Homesteading Is “Cool” Again – And It Just May Make You Happier

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Homesteading may be an old notion, but the rise of the modern homestead movement offers some unique benefits to those seeking to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Someone once said, “everything that’s old is new again,” and that is certainly true of the modern homesteading movement. Hearkening back to the “back-to-the-land” movement of the 1960’s, modern homesteaders are flocking to self-sufficient and off-grid living in droves.

There are some differences though.

While the 60’s movement focused more on communal living, today’s homesteaders are embracing the single-family homestead, with the aid of modern technology. Recent technological innovations have made it easier and cheaper than ever to provide all of the energy a home needs from solar or wind power, and to get “off the grid.” Modern homesteaders also tend to embrace the use of this technology to make self-sufficient living easier, rather than the more Luddite bent of 60’s back-to-the-landers, who often viewed technology as an invasion by “the man.”

Beginning around the turn of the century, during the “Y2K” mania, a new version of “back-to-the-landers” was born. The modern homesteader may look somewhat different than their predecessors; in fact, they may even live in cities or suburbs! As the notion of self-sufficiency has captured our fancies, a rash of organic gardening, beekeeping, and backyard-chicken-raising has spread its way across America’s suburban landscape.

In Homeward Bound: The New Cult of Domesticity, Emily Matchar explains the resurgence this way:

(Some call) it radical homemaking. Others call it “simple living,” “intentional living,” “sustainable living,” “slow living,” “voluntary simplicity,” or “downshifting,” all terms that have entered or reentered the lexicon in the past few years. But “homesteading” seems to have emerged as the modern term of choice for this new kind of self-sufficient, home- focused, frugal, slowed-down lifestyle.

It’s difficult to say exactly when the word “homesteading” started to be thrown around in its current form. By looking at Google Trends, you can see that the word was practically never used in searches before 2007, but it really took off in 2008, the year the recession started and the Institute of Urban Homesteading was founded in Oakland. Around this time, a parade of neo-homesteading books began to pour into bookstores, from Abigail Gehring’s Homesteading: A Back to Basics Guide to: Growing Your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating Your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More(2009) to Carleen Madigan’s The Backyard Homestead: Produce All the Food You Need on Just a Quarter Acre! (2009) and dozens more….


Tim Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College, studies this kind of “downshifting.” According to his studies, about a quarter of Americans have at some point voluntarily simplified their lives by taking a pay cut or cutting home spending, while perhaps 10 to 15 percent of the population practices hard-core types of voluntary simplicity such as homesteading….

“This isn’t a fringe thing anymore,” simple-living guru Wanda Urbanska told O, the Oprah Magazine. “There is a shift going on. When I first started talking about this in 1992, I was seen as a wacko zealot. Now simple living is fashionable.”

The movement is not only fashionable. According to research by Kasser and others, it may in fact produce happier people. According to psychology research, voluntary simplifiers earned $15,000 less than their fellow citizens (about $26,000 compared to $41,000) but were found to be “significantly happier.” The same study showed that more than a quarter of Americans had already taken voluntary income cuts in favor of lifestyle.

“Not only were the voluntary simplifiers living in a more eco- sustainable way than mainstream Americans,” Kasser tells me. “The voluntary simplifiers were happier than the mainstream population.”

Read the full excerpt at Alternet.org…..


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