The way I see it there are a few main ideas in self sufficiency that everyone in the self sufficiency world shares. Zero debt, providing the basic needs of food and shelter for oneself or ones community by relying solely on oneself or ones immediate community, the value of doing and creating with one’s own hands, and living with a conscious awareness of how we are all connected to the natural world. I would say there are some basic attributes we all seek in our daily lives as well: Knowledge, preparedness, minimalism, cooperation and independence. People come to self sufficiency not as a life style but as mind set. So what is your mind set?
Do you seek Independence? Want a tiny house? Are you an urbanite with garden envy? A small town denizen with cow envy? A fully self sufficient land dweller living off the grid... with envy for the conveniences of the city? What do you do about it? What are the "rules" of self sufficiency? How do you deal with the Urban to Rural transitions and things like Cow envy?
There are none! Not one rule! It is all up to you, it’s what you make it! The hardest part perhaps is deciding what is a reasonable expectation to strive for? These expectations can fluctuate greatly depending on your income and area; geographically as well urban versus rural. Many folks interpret self sufficiency as being completely low tech, low impact, organic, and in touch with nature as much as possible. Only consuming what they grow and raise themselves, with a more primitive life style. Others define it as contributing to a community goal such as buy/hire/sell local so that as a community they don't need as many outside goods and products, outside services or even outside energy sources. Either way the goal is usually determined by your present location and abilities and your desired end result. Not everyone gets cow envy or wants to go off grid. In fact I'd wager a lot of people don't even want to live in a small rural community.
So my first and foremost suggestion as always is "Try it before you buy it!" and "start small". Plant a few veggies in containers before deciding to till up half the yard; It’s hard to get that grass back if hate gardening. Rent a house in a small town or out in the country before buying one. Make friends with people who participate in the things you are interested in. Talk to a 4H group. You could take the 100 thing challenge (click here for the book) or pack all the stuff you think you don't need or would need to get rid of if you plan to downsize your living space, put it in storage, If you find yourself at the storage unit multiple times in a month you either need to prioritize better or perhaps a smaller place is not right for you. Keep in mind you can go too far or be too extreme in your initial excitement. It's easy to fall in love with a calf. Shoveling out stalls and pens is much harder. A lot will be determined by where you live but it should not completely limit you.
I will tell you that in my opinion you can still be self sufficient and live in the city. You will not be able to provide your own water or energy but there is plenty of potential to work for oneself, pay off ones property, grow a garden, barter or develop a co-op with neighbors who have skills you lack, such as sewing, carpentry or mechanics. In fact in the beginning most human establishments were tribal or clan type settlements and people relied on one another quite a bit while being able to do as much for yourself as you can is quite an accomplishment in today's society it's a relatively new thing.
In most cases when I say we are striving to become more self sufficient the reaction I receive is based on what others perceive that to mean. Their interpretation very often does not match mine. We have literally started life over in our forties... it’s sort of like we moved to a foreign country in the middle of the senior year of high school. Having been in our small town three years now we are finally getting settled in somewhat and beginning to concentrate on growing our goals. We are enlarging the garden and hope to learn to dehydrate and can a great deal of what we grow this year. I have extended myself into the community a bit more (not my strong point) and am working on networking i.e. making new friends! Many of my new friends have horses, cows, chickens, goats and various other animals. We do not thus the cow envy. We do however have a kick butt garden that many of my friends lack. We haven't learned to do canning yet, my friends know how to though. It's a great networking and learning situation. Believe it or not there is a five year old here in town who is swapping lessons. He is learning to crochet and teaching his baby sitter to knit. Our goals may not match yours and that is ok. The main thing is to figure out the main goals that are 'doable' for you no matter where you are. Pay off a debt, learn a skill, grow a plant, try something new, talk to your neighbor, or just read a book about it.
As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.