Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Hari Berzins. Hari writes about growing a mortgage-free homestead at Tiny House Family.
No matter what you dream of, the key to living your dream is to start today. It might be a long, slow walk, but you have to start walking and keep walking. Small steps will get you there.
In August of 2008 my husband, Karl, and I lost our restaurant and then our home. As we shaped a new life out of the dust, we dreamed of debt-free home ownership and a simple homesteading life in the mountains. The odds were against us. We lived in a rental in Florida. We had $300. The whole idea of building without a mortgage seemed revolutionary since no one I knew had ever owned a home without a mortgage. In spite of the odds and the difficulty, we set out on our path. It has been a slow walk (sometimes through mud,) but we keep walking. Along the way, we’ve learned some valuable strategies to make things happen. I wanted to share some of them with you.
1) Practice gratitude. Lots of folks are talking gratitude these days and for good reason. Taking the time to practice gratitude helps train your brain to look for the positive. I’m sure you’ve noticed that what you focus on expands, so focusing on gratitude makes sense. Start with gratitude for this journey. Getting where you are going is a process, and having the choice to consciously create your own pathway is a right not all humans know. I keep a section of my journal reserved for my gratitude lists. I aim to write at least 5 things in my dated list each day. It’s a fun section of my journal because I can look back on the moments of my life in the context of my gratitude. It’s amazing to find that some of the hardest moments hold the deepest blessings.
2) Maintain a regular practice. But what is a practice? Natalie Goldberg, one of my favorite writing teachers says, “[A practice] is something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it … you have an opportunity to meet your own mind, to examine what it does, its plays and shenanigans.” Your practice might be walking, writing, yoga, meditation, stretching, biking, jogging, whatever works for you. Commit to practicing on a regular basis; it is this bedrock of self-care from which you will grow your dream.
3) Explore your relationship with money. The task is simple to start: track your spending – every single penny. Really looking at your spending habits is empowering. If it terrifies you, chances are you will learn a ton about yourself through this exercise. You can use a simple notepad to jot down everything you spend or choose an app like my favorite, YNAB. Once you have your data, notice how it adds up. Is your spending aligned with your goals?
4) Start clearing the excess. Expose the truth of who you are by letting go of clutter. You can start today. Think of it as weeding. Pull the weeds so the intentional and unexpected can grow. Start small—you don’t have to clear your clutter overnight. Give yourself permission to go slow, but do work on it every day. How many minutes can you give the task? Start with a shelf, a drawer, a counter, and then do the next shelf. You will feel excited, renewed and younger. Keep going.
5) Clarify your dream. You need to create your road map, but you need to know where you’re going. One of the most powerful ways to bring focus to the elusive images in my mind is to collage. Grab a stack of 10 magazines from your recycling center and rip out words and images that speak to you, even if you can’t explain why. Then glue these words and images onto a poster. Hang your poster where you will see it, and notice how the images start to make sense. Use these insights to write a detailed description of your dream. Now go back to gratitude. When pieces of your dream come into focus and then into your life, notice.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the experience of rebuilding an intentional life out of the dust of a failed business and lost home, is that the journey is the dream. Sure, we dreamed of living on a sweet little homestead and growing our own food, but now that we have reached this milestone, I know there will be the next one. My ultimate dream is to look back on my life and know I’ve enjoyed my journey. I hope you are enjoying yours.
Hari Berzins lives in a tiny house with her husband, Karl, and their kids, Ella (11) and Archer (9). The Berzins family grows vegetables and flowers and raises chickens and pigs on a 3-acre homestead in Southwestern Virginia. They are completing phase three (the big house) of their plan to build a mortgage-free micro-homestead in the mountains. Hari and Karl lead others down the path to mortgage-freedom in their eCourse, Creating Mortgage-freedom. You can read about the course and register here.