Many homesteaders choose the lifestyle, in part, to leave the chaos of the modern world behind.  I admire that philosophy, but after more than 50 years of living a country life, with some periods more “homesteady” than others, I also chuckle.  It may be a different kind of chaos, but chaos still abounds on a homestead.  I readily admit that there are times I have more trouble controlling the chaos than others.  I do still work a full time job off the homestead, and it is many hours a week (48 hours is a short week) with 72 hours being a common week.  The nice thing about my job is that I work 24 hours at a time, therefore, I have 24 hour blocks at home.  Even though I typically have 4 or 5 days a week at home and sometimes these are 4 and 5 days in a row, I still fall behind…..regularly, and often have to remind myself to enjoy the journey rather than try to complete a process that has no real “end”.

At any given time, my kitchen looks like this.  I KNOW I should not got to bed without my sink empty of dirty dishes and shining, but sometimes, after working outside or in the canning kitchen all day, it is just too tempting to put my head on the pillow before I tackle this.  Household routines are indispensable for keeping the house in order.  When you are in and out all day, bringing in mud, grass, hay and other debris from the outdoors, it becomes very important to tackle routine tasks regularly.  We often grab a bite on the go, and don’t take time to clean up properly afterward.  I haven’t given up my dishwasher, so I really have no excuse for a sink full of dishes, but the reality is that it happens; and it happens frequently.  I have a term I use; “binge cleaning”.  Binge cleaning is just as unhealthy for the mind as binge eating is for the body, yet I continue to do it.  It is a habit I need to break.  When I develop routines, that involve daily tasks and break down larger tasks into daily routines, my indoor life definitely runs more smoothly.  When actually create lists to check off, they allow me to see my accomplishments, keep me focused and prevent my continual habit of “chasing squirrels.”  “Chasing squirrels,” is my term for bouncing from one thing to another, distracted from the task or goal at hand.  Some things that might appear on a daily routine for housework would include a quick sweep of the floors, swishing the toilet, unloading the dishwasher from the night before, doing one load of laundry, putting away any stray items that have been left out of place, etc.  By doing these little things, that only require half an hour or so, the house stays much neater and less chaotic than if I leave it for when I have time to do it “right.”  Around here, there are always things cropping up that require attention, and it might be days before I actually have that block of time.

In addition to the regular work on the homestead, there are always new projects that pop up.  The time these projects take, can easily overtake the time I would spend on more routine chores.  If I’m not very careful, I find myself focusing on the big projects, spending way too much time on them and letting other things go.  When that happens, I have to address what has been left undone at some point, spending hours on end catching up on canning/dehydrating/freezing/gardening/cleaning or whatever has been neglected.  Instead of allowing myself to be distracted by the big picture of large projects, it always works better when I break the big projects down into smaller tasks.  By doing that, I could easily spend a couple of hours here and there accomplishing what needs to be done, without neglecting other things that are also awaiting my attention.  I’ve found when I get frustrated I may walk away and leave that big project.  Then it looms over me and adds even more the frustration developing.  There is a happy medium between being obsessed about finishing and procrastination to the point it remains unfinished. There are times I have to be realistic about large projects and not expect them finished all at once.  But then a project will present itself with its own inherent deadline.  Our new milking room is one of those.  This thing MUST be finished in the next couple of weeks, as one of our Jerseys is due to freshen by the middle of next month!  Just thought of being behind creates a chaos in my heart and mind that I really struggle to control, but again, I have to just step back, divide the large project in to smaller ones and make PROGRESS on the whole project.  Other projects that will need to be finished on a timeline will involve gardening and preserving the harvest.  When it is time to plant, you plant.  When the harvest is ripe, it must be preserved, but even that can be broken down a bit.  I might pick one morning, prepare for preservation that afternoon or evening, and complete the preservation process the next day.  I might spread the garden tasks out by weeding for an hour in the morning while it is cool, and repeating another hour in the evening when it cools down.  I might fill the sprouting pots with soil as one step, plant the seeds in another step and water in a third.  These are just examples of breaking things down so that everything keeps progressing at an even rate, even when there are several things that must be done.

When emergencies or unusual events happen that affect you or someone you love, the chaos that ensues while dealing with that event and the aftermath can be far reaching.  Papa had a stroke this past June which threw all our regular routines to the wayside.  Because he was young, he was strong and determined and the stroke was small, he recovered well and has only slight lasting effects.  He gets tired more quickly and is slightly weaker on the right side.  We are thankful and realize we are blessed, but my garden is an excellent example of neglect this past summer.  We are still fighting the bermuda grass plague and I have let it get out of hand to the point that we have lost the two previous years without chemicals.  We are currently spraying to kill the current growth and will try solarization and A LOT of pulling by hand to eradicate it.  We may even have to spray for a couple more years to come to regain my beautiful no-till garden.  It is a sad reality that I will now have to live with.  Had I continued to put an hour or two a day into it, it would not have reached the state it has gotten to, but I can’t undo that now.  I can only move forward and work on a plan and schedule to keep control of the invasive grass that thrived in spite of my thick layers of straw.  We have discussed some other methods to use to make regaining control easier.  I’m in love with my no-till, deep straw gardening methods and my garden has been producing well with these methods so I am in for a few years of extra to keep them.  I’m not sure who thought it was good idea to bring this grass in from Africa….but I would love to ship it all back!  Eventually, I will regain control, but it will be diligence and routine work.

Another thing that gets in my way of staying on top of everything is learning something new.  I get so excited about a new project, that I can often spend HOURS, even and ENTIRE DAY, working on something new, just because I love doing it.  I believe Papa has called me obsessed on more than one occasion.  I definitely have learned that I have to limit my time on something new, but I admit I don’t always follow my own rules.  I’ve found it works to reward myself after everything else is finished with time working on a special project, like my braided puff stitch dish draining cloth.  I can also set a timer.  I find that my focus is so narrow, at times, that I simply do not realize how much time goes by.  By setting a timer, I keep myself from getting lost in time on the project and neglecting other things that must be done.  I need to do the same thing with my website…only I need to set a specific time every day, or at least 3 or 4 times a week to devote to posts and content.  Otherwise, I end up with dozens of post ideas, hundreds of pictures taken and downloaded and when I sit down to work on a post, I am so overwhelmed, that I don’t know where to start.  I need a PLAN….but with that plan I need to be FLEXIBLE enough to ADJUST that plan based on what life gives me from day to day.

I have several reasons for sharing these things with you.  First of all, know you are not alone when you feel like the faster you go the behinder you get.  Even the most experienced homesteaders have times when things happen beyond their control and they feel overwhelmed and have no idea how they are going to get caught up.  It happens to the best of us.  When it happens, and it will, that is the time to look at your priorities, realign them and come up with a plan, in small steps to make them happen.

Currently, my house is bothering me the most.  We have family from out of state coming for the month of November and though I know there will be no judging, and they are coming to spend time with family, not scrutinize my housekeeping skills, I have things I want to get done before they arrive.

I will be working on a list of larger tasks, and breaking them down into manageable pieces that I can work on for a bit at time during the days that I am at home between now and then.  I am going to actually WRITE DOWN a set of routines to keep things in order after I have things have been cleaned up.  If I will do that, I know I can manage to get it done and enjoy their stay with us instead of stressing over every detail.  I will have a meal plan that can be adjusted around their activities and my work schedule.  I will have small things that get done first thing in the morning, later in the afternoon and before bed EVERY DAY to ensure that we have controlled the chaos.  I say this because I know that life gives us chaos daily, we just have to manage it.  I have a couple of major projects that will need to be completed in the next two weeks, not only in preparation of our visitor’s arrival, but also because of the due date of our milk cow’s calf and the season that always requires certain things being done.  Some tasks will wait for their arrival.  They can participate and those things can be turned into family activities.  When I come up with something that works consistently, I will share.  I understand the reality of daily homesteading life.  While there is a peace that cannot be found with any other lifestyle, there is also a stress that is like no other.

If you are just starting your homesteading journey, I encourage you to have patience with yourself, and realize that just as Rome was not built in a day, neither will your homestead come together overnight.  Also, remember life, especially a homestead life, is a journey not a completed project.  If you are in the middle of your homesteading journey, have faith.  Know that life happens and has to be dealt with despite our best laid plans.  When something changes a plan, the new plan is usually better than the original anyway.  When you feel overwhelmed, the best advise I can give is to focus on what is working well and what you have accomplished.  Keep a list handy to help keep your focus.  For those who have this homesteading gig figured out and never have chaos and upsets interfere with your plans….if you actually exist…..PLEASE LET US ALL IN ON YOUR SECRET!  😉

Remember developing a homestead and becoming self sufficient in this crazy modern world is a journey.  That journey is meant to be enjoyed.  If you go through life worried about and stressing over the things you can’t control, you’ve just brought the bustle and stress from your old lifestyle right into the new.  And, honestly, isn’t that one of the things we are working so hard to get away from?

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