One of the tenets of homesteading is resourcefulness. One of the tenets of minimalism is having less stuff. But one of the issues with resourcefulness is the need to hold onto and acquire more “stuff” for longer than usual. Can you be a minimalist and homestead at the same time?
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
What is minimalism?
The main goal of minimalism is to live with the absolute least amount of stuff you can. This includes everything from clothes to dishes, cars to toys. Less stuff means there is less to pay for, maintain, clean or find. You simply make do with less items which is easier on both the pocketbook and the mind.
What is homesteading?
The main goal of homesteading is to strive to be as self-sufficient as possible. Living as from scratch, from the land and do-it-yourself as possible. This includes everything from building your own house to producing your own soap.
In this way, the benefits of homesteading are very similar to minimalism. The more you make your self, repair and maintain the less you pay for, maintain and need to store.
Can you be a minimalist homesteader?
Can you live as both a minimalist and a homesteader? There are several issues to contend with to do both. Luckily, the benefits of both lifestyles are similar or the same and you can find ways to take elements from each in order to achieve an outcome you’ll enjoy.
What is “stuff”?
If you homestead, you know that you need A LOT of things, particularly tools, containers and equipment. Which doesn’t seem to fit into the minimalist lifestyle. If you were taking a “reduce stuff” view, the least amount of stuff you can get away with. One of example of this is simple pasta sauce. All you need is to buy one jar of sauce…maybe.
Let’s break it down. In homesteading, you may strive to make your own sauce. You’ll reuse the jars over and over. You also need a canner, canning tools, jars, lids, rings and all the ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, herbs, salt. You will also need different pans, pots, utensils to make the sauce. That is a lot of stuff. It is also a lot of stuff you have to store somewhere. At first this might seem like it doesn’t fit into the minimalist approach but maybe it does.
Many of those items to make your own sauce can be reused, including the seeds from the tomatoes to grow more next year. In addition, just because you buy one jar of pasta sauce from the store doesn’t mean you have less stuff overall. Because the next time you want pasta, you have to buy another jar. You will also produce another receipt, depending. Finally, you cannot then use that jar to make your own. Though you may be able to use the now empty jar as a storage container.
Say you go through approximately one pint of pasta sauce a week. Extrapolate this out and that is 52 jars a year. If you err on the side of minimalism, you have to do something with all 52 jars or throw them away. However, if you invested in the materials to make 52 on your own, you simple clean, store and reuse all 52 again next year! In addition, if you produced most of you own food, such as tomatoes, onions, etc. you simple need to grow another garden from the seeds of the originals. Over a long enough period of time this is essentially less “stuff.”
What to keep?
The main tenant of minimalism is to live with less. But the question is less of what? Which items do you keep? Which items do you let go? The Konmari Method (R) of decluttering is one of many approaches to pairing down rather than holding on to everything you don’t need or use or don’t fit or is broken.
A recent example of this came up in my own household. My husband has a business private sector job in which a certain level of attire is required. One of these is to always have a white undershirt, every single day. Over time they fade, fall apart at the seams, become dingy, and generally become unsuitable for the work place. Then what?
Maybe if I were more a minimalist and less of a homesteader, I would simply donate or throw away the shirts. Instead, I’ve held onto them with the goal of producing something else with them. I have a sewing machine, I do not purchase paper towels anymore so I make them with materials like old shirts. They do make good rags. I can also craft them into dog toys or baby wipes.
However, this does require that I process them. Until then they live in a bag in a storage bin with the machine. Both the machine and stack of shirts have to live as unused “stuff” for sometimes long periods of time. The clutter and to-do list is long and I tend to want to let go in those situations when overwhelmed by the stuff. When this happens, I definitely feel like homesteading is not in line with homesteading.
An excellent way to fulfill both the minimalism and homesteading lifestyles is to always invest in the best (or almost the best) stuff. This has two main benefits. First, you hold onto things much longer as they are generally made with good base materials. Second, you end up spending less money and owning less things in the end because you only needed to purchase this item once.
There are a few lists of companies that have lifetime guarantees. However, given that you can purchase and then never need to replace or repair something, does not necessarily mean that you “need” that item to begin with. Especially when transitioning to minimalism, you will need to prioritize your belongings.
What is trash?
Throughline podcast has an excellent episode on the history of recycling and trash in the United States. One of the most eye opening parts of the story is the change in the industry and the campaign to start having Americans accept their responsibility for trash.
Trash was not always a clear concept. This is especially true in a self-sufficient homesteading lifestyle. One of the tasks in becoming “zero waste” is to go through your own trash bin and see what you have to throw away and what you don’t. Let’s go through a metaphorical bag of trash.
First, any and all kitchen scraps can be composted. If you are planning on composting all food (such as pasta, meat, raw eggs, etc.) there is more preparation but it is made of carbon and was once alive then it can be broken down. You can also feed many cooked foods, meats, parts, etc. to other animals. Such as the guts of chickens, can be cooked and fed to dogs.
Second, the devil, single use plastic! As a minimalist, you may not be considering this part but even the bag you throw your refuse in is single use plastic. This is almost certainly trash. Not very many save ways to reuse this stuff. And many places are not recycling this material anymore!
Third, glass. Almost all glass containers, such as the one for your pasta sauce, can be reused. I endlessly reuse mine for all sorts of storage such as for homemade sauces and kombucha.
Finally, metal. Surprisingly this only seems to come up in terms of industrial canning (with actual cans). Unfortunately, many of these are still lined with plastic. Making them essentially trash as the reusability is limited by this film. They can however, be repurposed to make small herb pots or for decor.
One of the best benefits of minimalism is the impact on the brain. In a society in which consumerism and replacement rather than reuse or repair is the norm, it can be easy to see why storage units have popped up all over the country. However, with all the stuff, comes all the brain clutter as well.
The more stuff you have, the more you have to clean, maintain and store. Mother Earth News has a good article about minimalism in terms of limited living space. Sometimes, especially in situations such as in a city or tiny home, you cannot store all the things you may need. Then the homesteading and minimalism come together to reduce things.
For this, you will need to come up with creative ways to reuse and multipurpose your items. A good example of this is my canning pots. I have both a water bath canner and a pressure canner. And they work fine. I have the space to store both. However, I could get away with just having a pressure canner which can do water bath canning as well as pressure cooking.
One of the most important aspects of any lifestyle decision is choices. It definitely behooves you to make a choice about which of the goals outweighs the others when making decisions. If making the sauce is more important to you than buying it then your priority is more clear. If you do not have the space to store a sewing machine and a large stack of shirts, then pairing down your shirts to only a few quality ones will outweigh the desire to buy a sewing machine.
You can be a homesteading minimalist OR a minimalist homesteader. They are not mutually exclusive but you will need to decide for you and your family where to invest your time, energy and money in pursuit of these goals.
Pin for later!