For many lifestyles there is always work to be done, but building or running a homestead this is especially true. There are many ways to stay productive and avoid burnout, and the obvious answer seems to be, get organized and manage your time well. HA! I’m not either of those, but after some trial and error I have found a strategy that creates a balance between my duties as a mother, wife, and homeschool teacher, and my “job” of running our homestead.
When I made the switch to being a stay at home mom so I could homeschool my children and build a homestead, I thought this will be a cake walk. I’ve waited tables all my life, I am good under pressure, and great at multitasking. I soon realized that this lifestyle has almost NOTHING to do with multitasking but time management instead. In short, know your shortcomings and adjust accordingly. To make up for my lack of talent in this area I made a few changes.
The first change was with technology. In this age of technology, we are constantly bombarded with a ridiculous number of gadgets and gizmos as tools and entertainment. I call them distractions. It’s all too easy to fall down their rabbit hole and finally come out the other end only to realize the day is gone and nothing has been accomplished. I am all too familiar with this, especially when just starting out and there’s still much to research and learn. I’m pretty minimalistic when it comes to technology. All I own is a cell phone, but this alone has been the downfall of my productivity on many occasions. It’s all too easy to say oh just a few minutes of scrolling through facebook, or youtube, and next thing I know the day is gone. So, I keep the device out of sight.
My next change was working in the kitchen. You don’t realize how much time you spend cooking, eating, and cleaning, until you have a monster of a to do list to get done. So instead of three meals a day, we do a large breakfast around 10 am, and a large dinner around 6 pm. Another change was creating a dinner menu a month in advance. We have all spent countless hours looking for new recipes because we are tired of the same few meals. I don’t get extravagant or even detailed. I simply have a dinner option listed for each day of the month on a calendar. Two simple changes that take the guess work out of meals and opens up more time in the day for schooling, harvesting, or other farm projects.
As easy as it is to say “don’t bite off more than you can chew” we have all been guilty of it at one time or another. This is why I also try to time our breeding and butcher tasks so that they don’t line up with our planting or harvest season. Being year-round homeschoolers allows us to take “school vacations” during these times without feeling as though we are falling behind. It is also why we have taken the slow and steady approach to building our homestead. I want this lifestyle to always be a labor of love, not a dreaded chore. So, we started with a garden, then the next year we added rabbits, and then chickens, and soon goats, and so on. Seems no matter how well we plan these things, life has a way of testing us. As we expand the garden, each harvest season is a timed test. A mad dash to preserve and put up the harvest before it goes bad. This year’s harvest has coincided with the birth of a child again, happened with baby #3 too, and a remodel job we took over from a handyman with a lack luster work ethic. In moments such as this, I take the one a day approach. Make progress, or complete one task outside of my daily norm of household upkeep. That might be one batch of apple sauce, or one batch of salsa, mudding/sanding/painting one wall, cleaning the chicken coop etc. As long as I am always making a dent in the workload then I feel accomplished and satisfied.
It’s hard for me to take a day off. Especially as a stay at home mom. I have the mentality that if I’m not being productive, I’m not doing my job. As important as a rest day is, I feel like the concept of “selfcare” is a slippery mental slope, and all too often is a cover for sheer laziness. I am in no way advocating for someone to run themselves ragged either. There is always a balance. It’ll take a few fails, and possibly a couple of mental breakdowns to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Experience is the best teacher, but only if you learn from it. The work never ends on a homestead, but if you’re smart it will always be a labor of love.