The environment
Both things that should be cared more about, and are oddly taken for granted.
But what about the other definition of convenience?
Something that doesn’t break down and suck your time and money trying to fix it.
Isn’t that also worth it? By not having to fix or replace things as often?
Disclaimer: that definition is made up (aren’t all definitions?), but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Investing in higher quality items or appliances around the homestead can easily be worth the expense. Some of these include:
- Washers and dryers
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Gardening tools
- Power tools
- Tractors and lawnmowers
And those are just the big-ticket items.
Despite our best intentions, there will always be an excess of items that accumulate on the homestead. This is why reviewing (or what I like to call spring cleaning) works well in maintaining minimalism.
If you find yourself staring at the pile of now useless possessions and you’re not sure where to start, try following these steps:
- Set a recurring schedule to review (I do once every three months)
- Focus on one area of your homestead
- See if you can repurpose those items
- If not, get rid of them
It sounds easy, and that’s because it is easy! It will take some time to sort through everything, but in the end, you’ll be able to breathe easier knowing you have more space and simplicity in your life.
In my life, I’ve found there are three aspects to minimalism on the homestead. Mental/emotional, financial, and physical minimalism are all important skills to adopt to make homesteading simpler and more enjoyable. These skills can help you clear space, save money, and achieve more peace (isn’t that a big reason why we’re in this?).
Of course, you can still enjoy a homestead without minimalism. It all comes down to preference and how you’d like to live.