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Preparing to switch to an Off-Grid Homestead Lifestyle
Living off-grid and as self-sufficiently as possible is a lifestyle that has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years. It's an attractive idea that people of differing backgrounds embrace for a number of reasons, one of which being the sheer amount of freedom it brings. But few people can undertake such a considerable lifestyle change at the drop of the hat.
The simplicity of off-grid living often stands in stark contrast to one's current life -which may be filled with complications and obligations that could complicate a sudden lifestyle change. This necessitates a plan of action, making gradual changes to one's life and tying up certain loose ends before heading off to live in that rough-hewn cabin deep in the forested mountains, gardening, and hunting for food.
The following tips and suggestions come as advice from several people who made the switch from the drudgery of a 9-5 existence to living the life they wanted out in the wilderness. These tips incorporate lessons they learned along the way with a healthy helping of hindsight bias thanks to the mistakes they made, too.
Start Minimalizing your Lifestyle
Take a moment and look around your home.
You're very likely reading this article on your phone or computer and in a house or apartment filled with furniture, gadgets and electronics, books, DVD's, and who knows what other junk you've collected over the years. Do any of those items fit in your view of a simpler lifestyle? Picture yourself packing everything up and somehow hauling it out to the countryside and making every last thing fit into your new -and smaller- home.
Breaking up with your possessions takes time.
It requires sorting through objects, figuring out what can be donated or given away and what is just straight out junk needing to be recycled.
Items that carry nostalgia or sentimentalism are the hardest to part with. These should be saved for the end, once you've better mentally prepared yourself for your upcoming lifestyle change.
You'll eventually get to a point where you can better see the value in, say, that handmade quilt your grandma gave you when you graduated high school, or that sweater your mom gave you for your birthday that's sat in the back of your closet for the last ten years.
PRO TIP -> If an item isn't useful or if it conjures up feelings of guilt or regret in you, then, that item isn't something you need.
Minimalizing your life isn't just a matter of getting rid of physical clutter, but it's also an exercise in getting rid of mental clutter.
Getting mentally prepared
A lot of the attitudes and perceptions that are common within or even necessary to successfully navigate modern civilization are counterproductive and anathema to a simple existence.
Self-sufficiency requires a certain level of personal independence and responsibility, as well as a healthy dose of humility. These are not traits that are truly encouraged by western society, as much as we like to think ourselves independent and the best of whatever the current topic may be.
Your first-year off-grid will be filled with mistakes, and mother nature will throw you on your face more times than you'll be able to keep track of. There's a reason why so many homesteaders say you won't believe how little you accomplish the first three years, but you'll be amazed at how much you accomplish the fifth year.
You, as an individual, will repeatedly be tested. You will be broken, but you'll be made stronger for it. And if you can hang in there those first few years as you work harder than you ever have your entire life to get things set up for the long haul, you'll get rewarded. You won't believe just how far you've come, how much you've grown as a person, and how much you've learned when that fifth year comes around, and you can take a look at your functional off-grid homestead.
Pay off all of Your Debt
This can easily be one of the most difficult things to accomplish, but it is one of the most important things you can do for yourself -especially if that feeling of liberation and true freedom are your main reasons for pursuing an off-grid lifestyle.
One of the simplest ways to start paying off all of your debts is to make sure that you aren't acquiring more of it. That means living within your means and starting to reduce your expenses now.
Here are a few ways you can start reducing your expenses now:
Buy food in bulk
This may seem odd, but this is exactly what you'll be doing once you're living off-grid.
Not only it is it cheaper in the long run, but your trips into town for supplies will be limited (you'll have too much to do around your homestead) and you'll be making as much from scratch as possible anyway.
It's completely unrealistic to think you can eat the same way you do now but out in the wilderness. Heat and eat meals are expensive, don't have the nutritional content you'll need with a more active lifestyle, and they take up considerable amount of storage space in a pantry or freezer (freezer?! Do you have any idea how much electricity that uses?? Don't even imagine having a freezer, regardless of how convenient it would be for storing meat, for at least the first two or three years. And don't even think about owning a microwave.)
More importantly, though, the amount of money that you spend on that one heat and eat meal is enough money for one to five days worth of meals for yourself when made from scratch.
Cancel that cable or satellite subscription
Face it; you're not going to be watching a lot of TV once you're living off-grid.
Not only does that 72" flat screen use a ton of electricity, but the cost of satellite TV will be money that you could have spent on gas for your chainsaw, on materials for building that chicken coop, on building your goat herd. And, again, you won't have the time to sit around on your butt staring at the TV.
Limit how much you go out
The cost of eating out or hanging out at the bar once a week can be pretty extreme.
This is another part of your current lifestyle that will be nonexistent once you trek off into the wilderness. That's not to say that you won't be enjoying a beer or three at the end of a hard day's work, but you won't be driving 30+ miles into town to sit on a bar stool to do so.
Limit large expenses
Any large purchases you make now should be related to your upcoming lifestyle changes, such as buying land, animals, a wood stove, etc. Anything that is not focused toward that goal is a distraction, and any large purchases you make now are just items that you'll have to figure out how to get rid of later.
If you feel you need to "treat" yourself or "deserve" this big purchase, well, that's an attitude you'll have to confront at some point. In the meantime consider "treating" yourself by using that money to pay off an old debt and give yourself the gift of being one step closer to financial independence.
The money that you save by reducing your expenses is money that you can divest into settling and paying off old debts (which, indeed, makes that money an investment in your future).
The last thing you need to be concerned with on your first year is trying to find the money to pay off your debts, when you're barely getting enough to eat or to build your homestead. There is a considerable mental and emotional benefit to being able to extricate yourself from the confines of civilization and live your life free and as you see fit. You cannot do that with debt hanging over your head.
As we've mentioned throughout this article, the life you're living now is very likely completely different than the lifestyle you're planning on living off-grid. Not only are those two lifestyles very different but there are a lot of changes that have to be made to smoothly transition from one to the other.
You can't do all that in a weekend. Just as you can't minimalize your possessions all in one shot. One can't just say, "Oh, I'm going to go live off-grid in the wilderness now" and everything will be okay... it won't be. You need to gently pull yourself out of your old lifestyle, making changes slowly so that they stick.
There are things that you need to learn before giving up everything so that you can have it all; there are things that must be put into place, so you don't kill your fool self in your first three months in the wilderness.
Acknowledging that it is a process and committing to that process with the determination that you will need to live off-grid will have considerable long-term benefits.
It also makes it easier and increases your likeliness of success because, let's face it, not everyone who tries to make the switch to living off-grid is successful; many people give up in that first year. So go slowly, ease yourself out of one lifestyle and into the next.
You can start sticking to the tips we're discussing here. The time previously spent on activities you've given up, can now be allotted to preparing for your new lifestyle; which brings us to our next point.
Even if you're an avid outdoor enthusiast, grew up on a farm, and love to go hunting, there is still a considerable learning curve when it comes to living off-grid and trying to be self-sufficient. But you can make things easier for yourself by being as informed as possible. That means doing as much research as you can to realistically plan and to squash that romanticized idea of off-grid and wilderness living in your mind (replacing it with a more real perception).
To guide your research, it does pay to have an idea of what you want to do.
Is your plan to have a small homestead with a log cabin and a few goats and a garden to get you by? Sounds good.
- Do you know how to make a log cabin? What tools are required? What are the drawbacks? Is there regular maintenance? Are there enough of the right kind of trees where you'll be living? The video below is Off Grid Warrior's detailed and thorough explanation on how to build a cabin.
- And those goats; do you know what breed you want? Do you know what they'll eat and how you'll feed them? What about their shelter? How will you water them? The video below, made by The Tactical Homesteader explains how to raise and care for your dairy goats.
- And that garden; have you ever grown anything before or are you hoping that throwing seeds on the ground is enough to keep your belly full, and your pantry stocked through winter? How big of a garden do you need to sustain yourself? What plants should you grow? How will you store and preserve those foods until next harvest? How much space will that take-up and where will you keep them in that log cabin you're going to build? Below you'll see one very creative technique shown by Starry Hilders.
As you can see, one topic quickly leads into another, and with even a vague concept of what you would like can be enough of a start for your research. It can help you to identify skills you need to learn, materials you need to acquire, and to make changes when you discover that something isn't realistic in regards to the location you've chosen or in regards to other aspects of your plan.
From there, you can put together a basic plan of action, figuring out exactly what you need to get done right away and what should be focused on after that.
Sticking with our log cabin plus goats plus a garden homestead, you may determine that building the cabin will take longer than you initially thought, so part of your plan focuses on having the cabin finished by winter.
While you work on that, you'll also be working on preparing for winter, so getting food growing and stored up is paramount. You realize you won't have time to build a goat shed while also trying to build your cabin, so you push getting goats until the snow melts, and you can start building again.
So, your first-year plans center around growing as much food as you can to make it through winter with enough food, getting shelter in place for yourself, getting enough firewood put away for winter, figuring out water storage and filtration, and getting that composting toilet put together or that outhouse dug.
Contingency plans should also be developed for when -not if- things go wrong, or well-thought ideas turn out to be impractical or impossible.
Pick up Necessary Skills Now
Your research will reveal some skills that you need to learn to make life easier -and even possible- for yourself when living off-grid.
While some skills, like building a log cabin or creating a water filtration system, may be difficult to learn firsthand, there are still numerous opportunities available to you to learn essential skills.
The internet is, of course, a great place to start, as you'll be able to consult the experience of people who are already homesteading and have made a few mistakes along the way. There are many backwoods and homesteading magazines, too, that are filled with useful information that can help you with some of the most practical aspects of homesteading that you overlook, such as different ways to make butter, alternative food preservation methods to canning, or natural first aid treatments and home remedies.
Some Useful Resources for Researching*
* We are not affiliated in any way with these resources nor we get any compensation from listing them.
Don't disregard your local library. There are likely hundreds of books available -for free- that will teach you indispensable stuff, like:
- How to grow vegetables.
- How to keep mice out of your pantry without using chemicals.
- How to make bread and biscuits from scratch.
- How to store food without electricity.
- How to splice rope.
- How to make soap.
- The best way to wash your clothes by hand and in hard water without destroying them.
- How to keep nuisance predators from snooping around your camp.
Workshops and Conventions
Keep your eyes open for any workshops or conventions that may take place in your area.
During the summer and fall, organizations focused on renewable energy, trapping, hunting, and primitive crafts have conventions and festivals that are filled with workshops, presentations, and experts in a variety of skills that you want to learn.
Often, you can get a program guide for these conventions ahead of time so you can plan your time efficiently and focus on heading to the workshops that benefit you the most. These are a great opportunity to see demonstrations and ask questions of someone who is an expert in that skill or craft.
It's also a great opportunity to make connections with people from across the country who may prove to be a valuable resource later on when you least expect it (which is a tendency that life likes to bring us.)
You can do this!
These tips may make it seem like moving off-grid and starting your homestead is a difficult task to accomplish and, honestly, it will take a lot of hard work and effort on your part. But it is a dream that is easily made a reality.
It is far easier to make this change than so many people think.
The number of times that I recant my family's tale of traveling across the country and moving to the mountains to live off-grid only to have that person reply, "Oh, I could never do that" is staggering. Because they could, they just don't want to.
That is where true freedom is found: in not holding yourself back due to other people's expectations and fear. In not letting yourself be burdened by society's forced obligations. In having the courage to live your life exactly as you want. In taking personal responsibility for your actions and choices and being rewarded with not being accountable to anyone else because of it. That kind of freedom is scary, and that fear is what truly keeps people from daring to live their dreams.
This list of tips isn't perfect. You'll discover new necessary steps along the way that no one could have predicted. But it will help you to loosen yourself of all that is holding you back, as well as helping you to meet the physical demands necessary to off-grid living.
You can do this. You do have what it takes. And this is a dream that is more easily made possible and is much more practical than so many people realize.