How Have You Become More Self-Sufficient?


A lot of optimism, I’m starting to think, has to do with choice—and I’m not talking about whether or not you choose to be optimistic. I just mean, if you choose to be in a situation, you’re probably going to like it a lot more. Maybe that sounds obvious. But for whatever reason, it really hit me in the face recently while I was waist-deep in an internet hole researching homesteading.

Homesteading, for those who aren’t totally familiar, is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency—you grow, cook, or preserve your own food, and often make your own clothes, too. I guess I always sort of thought that if you were a homesteader, you were born into a homesteading house and picked up those invaluable skills (which crops grew best in different seasons, how to build a porch, how to pickle asparagus, how to read a sewing pattern) from your parents. In fact, most of the homesteading blogs I stumbled upon were written by people who had grown up—for lack of a better word—normally, chose to be homesteaders, and learned all that stuff as adults. They shrugged off the trappings of city life and waxed poetic about their morning slice of zucchini loaf, the slow creeping stems in their greenhouses, the spunky personalities of various chickens. I spent nearly an hour on the Instagram of a friend of a friend who graduated college and promptly decided they wanted to live in a forest and raise goats. It was mind blowing.

What sparked this incredible time suck in the first place was that the lives of people I know are starting to look oddly similar to the feeds of these homesteaders. In response to COVID-19, city-dwellers who I could rely on for snapshots of subway commutes and trendy restaurants started sharing sourdough, chicken coops, and knitting projects. I’m seeing hydroponic setups growing produce in tiny apartments or on teeny patios. (The most alluring of the lot might be this one, which promises harvests of everything from summer squash to strawberries in just a few weeks.) And, of course, DIY beauty maintenance—hair color, manicures, and even dramatic chops. Maybe skin treatments made with pantry items. They might as well have been living in rural god-knows-where!

In some places, restaurants, salons, spas, and stores are open. But, aside from the fact that I don’t feel comfortable going to any of those places yet, I also kind of… don’t want to? And therein lies the newfound optimism with which I’m approaching my daily routines. I feel confident enough that anything I’ll whip up for dinner will taste better than takeout. I’ve become a master at filing and buffing my nails just how I like them. Insteading of splurging $300 on a sweater, I taught myself to crochet and copied it. Part of it is out of necessity, but there’s also a wellness draw: the process is soothing and the result is something that makes me glow with pride. Plus it’s contagious. Now I know I can do all that, what else can I do?

Maybe the answer will be somewhere in the comments section. Over the past few months, in what ways have you become more self-sufficient? Does it make you feel good? Frustrated? Any particularly helpful YouTube tutorials to direct me to? I want to know everything. And then, I want to know how to do it myself.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG