Healing My Relationship With Consumerism Through Homesteading

Modern homesteaders are invited to live in two worlds. In one reality we are active participants in a global growth economy that refuses to slow down. In another reality we are participating in a de-growth economy as we choose to slow down and look closer at meeting our basic requirements to thrive as whole, natural humans.

As I am discovering and defining what it means to participate in a homestead culture, I look for ways to satisfy my heart’s longings for deep connection to my community and the natural world, while still staying financially relevant.

My heart continues to call me to align with Mother Earth and my natural kin. This connection to the earth draws me in and I want to go deeper, on the homestead, in my community, in the natural world. And yet I still live in our modern world where I am now awake to the unnatural and unsustainable ways in which I have learned to consume. This great riddle conjures a begging from deep within me to re-evaluate and heal my relationship with consumerism.

When we get together to consume—food, drink, or entertainment—do we really draw on the gifts of anyone present? Anyone can consume. Intimacy comes from co-creation, not co-consumption, as anyone in a band can tell you, and it is different from liking or disliking someone. But in a monetized society, our creativity happens in specialized domains, for money.

Charles Eisenstein, To build community, an economy of gifts

And so I invite you join me as I share my journey around my own habits of consumption, what they mean to me now that I am homesteading and how I am working to heal my relationship with the world which I consume and which consumes me.

A farm sale of canned veggies, canned jam, vinegars, and garlic.
A farm sale of locally grown and farm-made goods.

Humans Innately Recognize Patterns

Recognizing Patterns as a Modern Consumer

As I walk through shopping aisles I am swept away and pulled in by the bright, loud colors in the grocery store, internationally recognized coffee shop, big box store and other modern retailers. I drive down the road and I see billboards and signs yelling at me with bold messages telling me how I want to feel, what I want to look like, where I want to shop.

Then when I travel interstate or internationally I am visiting someplace foreign, the terrain has been paved over and I no longer see the natural world, save a few trees, strips of grass and parks.

When I visit developed areas on foreign land, seeing the same conglomerated retail establishments from my home town gives me some comfort as I recognize familiar brands, logos, patterns, and colors. The recognized brands help me feel at home.

In fact it doesn’t feel as if I’ve gone anywhere foreign at all, at least in the context of shopping, retail and advertising.

The huge brands I am observing are dead but they make all sorts of promises about how great I will feel, how alive I will feel.

Recognizing Patterns as a Natural Human

Now as a gardener, homesteader, hiker and wildcrafter I learn to recognize the visual patterns of familiar plants and trees. These natural patterns are alive, full of spirit and soul, and I am a part of that life. And as I wildcraft in nature, I find my brain’s inherent ability to recognize repetition of plants and trees coming alive within me. 

This aliveness is my heart singing and dancing, yet the plants and natural world made no promise to me, except to be true.

Recognizing natural patterns is a skill that hardly needs teaching — it is evolutionarily hardwired in us. Discovering this truth as I interact with my garden and the natural work, I am awestruck. I feel connected to part of my innate function as a human being that was previously stunted.

Really? I had this ability for natural pattern recognition all along?

I am comforted because I recognize inhabitants of the living plant communities that I am visiting. Then when I go somewhere foreign in the natural world, I find new species of plants that I do not recognize. In the natural world, when I go somewhere remote, it actually feels authentically foreign.

I Was Addicted to Consumerism

As a young adult and into my early 30s I was well entrenched as a consumer. I interpreted the world through lenses tinted by feelings I wanted to receive through my purchasing habits.

I was never really a brand snob or a brand fan boy, but I was loyal to spending money and my consumption habits were not mindful.

As a young adult I tried out new hobbies regularly, actively looking for interests I was passionate about. I would pickup a new hobby for weeks, months or longer before tiring of it and realizing it wasn’t feeding me the way I had hoped.

Before starting a new hobby I almost always used to buy products to affirm my choice. When I found something I wanted to try I would immediately buy books, supplies or tools.

Sometimes I wouldn’t even start practicing the new hobby, yet I would still have these products that I purchased sitting there. They would remind me of the unfulfilled commitments. I pushed those reminders out of sight and ignored the heavy feeling that arose when I saw them. It became an extra emotional and mental weight to carry around with all my other “stuff”.

So I was half aware that some of my consumption habits were actually preventing me from experiencing more lightness and joy, but I did not acknowledge or explore those observations. Instead I enjoyed my addiction of consuming which fed me dopamine hits every time I filled my shopping cart, virtually or physically.

Minimalizing My Possessions

Leading up to homesteading and a more earthy lifestyle, I was already beginning to make choices reducing my consumption habits. I was consciously taking control in redesigning some aspects of my life that were no longer serving me.

My parents were a big influence in my life to save money and reduce my debt. Like many conservative minded families of their generation, they valued financial independence, which meant saving money and decreasing “frivolous” spending.

As a child of the 80’s and 90’s I spent a good deal of energy rebelling against my parents’ values, only seeing what I wanted that I couldn’t have. Fast forward into my late twenties and early thirties and I was starting to come back full circle to some of these values. I realized that saving money was a way to have a chance to build more wealth and join folks in pursuing the American dream.

I consciously decided to decrease my spending and eliminate my debt. I leaned into listening to Dave Ramsey ‘s radio show and followed much of his advice, inspired to be financially self empowered. It became a game and I was able to find ways to spend less money and pay off my student loans. Luckily, thanks to my parents strong advice, I never took on any card debt.

I eventually started bringing my homemade leftovers as lunches to work despite the dominant culture that encouraged purchasing every meal, wearing expensive clothes, shoes and haircuts, buying new cars and renting expensive apartments.

This went on for a few years and then I turned another leaf and made a choice to pursue a more minimal lifestyle when it came to my physical possessions.

I was feeling the weight of my belongings as they followed me from home to home every time I moved. I had some boxes of stuff that came around with me for over a decade and were fairly untouched and unused.

Then a family member died and I played a role in helping to clean up their possessions. One by one a house full of possessions were distributed to recycling, trash, gifted to family and friends, offered as donations and sold until the home was emptied.

A pile of “stuff” waiting to be picked up by the thrift store. This is just a tiny fraction of all the stuff that had been accumulated by one small family.
One household’s toxic chemicals, poisons and industrial cleansers. It still baffles me to this day that this is “normal”.

My sweetheart and I touched nearly every physical item as we decided how to handle them. Luckily we didn’t have as much emotional attachment to these things because we weren’t the ones that accumulated them. But the temptation to hold onto many of them became very strong. Ironically I didn’t want any of those things until the opportunity to have them was in front of me.

This was a unique catalyst for me to examine my own habits of consuming and holding or storing my own possessions. I discovered that I was possessed by my own things, weighed down by the emotional and intellectual responsibility of ownership and physically exhausted by the act of carrying them every time I moved. I wanted to change this.

I made a pact with myself to minimize my possessions. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, and it helped show me how I could gently yet firmly downsize.

The local thrift stores and Craigslist became my best friends through this process. I started with the low hanging fruit by parting ways with things that I had low emotional attachment to. I made a second pass and negotiated, conversed and forgave myself as I parted ways with possessions that I was moderately attached to.

As I saw my possessions reduce in size a joy built inside of me. I was learning to let go in a tangible way. This practice of letting go has served me well in the following years through to this day as I learn new ways of letting go of emotional attachments.

This joy was encouraged as I witnessed the contents of my drawers, cupboards, closets, boxes, counter tops, table tops, and every nook and cranny dwindle. First a little, then in half, and then down and down. The objects symbolically represented the emotional work that I was doing in learning to let go.

I made a third pass over all of my belongings, was the hardest because I was left with things had stronger emotional attachments. I had fears about letting go of things I hadn’t even touched or seen in years. Things I had carried with me, expectations about what I should do based on what I thought was appropriate and fears about needing them in the future.

I remember hearing or reading a rule of thumb: If something wasn’t used in a year, out it goes. I tried applying this in my process and it was relatively helpful but I didn’t pass up everything that I hadn’t used in a year.

Finally I made a fourth pass through all of my stuff in every room of the home. I was having fun and feeling rewarded. It became a game when I looked in my kitchen cupboards and wondered how I could have less appliances, gadgets and cooking tools. The kitchen stuff made up a huge portion of my belongings.

I had a flash of inspiration and came up with a rule for this game: I would keep something if it was used regularly (such as weekly) or if it was seldom used it needed to have multiple functions that I actually employ. That idea helped me shift my thinking and suddenly I had a new list of specialty equipment and seldom used things that I could part with, which was difficult to imagine just the day before. I still laugh to this day because through this game I realized I needed less mugs because I could use a glass measuring cup as a mug!

I took this same approach with my tools and garden tools as well as other belongings. I was not rigid about applying this rule and I did not enforce it, but I allowed myself to be challenged by this game.

As I played this game I faced my own self doubts. I was also offered doubt by close friends and family with statements like “Are you sure?” and “A lot of those things might come in handy in the future and then you’d have to buy it again.” I felt these questions in my heart as familiar fears and tendencies toward choosing the safer, more careful or conservative route.

No doubt, I had already come to a new realization through my own experience. The newfound joy and liberation. I was shedding sheer amounts of physical and emotional baggage.

I whittled down my belongings until most of them fit in one car load. For me, that was a huge feat because I previously had so much more!

Waking Up to Consumer Culture

Waking up to cultural and global problems related to consumerism and a global growth economy was slow at first but eventually all at once. To be sure, I am still digesting and understanding why we are so consumed by consuming.

Intellectually, I understand why we all contribute to an unsustainable growth economy. I understand our greed culture because I can feel and observe my own habits of greed. I study history and understand how colonization and amassing wealth leads to suppression of our cultural hearts as we consume away our problems.

I understand now that my heart held me back from uncovering the truth about my consumption habits and our culture’s addiction to consumerism. My heart wasn’t ready to acknowledge the full truth because it was protecting me from pain.

My addiction to consuming was covering up a deep loss. My heart was protecting me from discovering the loss and starting the grieving process.

As I was no longer intellectually naive to these problems, my heart asked my brain to put up denial and indifference so that I could protect myself from suffering from a brutal awakening.

My waking up to the problem of consumer culture was painfully gradual as I denied the simple obvious truths of our culture’s addition to consumption.

Eventually my heart became more ready for vulnerability and opened up a little more so that it could hold space for this understanding to take place. I began experiencing the pain of loss. And then my intellect could not trick my heart out of feeling my loss when it was time to grieve.

Grieving Our Collective Loss of Consequence Free Consumption

When my heart was ready to process the truth it let me know by filling with grief.
It has helped to have a community of homesteaders, herbalists, permaculturalists and farmers around me that I could grieve with when necessary. This took place in the form of many angry, sad and confused conversations. My grief needed to be witnessed and heard.

Even though we are all in a different place, we are all collectively grieving together. As an overculture, we are collectively somewhere between the denial and anger phases of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). As a global collective, many of our hearts are consciously grieving together in this moment in an attempt to move forward past the loss.

[Overculture is] the dominant culture in a society, whose mores, traditions, and customs are those normally followed in public, as opposed to a subculture.

Overculture, Wiktionary

I am finding beauty in the truth that we are all together. Like 9-11 and Covid 19 brought us together in times of crisis, the crisis of heart-muffled consumption is something we are all sharing. But in this crisis there is no epicenter around a precise event. The consumerism crisis is spread over many generations and ingrained in the fabric of our culture.

When our hearts are ready to look, they will discover the loss of the village community, where everyone was family and the community provided everything we needed. In the traditional village culture our hearts and spirits were nourished as a baseline.

In the traditional village culture grief and loss were trusted, embraced, and celebrated together. There were cultural tools in place to discourage greed and other habits that are unhealthy for the village since everyone depended on everyone directly.

Its easy to look at village culture and romanticize what we lost without considering what we have gained in our post industrial era. And yet if I am to move forward into discovering my whole person, I must grieve this beautiful loss.

My grief is helping me appreciate everything that I have and everything that I am living for. My grief is helping me appreciate everything that our culture has gained. My grief is helping me move from blaming selfish oppressors to inviting gratitude into my heart for the abundant beauty that is always around me.

In my process of grieving I find that as I blamed greed, colonization, past emperors, slave industries and even our myopic monotonous culture as a whole (my sarcasm expresses a deep pain), I was holding that blame in my heart and I was even blaming my own self for the simple fact that I am a part of this culture.

My heart hid from me the need to forgive my own self for being born into and contributing to this overculture. That slight of hand on my heart’s part was another layer of protection from the truth. My heart is so wise as it turns out in protecting me from emotional pain and suffering.

I keep coming back to the idea of waste in traditional village cultures. I hear about archeologists studying trash piles. Trash in pre-industrial cultures includes things like broken pottery. At least that’s the part of trash piles that don’t fully decompose or melt away.

Pottery feels so natural in the sense that its not plastic. Traditional pottery is not causing cancer or ecocide. Traditional trash piles didn’t cause concerns of toxic buildup. In those days we didn’t need landfills to hide our trash, to push it out of our collective sight.

I can’t escape the discovery that humans are meant to consume and we are meant to waste, just like all other animals. I imagine my ancestors making a bowl and cooking utensil with their own hands and then eating with them until they no longer serve them. I imagine my ancestors laying down those utensils, perhaps ritually, back into the soil to decompose. The same soil that their bodies returned to.

Realizing my inherent need to consume and waste is freeing to me because I can relate to my way back ancestors, to my abstract heritage. 

My ancestors did not need to worry about the consequence of discarding anything, because they were all made of natural materials! They were probably more concerned with using things as long as possible since they didn’t have cheap fuel and relied heavily on human labor to make everything by hand.

Now with less blame in my heart and a renewed pride for my human heritage I am able to look out at one of these collective problems and feel more compassion for myself and my global brothers and sisters.

It is from this place that I realize that my heart has already decided my path forward as I discover natural ways to lesson the collective burden, one baby step at a time, within my own personal sphere of influence. It is from this place of heart and passion that I set my intent on leading an ethical lifestyle.

I am aware as a modern homesteader I have been living with one foot in the modern overculture and the other foot in a back-to-the-land subculture. Often I tend I hop to one reality as I aim my focus, before hopping back to the other reality.

I am spending some time with my heart homesteading in a more natural reality of inter-dependence with nature and community. Then I hop back to a job to deal with earning, spending money, paying bills and protecting myself in the modern reality of dependence on monolithic systems.

When I am too tired to hop one foot ends up in one world while the other foot is in the other and my emotional movement grinds to a slow trickle.

I choose to dismantle and ritually set down this two world binary as I lay down the emotional waste that no longer serves me to compost on the soil. In this ritual I invite wholeness and gratitude into all aspects of my being.

When I feel more whole in this regard I can breath more fully because I can join my heart and I can soften my defenses (and external blame) as I navigate the overculture and I can soften my defenses (and internal blame) as I navigate the homesteading subculture.

Consuming as a New Homesteader

At the beginning of this story I shared how my path led me to minimize many of my possessions before I hit the road, volunteered on farms and homesteads and eventually chose a life of homesteading. Minimizing my possessions gave me a new sense of freedom as I explored new ways of living on the face of our Earth Mother.

After only a few months into my wwoofing adventure I knew that I strongly desired to homestead. I continued wwoofing, apprenticing and living in alternative living conditions (such as work trade) for a few years and quickly considered myself a homesteader despite being landless.

In my wwoofing I found solace in spending very little money and needing very little. Then I turned the corner into wanting to grow my own food forest. I re-established a career and income once more.

Eventually I found myself settling down with my sweetheart, parents and newborn baby to plant roots in our new homestead. With income and the desire to establish a new homestead the “needs” and wants for possessions came flowing back into me.

I began purchasing supplies for homesteading in the form of tools and materials. To build fencing, process food, etc. The list of potential homestead hobbies are endless and the list of potential homestead businesses are endless. The lists of wants and needs can go on and on.

This new lifestyle has put my minimalism practice through a stress test. To be honest I’ve stopped practicing minimalism now that I am rooted and homesteading but I have kept many of those philosophies and lessons with me.

The interesting thing is that my human brain is very adaptable, capable and smart. My brain can, through logic, convince me that any purchase I want is reasonable or valid. My logic can convince me that I need anything I want.

So I must involve my heart in the purchase decisions to be sure my purchases are aligning with a greater intention or ethic.

It takes a lot of practice to hear the messages from my heart or my inner wisdom. With every layer that I peel back I can review my consuming habits. How did I feel when I was deciding about a purchase? How did I feel immediately after the purchase? How did I feel when I received the credit card bill? How do I feel when I use or don’t use what I purchased?

I am making sure to be gentle and not blame myself if I discover something that didn’t feel great. Holding this new information that I receive about myself, I let go of the desire to clutch emotionally and physically, then I can invite change in the direction I want to go. I trust that change will come when I am ready.

Defining My Personal Ethics Around Consumption

I am forgiving myself for the blame I placed on myself for being human in this world and for having contributed to a macro ecocide on Earth (via unsustainable consumerism) and at times a micro ecocide in this physical body (via cleansing, doubt, hate, mistrust, abuse). As I establish a more wholesome relationship with my heart I have the emotional room and intellectual desire to lessen my destructive habits to life on Mother Earth, both direct and indirect.

And it is from this place of love that I am developing a set of personal ethics around my consumption:

  • Forgive myself for blaming my past and current habits of consumption, including all the ways in which I cannot or am not changing my habits.
  • Invite gratitude for all lives (human and more-than-human) that are involved in providing me with the privilege of access to modern conveniences.
  • Invite a recognition of satiation as I consume.

With these ethics I am able to re-evaluate and re-write the “I want, therefore I get” attitude that I have embodied in my consumption habits!

I acknowledge that this is a layered discovery and re-birth. This it is a meandering path that I walk, not an end goal. I recognize that I am living from a place of privilege. With my parents’ help we have purchased a beautiful rural property from which we live and homestead.

My sweetheart and I are able to work part time to support our homesteading lifestyle. We make far less income than we used to, and yet we still have the privilege of choosing how we consume, within our own financial and emotional limits.

I recognize that another homesteader may live hand to mouth with regards to money and may not be afforded the emotional or financial space to evaluate their consumption habits. Any family’s basic needs must be met first and foremost.

I also recognize that these are my own personal ethics and I choose not to place these ethics on others, lest I become evangelical and act greater-than, re-armoring my heart and finding solace in unconsciously exercising inward and outward blame once again.

I recognize in myself that with this privilege I have unearthed a responsibility to work on my own internal healing as I homestead and reconnect with Mother Earth.

Conscious consumption is one aspect of that personal healing work.

A Gradient of Ethical Consumption

My personal ethics are changing and shifting as my own body is breathing and aging. The relationship between my sensing heart and thinking brain shift. My consumption choices shift and evolve over time as I face and confront cultural realities inside my heart and mind.

My heart and mind are a front-line for working out cultural problems and realities.

I am presenting this gradient of ethical consumption as something that I have arrived to over time in my own journey. This is not meant to be a regimented doctrine for anyone else to follow. Still I share it here in case there is some value to you.

I am aware and grateful that as I integrate into or create aspects of community, community can be very supportive in helping me, challenge me to and witness me embody my ethics as I act.

I use the word gradient (rather than hierarchy) because I recognize that my choices and habits blend together in an undefinable, messy, chaotic, disorderly tapestry. I embrace the meandering path that I walk. I am not wanting to walk a straight line toward perfection on a pedestal.

0. Make Do

Its nice when I can remember that I don’t always need to buy something. Remembering that I can often make do with what I already have is a nice way to be present and grateful.

This perspective isn’t always easy when I’ve grown accustomed to the idea: spending money solves problems. I am remembering that buying more stuff is usually not for survival. Buying more stuff is a luxury that I am privileged to afford and have access to.

This Linden seedling needed propping up. I could have bought a stake and string. But I looked around and found a stick and grass to use as ties. I didn’t buy the linden seeds, I harvested them from the trees in a local box store parking lot. I am learning through practice that nature is so resourceful.
This was our Christmas tree one year. We harvested it ourselves. As you can tell we didn’t feel that we needed that grandest tree to find beauty and joy. We didn’t buy a tree stand. We used a bucket to hold water and rocks that were already handy.

1. Re-using, Re-pairing and Up-Cycling

There is something beautiful about re-using, re-pairing and up-cycling that brings more life into my relationship with things. I used to love throwing things away because it felt good to purge myself of that which no longer had a use to me. It felt good to let go.

Letting go is natural, while holding on to much more than we need to survive and thrive is not natural.

Still, there was something missing because my relationship with consumable goods was unhealthy. I saw them as things that were there to serve me. I was their emperor and they were my slaves. I was free to discard them when they no longer served me.

I didn’t see how the convenience of mass production and curbside trash pickup was holding me back from a deeper relationship with myself, with the Earth and with my community.

I am shifting to claiming responsibility as a steward of the manufactured goods that I have chosen to acquire and amass. I am not just choosing re-use, re-pair and up-cycle to save money and to be frugal. That is great too, but I am seeking a deeper relationship with the world around me.

I am learning to find opportunities to honor the life of my possessions, so that I can move away from being possessed by them.

This practice is a reminder to slow down, because it does not lend itself to productivity. And so I come back to slowing down, once again. A common theme I am often reminded to take heed of as I look for meaning in a homesteading lifestyle.

Mending a sock.

2. Handmade

Likewise making things myself brings even more life to my relationship with things. The practice of making anything imbues a part of myself into that thing which I pondered, designed, spent time with, labored and fashioned.

I am lucky I picked up some basic woodworking skills as a boy and young man from my father and from shop classes in school. Up until I started homesteading I did not spend much time exercising those skills. Now they are coming in handy as a homesteader and as my values change.

I am also challenging myself to look for more opportunities to work with natural materials found or harvested from this land, especially when those materials are a by product of other activities.

This is a slow discovery for me. In many ways it is re-connecting with my childhood and learning to look at my wants, needs and environment with a new eye. This process again reminds me of the value of slowing down, especially when my natural pace it is at odds with the demands and expectations of the culture at large.

As I discover opportunities to create and craft tools which I want to use, I learn to weave myself into the materials, the final product and sometimes into the very landscape itself.

It sounds poetic. I don’t have to be a poet to realize this. I can just be the poem as I feel into the joy of creating.

When I dedicate time and effort to make something I have a new respect for the modern convenience of being able to buy literally anything. I see why our culture has moved in the direction of convenience and that helps me remove external blame for our world’s problems.

At the same time I also see the lack of life in mass produced products. If I want a deeper relationship with the mass produced products I steward, I need to make an effort to breath my own life into them through the time I spend with them. In the case of crafting something, the deep relationship is built into the process from day one.

Learning handmade skills can be community building.
Learning to weave baskets brings a whole new perspective to our use of and relationship with containers.
Handmade can be simple. This stick was fashioned into a dibble stick for planting large seeds.
This A-Frame level was made from salvaged materials we already had on hand.
Seed starting flats made from discarded wood from a friend’s remodeling project, as well as some small pieces of plywood. We cut out the worst parts.
Seed labels made from scrap wood.
Lavender wreaths from flowers harvested at a friend’s garden.

3. Lending & Borrowing

A tight community is one that supports each other. When our community can share resources there is opportunity to build strength, resilience and gratitude. If I can borrow a tool from a neighbor (whether next door or a mile down the road) I am so grateful that I didn’t have to buy that tool for one or a few uses.

I am sometimes hesitant to borrow a tool because I am aware of the responsibility that comes with borrowing. I often treat something I borrow with more respect because I value and respect my neighbor. I value and respect myself as a community member.

I also don’t want to buy a replacement if I damage it. I don’t want to spend that much money on something I am going to use once which is probably why I am borrowing it in the first place.

With a shared level of respect or appreciation, lending and borrowing can really shine.

4. Gift Economy

I recognize that gifting stands out in a list of practices that are mostly about acquiring or receiving (consuming). Gifting heals the wound that is left open by unsatiated consumption. Gifting allows me to express gratitude for having enough by sharing.

I feel lucky to live in a community that practices gifting on a community wide scale, thanks to the use of electronic communication. I am learning to participate in this beautiful process of receiving and giving gifts, often with strangers.

This gift culture is perhaps not as magical or spiritual as it might be in a culture that doesn’t use any money whatsoever. But we are doing what we can while we live in a world that requires money. Some people do go much further and really push the limits and minimize their need for money. I applaud and admire them as they inspire me to push my own limits further.

I do really appreciate the magic that gifting brings into our community. It is like having a taste of Thanksgiving throughout the year. Smiles of gratitude and deep appreciation melt my tension and apprehension. It is moving the sliding scale from me and mine toward we and ours.

Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today’s market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a “circle of the gift.”

Charles Eisenstein, To build community, an economy of gifts

I just found out about the BuyNothing app that connects people in local communities that want to share what they don’t need for free. This is an interesting take on promoting gift economies through technology.

We received a gift of free live turkeys from a retired turkey farmer. The turkeys were too old to sell, a sign of our modern culture’s obsession with convenience. (Old birds are delicious and tender when cooked appropriately.) We were so grateful for this generous gift. That gratitude inspired us to be more generous with others and offer gifts more often.

5. Trading

Trading is not at all as convenient as using money. But when it can happen, it is pure magic. There is a level of gratitude that trading brings me that I do not experience as easily or as naturally when I am using money.

I love to honor the value that someone brings into our community while they are honoring my value.

That mutual expression can be beautiful, exciting and fun. It seems to bring more playfulness and comradery into a transaction.

On a side note, I do think that using money can offer a similar experience and when I can be present I bring this lesson into monetary transactions. I really try to express my gratitude for someone when I am buying something from them or selling something to them.

If I am not authentically able to express a deep gratitude, I ask myself why? What is it that I am not honoring in myself? Is this an impulse purchase, do I have some uncertainty about a purchase or is there some deep fear?

The truth is I spent many years purchasing things made by strangers in strange factories from strangers behind counters who were making some big stranger more money.

I lost touch with the deep human element in those transactions. I played my role as the customer and the merchant played their role in accepting my money.

I try to bring this lesson of authenticity and gratitude that I learned from trading into my relationships around financial transactions, however brief, as a customer or a seller, whether with a neighbor or in a retail store.

Our culture forgot how to trade but along with gift economies they used to be the only means of exchange. Choosing to trade is valuing community values over efficiency.

6. Buying Handmade and Locally Produced

When I choose to buy handmade from individuals, families and micro businesses my heart is warmed every time. I know that I am supporting a local community member. I know that they are putting intention into what they produce. It really shows.

I love that we can make our community stronger one purchase at a time by participating in Slow Money. I love that I am encouraging beautiful people and families as they empower themselves. As someone who co-operates a small family business I know that so well.

I dream sometimes what it would look like to live in a world where everything I use was made by my local community members.

That is another reminder of a craving for deeper connection to place and people. So I value local producers. I put intention into getting out of my comfort zone and spending more money locally for food and other goods.

In this way I love to support my local community but I sometimes purchase handmade goods online from an individual or family, knowing that I am supporting them and their local community indirectly in the same way.

As well, I am learning the value in donating money to local non profit organizations that are participating in building local resilience and ecological sustainability.

In general, I am wanting more money to flow to local people that participate in the sustainable future I’d love to live in. And I am grateful that money allows me to begin living in that beautiful future in this present moment.

7. Buying Used

Ethically, buying used reduces my carbon footprint when it comes to requiring energy and precious resources to produce and transport new products. Buying used keeps more money in the local economy, often with individuals or smaller businesses.

Buying used saves me money, usually more than half the price of new, and allows me to design a life with less income requirements. I also sometimes buy used online, but I prioritize buying used locally.

I have become comfortable over time with purchasing used everything reasonably possible. I purchase much of my clothing, many tools and equipment (outdoor, kitchen and shop), furniture, toys and much more used. A younger version of myself would have been fairly disgusted at this thought, and I am happy to see how much I have grown in this regard and moved out of a comfort zone.

Prioritizing buying used has become so helpful because it curbs my lust for instant gratification. When shopping used, whether in thrift stores, garage sales, craigslist or some other local classifieds, I never know when I am going to find what I want.

So while I am waiting to discover an opportunity to receive what I have asked for, I have plenty of time to check in with my heart and gut before making a purchase.

Sometimes I realize its not that important and I can do without.

If I decide this something can really help me with my homesteading goals, I’ll be ready when I find it used, days, weeks or months later, whatever the case may be. And often I’ll be so much more excited to recognize it when it does arrive for me!

Buying used helps me slow down. And then when I do come to the decision to purchase something brand new because I can’t reasonably find it used, those new purchases feel much more special. I find myself once again more genuinely excited again about my new purchases because they are happening with more intent and respect. Purchasing new happens with less expectation when I prioritize used.

I appreciate that I have less emotional attachment to purchasing used goods. I didn’t spend as much and I can often re-sell it and get my investment back if needed. I have less emotional attachment because I have a deeper joy when I am purchasing used items.

Our seed buckets were purchased second hand from a friend that acquires them from restaurants and cleans them before distributing for a small fee.
Our seed cleaning fan was well used but works better than many new fans.
All of our homestead’s garden hoses were used. No they don’t match and it is more fun that way! Some are better quality than others. They are all 100% useful. A few of the best hoses were acquired for nearly free because mice had chewed holes. It was easy to repair and they have a second life.
All of the pots I use for wine making are second hand.
I never bought a new nursery pot. They were all either free or purchased used.

8. Bulk Buying Clubs

We joined a local bulk buying club to buy certain food staples that we can’t find locally. Buying local food has been one of our big priorities since we started homesteading because it is important on so many levels. We grow much of our own vegetables while purchasing some vegetables and all of our meat, eggs and milk from local producers.

Staple beans, grains and fats/oils are much harder to find locally produced. We often purchase these from a local buying club that pools bulk food deliveries. A community member organizes and coordinates the purchase and gets a percentage of the cost for her efforts.

I am so honored to support a community member in this way while we receive value in lower cost purchasing bulk food and with some lesser carbon impact than if we went to the store separately or didn’t buy in bulk.

9. Buying New

Buying new industrially mass produced products is an ethical last resort. But it is not always my last choice. Often price plays a big role in my purchase decisions. Price has always been a factor and with a lower income it plays a much bigger role.

So as a realist I am not forcing a perfect outcome on myself and I am not shaming myself when I let go and make an impulse purchase like I always used to. I am working on lining my habits up with my ethics. I am also understanding that I am evolving in this game and I am still learning.

Today when I purchase a new mass produced product, I want more gratitude in my purchase.

I am remembering how lucky I am to be living in this world of easy acquisition. I don’t even know if my son’s generation will have it this easy. One day we might be on the porch telling him or our grand kids stories about easy money and easy petroleum.

When I am purchasing new mass produced products I am looking for an emotional connection.

Not just satisfaction at the time of purchase, but will this purchase really help make my life better in a deeper more meaningful way?

Above all I am remembering that I am human and humans are meant to consume. It just happens that big businesses got really good at advertising convenience and pulling on our heart strings.

I choose to accept responsibility for my purchase habits, but I don’t have to take the weight of the worlds’ problems on my shoulders. I am doing the best I can to make reasonably ethically sound choices within my own financial, physical, emotional and spiritual means.

Taking Stock of My Consumption Patterns as a New Father

As a father I now have a better recognition of wants and needs in myself. I hear my three year old son telling me he wants something or try to convince me how much he needs something.

Regardless of what it is he wants or needs, I am lucky enough to finally realize whether I choose to give him what he is asking for, I know that there is a true human emotional need underlying that request. My son is helping me better recognize the voice of wants and needs inside myself.

When I want something, whether a physical product or some other thing entirely, I now know I can look deeper and see that there is an emotional need that wants to be met. Perhaps it is a want or need for love, comfort, nourishment, joy, pain relief, etc.

It hasn’t been easy for me to develop the listening skills to hear the voice that says “I want…” or “I need…”. I had become so accustomed to not hearing my inner voices. But yes, there is this young boy inside me that is often asking for something in a small, quiet voice.

If I don’t hear the voice he will eventually get louder until he is kicking and screaming for attention to get what he needs. I have to get quiet and slow down to hear it and recognize there is a little boy inside me that has needs. For so long had I not noticed that boy and his needs as he stayed sheltered and protected.

Now I make effort to befriend that boy, relate to him, love him, encourage him, and build his confidence. My son is showing me how to be a more whole person and man and I am so grateful to him for offering me these gifts.

To bring it back to my consumption habits, this is where I am now.

I am taking stock. Simply taking stock and observing myself. Some part of my consciousness is stepping back and observing my emotions, desires and feelings around my consuming habits.

How do I feel before during and after a purchase that I make? What are any voices in my mind saying about the wants and needs? Are there some deeper wants or needs that are being expressed through the desire to consume? When I make purchases, do those consumption choices feed my heart and soul?

It wasn’t easy to start asking these questions because they often led to guilt or shame around my consumption habits. I am learning to be kind and non-judgemental around my choices. I am learning that when I can be kind to myself it allows me to really step back and take stock.

And so that’s what I am doing, I am taking stock and learning to loving the parts of myself that I forgot to love. In this practice of taking stock I am not trying to change my habits or force myself into a better way of living in this world. I am learning to listen to that inner child and release my guilt for being a modern human who happens to be really, really good at consuming and purchasing.

At the same time I am listening to judgements about myself that come up about consumption and understanding how these judgements affect my thoughts, feelings and actions.

I am observing these feelings of wants and needs and I am observing these feelings of guilt and shame. As I observe them I start to hear some voice asking for love and attention and another voice suggesting that I am not good enough.

Its so interesting to see how many of my past purchases have been direct responses to underlying wants and needs that I wasn’t even aware of!

Inviting Enoughness and Gratitude

There are many times when I am not feeling the urge to purchase or consume. When I am in nature, when I am in the garden, when I am reading a book, when I am cooking, when I am practicing Tai Chi, I am not feeling the urge to consume. In these activities that I feel a deep resonance with, I have a better chance of being present with myself and my surroundings.

Nature and gardening especially have taught me a lot about being present. There is something about being outdoors and connecting with plants, animals and other life forms that draws me out of my modernity and into being deeply human.

This brings me full circle back to one of my primary motivators for wanting to redefine my life and start homesteading. That call in my heart was so strong that I could not ignore it. The calling back to my heart and back to something that feels more real, more deep, more connected.

[Enoughness is] the state or condition of being enough; sufficiency; adequacy.

Enoughness, Wiktionary

It is from this deep knowing indescribable by words where I can invite the feeling of enoughness to last a little longer. I can invite those lessons that I learn in nature and in the garden to join me in my life’s journey.

Nature is teaching me gratitude for what I have, for my precious life. As my heart heals from cultural traumas and emotional wounds, it is better able to carry gratitude. More able to carry gratitude, more I can embody enoughness, more I can feel whole.

As I live the homesteading lifestyle I become more grateful that I am lucky enough to live in this time of industrial wealth and opulence. I don’t have to rely on homesteading for my direct survival like homesteaders of the 1800’s.

More than that, nature is teaching me that I can find magic in everything, including that which I perceive to have harmed me.

My life is a journey, my homesteading lifestyle is evolving and my personal healing practice is an art form. I am learning as I go. I surf the edge of my comfort zone when it comes to healing my relationship with money and consumerism. I am being gentle with myself as I wake up and realize I am immersed in a consumer culture.

I am so grateful to have the privilege to live in this era. I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege to examine the consequences of my actions and of our collective actions. I am grateful for the privilege to define what it means to me to be a homesteader.

Homesteading is not a perfect solution to our world’s problems. Homesteading is a lifestyle that helps me see beauty everywhere. Homesteading is a medium in which I continue to find a healing pathway back to my heart and soul.

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