Thursday, February 24, 2011

Making A Permanent Lifestyle Change

When it comes to homesteading, sometimes it can be hard to make lasting changes. It's easy to do something once or twice, but to make a new skill a part of your life on a daily basis, to be characterized by something you didn't grow up doing, and to not go back to the way you did it before... well, it can be down right brutal!

How do I make those changes? Not over night, I can assure you. But I have begun to notice a process that seems to work for me...

Photo Credit: .brioso.

Making A Permanent Lifestyle Change

1. Read and study about the new skill to be learned. Gain as much knowledge as I can before I start. That includes talking to friends and others who do it regularly.

2. Make a plan and schedule a day to try it on the calendar - a day when I'm not overwhelmed with other chores or have to go out for any reason.

3. Gather any supplies that might be necessary. 

4. Do it and evaluate how it went. Think about what didn't go well and how I would do it differently next time. I might even do some more research at this point.

5. Usually some time has passed between step 4 and this step, but eventually I try it again and maybe even a third time. I begin to get more comfortable with it.

6. At some point - and this is the crucial step that I want to discuss today - I cut all ties to the old way and it's either sink or swim; fish or cut bait. No going back.

When I wanted to mill my own grains and make my own breads, I sailed through the first 5 steps and enjoyed it a lot, but I noticed that when I got busy or tired (or dare I say lazy), I would grab a loaf of bread at the store. Soon it became much too easy and convenient to do this. But I wasn't becoming proficient at making bread and I wasn't meeting the goal I had set for my family - to provide the most nutritious option available.

I remember one particular day, clearly realizing that summer was upon us and I had the perfect opportunity to make a clean break from store bought bread. In my mind I made a commitment that I intended to keep - no more excuses and no more store bought bread. Period.

And then came the day about a week later when we were out of bread and we needed lunch. I realized I had to fish or cut bait - and fish I did! I got creative for that meal and made something else and then I got after making bread! And I kept working at it until one day, my loaves started improving significantly. (My husband was a very patient man!). From there, I began to remember the steps and do them without so much thinking (you should have seen how marked up my recipe was with all my notes!). And eventually, I was able to teach my oldest daughter who makes most of our bread right now. In the last 2 years, I would say we've only bought about 4 loaves of bread with the exception of sourdough for special occasions because I haven't learned that skill - yet!

Recently, Kendra at New Life On A Homestead, shared how she cut ties with her dryer. She'd been wanting to line dry all her clothes, but kept putting it off. But when she redecorated and organized her laundry room, she pulled it out and set up a clothes drying rack. The break was made and victory attained!

Some of you may remember my post on Dinner Napkins last year. I grew up using paper napkins (didn't you?), but I wanted to eliminate this purchase from my shopping list. So I made up a few and tried to commit to using them at least once a week. This worked pretty well for a while, but again, we slipped back into using the paper napkins. So about a month ago, I did what needed to be done and made a clean break from the paper altogether. When the last paper napkin was purchased, I refused to buy more. Since then, we've used only cloth napkins and it's worked out fine. I thought it would require a lot of extra washing, but since we only use one a day per person, I just add them to something I'm already washing. And my 8 year old gets a chance to finally iron - she loves it! Isn't that sweet!

Over the years, some other things I've made a clean break with include purchased laundry soap, white sugar, air conditioning (I live where it's just not that necessary, but if I was in the south, this would not get cut!) my living room heater (switched entirely to the wood stove), commercial deodorant, hair coloring, TV in summer, and store bought eggs. There's more, but this gives you an idea.

So, what's on the line to be axed in the future? Well, looks like the dishwasher is getting the boot this week. It's been a pain for a while and I think we'll give it a rest except on special occasions and hand wash the rest of the time. And I think one day the TV will get cut off permanently. 

Photo Credit: jacqueline-w

But I'm most anxious to switch to my own yogurt and other cultured dairy foods (I'm taking Wardeh's class right now). I've made yogurt in the past, but I keep going back to the store to buy more. What's with that when I know how? The simple truth is... I don't practice it enough to make it routine. But if I do it over and over again, that's when the real breakthrough occurs. While these things may seem foreign to us in our modern society, they aren't really hard things to do, just different. And because it's different it requires practice.

For most of us, a significant aspect of homesteading today is embracing a new lifestyle change. You choose the things you will adopt and make your own, but in doing so, you must leave behind the former ways and take hold of the "new" old ways of doing things. We're setting the example for our sons and daughters. Let's make 'em proud!

What's the hardest thing you're leaving behind and embracing? 


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