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Overwhelm

 
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We have been homesteading on and off for years.  It seems there are always so many projects we need to get to and can't seem to.  Any tips on how to keep from getting overwhelmed?

All the Best,

Pavel
 
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Oh, Pavel, it is overwhelming, isn't it? There are always more things to do than time to do them!

Have you set specific goals? My husband and I found that by having a prime directive of becoming more self-reliant and sustainable, we avoided many a rabbit trail. Every potential project is measured against that goal: will it help us reach it? If it will, it gets a higher spot on our to-do list. Other ideas may be good, but they may not help us toward that goal. These are usually at the bottom of the project list.

Do you have a vision for you homestead in the future? We found that a birds-eye view map of everything we wanted to accomplish has really helped. Ours is just a line drawing, but an aerial shot from google earth would give you a more accurate visual. Draw in where you want things to be. We revise ours periodically, but most importantly, we find that it helps us remember things we've already decided. It's so easy to focus on one idea and forget the big picture.

Have you used your vision and goals to develop a plan? It might help to make a list and create project categories: infrastructure, food growing, livestock, energy, water, etc. Most of us start with infrastructure: home, outbuildings, fencing, etc. Then food growing and animals. Choose the projects that will help you toward your primary goals. Some people like to organize this into a 5-year or 10-year plan. I've not done, that but perhaps someone else will have some insight there.

The other thing that really helps is to keep a journal with lots of photographs. When my husband and I feel like we're spinning our wheels and getting nowhere, a look back never fails to encourage us.

I don't know if the temptation to be overwhelmed ever goes away. Homesteading is a lifestyle, not a checklist, and the learning curve is steep. I think Permies is an excellent community for encouragement, knowledge, and motivation.
 
pollinator
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Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. I am going to assume that you are okay with house infrastructure septic/well/electric/heating/cooling/etc. I am also going to assume that you are excluding small scale production of textile/clothing/furniture/cleaning supplies/craftworks/etc


This really just leaves us with subsistence agriculture (herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, honey, eggs, poultry, fish, dairy, meat/mammals), and home preservation of food (solar dehydration of herbs, mushrooms, fruits, nuts/seed, etc and ferments of vegetables, fruit juices, dairy and herbs. cooked seeds/grains/beans can also be fermented its just a bit more involved.)

For me I am finding that fish production is the most challenging, and dairy/meat production is basically impossible. And on the plant side grain/bean/nut production is similarly something I don't ever see myself doing in a self-sufficient manner. Which ones do you find to be more challenging/overwhelming.

Do you find that establishing the garden/pasture-coop or maintaining them to be more challenging?
 
pollinator
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Eisenhower Decision Matrix. Draw a box and divide it into quarters. In each quarter write "important and urgent," "urgant, and less important" "important and less urgent," and "less important and less urgent."
Fill in with the appropriate projects. Work on the first and delegate the second until you're primarily
working in the third. Delegate or eliminate the fourth.
I don't run a homestead, but this has helped me prioritize projects well.
 
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When my siblings and I were kids, accomplishing chores could seem quite daunting. I remember my dad telling us many times, "Finish one thing before moving on to the next, otherwise none of it gets finished."
I've thought of this advice over the years when feeling overwhelmed or pressed for time. That mindset works from putting away laundry, to house cleaning room by room, to garden planning, to future dreams and everything in between.
Try putting your goals on paper. It helps tremendously because you have a visual reminder of what you want to accomplish, thus preserving all that mental energy that went into preparing for a project.  Then, you don't have to re-think, re-plan and re-everything else every time you start to work on something.
But I get it! There are so many things to do and it's easy to get overwhelmed. Hang in there!  
 
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Dear Pavel,
There is a “middle way” to the homesteading lifestyle. You don’t have to be 100% self-sufficient. Incremental improvements over a long period of time are just fine.
But to your question, here are 3 approaches that have worked for me….
First, tackle two projects per year: one that is about the “cut dirt” and one that is about the “fill dirt.” What I mean by this is, let’s say that you need a hole. Instead of digging and tossing the (cut) dirt around the edge to cave in later, have a simultaneous project for the “fill-dirt” or refuse from the first project. So, for example, you get the hole and the hugelkultur at the same time. If you’re trimming trees (cut) have a simultaneous project for the twigs (fill), like a fence or a hugelkultur. If you’re making a berm shed (cut) have a place for the stones (fill) like a retaining wall or foundation. Don’t move stuff twice! Cut and fill are a useful metaphor.
Second, while you’re building your hugelkultur (part of every project), compost all the refuse that you’ve been saving for future unknown projects into the hill: cardboard, old wood, piles of old paper, that old table that you really don’t want to fix, your rickety old wicker chair that is too beat up to spray paint, that ugly cotton wardrobe from decades ago, the jeans you don’t really want to patch again. All those letters, financial statements, drawings, and trapped love goes into the berm to get released back into the universe. This leads to a life of elegant minimalism instead of end-of-the-world hoarding.
Third, enjoy some of the amazing treasures of our historical moment! You can buy olive oil, chocolate, and citrus in winter. Someone else can weave your fabric and forge your metal once in a while. Live a little and marvel at the wonder of it all. Buy some strawberry jam from a homesteader and know she’ll put that cash to good use.
Find the balance that works for you. Accept that life is a process.
Amy
 
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one thing at a time, prioritize as far as wants and needs, when you get done with things that need to be done then jump on the tasks you want to get done.
 
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Amy Gardener wrote:
Second, while you’re building your hugelkultur (part of every project), compost all the refuse that you’ve been saving for future unknown projects into the hill: cardboard, old wood, piles of old paper, that old table that you really don’t want to fix, your rickety old wicker chair that is too beat up to spray paint, that ugly cotton wardrobe from decades ago, the jeans you don’t really want to patch again. All those letters, financial statements, drawings, and trapped love goes into the berm to get released back into the universe. This leads to a life of elegant minimalism instead of end-of-the-world hoarding.



I love this idea. Maybe be careful about furniture that has been varnished or painted (especially if there is any risk that the paint contains lead) or things that contain plastic (look for lycra or polyester in clothing labels). But composting old papers is very liberating.  
 
Pavel Mikoloski
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These are both great ideas.  Thank you, Leigh!
 
gardener
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Amy, love your 3 approaches!  Lots of wisdom there...
 
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Very good question, and know you are definitely not alone in feeling overwhelmed.
For a while I thought it would drive me crazy. I would start working on a project, and it seemed as soon as I was making good progress it was time to quit because I had to feed/water and do other chores before I ran out of daylight. Plus, I'm have severe ADHD, so I tend to work on a project, and if I need to go get something from another part of the property, I get sidetracked by something else I need to do, begin working on that, then repeat the whole process when I need to get something for that project. As someone else mentioned, in the end nothing gets totally complete.
Finally, I decided I was not going to run myself ragged & get burnt out with it all. Now I try to do the daily chores first to get them out of the way. Then I use whatever daylight I have left to do what I can, and I try to stop when it gets too dark to see. I just tell myself that the work will still be there tomorrow. I still have trouble maintaining focus & not getting sidetracked but, since I'm no longer rushing to do too much work in too little time, it's easier to realize it and go back to the original task.
I also started stapling an empty feed sack to the wall in the barn/workshop area where I use a marker to write a list of the things I need to work on most. Having it written out in front of me seems to help keep me on track of what matters most instead of spending time on a task that's neither urgent or important.
Lastly, try not to add projects when you already have a list of things to do. For instance, don't bring home a box of chicks if it means you have to build a coop for them before they are ready to go out, yet you already have to build a hoop house to garden off your seedlings. It's better to hold off on getting the chicks until you finish the hoop house project (and preferably build the permanent coop. I admit, I'm very bad about making impulsive decisions and adding things even though my plate is full.

Definitely don't give up, but don't wear yourself out either. Develop a plan, & stick to it in order to build your homestead a little at a time. I look forward to hearing about your progress!
 
Pavel Mikoloski
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Thanks, KC:  Very wise.

Pavel
 
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