Taste, marriage, homemaking, and motherhood – Hannah Neeleman from Ballerina Farm appears to have it all. Her content as an internet influencer exploded in popularity for being inspirational to women looking to lead a more values-based, wholesome lifestyle. Neeleman, a Juilliard-trained ballerina and former pageant queen, documents her family’s homesteading life in the rural mountains of Utah.
But behind every video showing rustic cooking demos or strolls across acreage of land is a big, big budget. After all, how else could you afford a $30,000-or-so cast-iron stove?
Ballerina Farm is built upon a formidable family fortune – Neeleman’s husband Daniel is an heir to his father’s airline legacy. While you might look at Hannah’s life and feel a twinge of envy over how beautifully dressed she can be while ranching, milking cows, growing produce, and birthing many kids, or how perfectly decorated her whole homestead appears to be, comparison is indeed the thief of joy.
Role models show us what success can look like, and that isn’t always financial success. Many people would consider one or more of their close family members to be role models for the good example they set rather than the wealth they’ve accumulated. But I digress. The fact of the matter is that Hannah Neeleman lives a charming, mesmerizing life that – if modeled to any degree – is certainly better than any depravity that mainstream culture offers.
Red flags are certainly warranted for inauthentic trad LARPers who somehow record every element of their homesteading lives. After all, conservatism culturally lends itself better to digital modesty than the outright narcissistic behavior we’ve come to expect from “influencers.” And trust me – I’m incredibly skeptical of anyone who paradoxically believes they can buy their way to a “wholesome” lifestyle.
No matter how the influencer in question got his or her money, however, if they’re modeling good behavior, we should at least give credit where credit is due. Neeleman’s life is very curated and unrealistic for pretty much anyone who doesn’t come from – or marry into –money, but there are some simple and perhaps just as fulfilling ways you can live like Ballerina Farm on a tighter budget.
Go Clean Your Room…I’m Serious!
Easily one of the most overlooked ways you can live a more aesthetically pleasing life is to start with a clean(er) slate. I’ll be the one to give you some tough love: There’s no use trying to achieve a Ballerina Farm life if you can’t first keep your surroundings somewhat neat and tidy. What does this look like in practice? Your first step is to declutter.
No, you don’t have to go full force Marie Kondo, but before you even think about designing a beautiful home, you should donate or sell the household items that are just gathering dust and serving you no real purpose. Once your living space is a bit more minimalistic, you can then start to slowly incorporate timeless pieces that better reflect your personality. Plus, if you’re purging, say, gently used clothes and decide to put a few up for sale, you could also turn a little profit that could be used to buy a few items you actually love.
We’re young, so we’re not lifelong homemakers who have had years to collect their best tips and tricks for keeping a home clean, sustainable, and, most importantly, uncomplicated. But, we can learn stupidly simple homemaker hacks from previous generations thanks to the power of the internet.
One of my favorite tips that requires no new products whatsoever is to clean as you go. Instead of scrolling your Insta feed while you’re waiting for a pot of water to boil or a loaf of bread to bake, spend a few of those moments cleaning the dishes that might be piling up in the sink, wiping down the counters, taking out the trash, cleaning out a drawer, or organizing a shelf.
Similarly, before you go to bed, take at least 10 to 20 minutes to do a quick tidy of whatever clutter you’ve accumulated throughout the day. You’ll feel so much more refreshed in the morning if you put your household “to sleep” before you yourself go to sleep!
Start Slow and Be Realistic with Your Expectations
Homesteading blogger Linda Hobbis put it so well in her self-sufficiency guide for newbies: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. More women are in the workforce now than ever before, so if you’re working a 9-to-5 job, you can’t possibly have time to accomplish all the chores necessary to maintain a real homestead.
“The dream quickly becomes a nightmare overnight,” she wrote.
Hobbis recommends a more pragmatic approach, saying that if you want to start a garden, for instance, keep a small one going for a little while before expanding because “you’ll harvest more crops from a well-maintained garden than a larger one that’s full of weeds.”
One other really important bit of reassurance that Hobbis touched on in her guide is how, while homesteading is an amazing venture, the dream that so many women have is just that – a dream! There are simpler practices we could all adopt that scratch that “homesteader” itch without uprooting our lives to move out to the country and unnecessarily throw away some of the “silky” modern luxuries we’ve grown used to.
You don’t actually need acres of land to provide wholesome food for your family. Hobbis recommended going to a local farmers market, buying fresh produce, eggs, and milk each week, and specifically picking up bulk fruits and veggies during their peak seasons.
Then, you could freeze some, of course (like corn, strawberries, blueberries, or even peppers), but try your hand at making jelly or learning how to preserve produce by canning. Hobbis said the easiest and cheapest thing to start with is canning tomatoes, which can then be saved until the colder winter months for soups, stews, and chili.
“Being a homesteader isn’t all about where you live but about being more self-sufficient,” she wrote. “And just little things can make your life so much more rewarding.”
Be More Intentional with What You Buy
Especially if you’re working a full-time job or live in a space-restricted apartment or townhome, it’s not realistic for you to be able to make absolutely everything at home. Sure, you can make your own multi-purpose cleaning products instead of buying a new spray bottle for every single surface, but come on, chances are you’re not a woodworker, nor do you necessarily know someone who could make you a beautiful wooden cutting board.
Chances are, also, that you’re going to want to buy new clothes instead of sewing all your own apparel! You’re not a failure for needing to buy home goods or clothing rather than being able to be super self-sufficient. Each craft takes a lot of time, resources, and trial and error to master, so while you’re perhaps working on proficiency in one or two, you could shop smarter for all the other things you need.
Thrift stores, antique stores, yard sales, estate sales, vintage markets, Facebook Marketplace, and services like Buy Nothing are your best bet for finding quality tools, furniture, and much more without breaking the bank.
Sadly, since we’ve outsourced a lot of manufacturing jobs offshore to countries that prioritize producing quick quantity over quality, a lot of the new items you’d be buying might not last you as long as the old stuff. There’s no shame in getting goods second-hand!
Learn from People Who Are Already Doing It
Watching a few tradfluencers on Instagram or TikTok won’t cut it. There’s only so much inspo you can glean from one or two women, but there is an entire wealth of resources out there on the internet for you to figure out budget-friendly methods for a Ballerina Farm-esque lifestyle. Don’t just rely on Google’s awful algorithm to provide you with the answers you’re looking for!
Reddit is absolutely chockful of cringe and fakers, but it’s also a gold mine for people being authentic about their passions and sharing experiences that could come in handy in your own life. I’d never recommend that you take any of the advice you find on forums without double-checking a second source (or a few!), but by getting a bit curious and doing your own research through the following subreddits, you can find guidance on many interests or issues.
Nowhere near acres of rural, fertile land? You may want to look into the communities that have mastered “Urban Farming.” Or perhaps you’re dreaming of strolling through dense forests and finding wild, edible foods to bring home. How about the community for “Wild Food and Foraging?” Want to go one step further in gaining a green thumb? You could get better acquainted with the concept of gardening by joining “Gardening, Plants, and Agriculture.”
Super tired of modern products lasting you one season? There’s a community called “Buy It For Life” which discusses practical, quality, durable products. These may be a bit more of a splurge, but not having to constantly buy new versions of the same thing could save you money in the grand scheme of things.
Grocery stores got you down? I’m baffled by how bad inflation has become as well. If you’re looking to prevent food waste and save some cash, “No Scrap Left Behind” may be up your alley. Does it make more sense for you to buy certain items in bulk and then prep meals to reheat over the week? You might want to join “Meal Prep Sunday” for endless inspo so that you don’t get totally bored of your staple meals.
Frugality gets a bad rap when it falls into outright miser territory, but we can all use a bit of humbling from the reminder that our lives will still go on without excessive luxuries – not to say that you shouldn’t have some fun, of course! If you’re hoping to get even more minimalistic, “Frugal Living,” “Minimalism” or “Simple Living” might have a few threads of interest for you.
Finally, here’s one more “life hack” subreddit which deserves a spotlight for serving as a good aggregate for tips and tricks to level up your life – “The Girl Survival Guide,” a community to gather and discuss life pro-tips specifically for girls and women.
Master the Ballerina Bod at Home
Longing for those days that you pulled on your pink tights, laced up your pointe shoes, and chassé-tombé-pas-de-bourréed across the studio floor? I hear you. Many of us who grew up going straight from school to the dance studio lament that we ever stopped participating in this divinely feminine art form, but unless you were slated to go pro there really wasn’t any room for casual dancers to continue taking classes.
Or maybe you never spent a day in dance class, but still look at how gracefully built Neeleman’s body is after her time training at Juilliard. Whatever your own personal experience is with ballet, you don’t actually have to break the bank on adult classes at the academy.
The skills you learn in ballet – posture, coordination, flexibility, and more – are all things you can master at home with follow-along barre and ballet videos on YouTube. Check out YouTubers like certified Pilates and yoga instructor Move With Nicole, barre and ballet teacher Dr. Andrea Robertson, former New York City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan, former Mikhailovsky ballet soloist Ballet With Isabella, and professional ballerina and certified personal trainer Jasmine McDonald for endless workouts you can do without even signing up for a single class.
If you’re looking for a cycle-based option to match each phase, 28 has many workouts on their app that you can take anywhere and are formulated to be mindful of hormones, energy levels, and avoiding injury.
Ultimately, the ballerina bod is best achieved through a lighter (but still nutritious and not restrictive) approach to meals paired with something like Pilates, yoga, barre, or ballet. In comparison to a strength or weight training workout style, you’d be eating maintenance calories, building very lean muscle, and keeping your metabolism high, but never burning so many calories that you become underweight.
From my own personal perspective as a former dancer, my body now actually responds better to lighter strength and weight training coupled with ample low-impact cardio to stay limber and lean. But, everyone’s body reacts to exercise in unique ways. I probably couldn't even count the number of women I know who swear by gentler workouts if I tried!
The homesteading aesthetic that grew exponentially during Covid has, in some regards, become kitsch. People will pretend like they’re living a simple life but couldn’t be further from that in truth – spending their lives online, enjoying luxury vices, and simply talking the wholesome talk without walking the wholesome walk.
Much of social media is staged and largely inauthentic in comparison to the reality check you’d actually get living on a farm. Frankly, the fact that farm life is commodified as an adoptable quirk by faux trads is quite ironic because their self-conceited social media posts are exactly what homesteaders try to avoid.
In any case, the Ballerina Farm brand isn’t a totally realistic depiction of simple living. There is, however, something sweet about how Neeleman has been able to inspire some girls and young women to perhaps try baking a beautiful loaf of bread instead of buying the empty calories offered on grocery store shelves or relish in the love of a large family instead of staying single and missing out on their chance to be a mother.
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