Success is defined in a thousand different ways, regardless of what it is you’re trying to be successful with. Homesteading is no different and everyone’s definition of a “successful homesteader” will be different. I asked several people what they thought and though each answer was indeed different, there were some common themes that made me think, “More people need to hear this!”
I myself go through phases, feeling like I’m a total failure as a homesteader. We moved to our own land and I don’t even have a garden to speak of anymore, let alone a ton of land (we live on a 1/3rd acre) for livestock. “What a joke I am, what a poser” is something I’ve said to myself often over the years. “I don’t have <insert item or skill or possession here> so I’m not a ‘real’ homesteader, even by modern definitions!”
Here’s the flip side of things: another viewpoint. It’s something that I have to remind myself of, sometimes often. I am a successful homesteader because I have the following:
Can-Do Attitude: Anyone who has been in the workforce knows how important your attitude is. It plays, in my opinion, the largest role to your success. If you go into a project with a bad attitude, of course, things are going to go to crap! All you will see is the negative and not the solution staring you in the face.
Adaptation: To be a successful homesteader, you absolutely must have the ability to adapt and overcome. It’s not something we are usually born with so much as a learned perspective. Unless you have a ton of money to buy whatever you could possibly need (I don’t know many rich homesteaders, do you?), you have to adapt and overcome the challenges that come with the lifestyle.
Adapting includes needing the imagination to find creative and sustainable solutions. You don’t want to slap a fix on something over and over again – you want it to be fixed and good to go! Generally speaking, homesteaders don’t go buy new, they look around their own property and community first.
Working With What You Have: Success comes from resources and some of the best resources you can get are already on your property! The leftover scrap wood is not garbage…you can make planter boxes for flowers to pretty and brighten the place up a bit. The perfectly usable gutter that your neighbor is just going to throw out after getting them replaced can be used to plant a vertical strawberry patch. Free supplies and strawberries for years: seems like a win-win to me!
There is the old saying “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without.” Sometimes, that means getting very creative – particularly the “wear it out” part. We all want stuff to look nice, but when you homestead, it’s function versus form. I would rather have a hideously looking water pump that worked than a shiny pump that failed me 90% of the time.
If you’re caught up on the looks of everything, maybe homesteading isn’t for you.
Being Reasonable and Realistic: We all have talents and limits. Some people can plot out a new field and have it all ready to be used in a couple weeks. Others can make a database from scratch. NO ONE can do it all on their own and that’s especially true when it comes to living a homestead life.
It’s unrealistic to think that your new homestead will have everything all at once. If you expect you’re going to start year one with a huge garden, chickens, goats, bees, and pigs…you better have a serious backup plan because chances are very likely you will fail. That is simply too much! You’re already changing your entire lifestyle, schedule, and redefining what’s important to you. Even if you have some experience with a hobby food garden and a few chickens, the whole game is changed when you go full time.
Sometimes, you really should call a professional instead of going the DIY route. The money saved DIY’ing your plumbing, for example, may end up costing you a lot more than you saved if you did it wrong. Electrical is even worse of a risk! Being frugal isn’t a competition. Leading a simple life doesn’t mean you don’t spend money. Using the money you have wisely is a good balance.