When someone talks about desire to homestead, it is easy to conjure up a vision of cows out at pasture, a flock of chickens in the backyard, and an acre of organic crops in the field. At the same time, it is easy to confuse homesteading with living off-grid. Sometimes the two do meet, but more often that not, they are separate and unique lifestyles of their own.
Something I have been learning in this series, How to Homestead When You Rent, is that homesteading, as much as anything else, is a mindset where you transcend from being a consumer of things, to a creator and fixer of things. You also become a master in resourcefulness.
Today I welcome back the Homestead Dreamer, LeAnn Edmondson, for part 4 of a 5 in the exclusive Backdoor Survival series on “How to Homestead When You Rent.” If you missed Part 1, click here. Part 2 can be found here, and Part 3 can be found here.
How to Homestead When You Rent – Implement the Plan
A lot of homesteading focuses on growing, harvesting, and preserving food but there is so much more to it than just filling your tummy! There are other aspects where you can take back control over the things you need to comfortably live.
What about cleaning products for the home as well as body? Making candles, lotions, and blankets utilizing supplies you didn’t realize you had is part of the fun of homesteading, even when you rent!
As we covered extensively in parts 2 and 3, when you have a project you want to accomplish, you need to make the plan and assess your resources. The internet has plenty step by step articles, infographics, and videos to help you through just about any project you can imagine. Begin by researching projects that will use recycled and upcycled items that usually end up in the trash.
It is amazing what you can do with something as simple as an old white t-shirt (rag rugs, blankets, padding, cleaning rags) or all those candles that are used up but have some wax left in the jars (melt them all down and make a new one!).
When we wanted to increase our water storage, we didn’t run out and buy a bunch of containers. I asked my friends on social media if I could have their 2 liter soda bottles or juice bottles instead. After giving them a thorough cleaning and disinfecting, we filled them up and stored them with the date written on the side. Every 6 months, I empty them out into the garden directly or the rain catch system and fill with fresh. I kept the plastic from going to the landfill and the water is still used. Nothing goes to waste: when the containers can no longer hold water, they will be cut and used in various ways.
There is a lot more to homesteading than just food!
It is important to keep your project list manageable to avoid feeling like you are failing somehow. It is easy to keep adding to the list but as with all new skills, it takes time! Life gets in the way of being able to complete certain projects and the sooner you acknowledge that, the easier things will go overall.
Let’s say you want to start making your own bar soap and laundry detergent. You begin by making up your mind, researching what you need and making the plan on how to gather the items. Assess your resources!
Are you a person who enjoys essential oils? You can put those to good use for refreshing scents in your bar soaps! If you use coconut oil regularly in your cooking, you already have a fantastic ingredient, on hand, for making the bar soap (and lotion, too!).
As you research the laundry detergent, you learn that when making your own powder mix will require a bar of soap! Finely grated, the bar of soap is combined with other inexpensive items such as washing soda and borax to make a huge batch that will last you a very long time. The best part, it is at a fraction of the cost per load when compared to even the more basic brands.
Missing something to complete the project? Don’t run out there and buy anything until you absolutely have to! Consider your network of friends, family, and acquaintances. Does one of them have what you need that you could barter for? Maybe they will be glad to be rid of it and give it to you for free. Using social media to ask larger groups of people increases your chances of finding what you need, too. Need to work on creating a network to draw from?
A good support system starts with friends and family. From there, consider these options:
- Social media groups
- Local homesteading or farming clubs
- Your local agricultural extension office
- Recycling centers and thrift stores
For example, instead of buying soap molds in pretty shapes, ask around to see if anyone has extra silicone cupcake molds or liners. We have over two dozen of them and it would be very easy to designate half a dozen to making soap. Don’t forget garage sales, too!
There is a real freedom to something as simple as making laundry detergent (and it really is simple!) that most people never consider. Ever try a new detergent and think, ‘This would be perfect if it got a little sudsier’ or wish you could change the scent? When you make your own, you can! To me, it is part of the fun, too. I can keep fine tuning a recipe or completely change it if I want. Whatever will work the best for my household is the goal, not a one size fits all approach.
Now and then, you will decide you want to do a project and find that you have absolutely everything you need in your house already.
I wanted to make some homemade fire starters because we love to go camping and hiking, not to mention how important having a reliable way to start a fire is in southeast Alaska! The ‘recipe’ called for an egg carton, some dryer lint, some wood shavings, and wax. I was thrilled when I realized I had everything already.
It is unrealistic to believe that you will never have to spend money on the resources you need and anyone who says you aren’t a ‘real homesteader’ because you shop is just ignorant. People who live ‘off grid’ here in Alaska and subsistence hunt, fish, and grow food still need to buy resources from a store to keep going. The main difference is they try to either create or barter for what they need and buy as a last resort.
Homesteading, no matter where or how you do it, is no different.
So you have what you need through your various methods of gathering what you already have and procuring what you were lacking. Now is time to make things happen!
It’s important to remember that you will mess things up now and then. Give yourself a little slack, have a good chuckle, and move on. If the homesteaders of old gave up after a few failures, the world would look very different today. Failing is not such a bad thing at the end of the day. There is still real value in what didn’t work and sometimes, you end up discovering something amazing!
All of these steps will take you on an amazing journey filled with all life has to offer, including the good and the bad. No one said it would always be easy all the time. The difference between the way you used to live – a consumer just going along with the status quo – to the lifestyle you are now living tends to balance out those frustrating times. Each attempt at learning or implementing something new into the way you live brings with it new confidence, skills, and rewards that you have created for yourself.
In Part 5, the last of the series, we will detail all the tangible and intangible rewards your efforts will earn you. Other than having soap and veggies, there is a lot more you get in return that never crossed your mind until you have experienced it!
For more about LeAnn, see About LeAnn Edmondson.
The Final Word
Rather than become discouraged by your inability to purchase a traditional “homestead”, do what you can with what you do have. Whether that is an urban apartment, a rented barn in the countryside, or a seaside cottage of the type I live in, homesteading is a state of mind and a willingness to think outside the box.
One other point. As we begin to add skills to our arsenal of preps, think about becoming a homesteader in mind if not in property. Practice being perseverant and couple that with extreme resourcefulness.
The stuff many never hit the fan in a major way, but if it does, you will be ready.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.