If you’re wondering what homesteading for beginners looks like, you’ve come to the right place. Why? Because when my husband and I began homesteading, we made a lot of mistakes.
Hopefully, we’ve learned from them. We definitely have a list of “if we could go back and do it again” related to homesteading. And I want to keep you from having a similar list in the future. 😉
To that end, in this article, I’m going to share the three important first steps to make as you transition into your new life. After, I’m going to share four specific tips that will help make that transition as smooth and seamless as possible.
The homesteading lifestyle, if you have the right attitude, is satisfying. It lessens your carbon footprint, provides exercise without your needing a gym membership, and brings you closer to nature than the conventional urban life.
But if you don’t start out right, you will eventually get overwhelmed and frustrated. You may even give up. So seeking a guide on homesteading for beginners is a smart thing to do.
Your first order of business is to read my post, “What is homesteading?” It’s important for two reasons. First, a lot of people have misconceptions – or at least, limited preconceived ideas – about what homesteading is. Second, reading about the benefits of the lifestyle might motivate you to commit more deeply to it.
Once you have those basics down, the next thing to do is not go out and read a bunch of books and blogs about homesteading. Even if what you read excites you, you’re probably also going to get overwhelmed at the same time. There are as many ways to homestead as there are people living the lifestyle, and too many options produce paralysis.
This fact has actually been born out in research. One study found that the more choices of types and brands of peanut butter that a grocery store carried, the less likely customers were to buy peanut butter. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the grocery store actually made more money from peanut butter sales when customers had a lot less choice in that area.
So after educating yourself on the essentials of what homesteading is, your next step is to come up with your “why.” You’re not going to see this in many other places that talk about homesteading for beginners. Books and other blog posts will jump right into telling you to start a garden, find a cabin kit, and buy solar panels.
But some of those ideas won’t fit your particular situation, and many are not beginner goals.
So you’re going to start by figuring out your “why.” Why do you want to homestead in the first place?
The next two steps are to prioritize and organize. Your “why” will drive your list of priorities, and after jotting down your priorities you can start to organize the steps involved in setting up those priorities. Once you start organizing on paper, you’ll have a much better idea of where you’ll start with your new homesteading endeavors, and what you’ll add along the way.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get to the first step in beginning a homestead: figuring out your “why.”
Step one: Figure out why you want to homestead.
Most people who live this simpler lifestyle have similar reasons to do so. But, like with any other goal or dream, it’s important to make those reasons specific and personal so that you’ll stay motivated and committed to the journey even when the going gets tough.
Let’s say you make a goal of losing twenty pounds in the next month. If the reason you’re doing it is that your doctor recommended it to get your cholesterol levels down, you’re probably not going to succeed. You’re trying to lose weight for your doctor, not for yourself.
On the other hand, if you want to have more energy and less back pain, and perhaps to look good for your upcoming high school reunion, you’ll be a lot more likely to meet your weight loss goal.
The same goes for embarking on any major lifestyle change. You have to have compelling reasons to do it for yourself.
So, in this homesteading for beginners guide, begin with this step, finding your “why.”
Here are sample reasons you may have for starting this lifestyle. They will differ depending on whether you’re going to be an urban homesteader or a rural homesteader.
- Become more self-sufficient in food production.
- Learn to be happy with less.
- Reduce my carbon footprint.
- Be close to nature every day.
- Reduce monthly expenses.
- Escape from the city noise and stress.
- Make an income by working the land (aka, fire my boss).
- Provide a safe environment for my kids to grow up that has a lot of space for playing and exploring.
Those are my top-of-my-head ideas. Feel free to borrow any of them, or use them as a jumping-off point to come up with your own.
Once you have specific, personal reasons for becoming a homesteader, you can now begin the next step.
Step two: Determine your initial, current priorities for your new homestead.
Notice the word “current.” You won’t always have the same priorities. If you’re over the age of twenty, you’ve probably already figured out that truth in other areas of your life.
The same goes with the homesteading journey. There’s a reason I’m calling it a “journey.” Along the way, you will take (or be pushed into ) detours, encounter bumps, and pass by a lot of options that you hadn’t known about before. So the priorities you establish right now won’t necessarily be the same priorities one, five, ten years after you begin the homesteading lifestyle.
I better back up before moving on. A priority is the most important thing right now. A list of ten things isn’t a list of priorities, it’s just a list of ten things you wish you could do. If you try to implement them all at once, you’re going to get overwhelmed, frustrated, and possibly burned out.
Remember, it’s a journey, not a race. So when you’re just beginning, make no more than three priorities. Once those top three things are in place on your homestead, then think of the next three important things you want to accomplish.
How do you determine what your homesteading priorities will be? You can glean some ideas from the post I linked to above. Then, look at your “why.” After doing so, you might decide your initial priorities will be to get off the energy grid and start a garden. Or perhaps they will be to research places you’d like to live, and start seeing if affordable raw land is available in those places. Subsequently, you’ll want to research what kind of house you’ll want to build.
Following are some questions to help you figure out your priorities:
- Where will you be homesteading?
- If you’re planning on moving, what’s your ideal location?
- If you’re moving, are you going to buy raw land and build a house, or buy property that already has a house?
- On a scale of one to ten, ten being the most important to you, how important is growing your own food?
- Ditto for getting completely off the grid. How important is it to you?
- Do you plan, or hope to be able to, quit your job and earn an income off your homestead?
- What does your financial situation look like right now as far as debt, savings, and investment?
- If you have a family, how on board are they with the idea of building a homestead together?
- Do you plan to have livestock? (Yes, this blog promotes veganism, but I’m assuming many of my readers will not be vegan, so this is a question they’ll want to ask.)
- What skills do you already have that will help you live a simpler, more self-sufficient life?
- Do you enjoy being around a lot of people most of the time, or the opposite? (This is more critical than most people think.)
From these questions, and others you might consider, cull out the top three goals you want to accomplish as a newbie homesteader.
Homesteading for beginners starts with nailing down, and focusing on, the most important things first.
After you’ve decided on your three initial priorities, prioritize those priorities. Which one is the most important to you? Second most important?
Now that you know your “why” and have come up with your top three priorities related to that why, you’re ready for step three.
Step three: Get organized.
You’ll want to get organized on paper (or with some kind of smart phone app) as well as practically. If you’re planning to take the leap into buying a piece of rural property but still have non-mortgage debt, your first order of business is to organize your finances so as to get out of debt. My book, Hatching The Nest Egg, will help with that.
Aside from that, list your top three priorities on a separate piece of paper, and brainstorm everything you need to do and have in order to accomplish each priority.
Now would be a good time to find homesteading forums and Facebook groups so can network with experienced homesteaders to get their take on how best to accomplish your different tasks.
When you have what you think is a more-or-less complete list of tasks and items, prioritize that list. Say you’re out of debt and are planning to move from the suburbs into a rural area. Part of your organization will include decluttering your home and researching Real Estate agents/companies to help you sell your home, and possibly to buy the home that you will be homesteading on.
If you’re living in a city and not planning to move, you will have a lot smaller to-do list. Your organizational list might include things like putting water-saving hacks into place, decluttering a messy closet, and reading about indoor or container gardening.
Let me break down two examples of moving from priorities to organization. If you live in the city and want to do the urban homesteading thing, you may decide that Priority Number One is to reduce your carbon footprint. You currently spend ninety minutes every day traveling to your job. Your to-do list to solve this problem could include asking your boss to allow you to work from home a couple of days per week, and/or starting a side business that you can work on during the evenings and weekends and which you could eventually build up to replace the income of your current job.
This latter will require a to-do list of its own: researching ideas, creating a schedule to work on the business, and finding a course or series of blog posts or videos that teaches you the basic how-to’s of the business. The podcast at Side Hustle Nation is a great place to start for micro-business ideas.
Of course, there are many other things a city-dweller can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Reducing time on the road is the obvious one that jumps out at me.
If you want to move from an urban area and live on a few acres in the country, one of your priorities is going to be to decide where to live. Your organizational tasks will include deciding whether you want to stay (or move closer to) close to relatives, figuring out your budget for land purchase and – if necessary – house building, researching and selecting a Real Estate agent, and planning trips to look at properties in your desired area.
Homesteading for beginners: Four pro tips
I don’t want you to suffer and struggle as my husband did our first few years as newbie homesteaders. So, I’m going to give you three pieces of advice that will save your sanity as you move forward.
#1: Find support.
Unless you were raised in a radically homesteading family and were taught all or most of the self-sufficient skills you could ever want, you’re going to need help. I don’t care how many books or blog posts you’ve read, or podcast episodes you’ve listened to. You need a tribe you can connect with and turn to when you spend a thousand dollars on a fence…but the deer still manage to jump it and destroy all your crops in one night. (I’m happy to say I have no personal experience with this example!)
I mentioned joining online forums and Facebook groups earlier. If there’s a local gardening club or permaculture group in your area, so much the better. Get connected, make acquaintances and friends, and never feel embarrassed about having to ask a question. Everyone in the group was at one time a beginner, just like you.
#2: Take one bite at a time.
This ties into the prioritizing step, and the mini-steps required to work on each priority. If you try to do everything at once, you’re going to either fall flat on your face, or go insane.
During our first two years on our rural property, we slopped together a large garden area, built a storage shed, ordered a bunch of fruit and nut trees, and had a house built. Most of those projects required the completion of several other smaller projects.
We were stressed out, depressed, and wondering why we ever had this homesteading dream.
Take it slow. Learn everything you can about the first project, choose which direction you want to go, and work on it – and it alone – until it’s up and running. You might spend two years learning how to garden, then year three put solar panels in place.
One bite at a time. Don’t be in a hurry.
#3: Start small.
If you’ve never grown your own vegetables before, start with one or two four-by-four or three-by-five garden beds. Expand it as you grow comfortable with growing.
If you’re desperate to have an orchard, talk to local experts about which kinds of fruit do best in your area. Then start with just two or three of two or three varieties of canes, vines, bushes, or trees. Add more over the next few years as you have success with you initial fruit investments.
The only projects you should work on completing ASAP are, of course, any buildings. It would be kind of inconvenient to have a house that consisted of one bedroom…and was missing a wall or two!
#4: Use a vision map to help you plan your first homesteading steps.
Years ago, I read the book, The Richest Man In The World by Steve K. Scott. This book is what made the author-businessman famous for the concept of goal achievement known as “Vision Mapping.” It’s a great way to keep you focused on your priorities, and organize everything you need to do in order to accomplish those priorities.
Your vision is to start a successful homestead. Right under the vision fall the goals. These are broad, non-measurable statements that focus on certain aspects of the vision – in this case, starting your homestead. For our purposes, your goals would be your top three priorities you determined earlier.
Even more specific are the objectives. A single goal typically breaks down into several objectives, statements that are measurable and specific.
Finally come the tasks. The tasks are the individual things you need to do in order to achieve an objective.
I recommend you have a sheet of paper for each priority, or goal. Underneath each, write all the objectives needed to meet each goal, leaving space underneath each one. In those spaces, you’re going to jot down the individual tasks you need to accomplish to achieve each objective.
I hope you enjoyed this Homesteading for Beginner’s guide. Find your “why”, write down your first top three priorities, then start organizing around those priorities. After that, take all the time you need to educate yourself and slowly build your new homesteading life to what you’ve always wanted it to look like.