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5 Habits Of Self-Sustaining People

toasterThere are two kinds of self-sustaining people in this world. Some people grow up in the big city, and by the age of forty, they are sick of smog and traffic. So they sell everything, buy ten acres out in the country, put a fence around their yard, build a house exactly in the center, and start a vineyard or raise a few llamas, only to be seen in the local grocery store once a month. I am not this way. I understand why these people do what they do, though, and I applaud them.

Most self-supporting people come from hard times. We could have grown up anywhere, but somewhere in our lives, we have had to get by on little or nothing. Instilled within us is a conservative yet creative mentality combined with a “git ‘er done” attitude. Below you will find five traits common among those of us who would prefer to live a simpler life.

1. The habit of taking what you have and making it what you want. At age ten, I was fascinated with gas engines and go-carts. My buddy “Fatty” had an old go-cart frame that was missing an engine, steering wheel, and gas pedal. I had a push mower that I ran the wheels off mowing yards. I drug the mower to Fatty’s house, and we went to work. Soon we had a running go-cart with a lawn mower throttle for a gas pedal and a mower blade for a steering wheel.

2. The habit of spending hours fixing something that cost $10 new. My wife is an engineer. She also was raised in a big family, having to make do with what she had. That trait never left her. I watched in awe one night as she completely disassembled and re-assembled our twenty-year-old toaster. It had nothing to do with the cost of a new toaster; it was like a puzzle to her, and she would never throw away something that could be fixed.

3. The habit of “repurposing” things. As I look out across the back yard, I see a swing set, two trellises, three raised garden beds, and a half dozen flower boxes that used to be our front porch. Need I say more?

4. The habit of saving things. My wife saves every yogurt cup, coffee can, and milk jug she ever bought. I use some of them for gardening, but most will never see the light of day. When she asks if I need more, I always say “yes.” I don’t have the heart to tell her that even a big-city greenhouse couldn’t use all the crap she saves.

5. The habit of owning transportation that belongs in a museum. To date, I own a 1951 flat boat, a 1969 Opal GT, a 1973 pleasure boat, and our “good” car, a 1998 Buick. All have been completely rebuilt, and I have torn each one apart so many times I could be a certified technician on these specific modes of transportation.

By now, the only readers I have left are giving me a cyber “high five,” agreeing with every word I wrote. To those people, I say carry on and good luck. We’ll see you after the apocalypse, I’m sure. Have a great day, folks– we’ll see you next week!

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  1. For decades I have built and rebuilt almost everything that can be repaired. The only time i have an outsider work on anything is in the middle of winter on my jeep. I am in my 70’s and find it hard to work under them in -10 to +20 degrees anymore. Hands freeze and refuse to work.
    Having a toolmaker and engineer background plus owning a machine shop has been a plus. The ability to make new parts, weld up worn ones and re-machine helps with the independence.
    Such things as a junk Honda motor powered (motor is good) riding lawn mower have turned into a 15kw, 3 phase generator.
    “I” beams from torn down buildings evolved into a 25 ton log splitter.
    You are only limited by your imagination and drive in what can be recycled into working items.
    my next project will be a wood gasifier to run the generator.
    If you can, learn to repair things, be it sewing a garment or repairing a tractor, If we have a social collapse there will be no replacement goodies for you to buy.
    There is a lot of self satisfaction in fixing things plus the economic savings.

  2. I was raised in an environment that encouraged and developed these habits on a 140 acre non-commercial farm. Miles away from many supplies and fiscally conservative parents (today would be termed CHEAP) resulted in repairing/rebuilding most any breakdowns, re-purposing most items, building things with used lumber and used nails, etc. Generally enjoy spending 10 hours repairing something that would cost $50 to replace because ‘I did it’ sense of accomplishment. Try to show/teach my sons how to do likewise and hoping they come to appreciate that which they have not learned in the classroom or street.

  3. Marie at Rural Living Today

    Great points, Bob! I saw this the day after posting on our blog about the path to sustainability. I’ll share your list as a followup–I can sure see myself in there!

  4. wow, this is me. My favourite shopping experience is the local dump for anything made of real wood or metal. My car is 25yrs old and I am told I am a hoarder by my city friends.
    Everything hasa purpose and is organized well. Glass, wood and metal are keepers in every form. Especially the dark brown glass jars/bottles.
    I buy clothes at the second hand stores and look for good materials and buttons. If the item does not fit , I buy it anyway , remove the buttons and then return it to the store for another sell. Good wool, leathers and silks are hard to find so the 2nd hand stores have an excellent selection
    An old building collapsed in the wind so I stripped it of the electrical components and wired my garage and aviary with the wires, panel and switches. I knew nothing about electrical work before I started the project but I bought a good book to teach me how.
    Next project is to wire solar panels for my well pump.

  5. We were not exactly from the big city, but a middle to smaller sized town, and still got sick of things. We are both in the computer field and there just came a day when we realized we did the same thing every day, every week for the past 10 years. Not just our jobs, but our life too.

    We had a bit of space already and had been trying our hand at growing vegetables for years, and even doing some of our own home repair to save money. But finally decided we needed a change, and moved out to the middle of nowhere, renting a nice little place that has 200 acres around it! (it was also a favor to a family friend who needed someone to occupy the place).

    I still do some work via the computer, however did get a job at a local store and after getting to know a lot of locals, it’s a very nice place up here. 🙂

    • Congrats! And your computer skills can still be put to use as long as you have good internet and/or local users with problems.
      Problem with rental however is any investment you desire/want to make to the property.

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