With the housing crash of 2008 and the current unpredictable job market, not all of us have the ability or desire to own property. Many of us are renting with no end in sight.
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 future circumstances to be perfect.
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.
Benefits of Renting a Homestead
We started our homesteading adventures when we lived in a two bedroom apartment. Now we 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.
And that’s okay because owning a homestead isn’t necessarily the best way to homestead. Here are some benefits of renting a homestead.
Get Started Right Now
If you are already renting a space or can easily rent a place with space for gardening and other homesteading stuff, you can get started right away (assuming you have permission).
It’s very freeing to know you don’t have to buy a farm before you can grow your own food.
Time to Decide on the Best Location
Renting gives you a chance to decide if your current location is ideal for homesteading (climate, property taxes, zoning laws, etc). You can give really great intel so you can make the best decision for a future homestead purchase.
You know how people say, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know”? Well, when choosing a piece of land to homestead on, there are a lot of things to consider.
If you are a homesteading newbie, you may not know what to look for. Spending some time gaining basic homesteading skills can help you learn what you need to consider when choosing a piece of land.
Depending on the market you live in, renting may be cheaper than owning, so you can squirrel away cash for a down payment for a farm or homestead in the future.
You can also use this time to simplify your spending so you can live on less and afford to start homesteading.
Homesteading is hard work. It makes a lot of sense to learn the basics before moving to a big piece of land so you don’t get overwhelmed.
If you already know the basics of putting in a garden and setting up a chicken coop (and maybe a few other things), you will be able to add those to your homestead right away when you do buy.
Otherwise, you will have to go slowly so you can learn the skills you need for each project, which can be frustrating.
How to Start Homesteading When You Rent
There are many ways to have a homesteader’s heart without owning your own home. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Rent a Homestead!
The easiest solution is to rent a homestead or farm. There are many folks who are too old or sick to care for their land (but don’t want to sell it). Word of mouth is probably your best bet for places like this but you can look online too.
You may be able to grow some food in your urban or suburban yard too. Check with your landlord. They may be open to raised beds or an in-ground garden if you promise to reseed the lawn when you leave.
Simplify Your Life
If you are renting but not able to rent a farm or homestead yet, you can still homestead! Start by simplifying 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?
At the beginning of our journey, I started really scrutinizing whether I really needed something or just wanted it. I began to see the value in saving money over having things. I also saw how wonderful it was to have less trash, less clutter, and less stress.
Learning to live simply (don’t confuse this with deprivation!) is a great way to save money for a future homestead too.
Start a Garden
Tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and other greens, pumpkins, squash, and herbs are great plants to get started. If you’re just starting out, pick one or two veggies to try.
Learn About Herbal Medicine!
Herbal remedies (on top of a healthy diet and lifestyle) are a great way to ease symptoms of mild illness at home. It’s also a great way to avoid harmful chemicals and ingredients. But herbalism can be overwhelming too. There’s a lot to learn to feel confident! I always go to my friend Heidi for herbal information. She has an engaging teaching approach that is both clear and interesting!
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. An added bonus is that you help build your local economy. Of every $100 you spend locally, $45 are re-spent locally. Compare this 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 outbuildings 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 (hint: we did have to move it!).
Other animals to consider are bees, rabbits, compost worms, or fish.
Find Ways to Reduce Your Waste
Composting, recycling, upcycling, or refusing are great ways to reduce waste and embrace a homesteading philosophy. Use glass instead of paper, real dishes instead of plastic, dish rags instead of paper towels, etc.
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
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, sauerkraut, etc.
Not only is homemade food healthier, but it’s also 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 like freezing and fermenting best, but canning and dehydrating are other ways to preserve food without needing electricity to store them.
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.
Now it’s Your Turn!
Do you own land that you homestead on? What is your advice for renters?