This Inner Struggle: Finding Balance


Lately it’s been on my mind a lot… this struggle that I have for superficial perfection. Not in me, but in my home. And I’m finding that it doesn’t fit well at all with the homesteaders lifestyle. My modern ideals are conflicting with this inner longing for a simpler, back-to-basics lifestyle.

I’m talking about wanting to buy things that look nice instead of being happy with cheaper (or free) things that are just as functional but not as appealing to look at. For instance, the chicken wire that I have around my garden is working perfectly, but when I look at it I find myself thinking, “Man, I wish I had a pretty white picket fence around my garden instead. That would look so much nicer!”

That’s normal though, right?

I realize that true homesteaders do the best they can with what they have. They don’t throw money around frivolously. They don’t buy things just to have others admire them. But it’s SO HARD for me to think that way all the time! I’d really much rather have some nice planters instead of old tires to grow my herbs in. I’d rather have pretty curtains than blankets tacked over the windows. Sometimes I look around my bare bones yard and long for a beautiful, magazine worthy, picture perfect homestead.

I know there’s a balance somewhere in between though. That’s what I’m trying to figure out… a balance. There are so many things that I want to do to beautify my home. I’d love to landscape the front, and have a walkway and nice front steps. I’d love to have a home that people come up to and say, “Wow, what a beautiful place you have!” But I’m having to learn to be patient and do these things in time. And I know from many experiences that the Lord will bless us with all that we need when we are good stewards of what He gives us.

It’s not like we have the money to go out and buy all of the things I’d like right away anyways. And that’s what this is about I guess; learning to be wise with our money, not buying things that we don’t need, and doing as much as we can ourselves and not paying someone else to do it for us.

So, this is what I’ve decided to do. I’ll gladly accept free things, and if they aren’t exactly what I want, I’ll do my best to use a little creativity to spruce them up a bit! I’ll shop yard sales and thrift stores to find great deals on things I need instead of buying new. I’ll ask around for things that I’m looking for; I’m always blessed when a family member or friend just happens to be getting rid if something that I’ve been needing. And I’ll find free plants to do my landscaping (my mother-in-law has a bunch she’s been trying to give me)!

Old habits are so hard to break sometimes. But I have to learn to control my “wants” and simply be happy (joyous even) when I am supplied all of my “needs”. And I’m sure I’ll be able to find a happy medium between living on less and still living richly.


Kendra
About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

20 Comments

  1. I love your blog and find my self admiring all yoru talks with adellia and trying to learn as much as i can from everyone around me too! I love your style and i am often finding myself at odds with that inner struggle, too…what would i like other people to think…whats important is what would the Lord think…I have found a couple things out though…as I live certaom “natural laws” i am blessed beyond messure. When I first started recycling and going green and organic, the law of “recycling” and caring for the things the lord provided boutifully on this earth came back to me! It started small just with carboard and cans and newspaper and milk jugs, but as i looked around our home contruction project i was just in awe of how much we were “throwing” away. We adding on and thus had taken out a wall and stripped siding and shingles and windows. We have a neighbor who uses a wood burning stove to heat their entire house and when we asked him if hed like the wood (i wasnt sure if he could use it bc it was treated, but he can!) he was so grateful. he asked us about the siding and we said we were just getting rid of it and he said he could use it for his shed! GREAT! there was another man in town who said that some of his windows were leaking air and asked if we were going to use ours (they were still in good condition but old) so we gave them to him. As a result what we ended up having to take to the dump cost us soooo much less! As we were taking a bunch of stuff from a reconstruction project to the dump they have a section that you can “sort” the recycalables, such as wood, rubber, etc. I went over to recylce some stuff and found a man getting rid of a bunch of outdoor play stuff. his wife had owned a daycare and had these awesome rubber mats to put the toys on. he also had a little tikes cube set and some picnic tables (kid size). as i takled with him he asked if i could use any of it as he would have to pay for what he couldnt recycle and felt bad for throwing it away since most was new! So of course i said sure! the mats were exacly what i was wanting for our basement (since we hav ea concrete floor) and since floods happen i didnt want to install carpet but wanted soemting softer then tile for the kdis to play on! These worked out so great1 I found out later that they would have cost me 750$!!! and the kids got thse great hand made picnic tables and playset too! All for obeying the laws of nature! Ive noticed other things too like the law of giving…when we give, service, or goods, they come back to us with what we need! The Lord is aware of us and our needs! He knows how to bless us! He also knows that there is more than enough in this owrld to go around to not only meet our needs but the desires of our hearts,too!! God is sooo good!

    Anyway, the reason i am really commenting on your blog is this…I recently plantign potatoes in tires and got too many! there is a reason they are given away free! because they cost to dispose of! Looking back, ifyou can find a planter for the 2.50 or so that the tire costs to dispose of it might be worth just buying the fancy pplanter on clearance in teh fall…what i use though, and i think it is a great idea…is recycled 5 gallon buckets. they come in sizes 2 gallon to 5, i get them for free a tthe local grocery stores bakery dept. (frosting comes in them, i just clean them out).

    My husband drills a few holes in the bottom so they drain. They are perfect planters. they have handles so i can hang them, ive done upside down tomatoes in them, salads, oranges, lemons, blueberries everything! And im doing herbs too. You can paint them or make them look “country”. Best of all when you dont want them anymore, you just recycle them, for free! plus the size is just right for so many things! 🙂

    anyway, just a thought! Thanks for blogging and God bless you and your beautiful family! thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I am fairly new to your site and have never posted, but I do often read it. I understand how you feel. My husband and I live in the suburbs, and we homestead to a degree (veggie garden, clothesline – not as much as I would like!) and we live extremely frugally. Over the past 10 years we have decorated our home very nicely, probably spending 1/10 of what anyone else would. We did it by garage saling, flea markets, Craigslist, and Freecycle. Oh, and finding things on the curb! We have 2 large oil paintings in our living room – one my husband found at the curb, another was $5 at a garage sale. We have a nice couch, loveseat, and 2 chairs – 2 of them were free from the curb and we paid $15 for one antique chair at a garage sale. Most of our area rugs (we have about 10 wool oriental style) have come from Craigslist or freecycle. I think the most we’ve paid for one is $20. My coffee table came from Freecycle. Most of my other decorations – candles & holders, lamps, throw pillows, floral arrangements, are from garage sales, $2 or $3 usually. My floor-length silk drapes & rod came from a garage sale. It takes time and patience, but $10 here and there over a few years really can give you a lovely, unique home. Most people who come to our house tell me it is very Martha Stewart or Pottery Barn, so I think my bargain hunting has paid off! My advice is to start looking at the Pottery Barn catalogs or their website, & really *looking* at the pictures, not just what they are selling. Many times they use old or “found” objects that you can easily copy for a really nice look.

  3. It is hard to be content when the world is constantly advertising to us! We have to renew our minds daily of our vision & why we are choosing to live this way or do that or this – fill it in. But all it takes is a few straight stiches and you could turn those sheets into curtains and buy the dollar rodes @ walmart. I’ve seen in country magazines where they have plants growing in tires! Shine those babies up and arrange them cute! You can do it!!

  4. Many craft stores… in my area Joanns… offer a monthly coupon. You must sign up for this at the store or maybe their website. They offer 50% off any one item that is not on sale. This takes a little work but I bought all the fabric for my curtains with this. Any one cut is 50% off. Once I got 25 yards for around $70! I just did it a little at a time. When it was done I was do proud! Much more so than if I had just went out and bought them. Sewing curtains are easy (ok measuring such large pieces is a little tricky).
    Also for plants I had a friend divide her daylillies and give me some and her irises also. I helped her do this and we both had a great time. This makes the plant bloom better.
    Also I ask for things for my birthday and Christmas. I make a wish list for my family. They would rather get things that I need.
    My dad always gives me a little bit of money for these occasions. I spend in on something that just I want. I am so proud of all the little things I have bought with this. It is amazing when you take the time to research something before you buy and then have to wait for it how much more you appreciate it.
    When I get bummed out about something being ugly but functional, I remind myself that poverty and care of resources is commanded by God. I know that someday Heaven will be more beautiful than I can imagine!

  5. I love your site and have found so much useful information. I had no interest in sewing until my DH and I had our first apartment. I wanted it to be pretty but had no money. So I bought a used sewing maching and cheap fabric and got busy. My MIL taught me that you can get a lot of mileage out of sheets. Frugality and simplicity doesn’t have to mean ugly and undecorated.

  6. I too struggle with this. It is a huge battle. It seems especially hard to me when you are not surrounded by like-minded people (or if there are few to none). I work at a school where many of my co-workers make quite a bit more than I do. It seems to me that they are functioning at a level of comfort that I am not at. While we are slowly making it into the black (for now) we still need to be very frugal if we are to buy a house in the next few years and then get it paid off as soon as possible. Thanks so much for your thoughts. It really helps to stave off the green eyed monster when you know that you are not alone:) !!

  7. I don’t think you should feel guilty about wanting nice things,nor do I think that you should feel guilty for buying something to improve the quality of your home. If you can’t sew,and have a few extra dollars,buy the curtains!!! They have some nice inexpensive ones at WalMart.Sometimes small things to help improve your surroundings can do a world of good. Homesteading to me is being more self sufficient,yes,but not at the cost of denying yourself something you really want, if it’s within your means and isn’t taking away from your budget,and it’s for the greater good.I don’t think there is any iron fast rule with homesteading ( at least, there shouldn’t be). It should be done how you want it,not how others say it should be done. 🙂

  8. I forgot to mention we live here rent free – that has been a huge blessing.

    Dh got caught in the huge IBM layoffs back in 2000 – and we ended up coming “home” to try to find a job, which hasn’t been easy, and are right now nearly 18 months into our latest layoff.

  9. In today’s world where every TV show, magazine, and shopping trip throws a “perfect” looking normal in your face, sometimes … maybe often? it is so hard to be content. Daily I have to remind myself that at least I can call the space inside our 4 walls of our trailer our own – in spite of the nasty carpet, holes in the floor (we can see the grass growing), extreme lack of space for the 5 (soon 6) of us, no storage, and a roof that leaks down into the walls. But it is so much better than having had to live in 1 1/2 bedrooms with my in-laws for the last 9 1/2 years. We’ve lived in this house 6 1/2 years now. Blessings include having been able to spend the last 9 years of my children’s growing up living with both sets of grandparents (instead of 3 BIG states away), raising goats and chickens and a garden, and spending time getting to know dozens of relatives. I keep telling my kids – things could be worse – you’ve got plenty to be thankful for!

  10. I too feel the need for my house and my belongings to be “perfect”. I struggle sometimes with those feelings and how to just be happy with what I have. Just so you know, through pictures I have seen you have a beautiful home.

  11. May I make a suggestion?

    If you don’t know how already, learn to sew. My DW and I just moved into a new home and it had nothing, we’re talking bare to the walls. She has since had me put up curtain rods (she likes the $1 ones from Big Lots) in every room and she has purchased $1/Yd fabric from the local Wal-Mart and made curtains for every room. This has saved us a ton of $ over the years as she can make curtains, dresses and various other things to fit our needs. Hope that this helps a little. 😉

  12. I couldn’t have put it better myself! I go through the exact same thing at times. Yes, I think it’s natural. But you are right- it’s just a matter of finding balance. First, I think that being creative (or doing what you can do “develope” your creative side) will get you really far in decorating frugally. Learning to make the best of what you have, learning to fix things up (such as re-painting a dresser and putting new knobs on it for a totally different look) and learning to shop thrift stores and garage sales will help a ton. Secondly, I think it’s important to get a little something extra every once in a while. Living frugally, in my opinion, is about learning to focus life on what’s really important (God, family, home) rather than materialism, learning to make the best use of God’s blessings and to be able to help others. But that doesn’t mean that we always have to see it as depriving ourselves or making some huge sacrifice. Once our hearts change and we start to focus on our actual priorities (which, you obviously have), we stop seeing it as deprivation. It becomes second nature, it becomes an accomplishment (saving money and living more simply is such a huge blessing that we can give to our families and ourselves). But still… every once in a while you will get a desire for a little something. I think that it’s important to give in once in a while, in moderation and when the time (and money) is right. My heart is for God, my family and my home. So, when I splurge a little, especially if it’s for something nice for the home that we will all benefit from, then I don’t feel guilty at all. Like you said, it’s just important to keep it in moderation. Also, a good tip is to keep a “want” list on the fridge. When you or someone in the household has a desire for the home, add it to the list. Then, after a month or so, if you still want it and the money is there, decide as a family whether or not to purchase.

    Have a blessed day, Julie

  13. I also am very frugal and thrifty when it comes to our family budget. There are times when that wears on my spirit, though, because deep down I know that I am deserving of nice things, as we all are. Aesthetically pleasing surroundings lifts our spirits-just look at the beauty of nature and its abundance. We are meant to surround ourselves with things we love. Affordable splendor can be found when we look for it. A single beautiful vase filled with flowers from the yard can be something that we focus on to fill us with joy. I think that splurging on something every few months that makes me smile when I see it is mandatory for healthy, happy living.

  14. I believe the desire for beauty is innate in humans. God created all that is beautiful and we are allowed, if not encouraged, to appreciate it. However, we are also commanded to be wise with our resources whether little or plenty. Have you ever thought of making your own curtains? I did that once. Many fabric stores have discount or clearance fabric for as little as $3 a yard. I watched my father landscape and build a beautiful deck in my family’s backyard. I was about 11 and it was fun to help. Some things for you may be financially out of reach, but beautifying your home can be done in cheap and simple ways. You can definitely do it!

  15. I have found away to do this yes free plants clearance plants nothing wrong with nice things and things looking nice. my friend who loves working in dirt came and helped (gave her a table in exchange) cost me very little I have landscaping in my front yard that I have waited patiently for many years .I love it.be creative !

  16. dont beat yourself up, theres nothing wrong with wanting things to look nice, as long as a person dosent spend beyond their budget, I see nothing wrong with it. people with the idea of looking poor making them a little more pious than the rest of us just makes them look… poor, many times unnecessarily so. thats hypocritical, when there are truely people who are needy.

  17. If it makes you feel any better…you are not alone. But I like to think that just because we are simplifying…that it can ALSO be pretty and nice to look at. I am very affected by my surroundings…I want things to be pretty and look nice. I guess it’s just how we go about it. Meredith at Like Merchant Ships is a great inspiration to those of us trying to be more frugal…she finds the best things at amazing prices at yard sales and thrift stores. Her trick? Patience… I need some. You are on the right track…keep up the good work. I think it’s possible to have both…it just might take us a little longer to get it, is all.

  18. I think we all feel that way sometimes. I try not to want things too, but sometimes my wants pop up. I also try to get used or free things because we don’t have the money to waste on decorative things either.

  19. I’m still working on that happy medium, you’re definitely not alone. Your willpower gets better though, or maybe my hubby and I have just gotten too cheap over the years. 😉

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