Over the past 20 years, rural areas in Western societies have transformed from a production to a consumption space. Much research on rural diversification and revitalization has focused on farmers and their wives. However, it is useful to examine side activities run by non-farm women which have slowly emerged in the last few years. In view of discussions about rural decline, the value of such activities should be looked at in a new light. Although these activities may not significantly reverse unemployment figures, they have the potential to provide the social and emotional 'glue' to motivate a household to remain in declining areas as small-scale economic activities contribute to a better quality of life and a higher level of well-being. In this article we draw on the personal stories of women who undertake side activities in the Veenkolonien, the Netherlands. We explore the factors that enable these women to start a side activity and the related organizational and emotional struggles they face while running such activities within the perimeter of their home. We further highlight the importance of side activities for the empowerment of women in rural households. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.