radical homemakers book review || an introduction

“I make myself rich by making my wants few.” – Henry David Thoreau

It has been a little over three years since I left the “corporate world” and became a stay-at-home mother. It is a decision that I have not regretted. In fact, from where I am in my life currently, I am happy that things worked out like they did – that my husband and I chose to forego a second income, especially when it comes to the well-being of our children and family.

There were a lot of things that I didn’t know when I entered my role as mother, but it didn’t take me long to figure out. [I suppose I should say: mothering came natural to me and I am still learning as I go.] As a homemaker, I didn’t know much either – I could clean house pretty well and I could sort of cook. My parents never taught me certain skills like making homemade meals, sewing, or tending a garden, and I never learned from them other alternatives to living like using non-toxic cleaning solutions, or shopping at thrift stores, or making gifts out of supplies found at home. This isn’t to place blame on them (or condemn anyone who currently finds themselves in this position), but to simply tell you my starting point in homemaking.

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law (who is very much a homemaker in the full sense of the word) suggested a book for me to read. It was called Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes (2010). Hayes, along with her husband and two daughters, live a few miles away from the farm she grew up on. Her and her family still work on Sap Bush Hallow Farm with her mom and dad. It didn’t take long for me to really sink my teeth into this book, to absorb every amount of information that Hayes offered. It was such an eye-opening and informative experience that I memorized every little nugget of golden wisdom that I possibly could.

In this book, she interviews 20 people from across the U.S. who have chosen to commit themselves to living a lifestyle that is productive, self-sustaining, and environmentally conscious:

“More than simply soccer moms, Radical Homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice and the health of the planet the governing principles of their lives. They reject any form of labor or the expenditure of any resource that does not honor these tenets. … Radical Homemakers use life skills and relationships as a replacement for gold, on the premise that he or she who doesn’t need the gold can change the rules. The greater our domestic skills, be they to plant a garden, grow tomatoes on an apartment balcony, mend a shirt, repair an appliance, provide for our own entertainment, cook and preserve a local harvest or care for our children and loved ones, the less dependent we are on the gold.” (p.13)

I love how much more inclusive this definition of homemaker is because it doesn’t confine a certain person or certain skills to this role. Anyone can be a homemaker, man or woman, so long as you have a craft or skill that you possess and are committed to the four tenets of family, community, social justice, and health of the planet. I believe everyone is a homemaker in their own way. Evaluating my role in the home in this new way has given me more confidence and more opportunities to discover my skills and how I can improve them. I have also realized that I can’t do everything (even if I’d like to) and that is okay. By accepting this, I let go of trying to control everything and allow for my husband to use his skills to help me; therefore, we can work together as a team in the household.

As our family life continued to evolve, I kept thinking back to this book, eager to read it again with a different perspective – one that coincided more with our developing values, beliefs, and lifestyle (simple, small, sustainable). Recently, I picked up a copy of the book again at the library and found myself absorbing the information even more! As I read, I thought, “This is so pertinent to where we are as a society right now, and the direction that we really need to start going – I need to share this with others.” Therefore, in the spirit of sharing knowledge, the goal of this book review series is to present information vital to the way we currently live and operate as a society and the ways we can change for the better.

Now, I know you’re probably on one of two teams: you’re either currently on the path of this lifestyle and, just like me, are super gun-ho and into it; or, you’re on the other team thinking, “Get with the times. We aren’t all farmers, the simple life is boring, etc.” Well, if you’re on the first team, I hope to be able to inspire you to continue evolving your lifestyle and working on your crafts and skills. If you’re on the second team, I hope to be able to inspire you as well to look from a different perspective at the way you live and the way the world operates. This doesn’t mean altering your lifestyle completely (though if so, hooray!), but becoming more aware and conscious of yourself, your home, those you surround yourself with, the planet, and the way you eat, dress, consume, and purchase. All of it is to help you become more resourceful, responsible, save money, feel healthier and happier. And who doesn’t want all of these things for themselves and their families?

I will leave you with another piece of wisdom from Ms. Hayes. Her blog, information about their family farm, and other published works can be found here.

Hayes writes:

“… the perceived risks of reducing the family income seem less threatening when we consider that our psychic health, nutrition, and relationship stability could all improve when we redirect our energy toward our homes and the people with whom we share them.” (p.87)

I hope you will continue to follow along as I share more of this book with you! Be sure to visit the Contact page and subscribe to this blog so you’ll be informed about new posts!

Warmly,

Ashley

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