The all-allusive term “self-sufficiency” is tossed about today with no real context or understanding. It is not a bad thing, actually, it is great and encouraging that people are even talking about self-sufficiency. Building resiliency in people’s lives is one of our objectives, and leading people down a path to self-sufficiency is a really good way to kick off the adventure.
What is Self-sufficiency?
Self-sufficiency is defined as, “able to supply one’s own or its own needs without external assistance.” (Webster’s Dictionary). If we think in terms of supplying all of one’s own needs none of us will likely ever get to that point. One could say, “the nation is self-sufficient in grain,” or, “the Smith family raises all their own meat” and is self-sufficient in that area. However, most of us are not even close. Even the Ingall’s family from Little House on the Prairie bought some of their supplies from the General Store, Oleson’s Mercantile.
It is helpful to think of self-sufficiency as a spectrum or a scale. It is not all or nothing. Think of a linear scale with the far left side occupied by the glossy eyed, blank stare, zombie consumer standing on the corporate conveyor belt of life who is, for some unknown reason, trying to get all he can for as long as he can until on his death bed he realizes it was all a farce. On the far right side is the Off Off-grid person who totally rejects the industrial consumerist society and sees the path going the way of Rome and Greece. This person lives very simply and with almost no modern conveniences. They scoff at the “Off-grid” person who still maintains all the modern conveniences of society but is unplugged from the Matrix, uh, I mean grid. The closest anyone comes to this is probably the Amish. But even they, I would have to say are self-sufficient as a community not as individuals.
Hmmm, while I identify with, and want to be much closer to the Off Off-grid side of the spectrum, that is not my goal. But, this conversation helps to provide the framework for those who want to move along the path to the right.
This path can be an adventure or a nightmare, it is a choice. Here are three ways to begin:
1. Unplug from the Matrix
Yes, one of the first things to do, and one of the most effective, is to drop cable, video games, and endless surfing of social media and the internet in general. This is not to say that you cannot do some social media, some searching of the internet, some television. The bottom line is that we are bombarded with all kinds of things you never knew you needed until some corporation was kind enough to tell you what you were missing.
I like to call television, cable being the main culprit, the “time thief”. Now for those of you who pompously walk around saying, “we don’t have cable.” HEAR ME, it does not count if you replace cable with endless hours on NETFLIX, HULU and AMAZON instant video. You are still plugged into the matrix. Am I saying that someone who is on the path to self sufficiency cannot have NETFLIX? No, of course not, but what you are shooting for is dropping the hours (be honest with yourself about how much time you actually spend connected) down to a low level and replacing it with skill development.
Bottom line: save money, save time, save your mind.
2. Stop being a slave to the lender
Get out of debt now! Start today, when you are debt free it provides options and flexibility. The four life saving steps are: stop the bleeding, start the breathing, protect the wound and treat for shock. Think of your path debt freeedddooommm in these terms.
Stop the bleeding – stop spending more than you make. Simple, not easy, but stop.
Start the breathing – have a plan, five and one, fifteen and two, fifteen and nothing – whatever. Just make a plan and start that debt snowball. Figure out a way to earn some more money like starting a business on the side from home.
Protect the wound – Regularly assess to make sure the bleeding has indeed stopped. Protect it from being infected. Whatever you do, do not let the bleeding start again nor get dirty!
Treat for shock – getting out of debt is hard work. For those who take short cuts this is usually short-lived. For those of us who had to work really hard and made many sacrifices it usually sticks. Keep calm, carry on, stay warm and comfortable (not too comfortable), elevate your feet. Changing lifestyles from living frivolously to living below your means is shocking!
Bottom line: when one is out of debt, he or she has moved decidedly to the right on the self sufficiency scale. Do it!
3. Grow some of your own food
Productivity and efficiency do not matter as much as starting and doing something, anything. It does not matter if you pursue aquaponics, square foot gardening, container gardening, raising chickens, bees, goats, or elephants, inside, outside, greenhouse, does not matter, start today. Do something, grow something. This is just a beginning, it matters not if the food you grow accounted for exactly 1%, or less, of your families caloric consumption. Start. Work on production, efficiency, stacking functions, non-timber forest products later.
Bottom line: this is a crucial skill development exercise that helps to change your thinking about self sufficiency
Admit that you are likely a consumer zombie, or close to it, and resolve to move to the right on the self sufficiency spectrum.