We love the idea of blending homemaking, homesteading and a simple life. But is it really possible? What does it mean to live that kind of life?
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What is Homemaking?
Dictionary.com defines this word as ‘the establishment or management of a home; duties of a homemaker’. It is primarily an American term, and usually applied to women who do not have jobs outside the home. Today the term is often interchangeable with ‘Soccer Mom’.
The way we think of a homemaker today is relatively new. Originally, homemaking chores were done by both the husband and the wife. There was no division of chores. ‘Women’s’ work was the same as ‘Men’s’ work, as both pulled together to take care of their home, livestock and daily chores.
The term we know as ‘homemaker’ or ‘housewife’ came about during the Industrial Revolution, when men left their farms and took on jobs to earn money. The bulk of the work was then left to the women to do.
The Progression of Homemaking
When we imagine a ‘traditional’ homemaker, we have mental pictures of June Cleaver (from Leave it to Beaver), Donna Reed (from The Donna Reed Show), and even Lucy and Ethel (from I Love Lucy). These women stayed at home, cleaned house, did the ‘marketing’, cared for the children and prepared the meals.
They also stopped their household chores in time to freshen up and get a tray of drinks (and a pipe, if required) ready for the moment her husband walked through the door after a busy day at ‘the office’. How those women did it, I am not sure. But it was customary, and considered the ‘norm’.
In the 1960’s, women began to search outside the home for employment. They became a part of the corporate world, yet were still expected to maintain the home. Some were in a financial position to hire housekeepers and nannies. Others did it themselves.
Women spent most of their days at work. The art of homemaking was set aside for the pursuit of more money, bigger houses, better clothes, and ultimately, trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’. The problem with that is, once you met or super-ceded the goal to keep up with one Jones family, another Jones family would come along, with bigger, better, nicer things. Then that hamster wheel would start all over again.
Where bartering or trading was enough to survive at one time, we are now required to have a minimum of 2.5 to 3 jobs just to pay the bills. The idea of homemaking isn’t even a consideration, as it would remove a significant amount of income. That depletion of income means less material ‘things’.
At some point, the idea of being a homemaker took on a negative connotation. It was unspoken, but considered as a bad thing. It was as if society as a whole believed homemakers were not skilled enough to get employment elsewhere.
And Heaven, Forbid! The very idea of a man becoming a ‘househusband’ was not only unheard of, it was frowned upon. It. Just. Isn’t. Done! (I’m sorry, I just have to add my two-cents worth here….Hogwash!)
Today, I look at women (and men) who are juggling corporate positions, families, homes, and all the extra-curricular activities. Most food consumed comes from a drive-thru. Occasionally a meal is prepared at home, but for the most part, either their schedules don’t allow the time, or they just don’t know how. Honestly, it just makes me sad just thinking about their life.
What is Homesteading?
‘Homesteading’ is an old term. Although it is much older, we first think of it as dating back to 1862, when President Lincoln signed in the Homesteading Act.
In 1861, he explained his thoughts as “…to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life”.
He went on to say, “…worthy of consideration, and that the wild lands of the country should be distributed so that every man should have the means and opportunity of benefiting his condition.”
With the signing of the Homestead Act In 1862, he put his money where his mouth was, so to speak. Before the ink was even dry, the race was on.
Today, homesteading would fall under the Lifestyle category. And although it is not as bad as it once was, many homesteaders get lumped into the term ‘hippy’. We choose to live off the land, eat fresh, and build compost bins instead of buying pallets of chemical fertilizer.
We minimize our waste, do our best to use natural medicines, we live simply, and yes, we get dirty. And it isn’t a he or she proposition. Both men and women are becoming homesteaders, and loving every minute of it!
Society just doesn’t understand what we are trying to achieve, so we are considered ‘abnormal’ and ‘anti-society’. Homesteading just is not an acceptable profession.
Fortunately, homesteading is slowly but surely gaining ground. More people are tired of working two jobs, just to find the electric bill and taxes have increased again. The reactions we as humans are having to the drugs on the market are more dangerous than the original illness. Food recalls are scary.
And with it brings a second, more positive, look to what homesteaders are trying to accomplish. Maybe homesteaders do have the right idea…
Most homesteaders strive to live as self-reliant as possible. Most homesteaders you speak with will give you percentage ranges from 60% to 85%. The reason for that is a realistic outlook. Most of us cannot grow everything we use. Salt, pepper, sugar, and other staple items still have to be purchased.
There are other expenses we just cannot get around. Although some homesteaders live off-grid and don’t have an electric bill per se, they still are required to have insurance coverage. In most all cases, we need fuel to operate, and clothing, or fabric to make our own.
Uncle Glen was what we refer to as a “Gentleman Farmer”. This farmer owned land. He raised crops and harvested them. However, a gentleman farmer did not do the work himself. He stayed clean. Instead, he hired folks to do all the heavy and dirty work.
A homesteader, on the other hand, is a ‘gentleman’ (or ‘gentlewoman’), and a farmer. But that is where the difference ends. We are men and women with a love of the land and living a simple life.
Playin’ in the Dirt
A homesteader gets dirty. They break ground for a new garden. Compost has been created, and added to the garden. He or she makes rows and plants. The garden is fed, weeded and tended by the homesteaders own hands. And at harvest time, they hustle to get it all picked and preserved.
Homesteaders tend livestock, make repairs, milk the cow (or goat) and make cheese. They create with their hands, whether it is a gift of a needed tool. They know how to think outside any box someone tries to stuff them in.
Homesteaders do the majority of the work on their farms. Many also sell surplus produce, meat and milk from their livestock, or hay from their pastures. Other business ventures may also be a part of homesteading. If a homesteader raises sheep, they may opt to sell handspun wool.
What is a Simple Life?
The best way I found to explain what living a simple life means comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:11 -12.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may gain the respect of outsiders, and you will not be dependent on anyone.”
The word ‘ambition’ can reflect a couple of things: 1) strive to reach a goal, and 2) be industrious. Regardless of our chosen journey, we all have goals we want to reach, and set out to work hard to meet them. To ‘work hard’ means to be industrious. To wake up every morning to a life we choose, and to do it with eagerness and contentment.
A Quiet Life
A quiet life simply means to learn what is truly important, and to focus on that. We need to abandon the idea that our chosen life doesn’t add up to the standards of others. Instead, we need to choose who we want to be, and quietly go about our day achieving our goals – not someone else’s.
We all know what it means to mind our own business. What I will say is that when we put all our time and effort watching the neighbors, just waiting for them to do something to gossip about, is one of the poorest uses of our time. Instead, we need to reflect on what we need to do today, and diligently work towards accomplishing those things.
Work with Your Hands
‘To work with your hands’ means to put our hands in the dirt, the dishwater, or use them to serve others. It means to get industrious. We need to remember our end goal, and take the steps required to reach it. Any life you choose requires work.
We all want respect, but the only way to get it is to earn it. To earn it, you need to live your life in a manner that will cause others to want to give it. Do what is right. Take care of your family, your community, and your home. Work hard. Refrain from gossip. Learn to love others – even those who seem unlovable.
The Goals for Homemakers, Homesteaders & A Simple Life
The biggest goal of homemakers and homesteaders is to live as self-sufficiently as possible. They do this so they do not have to be dependent on others for food, shelter, or freedom. Instead, they grow their own food and preserve it. Meals are prepared at home. Gifts are created by hand. And money is spent wisely.
Simple living focuses more on faith, family, home and contentment. It focuses less on materialism, corporate interference and what society thinks about them. Simple Life folks diligently work toward a life that is filled with honesty, values, morals and love. Their focus is on time with their families, teaching their children, community enhancement, and maintaining their homes.
‘Business’ as Usual
Some who prefer the simple life design and implement home-based businesses. Those businesses may be ‘typical’, such as bookkeeping, medical billing or assistant positions which can all be done from home with a computer.
Others lean toward creative businesses. Woodworking, weaving, spinning, blacksmithing, and others are just a few. There are some who grow more food than they can consume. They sell the excess or take it to the next level, considered ‘Value Added’. This excess and the value-added products are taken to a Farmer’s Market, or sold on site.
Blending Homemaking, Homesteading and Living a Simple Life
Typically, a homemaker’s work consisted of:
Making the beds
Cleaning the house
Kitchen ‘Management’ (purchasing food, preparing meals, baking, canning/preserving, etc.)
Tending the garden
Caring for children
Feeding the pets
Shopping (grocery, cleaners, after-school activities, etc.)
So many more I can’t even begin to list them all
The typical Homesteader’s Job List reads like this:
Maintain the home
Tend the garden
Care for the Livestock (including feeding, gathering eggs, milking, etc.)
Paying the bills
Anything else according to what each homestead has (cutting hay, sheering sheep, cheese-making, etc.)
A Simple Life incorporates:
If you look at homemaking, homesteading and a simple life, they are very similar. With the exception of specific livestock, most everything else blends together almost seamlessly. So why is there a difference?
Actually, the only difference is in the wording of the definitions. A homemaker maintains a home and works towards living as frugally as possible to maintain that lifestyle; a homesteader maintains a home, and strives to be as self-sufficient as possible. A Simple Life entails it all.
The Lines between Homemaking, Homesteading & A Simple Life Begin to Blur
As you can see, even the definitions begin to blur together. The only way a line could maybe be drawn is the size of land that each home sits on. And even that is only a technicality.
Homemaking can be done on any size piece of property. Homesteading has been known to be done anywhere from a city lot to large acreages. Living a Simple Life is the blend of both. It ends up being all in the mind of the one using the terms.
There really isn’t any trick to blending homemaking, homesteading and a Simple Life together. But if you still want a detailed list, let me offer you an ‘official’ Job Description for the position:
The Ideal Homemaking/Homesteading/Simple Life Job Application:
The position of Homemaker/Homesteader requires great management and business skills. The applicant should be able to multi-task and have strong organizational and planning skills. Duties will include:
Must know how to dust, sweep, vacuum and mop. Dishwashing and laundry skills are required. Needs to know how to make a bed properly. Must have proper knowledge of cleaning supplies, as well as how to safely use them. The ability to make those supplies from scratch is a plus.
Skills need for this includes preparing the ground, composting, making rows, starting seeds, and planting. Must also know how to weed, when and how much to water and plant staking. These skills must include growing vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit. A basic understanding of the difference between heirloom and hybrid is recommended. Must have proper harvesting skills.
Basic knowledge of how to feed and care for any form of livestock is a must. Although you may only be assigned to chickens, you will need to have extensive knowledge about them, including but not limited to gathering eggs, caring for the eggs, Bumble-foot (and other chicken ailments), and housing.
If you are assigned to larger livestock, knowledge in the areas of milking, proper care of fresh milk, sheering, hoof trimming and all other skills will be necessary.
All homes and homesteads will have even the basic of equipment. Applicants must supply their own tools, with a minimum of a hammer, screwdrivers and pliers. Additional tools are recommended.
A knowledge of simple maintenance, such as how to change a light bulb, and more detailed repairs (fence, small engine and water leak repairs) are recommended.
Requirements in this category is budgeting, financial management and balancing a checkbook. Knowledge of tax laws and preparation is preferred. It is preferred, but not necessary, for any applicant to have business start-up and marketing skills, as well as experience in sales.
Must be able to get along with family, neighbors and the community at large. May be required to assist in local activities, such as voting, storm clean up, caring for sick neighbors, and provide a dish for a potluck.
A desire to be a mentor is an ideal quality. Willingness to teach the younger generation the skills we have, as well as learning and teaching skills that have become ‘lost arts’ is recommended.
Please be advised:
The Establishment offering this position will also favor any applicant who knows how to use plants for culinary, crafting and medicinal purposes. If you do not have this skill, a willingness to learn will be beneficial towards securing this position.
All other duties as assigned.
Homemaking, Homesteading & A Simple Life: An Easy Blend
As you can see, combining homemaking, homesteading, and a simple life is an easy blend. It takes time to learn it all, but having curiosity and a willingness to work will go a long way to helping you achieve this goal.
Don’t think you have to have land to be a homesteader, homemaker or to live a simple life. Apartment dwellers, Urbanites and Suburbanites have all found ways to incorporate these three into their daily life. Some may have container gardens on a balcony. Some ‘farm’ their flower beds or back yards. A few have even turned their front and back yards into food oases.
If you have a true desire to become a homemaker, a homesteader, or to live a simple life, the determination to do this will come naturally. You will begin to find that there is no obstacle you cannot overcome, and what others think isn’t even a blip on your radar.
Don’t Make the ‘Society’ Mistake!
And please, whatever you do, do not make the mistake that homemaking, homesteading and a simple life are for ‘women’ only. There are men who are so tired of being on the Conveyor Belt of Life, they are desperately seeking a way off.
So are our children. As parents, we want to see our ‘babies’ succeed. Don’t push them towards a job they have no interest in, just because it comes with a huge paycheck. Instead, discover what makes them happy. Find their passions and the skill sets they were born with. Then teach them to not only follow it, but teach them the skills to build it into a business and a happy life.
Now you know and understand the difference between homemaking, homesteading and living a simple life. You have read the job description and are ready to put in your application. The desire and determination are there, and you are ready to go to work. But just exactly how do you do it? Where do you start? What do you do next?
The Answer is Just around the Corner
Never fear. The Farm Wife will get you started with the next post “Making the Shift to Living a Simple Life”. It isn’t as difficult as it seems, but it will take some dreaming, planning, goal setting, and work. So, get your pencil and paper handy, and let’s down to business. (Oh! And you can look forward to a fun freebie to help you get it all down on paper!)
While you are waiting for the next post, now is a good time to do some prep work. Take a walk. Do some dreaming. Think about where you are, and where you want to go. What are your passions? Having this in your arsenal will take you a long way towards your ultimate goal.
In the meantime, if you have questions, need some encouragement or already know what you want, let me know how I can help. I am always just an email away!
See you Next Week!
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I love how you blend a simple life and homesteading together. Most people think there is nothing “simple” about homesteading! What a thorough post and great information!
Thank you, Annie. Homesteading isn’t always easy. But you can make it a simple life, with just the right mindset!