With the housing crash of 2008 and the current unpredictable job market, not all of us have the ability or desire to own property.
But, just because you don’t own 20 acres (or any acres at all) doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy homestead living. As they say, homesteading is a state of mind, not a place.
Your homestead could be an old school bus, a high-rise apartment in the city, a rented suburban home or a 50 acre farm.
The important thing is to be content with where you are right now. You need to create the life you want right now instead of waiting for some future that may not happen.
After all, homestead living is about returning to our roots, making do with what we have, and leading a simple, yet full and rich life.
We started our homesteading adventures when we lived in a two bedroom apartment. We now live in a house on 20+ wooded acres, but guess what? We don’t own it! And we probably won’t be homeowners for quite some time.
There are many ways to have a homesteader’s heart without owning your own home. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Simplify Your Life
Par down. Get organized. Stop the influx of stuff and embrace a lifestyle of production instead of consumption. This is the bread and butter of homestead living. Wrap your head around the message and embrace it. How can you simplify?
In the beginning of our journey, I started really scrutinizing whether I really needed something or just really wanted it. I began to see the value in saving money over having things. I also saw how wonderful it as to have less trash, less clutter, and less stress.
Start a Garden
Tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and other greens, pumpkins, squash, and herbs are great ways to get started. If you’re just starting out, pick one or two veggies to try.
If you can’t garden, consider joining a CSA or buy your veggies from local farmers. You can find farmer’s markets at localharvest.org. Of every $100 you spend locally $45 are re-spent locally, compared to $14 re-spent locally from the same $100 spent at a big box store.
Raise Easy Animals
If you don’t have a lot of space or are just reluctant to invest in outbuilding that you may have to leave behind someday, you can still have animals.
Chickens are a favorite for backyard homesteaders and are becoming more and more common in suburban and rural areas alike. They are relatively easy to care for and provide fresh eggs that easily outshine grocery store eggs. We chose to build our chicken coop small enough that it could fit on the back of a pickup truck if we had to move it.
Other animals to consider are bees, rabbits, compost worms, or fish.
Find Ways to Reduce Your Waste
Maybe you want to really reduce your waste and you start using a composting toilet, or wash your clothes by hand. You can start a compost pile in your yard, or use worms to compost your scraps under the sink.
Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
I haven’t bought household cleaning supplies beside dish soap in a really long time. I make my own natural cleaning supplies and they work great, are super cheap and are not full of yucky chemicals.
If you sign up for my email updates you can get my free eBook, which has all of my recipes in it. You don’t have to of course, but I’d love it if you did ;) (update: this isn’t the default freebie anymore but just email me and I’ll send it to you)
Make Your Own Body Care Supplies
To save money and avoid nasty chemicals I make my own deodorant, bug spray, insect bite itch relief, leave-in conditioner and face wash. Some of these projects could turn into a decent side income to help you achieve your homesteading goals.
Hang Dry Your Clothes
If you have access to a clothesline or space to put one up, use it! It saves a lot of energy and there’s nothing like sun dried sheets!
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a clothesline, simply hang your clothes on a drying rack. I have spent many a sunny day hanging cloth diapers on a drying rack on my deck!
Learn to Cook
Learn how to make your own cheese, butter, yogurt, kefir, salsa, soup, chili, etc.
Not only is homemade food healthier, it’s tastier and cheaper too. Learning to bake your own bread or make granola bars can free up some cash to invest in other homesteading projects or to put away for your dream homestead.
Learn to Can and Preserve
Food canning and preservation is a huge part of homesteading. Whether it’s a surplus of veggies from your own garden or a great deal on pallets of fruit from a local farm, a good homesteader doesn’t let anything go to waste.
I typically freeze everything because I don’t know how to can (yet!) and am still new at drying. It’s a wonderful feeling to look in your freezer in February and be able to pull out a bag of blueberries that did not cost you an off-season price.
Learn Other Skills
Learn to sew, use tools, fix an engine, knit, make soap, etc. All of these homesteading skills can be very valuable on a homestead and if you ever do buy a large farm, wouldn’t it be nice to already know how to do them?
This list barely scratches the surface of all of the ways you can enjoy homestead living while renting.