For most homesteaders, having a homesteading checklist that is longer than the hours in our days is pretty much the norm. We tend to have an “eyes are bigger than our stomach” approach to projects, making it a bit frustrating, since there is always so much that needs to be done.
Unfortunately, cutting back on those projects isn’t an option. They are there for a reason and postponing them to give you more wiggle room now will only give you the same lack of time problem later.
What you need to do instead is find a way to fit those homesteading projects into your schedule and not the other way around.
A divide and conquer approach will not only allow you to get more done each day but to also keep those projects well within your homesteading budget. The easiest way to do this is to break things down, and list out what you hope to accomplish in the next few months or even a year, divide it all out by month, set a per-project budget and finally create a weekly to-do list that will allow you to put it all into action.
How to Make a Homesteading Checklist
1. Write it Down. First, you will need to know how big a list you are dealing with. The easiest way to do this is to take a sheet of paper and simply begin writing. Get all those projects out of your head and down on paper. Be sure to write down every one, no matter how small they are. The best way to make a plan that is easy to stick to is to be just as thorough as you can in this step.
2. Map it Out. Next, you will want to decide the best time to do each project. Armed with a few highlighters go through your list and color code each by season.
- Yellow - Spring
- Green - Summer
- Orange - Fall
- Pink - Winter
This color-coding will help you see just how much you have planned and if it is a reasonable list or an impossible one.
3. Whittle it Down. For each color, go through and decide the best month to do that project. Let’s say, for example, you have “build a new raised bed” highlighted in yellow. If the spring months are April, May, and June, you will want to write the most reasonable month next to this project. For us, that would be April.
By choosing this month we would be sure to have enough time for the construction, dirt fill, and soil preparation needed prior to planting. Go through each project until you have them all assigned a target month, again being careful to not overcommit on any particular month.
4. Make a Monthly List. This part is important, and, for us, it is always a big dose of reality. For each month, take a fresh sheet of paper and write the name of the month at the top. Go through your master project list from the previous step, and write each project in the month you assigned it to. Continue doing this until you have all the projects in their appropriate months.
5. Go Over Your Months. Once all your projects are on your monthly lists go through each month and make any adjustments you need. You may be surprised to find some months are pretty project heavy while others have hardly any.
Now is the time to move things around so each month is balanced and realistic. Be sure to keep your family calendar in mind when doing this. If you have visitors coming to stay with you for the month of June, this might be a good time to put a big project like a new irrigation system down, since you will have extra hands to help.
6. Budget Things Out. Another important step that some homesteaders tend to skip over is projecting a cost for each project. By writing down an estimated cost, you will be better able to save up the money needed before you begin the work. This will really help to keep your home finances in good standing.
7. Go through each project and write down an estimate of what it will cost for any supplies or labor. Be sure to take into account any items you have on hand. Remember to always shop your own supplies before heading out to the store to purchase new. You might be surprised at how many supplies you have on hand.
Once you have an idea of how much money you will need for each month you can add this amount to your household budget, allowing you the time to save up.
8. Set Up a Weekly Plan. Each week as you are making your to-do list, you can now refer to your project list for the month. This will allow you to divide down your master list into a much more realistic and successful one. By having just 1-2 projects scheduled for the week ahead, you will be able to get more done, and to do projects while keeping up with your daily chores as well - something that may have seemed impossible before.
9. Review Quarterly. This is another important step and one I learned can really allow you to check more off your homesteading project list each year. Every few months sit down and go over the projects that you have planned for the upcoming months. Take the time to make any adjustments as needed. More often than not projects that seemed like a great idea just a few months ago may have completely lost their appeal.
By adjusting things as the year progresses you will keep your project list a vital part of your homesteading year rather than a simply forgotten one.
Having a plan for the year and breaking things down, again and again, is the secret for any successful homesteading checklist. Now you can remove the overwhelm that can often accompany the homesteader lifestyle and focus more on simply getting things done. With so much to do every day just to keep up with our farms, having a way to add in annual updates and projects effectively will really allow you to enjoy more of what you have.