Avoiding Homestead Burnout

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No matter how enthusiastic you are about homesteading, no matter how experienced you are living the homesteading lifestyle, the truth is, burnout can and does happen. Some people allow burnout to become so bad, they give up the homesteading lifestyle altogether. But in my experience, if you learn to recognize the early signs of burnout, you can address and fix it.

The First Sign of Burnout 

The first sign of burnout is usually fatigue. Since the homesteading world is full of people who are used to working hard, it can be difficult for us to stop and rest when we're tired. We want to press forward and get stuff done. Yet it's essential to rest in order to avoid burnout. 

As homesteaders, we learn to "read" nature; we recognize the hints God gives us when the first frost is near, or when our sheep are close to giving birth, or when our rabbits are grumpy because they want to mate. But sometimes we forget to read our own bodies. If you're tired, your body is begging for rest. Giving it what it needs will not only help prevent burnout, but it will keep you physically and mentally healthier. 

Many times, homesteaders feel they can't rest; there's simply too much to do. This is a lie we tell ourselves. The fact is, if we don't rest, we're actually putting ourselves and our homestead in greater jeopardy. Our health is likely to fail - and that will limit our ability to live the homesteading life. 

In addition to getting plenty of sleep, I highly recommend giving yourself at least a half hour every morning (or, better yet, every morning and evening) to pray, keep a journal, read something uplifting, sing, or just think about things quietly. This is not the time to binge-watch TV or scroll through social media; those activities aren't truly curative. The idea here is to spend some restful, restorative time on yourself every single day. 


When you're feeling frustrated, stressed, or tired, it's also helpful to stop and think honestly about yourself. This often isn't easy - but try to imagine what a close, good friend might observe about your attitude, your health, and your lifestyle. 

For example, I tend to think that if I don't get things done myself, they will never get done at all. Or at least, they won't get done correctly. However, if I look at myself critically, I know this sort of thinking is detrimental. Homesteading is messy. It just is. But if the basics get done (the livestock are fed, watered, and safe, most of the harvest gets in, and we eat whole foods), I shouldn't beat myself up. I am only one person. I cannot do it all myself. Period. So I have to force myself to let go. To let my kids pick the green beans, for example - even if they do accidentally pull up some plants or leave beans on the vine. This is reality. (And it also happens to be good for my kids; they need to experience being close to their food and learning great work ethic.) 


When we experience burnout, often we've simply made our to-do list impossibly long. It helps me to remember that back in the days of the pioneers, nobody did it all on their own. They still bought certain foods, clothing, cooking gear, etc. Neighbors helped each other out. And people lived more simply than we do now; they didn't grow nearly as many veggies, for example, and they certainly didn't run greenhouses or care for high-maintenance animals. 

So, learning from my ancestors, I need to try to keep things simple, especially when burnout is threatening. I find it helps to write down an honest and complete list of every single thing I'm doing daily (and perhaps weekly and monthly). From that list, I first find things I can completely omit. The idea here is to have a list only of things that must get done. For example, if you spend time on social media, that would be a good thing to cut; it's easy to waste a lot of time online, yet few people feel fulfilled after scrolling through Facebook. You could also cut things like growing vegetables that aren't a mainstay of your diet, window cleaning, mowing areas of your land that don't truly require it, or volunteering. Remember, you don't necessarily have to omit these things forever. You are just paring down your list to the bare minimum of what you must do. 

Next, I find things my kids can do. There's always something! It could be as simple as collecting the eggs twice a day or it might be something a little more challenging, like taking over the laundry for the household. It's easy to underestimate what kids can do, so once again, I think back to my ancestors and the jobs - some of them difficult - that even little children did. Of course, I'm not suggesting making your children slaves or having them work so much they don't have time to play. But we should all be able to agree that chores are good for kids - giving them a sense of accomplishment, not to mention real-life skills. (I've blogged a lot about this topic over the years, but I especially recommend reading "Age Appropriate Chores for Kids," "An Important Role in the Household - What Your Child Needs to Know," and "Chores Teach Helpfulness," if you haven't done so recently.)

Next, if there are other people you could delegate to, don't be afraid to ask them for help. For instance, when I'm in the midst of fall preserving craziness, my husband - though busy with his own work - can pick up some of my chores so that I don't fall into complete burnout. 

Sometimes livestock can take up slack for me, too. For example, I can use our chickens to clean up the fall garden or the floor of the summer orchard. 

Also consider switching to less time-consuming methods. For instance, I don't pull plants out of the garden before winter; this saves me time and energy when I am feeling exhausted from the big push of preserving season, And it's good for the soil. (The plant roots rot, pouring nutrients into the soil; plus leaving plants in the soil helps prevent erosion.) 

Finally, consider if there's anything you can delay for one month. For instance, can I throw whole tomatoes in the freezer and tackle canning them into sauce during the winter months? (Yes, I certainly can! Whew!) 


I believe that if you do the above, you'll find you have the time to rest and then feel refreshed. But, if you're still feeling overwhelmed, consider getting some outside help. There are probably few homesteaders who can afford to hire help, but you might be able to find someone who wants mentoring and will give you their time for free as long as you teach them the ropes. But yes, teaching people does take time, and some people can be flaky, so you must consider that. 

If mentoring isn't doable, it's time to reassess your lifestyle. (Actually, it's a good idea for all of us to reassess our lifestyle from time to time.) I recommend asking yourself about your goals. Are they realistic? Often we enter homesteading thinking we're going to grow all our fruits and vegetables, and raise cattle and goats and chickens and pigs, and cook everything from scratch, and homeschool...Often only by doing can we realize these are lofty goals for a single person - or even a single family - to aspire to. I won't say this goal is impossible, but it is challenging, and it's always best to gradually work our way up to such a lifestyle. 

While doing so, it's also important to remember what stage of life we're in. Just because something isn't working for us right now, doesn't mean we might not be able to work in those things at a different stage of life. For example, if you're a mom with young children, it's important to remember they won't always need so much of your time. Be gentle with yourself now, and be at peace with the fact that as your children age, you'll be able to dedicate more and more time to homesteading - hopefully, with them working alongside you.

Or perhaps you find yourself getting older, and you need to reassess what you can realistically do on your homestead. I sure know that physical labor is getting harder and harder as I age, so I'm always thinking of way to make chores easier on my body. I admire people who are willing to realize they are in this situation and who adjust their life accordingly. I aim to be like them.

Ask yourself: If my goals aren't realistic, how can I realistically re-envision them? For example, maybe you could focus on raising only two types of meat instead of three or four. Or maybe you could barter eggs or fruit from your homestead for meat some other homesteader has in abundance. Or maybe you just need to buy half a beef from a local ranch. 

You could also assess your systems and how you can make life easier for yourself by having better ones. Spending the money on an automatic hen house door, for example, can be a godsend to exhausted homesteaders during the summer months. Installing drip irrigation instead of hand watering is a huge time saver. Even small things, like putting in automatic water systems for your livestock, can make a big difference in how much time and energy homesteading requires. (And not all these systems have to cost money! For example, you could implement succession planting so that your harvests are more spread out and easier to preserve.)

Count Your Blessings 

Finally, when times feel tough, it's tremendously helpful to make a list of your blessings - and to observe other people around you and the tough times they are going through. Mindset is everything. Be encouraged! 


Homesteading can be immensely rewarding - it's just important to remember there is no one way to do it. Let it be a pleasure in your life, resting and paring back when needed, and I'm sure you'll never regret this down-to-earth lifestyle choice.

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