I’ve been doing a lot of weeding lately.
No, not in the garden. (It’s still buried under many feet of snow.) Instead, I’ve been weeding and pruning other areas of our life.
The last few years have been a period of expansion for us. I love growth. It’s fast and wild and breathless.
But in periods of growth, whether it’s in the garden or life in general, things fall by the wayside.
And as we’ve pressed pause on expansion to give ourselves a chance to weed and streamline, I’m realizing there are two parts to the process of pruning:
The first are the things that are forgotten.
Like wayward nails and bits of wood leftover after a construction project, these are the things that need to be tidied up after a period of growth. For us, this includes:
I thought I was pretty good about canceling unneeded subscriptions, but I discovered there were a LOT of money leaks happening there.
Not only did I find subscriptions I forgot existed, I realized I was paying for a number of things that were redundant (mostly in my businesses). We canceled an extra Zoom account, I eliminated an extra Shopify website, we cut extra music services and graphic design programs, and I realized we were paying for a transcription service for the podcast (even though we weren’t doing transcriptions). Ouch.
But as painful as it is to realize you’ve been unknowingly paying for a $49/mo subscription for the past 8 months, it feels reallllly good to find it and stop it. Almost addictive, in fact.
Hi, my name is Jill and I have a chicken buying problem….
And it’s all cute and funny until you realize how much your feed bill is costing you. Upon doing an honest audit of our flock, I realized we have a ridiculous number of roosters and some potentially unproductive hens. Time to cull these guys (although we haven’t done it yet, since we’ve been preoccupied with digging out from this last blizzard)
We’re also liquidating our goat herd (we’ve realized we’re just not goat people…) and selling an extra milk cow (we don’t need three). As we’ve matured in our homesteading journey, I’ve realized we don’t need one of every animal. Instead, we need to focus on the animals that best fit our goals. This streamlines chores AND reduces the feed bill. Win win.
I keep an on-going “donate” box in our basement and fill it as I clean the house. But a few areas of our life were building up, namely books and clothes.
I LOVE owning non-digital books, but I made a rule that if I’m going to keep it, it needs to be something I’m going to read more than once or reference repeatedly. I used the Ziffit app to resell volumes that weren’t my fav.
I’ve also been ruthlessly cleaning my closet. Not only was I keeping clothes I no longer wear, I had silly duplicates. (How many denim shirts does one actually need?)
Some items went to Goodwill, but others I’ve been able to resell via Poshmark or ThredUp (just started using ThredUp, so I don’t have an opinion on it quite yet). None of these apps pay top dollar, but it’s nice to recoup a little of your investment, while purging at the same time.
Pruning can feel painful at first, but it’s deliciously freeing once you do it. Weirdly enough, I find myself now craving the “high.” But the purging and decluttering is the easy part…
It’s the second category that requires the most heavy lifting: the things we need to question.
This one is the toughest, but also the most impactful. It involves asking questions of our systems, processes, and routines. It invites us to examine the things we assume are set in stone and ask ourselves, “Is this really the best way?” And it’s rocking my world right now….
Question #1: What if I pivot?”
I adore the act of creation. But it’s possible to create too much.
Last year, I started a program called Freedom Foundry. It was a new iteration on a membership group I’ve run for several years. It was a solid program and I loved our members.
But as I looked towards the year ahead, I realized I was on the verge of spreading myself too thin. I knew I needed to pivot.
I wrestled with it for months– it wasn’t an easy call. It felt strange to close something, when all I’ve ever done is build, build, build! But as painful as that pruning was, it was the right choice. (And if you’re a former Freedom Foundry member reading this— thank you for being a part of it!)
Question #2: “How could we improve our routines?”
It’s easy to get stuck in ruts. And then it’s incredibly easy to start believing those ruts are the only way.
Believe it or not, I caught myself doing this with TV. We don’t watch a ton of TV, but I do enjoy a show before bed. And the kids always watched a show each day at 4:00 while I made supper.
Yet as we started to question our routines as a part of the pruning process, we realized TV didn’t *have* to remain a part of our life. And perhaps, it was consuming time better spent on more healthy things.
So we started a TV fast on December 1st. Without the time suck of Netflix, the kids have started cooking more, we’ve all read more books, and the kids and Christian have been learning leatherwork. We initially had planned to stop the fast on March 1st, but now have ZERO plans to restart our streaming subscriptions.
Question #3: “How could I make this more efficient?”
I’ve been asking this question over and over again in my businesses. And even though I thought my processes were “pretty good,” I’ve found SO many ways to streamline, prune, and improve.
As I questioned the way we’ve been operating the last few years, I was shocked at the weak points I’d been ignoring:
- We stopped tasks that weren’t producing results. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of actions produce 80% of results. I realized we’d been doing a lot of busy work “just because.” We eliminated podcast transcripts (that no one used), canceled services we weren’t using, reevaluated our social media content strategy, and stopped putting time into tasks that weren’t producing value.
- I let a couple part-time employees go. This was the hardest. They were good people and did a great job, but there was a lot of redundancy in my hiring (my fault, not theirs).
- At the Soda Fountain, we reworked the menus, eliminated items that weren’t selling, started a remodel on the back room to make a more efficient prep space, and made plans to make our best-sellers even better (currently scheming as to how we can do house-made syrups for our sodas…)
- Within Genuine Beef, we’ve been updating our product descriptions, creating better marketing plans, and developing clearer procedures for each part of the business.
All in all, this has been time consuming, intense, and uncomfortable at times… but I feel so much lighter.
So no… your pruning won’t look like mine. But hopefully my process will give you a bit of inspiration to prune in your own way.
It’s a beautiful, healthy process… though it’s rarely easy.
In another month or two, we’ll shift from pruning to growing.
The prairie will turn green, seeds will push out of the soil, and I’ll be in the thick of the summer soda fountain rush and my upcoming book launch. And hopefully, this pruning process will yield even more vibrant growth.
MARY ELLEN Edwards says
So love reading all you write. Informative and insiteful. I have learned a great amount of useful info. Also love your cookbook. Can’t wait for your new book! I am 76 and will never stop learning and researching. You are inspiring! Downloaded your planner and sent to Staples for printing and in a binder form. Ready for me to now enter my endeavors with nature!
Doreen Lane says
Thanks! Lots of motivation in this post. If I ever get tomWyoming again (I was there about 15 years ago and also 2 years ago. Love it!) I will definitely fine the Soda Fountain. Oh my goodness. It looks like my kind of place.
Tara Wohlenhaus says
Thanks for the wonderful content. Even after 35+ years of marriage and our version of homesteading, it’s so important to re-evaluate priorities and procedures, and prune! Admitting that some things can be done differently and better should be very encouraging to homestead “strugglers”. Thanks!
Shannon Lucas says
It mist be in the air, since I have been doing this ruthlessly at work with my bosses. A BIG new “planting” and a lot of reimagining, streamlining and process-making. It has been a toughslog, but the rewards are beginning to make themselves known. Now for my home before the animals start arriving and the fences go up.