Here’s the thing about homesteading. It’s wonderful, and rewarding, and hard, and worth it. But it looks different for each and every person who homesteads. No two people are the same, so neither are two homesteads. Some of us have livestock, some of us don’t. Some of us have chickens, some don’t. Some of us like a huge garden, some don’t. Some of us are “crunchy,” some of us still eat junk food sometimes. Some of us homeschool, some send their kids to public or private schools, and some of us don’t have kids at all. Some are older, some are younger. That’s part of the beauty of it. Each of can use our gifts and talents and skills in the way that best suits us.
But, sometimes, our differences lead us down a path of insecurity and we start playing the comparison game. And the comparison game leads to homesteader guilt.
We start looking at what our homesteader friends have achieved and start feeling like failures or fakes. The moment we start comparing what someone else has accomplished that we haven’t yet — or some “non-homesteader” thing that we do to what others never do — we set ourselves up to feel like we aren’t adequate, like we’re not achieving enough, or like we’re not “real” homesteaders. I know I’m not the only one who does this.
For me, it’s generally centered around things that make me feel like a “fake homesteader.” I feel guilty when I eat out too much or eat some kind of processed, boxed food. (This is guilt on multiple levels — the guilt of not cooking everything from scratch like “real” homesteaders do and the guilt of cheating on my diet.) I feel guilty when I do or purchase something frivolous and not homestead related, like a new name brand eye shadow pallet or a “for fun” book that wasn’t .50¢ at a yard sale. These kinds of things make me feel materialistic and wasteful.
I try to live by the old adage, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I try to be frugal and DIY-oriented. I try to limit needless consumeristic purchases. I try to value things like stewardship and thrift. I try to be “faithful with little” and not fall into the trap of making money just to spend it on the next greatest thing. And for the most part, this is how I am. I rarely buy new clothes, I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought jewelry, and I will wear literal holes into things before finally replacing them.
I don’t really want a big house with a giant pool, a big shiny boat, perfectly manicured nails, a cabinet full of makeup, the latest version of the iPhone, and a brand new Ferrari. (Well, except for the pool. I have always wanted a nice pool.)
But sometimes I do want some of the “finer things” in life. I don’t want Picasso on my walls, but I do have my own taste in decor. I definitely don’t wear makeup every day, but I like to play with it every now and then. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from digging in the dirt and feel a little pretty for a change!
So why do I feel guilty when I splurge? Why should any of us?
I believe that some things in life exist just to be pretty. Some things are just to make us smile, or laugh, or happy. Value isn’t always found in the practical benefits of a thing. For a long time I felt that, to be a “real” homesteader, I needed to stop having and wanting things that didn’t give something tangible back to me for my effort — something like fresh eggs, or a harvest, or what have you. I felt that anything else was just a waste of money, that it wasn’t frugal and that it was materialistic.
I’ve realized lately how wrong that idea was. I’m not condoning true materialism, but it’s not wrong to want some things just because you like them or you think they’re pretty. It’s not wrong to eat a pizza or go for Mexican food after a day of growing your own. It’s not wrong to splurge every now and then, or treat yourself just because.
I’m thankful to some of the other homesteaders who have helped me come to this realization. In particular, the beautiful potager gardens of Shaye of The Elliott Homestead, the impeccably classy style sense of Angela The Parisienne Farm Girl, and the lighthearted posts from Tinia of Lucas Farm when her family goes out for a not-home-cooked-meal inspire me and encourage me. My homestead is different from theirs, and our styles and lives are not identical by any means, but their ability to mesh homesteading with beauty and fun makes it easier for me to embrace that side of myself, too.
So, even though I felt guilt about it, I bought a new eye shadow pallet and a bright red lipstick. I’ve started working on my own potager garden, and although it currently looks ramshackle and hodgepodge, it’s coming along. I even bought a purely decorative garden flag to place nearby (but hey, it was on sale!). I also have plans to put in a decorative fence and add some whirly gigs and noise makers — just because I love the sounds of chimes and bells in the wind.
Let’s stop comparing ourselves to other homesteaders and feeling fake when we don’t measure up to the picture-perfect version of another person’s life. We have to remember that we’re all different, and we never know where another person may feel like a failure. We only see a picture of each others lives here, and even when we try to be real with what we share, there will always be a piece of the puzzle missing. We all have moments when something goes wrong. We all have things we like that may not fall directly under the header of “homesteading.” Someone’s garden may be bigger than yours, they may have more chickens, and maybe you’re not where you want to be yet. Let those people be a source of encouragement for you instead of feeling like it’s a competition!
Homesteading is a journey, not a destination. It’s a lifestyle, not a set of rules. Let’s kick homesteader guilt to the curb, folks!
I will probably always struggle to some extent with homesteader guilt, but it’s my hope that we can all start to appreciate our own journeys in this crazy homestead life without worrying about coloring within the lines and meeting expectations.
Have a good one, friends.