Does the modern world leave you yearning for a more simple, self-sufficient life, but just thinking about where to start has you breaking out in a cold sweat? It’s not just you.
Every aspiring homesteader has that niggling voice of doubt, but with a little time, practice, and a lot of forward planning, overwhelming apprehension can give way to joy and snowballing motivation!
Here are our 20 tips to get started without feeling frazzled…
1. Start Learning (and Practicing) New Skills Right Away
The first step toward becoming more self-sufficient is to try your hand at a few homesteading skills and see where the wind takes you!
You don’t need a large outdoor space or tons of resources to start practicing.
Apartment dwellers with no garden, for example, can practice growing plants in a local community garden or at home in their own indoor garden.
If you already have a solid “why” in mind for starting your homestead – great! Let this guide the skills you want to practice first.
If not, don’t sweat it. Creating a homestead takes time and gives you plenty of opportunities to try, fail, and try again.
Here are some of the important skills you can be practicing now that will always prove invaluable to you:
- Cooking & scratch cooking
- Food preserving
- Bread baking
- Butter making
- Animal care (keeping a cat/dog in an apartment or keeping a few backyard chickens)
- Fence building & maintenance
- Reducing waste
2. Speak With Other Homesteaders
Networking is essential when you start out, not only in helping you gain more insight into the world of homesteading but to find like-minded people who will gladly cheer you on as you go (and politely steer you away from making fatal practical or financial errors!).
Starting this venture can be daunting in any circumstances, but going it entirely alone when there are thousands of online farmstead communities willing to lend a friendly ear is foolish, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Start by speaking to local farmers about their approach and how they got started or signing up to an online forum.
3. Begin Simplifying Your Life Now
Now is the time to prioritize and start separating the wheat from the chaff. Being a homesteader means downsizing, so decide what you can and can’t live without to start getting into the “lighter life” mindset.
This means holding on to the tools and equipment you already have that will come in handy as well as any materials that will prove useful to you down the line, like fencing, wood, hardware, etc.
Otherwise, you should start letting go of luxury possessions (trade/sell/donate them) and anything that won’t serve your functional and self-sufficient aspirations.
4. Evaluate Your Finances & Start Saving
Take a moment to sit down with your bank/credit card statements, bills, receipts, and other financial documents to get a clear idea of your typical monthly and yearly expenditure.
From here, you can start deciding where you can afford to make cutbacks and start saving.
As well as reducing your existing costs, start thinking frugally about future endeavors too while you’re in skill-practicing mode.
Long-time homesteader Danielle McCoy over at The Rustic Elk shares that her family built their “unfashionable but functional” chicken coop using “scrap lumber, pallets, and fencing” they had lying around!
5. Get Out of Debt Before Beginning
Homesteading comes with many expenses, such as vet care, animal feed, electricity etc., so the last thing you need is to still be saddled with overhanging debt while attempting to finance your new life.
Slim down your expenses as much as possible and make smart choices until your debt is paid off.
Things like buying used, paying with cash, lowering your interest rates, and taking on extra gigs like cleaning/dog-walking etc. are all great ways to get you out of the red and into the black – making it much easier to step into the green!
6. Decide How Self-Sufficient You Want To Be
Homesteading isn’t an “all or nothing” enterprise – it’s up to you to decide exactly how self-reliant you wish to be. Perhaps you simply want to learn how to grow and cook your own food from scratch?
Or just maybe, you feel so strongly about having a farmhouse that you dream of living a fully off-grid, zero-waste lifestyle?
Before you get ahead of yourself, remember that being self-sufficient can start as a hobby that can snowball once you have the means and motivation to do so.
7. Decide What Your Focus Will Be
It’s great if you’re brimming with 101 different ideas, but for your own sanity (and for the realistic longevity of your homestead), you’ll need to hone in on your main purpose.
Do you want to raise livestock, and if so, for what purpose? Selling eggs locally, raising animals for meat/milk?
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of growing crops on your property, and maybe you have the budget to raise animals too?
Look to your online or local community if you’re stuck for inspiration, but the choice will ultimately be personal.
8. Make a List of Goals and Stick To It
Once you’ve decided on your overall focus for your homestead, start making a list of realistic goals to work toward.
Nothing earth-shattering, just have a number of specific targets you’d like to achieve in a month or two that will further you in your ambitions.
This could be something like: bake one bread loaf each week, make a supply list for x/y/z DIY projects, or have my online farmhouse shop set up by the end of next month.
9. Set a Budget for Yourself and Stick To It
To start budgeting, note down all of your income sources alongside the money coming out of your account each month from your fixed expenses like food, bills, gas, etc. to variable expenses like household repairs, medical bills, emergency funds etc.
You’ll then have an idea of what you can spare each week/month to finance your short-term homestead goals.
Make use of budget-creating apps or print out a physical spreadsheet to help you stay on track.
10. Focus on One Thing at a Time
Try to stick to one objective at a time; otherwise, you’ll end up over-spending and spreading yourself too thin in the process.
You might decide one week, for example, that you’ll source the materials for your chicken coop and build it the following weekend.
The Weekend Homesteader by Anna Hess is a great read for beginners who are still carving out time in between their day job to make creating a homestead a reality.
11. Search for Free or Cheap Items Online
The beauty of homesteading in the digital age is that you can find super cheap (and sometimes free!) tools, equipment, and materials to help you get started.
Check out buy-and-sell sites like Craigslist, Facebook, Oodle Marketplace, and Geebo.
Daniel Schwartz from Off Grid Permaculture also suggests “look for a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in your local area, selling low-cost and used surplus building material.”
12. Scout Several Properties Before Buying
Don’t be afraid to look at several properties and map out the land to ensure you have enough space for everything (with room to expand).
Depending on your plans, you may only need an area with a half-acre space or something much larger, particularly if you plan to raise animals larger than chickens.
When scouting for land, it’s also wise to speak to the neighbors to gauge their attitude about your plans so you can avoid any upset and confrontations down the line.
13. Have All Buildings and Wells on the Land Inspected Before Buying
Before signing anything on the dotted line, it’s crucial for yourself, your family’s health and the welfare of any animals that may be on the property that every building and well is checked out.
We’d recommend that you consult a professional land/home inspector to conduct a full unbiased report as many hazards, like contaminated well water, may not be obvious to yourself or even a local farmer in some cases.
14. Have a Back-Up Plan for Everything
Even if things are going terrifically down on the farm, accidents happen, equipment breaks, animals get sick, and plans change, so formulate a back-up plan for every huge eventuality and thank yourself later!
Consider what your plans should be when you go on vacation – is there anyone you trust to take the reigns for a while?
How about caring for your livestock in an unexpected crisis? Are you prepared to perform some emergency care on them if a vet can’t be called upon?
How about when the electricity goes out? Will you still be able to water your livestock and garden and keep your chicks warm?
15. Formulate a Long-Term Plan
At the risk of sounding like a clichéd interviewer, ask yourself: “Where do I see my homestead in 1, 3, or 5 years down the line?”
As so often happens, your dreams may change further down the line and certain goals may shift in priority from season to season, so it may help to simply make a note of what you hope to accomplish in the first year and plan for that.
In the meantime, stay curious and open to where you could take things beyond the 12-month mark.
16. Plan for Multiple Sources of Income From Your Homestead
It’s important to have a few income streams, not only to help cover your homestead expenses, but to have enough to tie you over in emergencies (and eventually make a profit of course!).
Say, for example, a fungal blight wipes out all of your crops at once or a product you make is no longer in demand? Nightmarish.
Fortunately, there are so many ways to make money on a homestead – from soap-making; selling baked goods; selling firewood, wool, and crafts (such as crocheted/knitted items); and more.
The income possibilities are endless! Just remember to focus on one thing at a time, and master it before moving to the next project.
17. Start Small
It’s much easier to put a small blob of toothpaste back inside the cap than it is to put the entire contents back in the tube. Get the picture?
Look at your ambitions for your homestead, and tackle them on a miniature scale first.
So instead of building several XL chicken coops to cater for a flock of 100, try looking after 3 or 4 chicks and see how it goes, or focus on one plant bed in your garden before trying to create something that could make it onto the cover of Better Homes & Gardens!
18. Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself
At first, your homestead journey will be about working within your means and getting excited about the small-scale projects that excite you.
Playing the comparison game is the biggest motivation killer, so please don’t hold yourself up to the standard of the veteran gardener in your family or the daily stream of glorious veggie patches on your Instagram feed!
You’ll start to resent what should be a fun and challenging opportunity when you try to take on too much and crumble, so do as small-scale farmer Lauren Arcuri from Treehugger suggests and “let go of any remaining attachment to things being perfect – it will help you to achieve more!”
19. Learn To Expect the Unexpected
You may come to master dozens of new skills in your first few months as a homesteader, but unfortunately, no amount of knowledge is going to insulate you from the twists and turns of rural life.
For all of your planning and organization, something can always come along and set one of your goals back, but don’t let trials and tribulations have you questioning “Am I really up to this?”
The truth is, homesteading is never 100% smooth-sailing, especially when you’re a beginner. So give yourself grace if you don’t hit your targets – trust us, you are not alone!
20. Enjoy the Process – You’re in It for the Long Haul!
Remember that making a homestead is a continual work-in-progress.
Even the most experienced gardeners among us are trying a new skill or tackling a new project every now and again – it’s all part of the fun of stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Taking your time and giving your all to each little part of your journey, from picking out your first seed packet to making your first ever sale at a farmer’s market, will help you see each step as a mini win.
And each win should be celebrated, as each one will inch you closer and closer toward your bigger goals and remind you why you sought to create a homestead in the first place.
We hope the above tips have made the idea of starting a homestead a little less daunting. Don’t forget that your location and budget should not restrict you.
Being a homesteader is open to anyone willing to put in the time and effort to learn some self-sufficient skills (whether you live in a tiny apartment or country cottage), so take that first step and see where it takes you!