Awhile back, I posted about my decision-making process after my husband called me wanting to buy a pig. We had the space, and we thought we wanted to use that space to become “self-sufficient.” We never did buy a pig, and in the time since, we have learned a lot about ourselves, about what being self-sufficient really means, and the direction we’re headed.
I can’t take care of one more living thing.
After coming thisclose to fencing and restructuring our yard to house a pig, chickens, and garden, I had a major realization – livestock are alive! I had 3 kids at the time, one was on the way (though I didn’t know it yet), and a busy work from home life with plans to homeschool. I couldn’t keep up with the dishes – easy to neglect – much less an animal that required regular attention!
I realized that there is a place for being self-sufficient on a homestead, and there is a place for supporting the people already doing so. That led me to another thought:
Maybe we need to rely on each other after all.
Is there really such a thing as completely self-sufficient? Is existing on an island really the goal, or do we mean something else when we talk about self-sufficiency? The contribution of the surrounding community has always been important, because no one can do it all. Our strengths and differences make us who we are, and we need each other!
Self-sufficiency, then, is less a universal term than it is defined individually. For us, it’s the financing, the brick and mortar “eggs in one basket” job, the Big Guy I don’t want to rely on. I don’t actually want to be self-sufficient – I don’t think that’s a thing. I want to be focused on my family and community, not chained down to something with an interest rate.
We were craving self-sufficiency, but we hadn’t understood what that meant.
Once we narrowed down the area we wanted to be sufficient in, we started turning possibilities over in our heads. Thinking, praying, mulling it over…
And over and over…
It’s a hard thing, adulting. My oldest frequently asks me what my favorite and least favorite things are. When he asks me what my least favorite thing about parenting is, I hands down tell him “Being responsible for you guys!” I think I have nomad blood, or maybe it’s my personality type, but I would be all over the place if my kids didn’t keep me grounded. It’s always a mental battle to reign in ideas of selling it all and living in a yurt or something crazy.*
*Let me interject here and say some people do that really well and it’s not crazy at all. If not, I wouldn’t have read articles that make me want to do it! Some people buy pigs and farm food and hug chickens and love every second. Some people have mortgages and car payments their whole lives and never blink an eye, loving their lives with payments included. That’s basically been my whole revelation: your story isn’t mine, and vice versa, and we can work together to make a giant, amazing, intricate, compiled narrative.
We had to refine our vision and adjust our goals.
I told him he was nuts. That we had decided this was what we wanted in a house, found it as part of an incredible deal, and couldn’t ever leave it because we’d never find anything like it.
But I knew.
I knew that our vision had shifted away from this picturesque ideal of a homestead that we culture over the years…but pay on over the years.
We could. We could stay here and pay on, even pay off, this house. We could build our life here and center it around life in this house.
But we’d always be in the house, always paying on it, always with the priority on that mortgage payment. And our hearts aren’t there. We want to be free of debt and mortgage. We want to be reliant on just one income – preferably mine, as I can work from anywhere. We want to travel. We want to share our money and gifts. We want to have the budget room to buy that organic pork from local farmers who actually like farming pigs!
I couldn’t sleep. Tossed and turned, ran numbers, pictured a shift in our vision. Then the next morning, I wound up at church solo. The topic of the day? Letting God define your life apart from expectations or the ways he might define someone else’s.
So, here we are. The house is almost empty. Neutral paint is going up on the walls. We have a laundry list of nitpicky repairs to erase the years of raising four little kiddos. It’s cathartic, really – I was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up when all of this came to a head, and she talked about letting go of possessions that have fulfilled their purpose. This house most definitely fulfilled its purpose, and now we are not only letting it go, but preparing it for the next family who will love it.
We’ve got a rental house across town that we’ll downsize to. The sale, probably in the spring, will nearly pay it off, and we’ll be able to renovate the smaller house to be what we need. There’s a lot we’re excited about for that house, and even though this is the house we loved, that is the house we will love.
The kids were sad at first, but we explained why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re planning a big family trip when this is all said and done and the baby is big enough to enjoy it – Disneyland, of course! And the boys are planning senior trips. One wants to go to Japan and the other to Spain. We may not be the family that works hard on a homestead, but they are dreaming big and helping us work hard to get there.
The lesson in self-sufficiency isn’t to rely on yourself or to fit a mold. It’s to be your most sufficient self – break the mold! Find your strengths, find your vision, and grow in them. Then look for the strengths in those around you and support them in it.