TIME MANAGEMENT ON THE URBAN HOMESTEAD

I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. ~Helen Keller

Time’s A Wastin!

You know that Paul Simon ditty “Slip Sliding Away” where it says “You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away.”  That’s exactly how we feel sometimes.   No, really.  People somehow think we are like superhuman – hardly!  We feel that we’ve sometimes got ahead of ourselves and have let some things slip and slide by the wayside.

We can always, always to better.  But in life we get busy and behind and then you turn around and you realize how many things you left fall by the wayside.  Life is a juggling act and sometimes the pins just fall.

But the point is to pick them up and start over.  It’s a struggle with the urban homestead’s popularity to retain a balance.  We love to help others, but then there’s little time left for ourselves.  Time to improve ourselves, time to invest in new projects, re-skilling or time to just sit, stop and smell the roses.

It’s all about priority and we are struggling, this year especially, with re prioritizing our day.   Of course living a homesteading lifestyle helps because it gives on a basic structure – animals need to be feed, plants watered, food canned and so on.

We have a question from one of our readers who ask:

I have for many years loved homesteading and self-reliance. We bought six acres, built our own house. We have had chickens , goats etc. But it seemed that after learning to do everything from bake bread to making soap , I gave up.
Not that I am a quitter, but time does have value. The simple life was eliminating family time, relaxation and most comfort.
I really would love to put all this land and knowledge to good use again but I need an understanding of time management on the homestead. Any ideas!!

– Kim

As urban homesteaders, we believe that change begins at home and this belief is the fulling force behind the modern pioneering movement.

Care to help Kim with her time value problem,  weigh in on Time Management for the Urban Homestead, especially when it comes to squeezing a bit of R & R.

Share your thoughts, ideas – tips and tricks?

We could all use some help in bringing fulfillment and purpose to our household.

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Comments(22)

  1. judy says:

    I think one of the big caveats of time management is “team effort”. I think that is why the Path to Freedom functions so well. That doesn’t mean all members are functioning at the same level of speed or effort. But everyone’s input probably equals out in the end. I think if you are trying to create a homesteading effort by yourself, it would be impossible.

    Another function often overlooked is where you are wasting time. I sometimes feel I am learning a lot on the Internet in the morning when I’m online, but maybe my time and effort would be better served by picking up and reading through the garden books I have in my personal library.

    Having said those two things, the main business is creating a chart for tracking your daily activities based on the hours in your day. Be sure to include little breaks and pauses to reflect. Prioritize by importance each day when you create your list and try setting a time limit for certain tasks that seem to go on forever.

    Make your goals specific and don’t forget to appreciate what you (and others) have accomplished at the end of each day. And if you are the cook, give yourself and extra 20 points.

  2. Laura says:

    This is a great idea for an entry and something we struggle with as well. We make a lot from scratch but during busy times we forgo the breadmaking and eat raw fruits and veggies, meat that’s already been butchered and just needs to be cooked, etc. We are considering make ahead meals at our house but haven’t implemented it. The basic feeding of the animals and tending to the garden have to be done but we can do that as a family. Children start helping under adult supervision around age 3 and can perform some tasks alone such as gathering eggs by age 5. Ofcourse an adult is always outside during this time performing another important task. We also try to have some time to look forward to as a family. Last summer, we bought a small saltwater aboveground pool and enjoyed that as a family though we were swimming after dark to the glow of the porchlight most of the time.

  3. Jed says:

    It has taken me a long time to come to grips with my chosen “alternative” lifestyle. I, like many, love to learn, explore, and stretch myself and time management has and always will be an iissue to be watched. In the last 3-4 years, I’ve been drawn into the world of homesteading and it has changed my life and focus tremendously. I have given up what many would call the finer or more important things in life such as, steady job, vacations, relationships with family and friends, and a general lack of going out and living that busy lifestyle like we used to. I not only didn’t go to a Super Bowl party this year, as I had for literally decades, but in reality, we weren’t even invited anywhere.

    I don’t look at my former lost life as something to mourn though. I really love what I am doing and for me, that’s what counts. I follow my joy regardless of what some may think about it and surprisingly, my wife and I are very, very happy. In order to make room/time for my ever expanding skill set, I recently quit my job as a librarian and we now live on one income. Trust me, being a male with 2 masters degrees and deciding to stay at home….well….most think that’s just wrong or weird. But looking around, my wife and I seem to me to much happier and peaceful than most. We have no debt and are pretty healthy physically and mentally.

    I also know my limits and try to stay within them. For example, I wanted to make myself some hats. So, armed with a few books and the internet, I made about 10 really nice knitted hats for my wife and myself. Never knitted before. Everyone we showed them to loved them and immeadiately asked if we were going to start selling them. Same with the cigar box guitars I have been making recently (they came out awesome). I’ll make 5-6 for myself and move on. I made pottery full-time for 5 years and happily walked away when it got time to seriously start selling. I’ve succeeded in staying on track by not getting caught up in what others think I should be doing and selling and being honest about myself. I’m great at the doing and not so great at the marketing/teaching end of things, so, I don’t do those things.

    Sometimes I do feel off track and that I may be spreading myself to thin but I then try to stay true to the choices that resonate within and go back to branching off happily were desired. I continue to do my core activities: my yoga, my didgeridoo playing, meditating and hour a day, walking an hour a day, exercising, feeding and nursing my cultures, sourdough baking and will soon be tending my garden. What more could I ask for, nothing, but that’s me. It all fits for me because I love it, everything else…well…who has time to care about disappointing others.

    I know this has been a long response and only touches the surface of my life, so be gentle.

    jed

    • Lisa says:

      @Jed, Thanks for sharing tour story Jed.

  4. Alice says:

    Don’t let simple get out of hand. You can not do it all at once. Take a step at a time. Look at the things that need to be done and the things you want to get done. Choose which ones you want or need to do and do them first, then when you have them under control add another one or two. It all takes time and effort. As for time for yourself. Well I consider them time I spend doing something I enjoy time for myself. I savor them moments with the chickens talking to them while I feed them or clean their house me time. The same with gardening. There are times when I stop and smell the roses, even looking at a butterfly or bird that comes by. Take time to savor the good times. After all this Mini homestead is not a JOB. If it has become a job then you are working too hard at it and need to reflect on what your reason for all this is.
    Simple is just that simple. We all have too much stuff to care for and about.

  5. jennifer says:

    I am always amazed at how we all subject ourselves to time. The dreaded word time, hours, minutes… always more to do, thing to be done, how to make more time in a day. I have found there is a natural cycle to all that is needed, a balance. This balance is different for each of us depending on how much is espied in our daily work. I roughly plan things I would like to accomplish in a day, things I defiantly need to get done, and if the gods are kind I find a way. I do not worry, the work does not leave if I can’t get to it right away, it some how manages to be there when I can get to it. It may sound silly but if a cool breeze passes by while your hard at work, stop for a moment to hear what it has to say. You will be happier for it.

  6. theherbalkitty says:

    It is definitely possible to create a homesteading effort by yourself; you just have to be a little more diligent with the time management and not be so hard on yourself when you fall short. It also means learning to set more realistic goals and limits for yourself, learning what you as one person, one individual can accomplish in a day. That is easier said than done most of the time but I’m learning not to expect perfection and just be happy with what I do accomplish. It also means the steps you take in each new homesteading endeavor, whether it be learning to bake bread from scratch or making candles or spinning wool, are smaller than you would take if you had that partner to share these tasks with because it is easy to get overwhelmed even when it’s a family effort. I keep a journal to work through any overwhelming feelings and also to keep a record of what I do accomplish, focusing on the positive rather than the negative of what I didn’t accomplish. That, and yoga and prayer keep me focused and positive.

    To Jed: I liked your post. That seems to be my biggest obstacle with homesteading–dealing with the head-shakings and well-intentioned but unsolicited advice from others who think I’ve sprouted 3 heads or am making a mistake. When I think of the rage–yes, rage–I felt working in Corporate America, and how unhealthy that feeling was, and now how happy I am homesteading, I know I haven’t made a mistake. This is the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m healthier and I enjoy learning all the new skills, and knowing I’m lessening my impact on the environment. Yesterday I made my own dog and cat food from scratch and, while the cats aren’t 100% sure of this new diet (blended with some of their “old” diet so as not to upset their tummies), the dogs looked like they died and went to heaven. And I have the satisfaction of knowing what they’re eating is healthy and free of any poisoning (like the pet food recall 2 years ago…). That’s worth more to me than any of those “finer points of life”.

  7. 1916home says:

    We dread time and time management because truly that is the wealthiest commodity we have! Forget gold, silver, cars, guns, stored food, etc. TIME is the most valuable of all things because all of our clocks on this plane of existence is ticking away.

    I enjoy the gardening, researching, and this sort of get back to earth lifestyle. My wife comes for a huge metro city in Europe so it has been a task to get her to think outside of that box. She has said no to chickens and I had to give them to a friend, but she now sees the value in all the eggs!

    Mostly, I think the best use of time is what makes us happy (and not following some predetermined system) and what we can do to make others happy.

    Bob Marley said this and I like it “Live for yourself and you will live in vein, live for others and you will live again!”

  8. Carl says:

    I have a goal of growing enough food to feed my family at progressive levels, starting 10% and working up to 80% and beyond. I am doubling my garden later this year. My plan is in 7 years to be car-free, 80% food sustained and virtually retired. I am the only Vegan in the family but I am rubbing off on the rest of them : ) We are eating more Organics, less processed foods, banning High Fructose Corn syrup etc… My end goals will be no where near what the Dervaeses are doing. My neighborhood is an association (argh!) No “farm animals” are allowed. Farmers are ok, so far 🙂 So I will be content with my ever expanding Garden and fruit trees. Meanwhile I am a Hobby Gardener, the time I spend in the garden is very relaxing and very grounding.
    Thanks for being the inspiration for us all!
    We are all at different levels and in the end it is a journey right?

    Peace,

    Carl

  9. Chiot's Run says:

    So true, I think the key is finding those things that are OK for you to let slide and keep up with the things that you’re passionate about. I bake all my own bread, but I use a mixer for kneading, this saves me time. I’d love to heat my house with wood, and have chickens, but at the moment I can’t. So we have a gas furnace and get eggs from the local farm. This allows me to have time to sugar my maples, grow veggies and keep bees.

    It’s important to find balance in life.

  10. Sarah says:

    Everyone here has great advise… I have 4 young boys, plus the hubby and myself at home. And we have had MANY people think what we are doing is “cute” or “funny” or “crazy”… but in the end, it IS OUR HEALTH & HAPPINESS that counts.

    Finding time to do everything is like someone one here already mentioned, you have to do it one thing at a time. And do what you love!

    Also, if you are on this adventure alone (family isn;t interested in helping?), then it WILL be tough. As a family, we find so much satisfaction in gardening until dusk, then showers and sit around and play games or talking. Even when we are working, we are together. My boys even enjoy working because they get to be with us!

    Really, our lifestyle we MAKE a priority, because we DO value health for our boys, we do want to be happy in the things that God has blessed us with, and being a good steward of those things.

    Use somethings that are easy, until you have a desire to do otherwise. I too (as someone said above) use a mixer. I got a Kitchenaid because I have bad wrists (many years of drumming!), and I can’t knead bread like I would like. So I let the mixer do the work for me, and that’s OK!

    The Dervaes Family would be the first to tell you, do what works for YOU! Don’t try to follow someone else’s footsteps. If you do, it won’t last. If you try to follow someone else in THEIR journey, you aren’t making the journey for YOURSELF.

    Get the family together, and start one change at a time. Then it is more likely to be habit. Make everyone feel a part of this. And give yourself some downtime! If you are working from sun up to sun down, you probably ARE stressed.

    Just enjoy whatever you decide to do, and don’t look at someone else and compare what you AREN’T doing…

    May you be blessed on whatever journey you decide to take!

  11. Chris says:

    These posts are so inspirational! Dervaes family, I totally respect you setting boundaries to not lose focus. There is a WEALTH of information on this website (from the skillet granola recipe, to using EM’s, etc.) … just use the search engine. I’m a newbie to all of this (one year into my journey). I learn so much from not only the posts, but also from the comments. Thank You Everyone! I understand Kim’s post because at the end of the first growing season I felt I made so many mistakes I was asking myself “Do I REALLY want this? Am I nuts? “After prayer, pause and reflection I had total peace about it so I new the answer was “YES”. Sure there are challenges and obstacles and we are often our own worst enemy in terms of expectations, but I keep my eye on the prize. The more I learn about what is really going on in our food supply and society, the more convinced I am that I’m here to finally enjoy my life and show others the possibilities. As a culture we have a tendency towards extremes as if we were living our life like a sporting event (win/lose). Mother Nature’s rhythm does not conform to this mindset. I realized recently that we have lived under a Corporate Controlled Media now for over 2 decades … YIKES!!! This path of homesteading is a way to heal. Is it hard? Yes and no because the end results are so very rewarding. I’ve noticed that there seems to be an inexplicable serenity and beauty on the faces of homesteaders regardless of age. You can’t buy it at the local drugstore. It just is! Thank You Everyone for being so generous in spirit and shared knowledge! This is real Democracy!

  12. Kim says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, I plan to return to some of my self-reliant habits. Hopefully with better direction this time.

    I have bought a hand powered grain grinder to return to baking bread. I make good bread so it is a place to start.

    I want to do some intensive gardening and implement some permaculture. I do intend to go SLOW! Try to make things count. Keep priorities in place.

    You can take yourself out of the homesteading but you can’t take the homestead out of your heart.

    Hugs and Hopes all around, Kim

  13. Chris says:

    I guess to one who has already done that. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I homeschooled three kids, had a milk cow, garden, and chickens. My husband was the builder, and I did the rest. If I wanted something, he would build it, fence it in, and then leave it to me. I mulched the garden so there wouldn’t be too many weeds, and tried to get out there to get it weeded once in a while. My garden wasn’t pristine, but I didn’t sweet it. I harvested, canned, froze, hunted for meat, put it up. … Pick the things that appeal to you. Do those because you like them. Don’t do everything all at once or you get overwelmed. Add more as you want to, and have the strength for. Get chummy with another neighbor, and exchange vacations/ do each others chores for them. That way you don’t have to hire someone. Maybe you will never want to milk an animal. Maybe you would just like to raise a couple grazing animals to latter sell or eat. Depending on how you feel about that. Chickens are a good thing to start with, and one of the kids can go out and feed and water, and collect eggs. It makes for some very nice obedient children, for them to have a few lite chores. Just don’t get too many. We over wintered about nine chickens for a family of six. Sometimes that didn’t work out so well (lack of eggs) but it worked out most of the time. Good luck, C

  14. Jan says:

    Love this question – I have a hubby and 3 children. With that said I say first do what needs done. For years I have gardened and canned our own food. Every year we add to what we have and take the year to balance it in. Last year we added 14 raised beds and a horses to the homestead. we ahve a huge garden that jsut gets bigger every year. This year we are adding chickens and a 20×20 spot in the front yard for edibles. We garden every day except Sunday, that is family day and some R and R. Our gardening schedule is not a schedule at all. We garden when its too hot, we tend to tend to what needs tending in the night by flashlight and the light of the moon. The kids enjoy all the parts of the garden and tending. They were int he garden since they were babies.
    Have fun – make it fun. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. even when we ahve 1 bushel of greenbeans to can and 19 pds of cucumbers to can, we make time for a quick swim or a few hours of fishing with the kids.

  15. DISPATCHES FROM THE URBAN HOMSTEAD pt 1 | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] ya”ll put up a great bunch of comments/contributions to the Time Management post – check it out if you missed it.   Thanks for some great […]

  16. Alice says:

    All this brings back memories. We had a place in VA it was 10 acres. We had no running water and no electric power. We had a wood cook stove and also a gas/propane one. In the summer I could use black plastic pipe and have gravity water to the house. My 4 boys (now men) and I would go back there in a minute now. We had sheep, goats, chickens and a cow.
    I remember having 2 garden plots one smaller and one much larger. I wanted to put a hole in the middle of the smaller plot to put in scraps for composting. Hubby said I was crazy so he got the hole dug for me and took over the larger plot. I put a fence around the hole that I was filling with scraps and barn cleanings. I planted tomatoes by the fence. They took off went to the top of the fence and back down.
    I would take the black dirt out of the hole from time to time to make room to add more scraps. I had people wanting to buy the “potting soil”. These were the same folks that were making fun of me and my hole in the beginning. Husband then told me I could put a hole in his garden too. My much smaller plot produced more than his larger plot.
    I just got chicks to start spring here. I have some hens but nothing says spring like chicks. I want Campbell ducks but can not find any here. I would love a goat or two. I just love the critters.
    Slow and steady wins the homestead race.
    One thing I use to do was make a list of things that needed to get done or that I wanted to do. It helped keep me on track. I could pick what was most needed or what I had time for that day/week. It felt good to cross something off the list and it gave me a way to see how I was doing.

  17. Laurie says:

    As I’ve gotten older and have expanded both my skill set and community connections, I’ve come to the realization that having some things you NEED from your friends and neighbors is actually an asset. Self-reliance is all good, but interdependence is too. It is best to not try to “do it all” and knowing this takes a big burden off the time-management problem.

    Do the things you enjoy doing and excel at. Be willing to ask for help on the rest. The world outside your doorstep will thank you for it.

  18. CE says:

    Most of the week I go to my $ job so household chores and yard chores fill the mornings and evenings. But on my days off I split the day into chore or project time and freetime.
    Six hours of the day are devoted exclusively to whatever chores need to be done that just don’t get done on my work days. Bigger projects need bigger blocks of time. (Smaller projects are done before or after work.)
    But often it’s the “little” jobs that can eat up a day. And often you can’t do the chore you want to do without doing the 3 preceeding chores that lay the groundwork for the project you want to do. So I make a list of all the chores that need to be done. I put projects that need bigger blocks of time on one page and those that need smaller amounts of time on another. Then I look at the list, see what is highest priority or what I have time and materials to do and I do that. And then I cross it off the list and date it. It is a visual reminder of what I have done. And it keeps me organized.
    I have found that a lot of time is wasted in setting up for a job or cleaning afterwards. So for those jobs it is more time efficient then to spend a whole day doing that job and just get it done and then I take of the whole next day for hobbies, family etc.
    Having animals does mean a lot more daily chores. They bring a lot to the homestead but the amount of time they require may not be cost effective for some families if they can’t have some family play time too.
    I like the idea that Helen and Scott Nearing used: divide the day up into thirds. 1/3 for labor to build or grow food, split wood etc. 1/3 for earning money. 1/3 for leisure, friends and hobbies. ( Of course my boss is not on board with my working 1/3 of a day)
    When what you do on the homestead feels like what you do/did at your job, it is time to change things. And frankly, anyone who is doing something they enjoy doing will allways come up with more ideas/projects than they will ever be able to find time to do. So I figure I will just do what is at hand and enjoy the heck out of it while I do it so that if it is the only thing I ever get done it will be worth it.

  19. Allied Time says:

    I think making a list and making the priorities first helps to manage time

  20. Mercye says:

    We have found that easiest way for spending more time with the family and working with the land, is to involve the kids. The more we did together, the quicker it was finished and the more enjoyable it was. Now, with grandchildren the same is in practice. They love to dig, plant, build fences, feed the animals. The favorite field trip is the Green Thumb Nursery. Oh, we homeschool also.

  21. Ann says:

    Just reading all the comments of what everyone is doing makes me tired. I am a homesteader-wanna-be but, unfortunatelty, I don’t have the stamina or engery to do all the things it requires. I’ve given up on self sufficiency realizing that in order to really do it all you need many hands and mine are only two. So – I’ve just tried to prepare for self sufficency should the day come that we really NEED to be. I have a house and yard for chickens, water suppy, seeds in storage for acres and acres etc. I would love to have chickens, being an animal lover, but it’s too much work and time so I buy eggs from a friend who raises them. I would love to have a sweet brown eyed milk cow but my hubby says NOT so I have a friend who brings raw milk from the city and I help pay for gas. I feel a twinge of disappointment when I take my clothes out of the dryer (Ican hear you all gasp) as I so enjoy hanging them on the line but it takes considerable more time and effort and is one more thing I have come to realize I must (mostly) eliminate from my schedule. I do, however, make my own laundry soap if that helps to redeem me bit. My husband has cancer and, while I thought we ate pretty healthy, I realized in doing research that we didn’t. So that has led to much more time in the kitchen which limits other things even more. I do grow a garden but last year it got some sort of blight and the whole thing was gone so I bought veggies from the farmers market. Also, in trying to keep up with a garden I realized I could not also tend to so many flowers which I love but the veggies must take priority. I guess I am basically saying the same things you all have said and just making the point that for most of us it is necessary to pick and choose and it’s OK. I’m still “in” there and love reading about it and dreaming. But I also love my grandchildren who live nearby and come often and my large extended family who have birthday parties and graduations and retirement celebrations and it’s worth drying clothes in the dryer if it makes time to grow relationships with them. As a gray haired grama I’ve come to realize that idealism is great but compromise is more real and we have to make peace with that. So I applaud you from the side lines while I dabble my toes in the homesteading waters.

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