Learning Imperfection on the Homestead
Homesteading is messy. It’s been late nights and early mornings. Its heavy lifting and deep digging. It can be inconsistent and unpredictable. Routines are difficult to keep. For someone with perfectionist tendencies (everything having a place; life running on strict schedules, doing the same things every day, etc.) homesteading may not come off as an ideal life for you. Yet, with a little conscious effort, this lifestyle will teach you how to focus on the important aspects of life, and maybe even to enjoy the imperfections.
Striving for perfection in daily routines, our appearance, or in what we do elicits a feeling of control. When we feel in control there is hardly any room to experience fear. This is the reason I once sought out perfection. Living by strict meal plans, arduous workout routines, and a predictable daily schedule kept my fears at bay. There wasn’t any time to be focused on them. And my routine was tried and true-no risks!
Yet, I was miserable. No matter how much planning you do, life will always have spontaneous moments. But I could not celebrate them. I despised them. I couldn’t enjoy myself when my routine was disrupted (ie. Holidays, vacations, celebrations, etc.). It took tremendous effort to adjust to any curves that life threw my way. Not to mention, that I became addicted to seeking perfection. Yesterday’s version of the perfect me was no longer good enough today. Perfection sat just outside my reach day after day. I was unhappy, and I made my loved ones concerned and unhappy, too.
Since beginning this off-grid, homesteading life I’ve realized how much time has been wasted on these modern day perfectionist goals. I cannot maintain routines as easily because my days are shaped largely by the gifts and demands of Mother Nature. I now practice a cyclical, seasonal living-dependent on the sun for power, rain to be able to do dishes and laundry, and to water the food growing in the garden. My plans change frequently based on the weather or what must be done with the daylight available to prepare for upcoming seasons.
Of course, frustrations and disappointments still exist. They will for any lifestyle one chooses. A stretch of cloudy, rainy days makes it difficult to find joy when I’m stuck inside. The rain barrels are overflowing, but the lights are dim. A month of sweltering heat can make me and the plants wither. These things happen, as they would in different ways off the homestead. There is no way of hiding from these difficulties here-they must be faced.
But in doing so, I’ve learned to be grateful for even the smallest of gifts. There is a joyfulness in experiencing the light and the dark. There is a great feeling of awareness for myself and the resources I’m using when I’m living conservatively. It can be greatly uncomfortable at times, but I’ve found discomfort to be one of the best teachers. A sunny day means so much more than it did for me before I lived this close to the land. There is a perfection in experiencing the light and dark, comfort and discomfort that I could never find when my days were centered on myself and my routines. It is a perfection of giving and receiving what is being offered in the moment, because you know and accept that nothing is constant and soon circumstance will again change.
Old habits are easy to fall back into. I still have days where those perfectionist tendencies are hard to suppress. When that happens I have a few tricks that help me get back on track. Help yourself-whether you are a homesteader or a city dweller or somewhere in between!
Ask yourself, “What can I be thankful for in this moment?” Is it that you have healthy food available to you? Is it that you are not feeling any pain today? Is it that you aren’t alone today? Or is it that you are getting some time to take care of yourself today? Be creative with you answers, and write them down. Focus on them rather than on the thing that is bringing you down, and making you feel like you are not enough. Put them in any easily accessible, clearly visible place. I keep mine in a mason jar on a table right next to the front door. I keep them throughout the year in that jar, and it makes me happy to see it overflowing at the end of the year.
Take time to do a meditation. It may only be five minutes, but it is surely worth it. Break out of the running around feeling like you will never complete your to-do list. You won’t with that attitude, so why not try to change it. There are many great resources out there, but one of my very favorites is the Honest Guys. Visit their YouTube page for some great guided meditations focused on a variety of topics.
Drink some tea. Often the process of making tea can be as soothing as enjoying a glass or mug full. Take a break from what you are doing, and sip something that will nourish you from the inside out. I buy many delightful herbal and green teas from my favorite herb website mountainroseherbs.com. Maybe drink some tea while writing down something you can be grateful for in that moment.
Sit in the sun, or take a walk. These are the things that nourish our spirits. But we rarely put them on our to-do lists. If you look back, do you want to see your life as a rush of things that need to be done, or a slow and steady hike to a favorite spot?
Our lives are made up of the small day-to-day things that we do. I’ve found that I enjoy most looking back on the times where I stepped outside of myself to find some peace of mind. In those moments, I’m sure to beat the perfectionism that lives inside of me. And the more I practice this, the easier it becomes to live each day with more gratitude.
Be sure to add these small gifts into your days, and I’m sure you will notice how the disappointments aren’t so big and terrible as they used to be. And feel free to share ways in which you practice shifting from perfectionist thinking to finding reasons to be thankful for what is around you now.