Let’s face it. Your life lacks a level of intentionality, and you’re looking to change that. The modern world might be efficient, but outsourcing every task necessary for daily living makes it easy to feel disengaged from what’s going on around you. So what’s the solution? For many people, it’s finding ways to move a little closer to the land by adopting a homesteading lifestyle.
But we can’t all move out of the city to a picture-perfect farm. Finding a compromise is critical, so learning ways to start homesteading wherever you are is vital for success. If you’re ready to explore new hobbies, improve your self-sufficiency, and make a positive difference for the sustainability of the planet, these suggestions should give you the inspiration to get started.
Don’t let limited lawn-space prevent you from calling yourself a modern-day homesteader. Adopt enough of these tips into your life, and you will make your pioneering great-grandparents proud.
17 Ways To Start Homesteading Today
You don’t need acres of perfect pasture to live your life with a homesteading mentality. These suggestions will help you make the lifestyle work for you- no matter where you live.
1. Build Raised Beds
Starting a backyard garden can transform your life, and it takes less land than you think to make one a reality. Raised bed gardening might seem like a new idea, but it’s been a popular gardening strategy for decades, thanks in part to Mel Bartholomew’s bestseller Square Foot Gardening.
Building a raised bed allows you to grow a tremendous amount of food in a tiny space, and weeding, planting, and general maintenance is easier because the planting space is several feet higher. Raised beds also provide good drainage, and they can fill them with stellar soil, even if what’s naturally in your backyard leaves something to be desired. Likewise, raised beds are cost-effective for gardening because they allow you to put your compost and other soil amendments exactly where your plants need them most, rather than having them get leached into a larger plot.
Whether you choose to build raised beds from a ready to assemble kit or make use of scrap lumber lying around, defining space for your garden with a raised bed makes improving your self-sufficiency easier than ever.
2. Grow Crops In Containers
Looking to practice raised bed gardening at the micro level? Container gardening might be a better solution for you. Ideal for those without space to set up a permanent garden, container gardening is well suited for cultivating a variety of crops, including peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and even potatoes. Best of all, you can move the containers around depending on the weather conditions so that heat-loving plants can spend time indoors in the offseason.
To have success with container gardening, it’s best to think beyond conventional potted plants. Most seasonal vegetables can grow well in well-drained containers, and you can personalize the conditions of every pot for optimized growth for each plant variety. If you’re feeling ambitious, experiment with companion planting strategies to combine compatible varieties within the same planting space.
3. Raise Chickens (Even in Your Backyard)
Backyard chickens are having a revival these days. While it was once common for families to take care of their own small flock, the practice fell out of favor as people transitioned to urban living. Now, the trend is reversing and owning a handful of feathered fowl is again considered a smart solution for personal sustainability.
Outdated laws that made owning chickens illegal are being repealed across the country, making it more likely than ever that you can legally add a flock to your urban homestead. It takes less space than you think to maintain backyard chickens- all you need is room for a chicken coop about the size of a dog house and a protected run to keep your birds safe from neighborhood predators. For less than the space required to set up a kiddy pool, you can supply your family with a regular supply of the freshest eggs imaginable- and hours of backyard entertainment to boot. As an added benefit, once your birds have moved in you have a built-in way to reduce kitchen food waste by feeding it to the chickens instead.
4. Start A Worm Bin
Looking for a lower maintenance way to recycle your food scraps? Consider setting up a worm bin! Fast acting, practically self-sustaining, and subtle enough to have indoors, vermicompost systems are an ultra-efficient way to create some of the best quality compost imaginable. The microbes in worm digestive systems do incredible things for kitchen waste by turning it into a nutrient-rich form of fertilizer that is more bioavailable to plants than standard varieties. Best of all, red wigglers (the standard worms in compost systems) can eat up to half their body weight in organic scraps each day, ensuring that they will quickly earn their keep in your bin!
All you need to get started is a worm bin with multiple removable trays (and plenty of food scraps), and a well-functioning system will provide you with pounds of worm casting compost every few months. It’s an easy way to start homesteading wherever you are.
5. Line Dry Your Clothes
Adopting the homesteading mentality means finding ways to leave a lighter mark on the earth, and line drying your clothes is a smart place to start. It takes 3,000 watts of power to run a dryer for 45 minutes, costing you approximately $1,500 in electricity over its lifetime. Even worse, research from the University of Washington has revealed that dryer vents can emit over 25 potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds when you use scented laundry soap or dryer sheets.
The good news? You can prevent these greenhouse gases from polluting the planet by forgoing your dryer entirely. An outdoor clothes line can work just as well- and it will give your clothes a more natural scent as well.
Don’t let chilly weather dissuade you from line drying your clothes. Clothes will still dry quickly outdoors if it’s a windy day, and you can set up indoor lines in your basement or next to a heater to speed up the process without burning excess fossil fuels.
6. Join The Tiny House Movement
If the idea of downsizing has caught your attention, the tiny house movement deserves a second look. In a time when the standard American home tops 2,600 square feet, thousands of people are fighting the trend to move into homes sized at less than 400. These “tiny homes” cost less to maintain, streamline your lifestyle to its essentials, and leave you with fewer cleaning obligations so that you can focus on what matters. You’ll also save money on your mortgage and monthly bills, making downsizing a financially advantageous option in an era when three-quarters of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
As an added benefit, many tiny homes are designed to be mobile, ensuring that you can take it with you and practice a homesteading life wherever you are. All that to say, joining the tiny home trend is a significant lifestyle change that should be considered carefully. If the idea piques your interest, do as much research as you can ahead of time by reading about other people’s experiences. For those feeling extra ambitious, it’s even possible to buy a pre-fab tiny 172 sq f house kit online to build yourself.
7. Get Started With Dairy Goats
Acres of lush grassland isn’t needed to own livestock- you can raise goats even if you live on a quarter-acre or less. Maintaining a small herd of goats provides your property with impressive homesteading benefits, including weed control, manure for soil fertility, and even dairy products (if you are willing to commit to regular milking). It’s best to start with at least two goats for the companionship benefits, so plan accordingly with your space. Likewise, goats have more than earned their reputation as escape artists, so a sturdy backyard fence is essential.
More information about backyard goat management can be found in our article on the topic.
8. Treat Maladies With Essential Oils
Part of improving your self-sufficiency is learning how to tend to your ailments with essential oils. Cold and allergy symptoms are well suited to being treated with essential oils, as many like eucalyptus and peppermint are renowned for cleansing your sinuses and opening up your respiratory system. Educate yourself on the benefits of different oil varieties and keep your preferred vials on hand for an instant home remedy.
9. Make Your Own Laundry Soap
No matter your lifestyle, clothes eventually need to be washed. Yet, commercial laundry detergents are riddled with toxic chemicals you should stay away from, rather than breath in from your clothes all day. The good news? Detergent companies are harboring a big secret- their product couldn’t be easier to make. You can make homemade detergent for pennies with this simple recipe, and after you try a few loads, you’re likely never to go back to store-bought versions.
Looking for a more innovative option? Consider using soap nuts as a sustainable laundry solution. Also known as soap berries, this fruit from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree is native to India and the Himalayas and acts as an all-natural alternative to conventional soaps, thanks in part to its properties as a surfactant. Just add a few soap nuts to your laundry load (most that you buy will come with a small satchel to make this process easier) and the nut shells will release their saponins into the water, which bind with dirt particles and remove them from your clothes. As the nuts are entirely biodegradable, they are safe for septic systems, gentle enough for sensitive skin, and the used shells can be composted in your garden once they are worn out (usually after 8-10 loads).
But laundry is only the beginning. Soap nuts can also be used to create a soap that’s useful for washing dishes, cleaning your hair, or even wiping down surfaces. Start exploring their benefits, and they’ll become a staple product in your homestead.
10. Use A Water Bath Canner To Preserve Your Produce
If your garden is generating more produce than you can consume at once, a water bath canner is about to become your best friend. This simple device makes it easy for you to preserve your high-acid produce like tomatoes and veggies, and it’s easier and safer to use than pressure canners. For a few hours work, you can turn fresh cucumbers into pickles, tomatoes into pasta sauce, and an apple bumper crop into pie filling that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Canning food lets you store it without refrigeration for years at a time, improving both your sustainability and self-sufficiency.
11. Build A Root Cellar
Few things feel more like classic homesteading than an old-fashioned root cellar. Designed to keep food at a relatively consistent temperature all year long, root cellars were a household staple in the days before refrigeration that kept grocery stores stocked in fruits and vegetables year-round. You can still benefit from a root cellar on your property today as a way to preserve your garden produce and store your canning jars.
As the name implies, root cellars are typically underground storage spaces that regulate temperature through the natural cooling and insulating properties of the earth. Your root cellar can be as basic as a hole in the ground, or as elaborate as a multi-room building. This article will help you determine what style is right for you so that you make the most of your homestead’s potential.
12. Start A Sourdough Starter
A hallmark of homesteading is making your own food, and nothing feels more back-to-earth than a loaf of freshly baked bread. You can take your breadmaking skills to a whole new level by creating a sourdough starter. Unlike other bread varieties that rely on commercial yeast, sourdough lets you cultivate a tangy dough by collecting wild yeasts from your local environment and nurturing them into a bread dough like no other. For a just few minutes a day for several weeks, you can create a steady supply of chewy sourdough bread for pennies on the dollar. Instructions for the perfect starter can be found on the King Arthur Flour website.
Looking to skip a few steps? You can buy a premade starter and begin baking bread almost instantly.
13. Forage For Edible Wild Plants
Forget vegetables- your garden weeds are a free buffet of nutritional richness, if only you know where to look. Foraging for wild edibles is easier than you think, as plants like dandelions and purslane are easy to find and simple to prepare. A little research into the bounty around you will make it easy to fill your meals with nutrient-dense weeds, ensuring that your lifestyle is a little more sustainable.
Note: Many wild plants are toxic, so it’s critical that you know what you’re collecting before you consume it. Leave any plants behind you can’t conclusively identify and take a guided foraging trip if possible to better hone your skills.ad
14. Make Homemade Soap
You avoid toxins in your diet, so why would you willingly coat yourself with them instead? Soapmaking is all the rage, as it offers you a frugal yet practical way to make a personalized beauty product that’s also good for your skin. You can tailor your bars to your preferred scents and ingredients, and handcrafted soaps are flush with skin-enriching vitamins, minerals, and beneficial oils.
Best of all, you can even begin a soapmaking business to earn extra income on the homestead.
15. Trade Out Throwaway Products
How much daily trash does your household produce? If you’re like most people, it’s a shameful amount. Add intentionality to your lifestyle by cutting through the clutter and buying products with a closed-loop production cycle instead. Can you commit to only purchasing things that are compostable or recyclable? What would it look like to go zero-waste? You might be surprised how rewarding (and achievable) these changes can be.
16. Start Raising Meat Rabbits
Never eaten rabbit before? That might soon change. Many people consider rabbit meat to be the protein of the future, as these low-maintenance herbivores subsist on diets that are low on the food chain, making them a smart dietary source in a calorie-strapped world. Not only do rabbits reproduce rapidly, but they actually pack on meat in proportion to their size more quickly than cows. As an added benefit, their ultra-lean meat is delicious and practically effortless to prepare.
If you have yard space for a metal cage or two, you can raise meat rabbits. In fact, many people find them to be a good substitute for backyard chickens if they want a low-effort livestock variety.
17. Use A Greywater System
Freshwater is one of the world’s most valuable resources, and our current usage is quickly depleting the global supply. In light of the upcoming crisis, it seems silly to use perfectly clean water to flush a toilet. That’s why many homesteaders rely on greywater systems instead. This allows you to reuse certain water (such as from the sink or shower) to flush toilets or even possibly water plants. Not only will you dramatically lower your home’s water usage, but you will also shrink your environmental footprint in the process.
Read our article on greywater systems for full details on how to make twice-used water work for you.
Start Your Homestead Wherever You Live
Adopting a homesteading lifestyle is a smart choice for your health and the planet, and you don’t need to move out to the country to make it a reality. By adopting some of these ways to start homesteading wherever you are into your life, you can experience firsthand what it feels like to live a little closer to the land.