You don’t need to leave city life behind. You can start a homestead in your apartment right now by using your available space and resources creatively.
Read on to learn more about apartment homesteading and discover 21 ways to make it work, no matter your circumstances.
What Is Apartment Homesteading?
Apartment homesteading might seem counterintuitive at first. To understand it fully, we need to reexamine our preconceptions about what a homestead actually is.
Most imagine a house in the countryside with extensive gardens and livestock, powered with alternative energy and surrounded by rural tranquility. However, owning that kind of property isn’t possible for everyone. So, does that mean your goal is unattainable? Absolutely not.
A homestead is as much about your mindset as the land. Homesteaders value community and independence while practicing principles like self-reliance, sustainability, and financial autonomy. Applying these principles and making the lifestyle work in smaller spaces is an art, but it’s certainly feasible.
Working With What You Have
Homesteaders must be flexible above all else, and that goes double for those living in apartments. Remember, you won’t be able to tackle the same projects traditional homesteaders undertake.
Renters usually cannot make structural changes to their homes, so building yourself a root cellar will be out. Going off-grid will likely be impossible due to city ordinances, and keeping livestock will upset the neighbors.
Without significant acreage, you’ll have to abandon dreams of earning a living from your land. However, you can introduce new ideas instead. What about a balcony garden or an apartment-based crafting business?
The first step is to look around and see what you do have. Then, harness the resources available to grow, build, and work towards living more independently. Whether you’re in an apartment, a camper van, or a sailboat, you can become a seasoned homesteader without ever owning land.
21 Ways to Homestead in Your Apartment
1. Create an Edible Balcony Garden
You don’t need acres to feed yourself. You can turn your balcony or porch into a lush edible paradise with planters and hanging pots. Choose balcony-friendly veg like tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries. You’ll be surprised at how much your tiny space can produce!
You can make your own planter setup, but you may want to buy one to save some time. I love Mr. Stacky planters since they make use of vertical space and save water with a flow-through design. Add a trellis or two, and you’ll have even more room to grow.
2. Grow Herbs in the Window
No balcony? No problem. Use the natural light and warmth near your windows to grow a smaller indoor herb garden. You could place some small pots on the windowsill or get more creative with hanging planters and vertical structures.
Having fresh herbs will save you money at the store, plus you can dry them to use year-round once your little garden goes dormant during winter.
3. Get Creative With Composting
Have you fallen in love with your balcony garden? Feed it the good stuff! You can compost even in a big city with several methods. If you can afford it, an electric composter like the Lomi does all the work for you. If you want a less costly option that doesn’t run on electricity, you can simply make a compost bin from old plastic containers.
Composting is worth it even if you don’t grow anything because it helps remove methane gas from the atmosphere. You can give it to people in the community and help their gardens thrive.
4. Join a Community Garden
Most major cities and many minor ones have community gardens. These plots of urban land provide food, fun, and community for everyone in the neighborhood. They are managed collectively and produce vegetables, fruits, and flowers, sometimes even holding livestock.
Joining one is a great way to meet like-minded people, work the land, and reduce your dependence on store-bought goods.
5. Start a Secret Ninja Garden
What if there is no community garden in your area? Industrious people might plant along public spaces, like their apartment walkways or a sidewalk, taking advantage of tiny earthen patches to grow small berry bushes or veggies. Some even plant in local parks or empty lots for more space.
This practice is sometimes known as guerilla gardening, and it promotes the interests of the community by putting barren land to use. It helps beautify the area, attracts pollinators, and provides food for you and others. By strategizing what and where to plant, you could help fight food scarcity and make nutritious produce more accessible for all.
Of course, you’ll be at the mercy of the city when planting on public land. They could destroy your garden at any time, and you’d need to start from scratch somewhere else. However, that’s all part of the excitement — and who knows, you could inspire a community movement of ninja gardeners and turn the whole street green.
6. Become an Expert Urban Forager
Many rural homesteaders incorporate foraging as part of a sustainable lifestyle. You can join the action by foraging edible plants in urban areas, too. Nearby yards will likely have a smattering of dandelion and purple dead nettle come springtime, while plantain grass, cattails, mushrooms, and more may be available seasonally and as weather permits.
Consider joining a foraging group where you live to learn more about wild food in your area. Your finds could contribute a great deal to your pantry and medicine cabinet.
7. Wildcraft the World Around You
As you grow plants and forage for edibles in the city, think about how to utilize them creatively. You can make tea from wild mullein, create an oil infusion with homegrown thyme, or cook a delicious stir-fry with foraged wood ear mushrooms. If you have excess plants, dry them for seasoning mixes and greens powder instead of tossing them out.
Wildcrafting is an excellent way for city dwellers to stay connected with the natural world. Using your DIY creations to keep yourself well nourished during winter will also give you the strength to carry on with larger projects come springtime.
8. Prepare for Anything
Part of self-reliance is being ready for emergencies. Disaster preparation might look different for apartment homesteads, but it’s still essential. You’ll have to mitigate the limitations of your small space and get creative with vertical storage as you stockpile emergency gear.
Since making a fire will likely be impossible indoors, you can’t count on foods that need cooking or water purification methods that require heat. Instead, you’ll rely on dehydrated foods and gravity filters to purify your drinking water.
9. Upcycle Everything
Homesteading is all about reducing what you need to buy. The next time you find yourself dragging an old bookcase to the curb, consider whether you could use it for shelving, a planter, or an art piece.
Similarly, try to purchase secondhand items instead of new ones. You’ll be surprised by the selection of household wares and beautiful clothes in thrift shops.
Take on the mindset that old things aren’t necessarily useless. They’re just waiting to be transformed into new things and become beloved once more.
10. Fix It Yourself
Homesteaders generally have a do-it-yourself mindset. Even though it can be daunting to try and fix things like furniture, appliances, and vehicles, the practice is liberating and empowering. It can make you feel amazing to know that you have the determination and autonomy to get the job done, plus you’ll save on costly professional repairs.
If you can’t fix something, ask a neighbor to help you. In return, offer them food or services, and watch your community strengthen through the shared experience.
11. Make It Yourself
Homesteaders often don’t have the luxury of buying goods. Instead, they rely on creativity and skill to make things themselves and often trade, sell, or barter items with other community members. Try knitting your own scarves for the winter or making crafts for the holidays instead of purchasing gifts.
Eventually, you could even start a side business selling your items. The extra money can go toward other apartment homesteading projects to support your lifestyle.
12. Turn Off the Dryer
Instead of using tons of energy on a noisy electric clothes dryer, hang wet fabrics to dry on a line. If you don’t have enough outdoor space for a line, you can get an indoor setup like the Honey-Can-Do drying rack for around $25. This rack is equivalent to 25 linear feet of clothesline but is collapsible and folds neatly out of the way when not in use.
13. Cook From Scratch
Home cooking is practically a given on any homestead. It fosters a mindset of self-reliance, saves money, and helps you connect with local and seasonal produce. When cooking, the goal is to increase your strength and staying power via proper nutrition. With that in mind, it’s essential to cook responsibly.
Buy cheap, wholesome bulk ingredients like beans and rice rather than costly processed foods. Prioritize produce from your own garden, turning waste items like vegetable skins into soups and stocks. Don’t be afraid to experiment with local flavors and try new things.
What if you can’t even boil an egg? Pick up a copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: The Basics. It’s a beginner’s cookbook that teaches you everything from pantry stocking to meat selection while providing simple recipes and techniques to achieve fantastic flavor.
14. Reduce Food Waste
Engaging in waste-reduction strategies can save money and time in the kitchen. Plan each meal carefully, ensuring not to overbuy highly perishable ingredients you can’t use in time. When you have organic food waste, like pits and eggshells, put them in the compost bin instead of the trash can.
Don’t automatically throw away food that’s gone past its “best if used by” date — examine it to see if it’s actually spoiled first. If you have too much prepared food, try freezing or canning it. If that’s not an option, spread the love by giving excess food to neighbors or people in need.
15. Ditch Trashy Packaging
Plastic packaging is bad for the environment that, as a homesteader, you’re striving to protect, so abstain from purchasing food, electronics, and gear with excessive garbage attached to it.
Choose whole vegetables and fruits over precut refrigerated varieties, and buy meat directly from the butcher to avoid shrink-wrapped cartons. Hit up the bulk bins for items such as oats and other grains, nuts, and coffee instead of buying prepackaged items. Carry reusable coffee cups, straws, and grocery bags, and use real cutlery and plates instead of paper ones.
16. Join a CSA Program Near You
A community-supported agriculture program (CSA) connects local farmers to residents wanting to buy fresh food. It cuts out the supermarket middleman, allowing you to kill two homesteading birds with one stone: supporting local agriculture and cutting down on food costs.
The USDA keeps a CSA food directory where you can find the closest CSA to join. If one is unavailable, consider contacting local farmers to ask about food exchanges directly.
17. Challenge Yourself to Buy Locally
When you buy locally, you invest in your community. So, skip the supermarket and head to the farmer’s market for produce and cottage foods. Support your neighbor’s side hustle by purchasing crafts from them instead of the big box store, and visit your local bookshop instead of buying textbooks and novels online.
Buying from friends, family, and neighbors is the best way to create and maintain local economic infrastructure. As a bonus, it helps reduce your carbon footprint, too!
18. Learn How to Can Food
Homesteaders rely on the earth’s natural cycles to grow food and their own knowledge to make it last. When we receive an abundance of seasonal vegetables, we’ve got to preserve them for leaner times, and canning is an excellent way to do that.
Has your balcony become a hotbed of berries? These acidic foods are the perfect candidate for water bath canning. If you find a killer deal on chicken down at the farmer’s market, you can break out additional supplies for pressure canning.
19. Ferment for Preservation
Fermented and pickled produce provides gut-healthy probiotics and a tasty, tangy treat. Learn how to pickle foods like cucumbers and peppers to enjoy delectable salty snacks year-round. You may want to invest in a fermenting crock for traditional pickling, but you can also use alternative methods that don’t require any special equipment.
20. Make Medicine From Scratch
Instead of buying medicine at the pharmacy, make your own remedies with household items or plants you grow. It’s easy and cheap to make DIY cough medicine with pantry staples like oil and honey or to craft diarrhea remedies from foraged plants and herbs.
You can use medicinal herbs to make a dead nettle salve for dry skin or collect antiseptic plants for cuts, scrapes, and minor burns. As time goes on, you may find yourself reaching more often toward your own medicine than store-bought items.
21. Make Cleaning Supplies
Why not make your own cleaning supplies instead of buying costly, chemical-laden cleaning products?
You can craft DIY cleaners from everyday items like baking soda, vinegar, and water. Try experimenting with soapmaking and add your own herbs to sweeten the scent. You’d be surprised at how well these products can clean up messes and how much money you can save in the process.
Now that you know all about apartment homesteading, you’re ready to tackle these projects head-on. Start with small steps towards sustainability, expanding your skill set and mindset as you walk the path to a self-sufficient future.
Also read about apartment prepping.