It is easy to get fixated on the big things that you need to do to have an impact. You need to build a barn, buy a higher-mileage vehicle, pay down the mortgage, build a three month stash of food. These are big or biggish projects, and often they depend on you finding time and energy and money in a world where those resources are limited.
I notice that when I’m fixated on big projects I can’t get done, I tend to ignore smaller ones that would be really useful. If I don’t have time or energy or money for the big things on my list, I can forget the other kinds of projects – low input, high impact projects.
What’s a low-input project? Something that doesn’t cost much in terms of time and energy, but returns pleasure, comfort, greater security or preparedness. It could be as simple as caulking the doors in the winter – and saving money on your heating bill and being more comfortable. You may want sheep, but don’t realize that a pair of bunnies could get you started in the fiber or meat animal business where you are – before you can afford acreage. Maybe you’ve been putting off a minor project. Maybe you picked up something a while ago that you could use – but you’ve never really practiced with it. Maybe you’ve been too shy to bring up with your neighbor the possibility you might share resources to cut down on your impact or expand your garden. Maybe you’ve always sort of known a community resource was there, but never checked it out.
I always ask my AIP students to make a list of low-input, high impact projects they might work on, but I had a great reminder of how important that is to us the other day. We had a short term power outage due to a thunderstorm (sadly, not much rain), and while I was sitting at dinner in the semi-darkness I remembered something. Last fall, at a yard sale I’d picked up four beautiful mirrored wall sconces, complete with candles, for just this situation – candles are a little iffy with so many children and cats, but attached to the wall, they are safer. But did I run out and put them up on the wall (a 10 minute project, using tools I own) when I bought them? Nope, those sconces have been helpfully lying in a box for 10 months, through four power outages.
They aren’t the only thing like that – when I clear out, declutter or take a look at my own underused resources, I find that there are plenty of things I could be doing right now to make my life work better with less energy – that don’t require money (or much) or large chunks of time. I make a list and there are 30 items on it, and I could easily come up with more. My excuse for not doing them – well, the usual time sucks. But now they are at the forefront of my mind.
I don’t think I’m the only one – it is great to have the big projects in mind, but it is worthwhile to remember that it isn’t jut the devil that is in the details, and often we can be doing much more than we have been. I’m going to put those sconces up now. What’s your next low-input, high-output project?