The self-sufficiency movement has ebbed and flowed ever since it became popularized with the “back-to-the-land” movements of the 1960s and 70s. However, it typically sees increases in the periods following crises—especially the 2007-08 global financial crisis and now, amidst the global coronavirus pandemic.
Driven by both environmental and social stressors, as well as an aim to become more environmentally friendly and resilient to future events, many people are wondering how to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. In fact, in 2019, self-sufficiency was reported as a consumer trend—driven by responses to the toxic nature of unchecked consumerism and fast fashion.
What is Self-Sufficiency?
While more of us are turning to practices and lifestyles that enable us to become more self-sufficient, it’s important to remember that self-sufficiency comes in all shapes and sizes. Here’s self-sufficiency, as defined by Cambridge Dictionary: “The quality or state of being able to provide everything you need, especially food, without the help of other people or countries.”
Sounds like a pretty tall order, right? Especially for those of us who are urban dwellers, or don’t have the time or knowledge to take care of all of our needs, the idea of self-sufficiency is nothing more than a pipe dream.
Fortunately, there are aspects of self-sufficiency that we can all achieve. Here are a few of our favorite self-sufficiency tips (even better that they’re designed with anyone in mind).
How to Live a More Self-Sufficient Lifestyle: 8 Tips for Anyone
1. Find a Friend in Frugality
Frugality could certainly be a blog topic on it’s own, but having even a basic understanding of it will help you on your journey to a more self-sufficient life. In a world of seemingly unlimited consumption, many of us have been taught that being “thrifty” or “cheap” even is something to avoid.
However, saving money—and doing so intentionally and mindfully—can be the key that unlocks your self-sufficiency. What’s more, living a frugal lifestyle will actually help you enjoy everything more—both the small, simple pleasures and the occasional splurges. There’s so much to be said about frugality and for anyone curious, there’s an excellent book (The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More) that can be read in a weekend—and might change your life.
2. Grow Your Own Food
This is likely the first thing you thought of when you read the words “self-sufficiency.” We’re quick to think that being self-sufficient means a few acres with lush, healthy organic veggies, chickens roaming around, and a few beehives. While that is definitely the dream for anyone wanting a more self-sufficient life, there are other ways to get there.
- Eat seasonally. Staying out of a grocery store is one of the best ways to support your own sufficiency.
- Taking this to the next level, try supporting your local economy through farmer’s markets and CSAs.
- If you’ve got the space, grow your own herbs or start composting—using the finished compost for your garden, minimizing the amount that you need to buy.
- Preserve food—via dehydrating, freezing, and canning.
- Make your own food. UberEats is great, but knowing how to cook for yourself is so much better. Take it to the next level by taking a DIY approach to some of your favorite store-bought foods (i.e. yogurt, granola, salsa, hot sauce, bread, etc.).
- Learn how to forage. It might come as a shock, but there’s an abundance of food growing all around us at all times! Take a course or buy a book and get outside to see what you can find.
3. Learn New Skills
A dream of self-sufficiency is one of the best ways to learn new skills! In our modern society, we’ve gotten rather used to outsourcing the majority of our needs—or worse, ditching that ripped sweater to buy a new one instead.
The options are endless and with YouTube and how-to guides, there’s no shortage of helpful tips to help you develop new skills!
- Cut your own hair and, if they’re brave enough, cut the hair of your friends and family, too.
- Mend damaged clothes.
- Learn how to knit/sew.
- Improve/develop carpentry skills.
- Dabble in woodworking.
- Take care of your own taxes/budget.
- Learn how to fix minor repairs around the house (safely, of course).
4. Consider Alternative Energy
If you’ve got the budget and the means to do so, taking care of your own energy requirements is a great way to become self-sufficient. This could mean installing several solar panels on your roof, it could also mean buying a smaller, portable solar panel to charge smaller appliances (cell phone, laptop, etc.), it could also mean investing in an electric car or incorporating elements of passive solar design into your home.
5. Avoid Debt
The freedom that comes with a self-sufficient lifestyle is certainly hindered by looming debt, so if you find yourself in a situation where you have credit card debt, student loans, or a mortgage, do what you can to be rid of those burdens as soon as possible. With all the money you’re saving from living frugally, you can use some of it to help get rid of debt quicker.
We realize that ditching debt isn’t possible for everyone in the short-term (helloooo, $150k student loan debt), so at the very least, take steps to avoid accruing any more debt.
6. Get Your Friends and Family On Board
No, you don’t need to shout about self-sufficiency from the rooftops and force everyone and anyone to start a homestead and sell their car, but it is great to have at least some support while you explore self-sufficiency yourself. At the very least, consider having the support of your partner and kids—otherwise some of your efforts might butt heads with their practices.
7. Consider a New Career
You can be super self-sufficient, but it’s likely that finances will always be necessary to some extent. There’s a lot of power in minimizing your needs—thus minimizing the amount of money you require in living a good life—but it’s important to realize that some form of income is likely still necessary. However, how you get that money can also be a part of your journey to a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Instead of depending on a company or employer for your livelihood, consider taking things into your own hands. If you’ve learned how to bake your own bread or sew your own clothes, try to create a business opportunity out of that. The ideas are nearly endless but include creative endeavors (writing, design, etc.), selling homestead products (homemade soap, eco-friendly cleaning products, etc.), or even working as a consultant to help others pursue self-sufficient lifestyles!
8. Think of Self-Sufficiency as a Journey
Most of us won’t get to a period of 100% self sufficiency—and that’s okay. Regardless, you’ll continue learning and growing as you develop more skills and have more resources to achieve your sufficiency dreams. With this in mind, it’s important to think long-term about some of your actions.
If you currently live in a studio apartment, but eventually want to be able to produce 75% of your own food, you should start planning for a new home. Alternatively, if you live 45 miles away from work but eventually want to ditch your car, you might want to consider moving closer to the city. Regardless of your situation, it’s wise to envision a long-term dream, and determine how self-sufficiency will fit into that.
Final Thoughts on How to Live a More Self-Sufficient Lifestyle
How exciting and empowering it is to even think about self-sufficiency! It’s also great that wherever we are in life, there are things to do to improve our self-sufficiency. We’re definitely not experts (yet!) in this field, but we’d love to hear from anyone who has any additional tips—just start a conversation in the comments below!