Becoming more self-sufficient: Getting started and staying motivated

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you can probably see for yourself how unpredictable the world has become.  The COVID pandemic woke a lot of people up to the cold hard fact that you can’t just rely on consumerism to provide and feed yourself consistently.   

It may seem like a minor inconvenience to show up at the grocery store one day and not be able to get a few key items that you need, but it’s telling of what it might look like during a more serious situation that can very well happen to anybody. 

Venezuela is currently experiencing the scenario that I am talking about above due to a mix of political and economic stress brought upon by their adoption of socialism.   Their money devalued to the point you can find it in the gutters,  food shelves mostly barren and if you can find it, it’s prices have inflated to the point only the wealthy can afford it.   What would you do in this type of situation?  

In lieu of recent events my wife and I have recently decided to start becoming more self-sufficient.  We live in a small neighborhood about 30 minutes outside of St Louis, Mo.  Our home is almost the stereotypical one family house (minus the picket fence) with a front/back yard and a garage.  The rest of this will be applied to similar settings so if you live in an apartment or have other arrangements you’ll need to adjust your methods, but there’s still some good thought provoking parts that might interest you. 

For my home I have some grand plans that my wife may say is a bit lofty, and she’s probably right, so we’ve decided to take it slow, not only so we don’t overwhelm ourselves, but to also use this as a learning experience for us both.   If society really starts to break down and you have a long period where you need to provide for yourself and your family, the knowledge of how to do so will be the most valuable thing you have, considering the internet may not always be available to you to pull information from. (keeping physical books on hand is one of my backups to work around not being able to access the internet). 

Below are some steps that I recommend to get you going in the right direction, taking into account resources, cost, time and labor. 

Planning: Not only do I consider this one of the easier and funner parts of the process, but it’s also one of the most important.   At this state you can really envision what you want and what is actually possible for you and your current/long term situation. 

You’ll want to ask yourself questions like: 

  • Do I have the time and space? 
    • Whether you have a farm or if you have an apartment, there are ways you can start becoming more self-sufficient.   There are plenty of articles and books on how to do just that, but you have to set aside time to learn the methods that others have worked so hard to record.  
  • What would really benefit me and mine if resources become hard to get? 
    • Here you should think about how you’d start to save water, grow food and what things YOU can build or create that just might save your life when you need it most like Water collection, a garden that produces a good amount of food or simply shelter and heat if you live in an area that gets cold for months at a time. 
  • Prioritization
    • Now that you have an idea of what you need and where you’re going to put these plans into place it’s time to prioritize your work.  The more time you spend planning the greater this list will grow.  It may seem daunting at first, but this is why taking the process slow is so important.  Not only is the work you’re doing potentially life saving in an emergency, but it’s also A LOT of fun, so enjoying yourself during the process is key for my wife and I.    
    • You wouldn’t want to start buying seeds and plants for your garden if you haven’t even tilled up your yard yet and if you’re on a budget prioritization will be key in ensuring you don’t break the bank during the process. 

Getting started: Again, this process should be fun for you and anybody else that is helping you.  If it feels forced or if you’re stressing out too much about it, you’ll be less apt to doing it regularly.  Remember, motivation will get you started, but habit keeps it going.  

  • Changing your life habits is an important part of this process.  Lot’s of people like to claim they “don’t have time” or “I’m just too busy” when in reality there’s plenty of time, but you may have to cut some “less important” aspects out of your life like going out with friends every weekend or bing watching T.V.  Once you get into the habit of getting out in the sun and dirt you start to realize how fulfilling it is to do work that benefits you directly by your own hands and going back to binge watching T.V. or going out drinking will not seem as important.  
  • Set aside specific times that can/will become regular habits.  My wife and I use weekends for this.  Instead of saying “I’m bored, what do you want to do today” we are already excited to head out to the backyard to weed our garden or plant new plants.  Not only is it healthier for the both of us, but it’s also been great for our relationship to spend quality time together and build something together that will benefit our family. 
  • Start small.  As I said before, it can be a daunting task, so stick to your prioritization list.  One example could be “This weekend I’m going to till the plot that I plan my garden to be” or “I’m going to purchase the wood to build a raised bed”.  With each small step you complete, the closer to your self-sufficiency goals you will be.   

Keeping it going: Like I usually say, I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, I just have an active passion for it and I’m extremely excited to produce and maintain something that is completely my own and for my family’s well being.  This passion of mine is my motivator for keeping it going and repetition becomes habit.   

  • Start thinking long-term.  Once you get going, whether it be a large garden or a water collection system you should start thinking of how you’ll store this stuff for practical use.  Do you plan on canning veggies for use during the winter?  What happens when my water collection tanks freeze up?  Do I need a fence to keep out critters from eating my crops?  There’s lots of problems to solve, but if you get into the passionate mindset about your plans it becomes not so  much a problem, but a learning event for you to experience.  

The process of becoming more self-sufficient is an ongoing process that never ends, so get used to learning new things, but keep in mind that the things you’re learning is knowledge that fewer and fewer people possess that can be invaluable when/if the time comes.  You may find yourself listening to podcasts on homesteading, watching youtube videos on gardening or simply collecting “How To” books for reference in case of a disaster.  Many people have different hobbies, but learning to become more self-sufficient becomes less of a hobby and more of a skill the longer you practice it.  Good luck with your future projects!

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