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The lifestyle that is self-sufficiency encompasses a huge array of different aspects. For some people, a life of self-sufficiency is a life of survival. Perhaps they are striving to create a sustainable, safe life in the event of crisis. Other folks might love the idea of homestead life and wish to go back to the land like their forefathers. Yet still, others might be totally happy living on a small piece of land in an urban setting but wish to be more independent.
If you’ve been reading about self-sufficiency and wish to live a more simple life but are unsure of where to start, consider these 15 steps to a life of independence.
1. Grow a Garden
Regardless of where you live, there really is no excuse to not have a garden. A “garden” doesn’t necessarily have to be a giant plot of land. It can be a couple of small raised beds in your backyard or one on your patio. If space is really tight you can even grow a few veggies and herbs in containers. Also, don’t dismiss renting land or using a family or friend’s backyard to grow some food of your own (and to share with them of course!).
2. Get Some Chickens
Many cities, particularly those near rural areas, will allow you to keep a couple of hens (no roosters) in your backyard. This is a wonderful way to get fresh eggs. Chickens are really fun birds and generally aren’t very loud. If you have especially sensitive neighbors or already get local eggs elsewhere, consider some other small livestock. Rabbits are pretty much totally noise-less and very easy to manage. Most neighbors usually won’t bat an eye if they see some rabbit hutches. Raising Coturnix quail is another idea for eggs and meat. (Learn more about raising rabbits here.)
3. Preserve Your Own Food
This step is an absolute must when it comes to a self-sufficient lifestyle. Preserving food encompasses a few different methods, such as canning, smoking and dehydrating. Certain methods are preferable depending on the food in question, so do some research. Preservation is a great way to eat your homegrown food all-year round.
4. Research an Alternative Energy Option
If you haven’t yet experienced a prolonged power outage then you probably aren’t as prepared to deal with no power as you might think you are. Invest in some type of alternative energy that you can rely on if you lose power or eventually choose to go off-grid.
5.Start a Savings Account
The typical American lifestyle is one of excess. In the US, it is normal to be in debt and to live a lifestyle that you can’t truly afford. A big step to a more self-sufficient lifestyle is to create a budget and stick to it. You should also open a savings account for emergencies and really focus on paying off all debt and living on less than you make every month.
6. Learn How to Repair
Become your own handyman by learning how to repair things around your home as well as basic car maintenance and repair. Although it isn’t always possible to fix every single thing in your home, there is plenty you can teach yourself to greatly decrease your reliance on plumbers, electricians and mechanics.
7. Build a Compost Pile
There really is no reason to not have a compost pile. When done properly it doesn’t require much maintenance, produces no nasty smells and creates amazing fertilizer for your garden. The average American wastes an incredible amount of food. Rather than tossing this in the trash, you can instead compost it and create something useful.
8. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
This tip is actually a wonderful baby step toward making your own household supplies. Making your cleaning solutions really isn’t as difficult as you may think. Not only will you save money but also have a much better idea of what exactly you are using to wash your clothes, disinfect your counter and wash your dishes. (Click here for some cleaning recipes.)
9. Make Your Own Body Products
Similarly to household cleaning supplies, body products like body wash, soap and lotions can be expensive and full of chemicals. Learning how to make soap is a great idea and super easy depending on what method you go with. Lotions and body butters can also be made by combining different skin-friendly oils and butters (shea, cocoa, mango, etc.). (Learn how to make soap here, and lotion here.)
10. Learn to Knit, Sew and/or Crochet
Knitting, sewing and crocheting are amazing skills to have, if not necessary skills for a self-sufficient lifestyle. Generally you can create the same items with knitting as you can crocheting so you don’t have to learn both. Both will enable you to make blankets, hats, sweaters, pot holders and many other useful crafts. Sewing is pretty easy for most people to learn. A decent sewing machine will be invaluable for making household items, gifts and repairing clothes, but knowing how to handsew is equally important. You can often learn all three of these skills from a friend or family member, by taking a class or even watching instructional videos on YouTube.
11. Learn to Hunt and/or Fish
If you have meat or fish in your diet, it would be wise and cost-effective to learn how to hunt these foods yourself. Hunting does take lessons in gun safety, patience and the purchase of proper licenses, but generally it’s well worth it to have your freezer stocked with meat. Not only will you have meat for your own consumption but also be able to barter with it.
12. Teach Yourself the Basics of Survival
You really don’t have to take expensive courses to learn essential survival skills. Some skills you can (and should) learn include how to start a fire in a variety of situations, how to build effective shelter, how to purify water for drinking, how to ID edible plants, how to make traps for small game, as well as first aid and personal protection. Go on some survival camping trips by yourself or with your family and put your skills to the test to see how much you really know.
13. Connect With and Learn from Others
Possibly one of the biggest aspects of being more self-sufficient is actually connecting with like-minded people. Even the most in-depth books can’t replace hands-on learning opportunities. Take classes in your free time, join online forums and try to find folks in your area you can collaborate with. If you live in a rural area and haven’t yet connected with neighbors and folks in the area, it is strongly recommended.
14. Build Your Reference Library
Living a more self-reliant life means having to learn skills you may not have needed in the past. Personally, I often reference books to answer questions. Even though e-books are all the rage right now, I’d recommend having print copies on hand. Books on first aid, animal/vet care, electrical/mechanical repair, gardening, regional guides to animals and plants, etc., are all good to have on hand. Check out Half.com for good deals on books and don’t forget about yard sales! You can often find really awesome older books that have valuable information.
15. Change Your Mindset
Self-sufficiency is absolutely a mindset. Perhaps the most difficult habit to break when striving for a self-sufficient life is changing the way you think about how you spend your money, where your food comes from and how to repurpose things, just to name a few. The typical American is a heavy consumer who relies on grocery stores and department stores for food, clothing, supplies and pretty much everything else. Rethinking what you can make/grow at home and how you can repurpose what you would normally throw away is how self-sufficiency works.
Good luck on your journey to self-sufficiency! Please share any tips or other steps for those who are new to this lifestyle in the comments section below: