Erin's self-sufficiency blog

Dedicated to sharing my efforts in radical homemaking, self-sufficiency, simplicity, and general craftiness on a very, very small budget.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why self-sufficiency?

My husband mentioned to me that although my blog is very good at telling people what I've been doing to increase my self-sufficiency, he noticed that I didn't talk much about why I did it.  Of course, he's heard all my philosophical ramblings about self-sufficiency and it didn't even occur to me that I hadn't shared them with the larger world.  So I decided to explore the question: why self-sufficiency?

#1. Saving money

This is a very straightforward answer.  In many cases, the more you do yourself, the more money you save.  We are in a position of having to save a lot of money right now.  There might be other reasons for saving money: investing in your future, saving up for something important, wanting to donate more to charity.  In any case, self-sufficiency gives you plenty of opportunity to save money.

#2. Getting things exactly how you want them

I read an article lately about how women's clothing is impractical.  It's too thin, doesn't have pockets, and wears out easily.  This can be solved by making clothing exactly how you want it.  The sweater I knit last year doesn't need any other layers, for example.  It's plenty warm by itself.  Also, I can't find cowl-necked, bell-sleeved sweaters anywhere (seeing how it's not 2001 anymore) but I still like them.  This can apply to food, beauty supplies, just about anything you do yourself.  It just takes some practice and skill-building.

#3. Pride

I feel damn good about using something I've made myself.  If you go to the grocery store and buy bread, it's just bread, although it might be yummy.  If I make bread myself, I'm proud of my bread, and I feel that pride every time I eat it or even look at it.  This doesn't mean that everyone needs to make their own bread, but it's good to have something that you can take pride in, especially outside of your paid job.  It's good to take pride in that too, but you don't want your whole identity to be about work.

#4. Intentionality

When I make most things myself, I am more aware of what I consume.  I'm less inclined to throw things away when they're broken.  I have to be very intentional about the things I do and use.  If I spend a year making a sweater, I can be damned sure that sweater is going to get the best care, will be repaired, and will be worn.  So I become more intentional about the things I own and use.  Also, there aren't as many impulse craft as impulse buys as you have to put time and effort into things, so you end up with less stuff you aren't really going to use.

#5. Sustainability

First I must admit that it is true that some things can be done more efficiently on the industrial level, and even consume fewer resources than if you did it yourself.  But for the most part, you waste less and use less energy when you do things yourself.  When you have to buy raw materials and supplies for things you are more aware of where they came from than if you buy finished products.  And that might give you some pause as you think about how things are produced.  In some cases the sustainability issues are clear: when I make my own hair gel, I'm not throwing away spent containers of mousse, and I'm not using any nasty chemicals.  Things can be more ambiguous in other ways though: the energy spent on home canning is less efficient than that spent on factory canning.  In any case, making your own stuff really tunes you in to the world around you.

#6. Fun

My purpose in life is to be a maker.  I have a hard time if I'm not making something.  I have lots of fun creating my own things, from dinner to clothing to beauty supplies to painting.  I think a lot of people have fun making things, even if they don't realize it yet.  Making things is up there for me as a fun thing to do, like heated Uno games or hanging out with friends laughing our guts out.

#7. A slower pace of life

I'm not someone who wants to spend all my time as a huge achiever in my career, networking at cocktail parties, buying all the latest crap, and hanging out with all the right people.  Some people might genuinely enjoy that kind of life but it's not for me.  I prefer to make the mundane special.  That's what matters to me.

#8. Feminism

For some, this might seem like a weird topic to bring up when talking about homemaking.  Well, it is and it isn't.  First, I need to remember that women used to have to do homemaking, and they had no choice.  Some probably hated it but it was the only option.  I would hate for someone to have to do self-sufficiency if they hated it.  That's why the modern conveniences were invented.  And I would hate for women to be stuck in the kind of lives that my grandmothers were stuck in.  On the other hand, in hindsight we can see that it was an overcorrection for the second-wave feminists to totally dismiss the domestic as being unworthy work.  This is because it devalues that which women have traditionally done.  Really, what men have traditionally done and what women have traditionally done should be equally embraced (and performed) by everyone.  So for cultural feminists like me, reclaiming women's work is an important feminist activity.  (For a wonderful critique of that point of view, please see this blog:  I'm so in love with it right now.)

Those are my current reasons for embracing self-sufficiency.  I should also point out that I don't currently work outside the home so I have time for all this.  Someone working a 60 hour workweek might not have time, especially if they have a family they'd like to spend time with.  So it's important that I don't see myself as better than anyone else because I do this.  I am very happy that I am living in line with my own values, however, and I hope others can live in line with their values as well.


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