Time management for homesteaders is a unique challenge, here are my best tips for organizing and running your homestead.
Running a large family, homesteading, and homeschooling might sound crazy. I would be lying if I said there weren’t days of madness. However, that really isn’t the norm. We have days just like everyone else where nothing seems to go right. There are messes, animal escapes, the neighbor’s cows in our yard, or an uncooperative animal in heat. That’s life and to expect every day to be smooth sailing is a recipe for disaster. The key is always our attitude about the challenges that we face. Here are my best time management tips for homesteaders, even if you or your husband work full time away from the homestead.
Train Your Children
If you have children on the homestead, train them to be helpful. When I list all we have to do, it sounds overwhelming. However, it isn’t just me doing the work! My husband and children do the majority of the chores. I milk the cow and feed the cats and dogs every day, and I plan and prepare the meals. Otherwise, I work in the garden if we have one and I remind the kids to do the rest of the things. Take out the compost, feed the chickens, check on the pigs, give them a good spray if they are hot. I see myself as the manager and the kids are my subjects…I mean helpers! Ha!
What will happen with expecting a lot of your children is that they will rise to the occasion. Not always, but believe me they will surprise you! My 11-year-old goes out every night and separates the calf from the mama cow so that we can milk in the morning. She is the self-appointed manager of the dairy operation. She keeps me in check, makes sure I have fly spray and udder balm when we head out the door, and then she helps me milk. She finds joy in being needed and helpful.
Assign Age Appropriate Chores
Each child should have their own set of chores to do. Even the three-year-old can empty trash cans. Our five-year-old can do her own laundry. Giving them things that they can do to contribute to the homestead is a gift to them. It truly is! Every person needs to feel productive. Clearing the table, washing the dishes, or loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, wiping the table, taking scraps out to the animals, collecting eggs are all tasks that children can do and they can learn to do them well.
Write Down Your Homesteading Needs
Writing things down gets them out of your brain and helps prevent overwhelm. Putting things on a list, even if it’s a mile long is the first step in accomplishing those things. When you go out to do chores and you notice the fence needs repair, or the chicken’s waterer is leaking, fix it right that minute if you can. However, if you cannot, if you need tools or supplies, make a mental note and then write it down as soon as you can. My husband carries a little notepad around and writes things down all the time. This is a huge help in time management.
Perhaps what you notice isn’t urgent. Write it down and then it’s a priority. There are things that need to be done seasonally. Why not take some time to write those down. For example, brush hogging needs to be done throughout the summer if we want our fields to be grass and not weeds. Writing that down and planning a few weekends to work on that will keep you in check.
Write down your highest priority first. If your chickens are getting picked off by predators and you would like to build an enclosed run, that of course will take priority over making a pretty picnic area.
Seasonal Needs Change on the Homestead
In the summer when the garden is in full swing and the kids want to be outside all of the time, the inside of the house is far from perfect. The sink is likely full of dishes, the bathrooms are disgraceful and the floors haven’t been mopped in a month. That is just the way of summer. Accept that and don’t pressure yourself to be perfect.
Likewise during the school year, if you homeschool, priorities may need to shift as well. Don’t forget to pursue homesteading hobbies with your kids as well. Soapmaking, candlemaking, and cooking are all science-based projects. Woodworking and home improvement are life skills that your kiddos need to learn as well. Never discount that type of education!
Here a Little There a Little
So often we think, if I could just have one week to work on the homestead we could get all caught up. The truth is that is probably not going to happen. Even if you have a whole week, you won’t get it all done. But guess what? 30 minutes here and 15 minutes there adds up over the course of a year. If you can work on clearing out fence rows in small time segments, you will get it all done.
Just know everything will not all be done at once. You may get all of the trash picked up and all of the scrap hauled away, but your garden may be full of weeds. Plug away and year after year you will see improvement overall!
No One Does it All
I don’t know about you but when I see pictures of beautiful English gardens and perfectly cared for property I feel a bit envious. I hear of others growing enough produce for their family for the entire year and I feel like a bit of a failure. What I have come to realize is that is likely that person’s main focus. Their beautiful garden likely gets most of their time, the same with the person raising enough produce for a year. I don’t love to can, the thought of spending late summer canning mountains of produce makes me feel a bit exhausted.
Those people with the picture-perfect gardens are likely not homeschooling and raising ten children, or raising animals and milking a cow and making dinner every night and, and, and….If you are one of those people and you are doing all of those things, please don’t tell me! Ha!
Sometimes, it just isn’t humanly possible to get EVERYTHING done. Give yourself grace and have peace about that!
Do The Things That Save Money or Bring Joy
When you take the time to prioritize, think about what really brings joy, or what truly saves time or money on your homestead. Growing your own produce can definitely save money. However, gardening has the potential to be an expensive endeavor. If you are setting out to garden in order to save money, then be especially mindful of the extra things that end up costing a lot in the end. Raised beds are so nice, but they are an investment upfront. If you happen to hate gardening or canning, then let it go. Buy from your local farmer’s market or someplace like Misfit’s Market.
Raising your own meat has the potential to save money. However, if you go the organic, non-gmo route, the cost will not be comparable to regular chicken that you can get at the grocery store. However, the cost will be lower than buying from Whole Foods. In the end, it is a very rewarding experience and a great skill to have!
Let things go and don’t feel bad about it! Find the things that you love to do and do those things! Maybe it’s soap making, sewing, or cooking from scratch! Pursue those things! You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing!
Ask for or Hire Help
Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, isn’t it? However, sometimes you really just need to let a professional or someone with more time or experience help with certain jobs. Things like taking care of fence. My husband has attempted to do some of the fence work around here himself. We have rocky land and without the right equipment, this is just nearly impossible.
How about asking for help when it’s time to butcher animals? Having grandma and grandpa come over and help was something we used to do before our older kids became very proficient at the job. Now we don’t need as much help, but it sure was good to have it when we needed it.
Ask your neighbors for help too! When you ask for help, it then builds community and your neighbors feel more comfortable asking you for help when they need it. That is a win-win. We have met some of the nicest people around here. We would all do just about anything for one another.
Establish Routines and Schedules
Establishing daily routines goes a long way in keeping up with things on the homestead. I talk more about routines in this post. However, weekly, monthly, and yearly routines are a good thing to establish as well. Certain jobs like cleaning the gutters or pruning fruit trees need to be done only once or twice a year.
Writing those tasks down in your planner so that you remember to get to them is a great way to keep track of things that can fall through the cracks.
Don’t Watch TV
This may be a no-brainer for some. People have asked my husband many times how we get so much done. His quick reply is usually…we don’t watch tv. It’s true, most evenings we are busy until bedtime. Right now my husband is working on remodeling a funky bathroom. It was full of mold and needed an overhaul. He gutted it down to the studs. He is taking the “here a little there a little” approach and in a month or so we will have a fresh new bathroom. A few hours on the weekend and an hour or two every evening adds up over time.
He could certainly come home from work and decide to veg out and watch YouTube or whatever else, but instead, he chooses to be productive. We all have to make those choices with how we spend our time. It’s not really a lack of time it’s how we spend the time we have.
What are Your Best Tips for Time Management on the Homestead?
Do you have some great tips for managing all the things with homemaking and homesteading? I would love for you to share them in the comments!