In the United States, 1 in 8 people live in an apartment. Whether that’s 15 floors up in a city complex, or in a basement condo in a small town. These apartments might be efficient living, but they can be particularly difficult if you’re interested in homesteading or self-sufficiency.
Unlike a house that you own, apartments don’t provide homesteaders with a lot of opportunities to change their lifestyle. You might not have room for an outdoor garden, or you might be forced to pay high-electric and gas bills for old appliances that came with the apartment.
All these factors can be discouraging for homesteading wannabes, but don’t give up hope! Homesteading in an apartment is much simpler than it seems, and you can even get started today!
What Is Homesteading?
The term homesteading really just means self-sufficiency. People have been practicing homesteading pretty much since the dawn of time, but now, in our ever-changing world, people are looking at returning to their roots by becoming more self-sufficient.
Instagram and other social media outlets have helped to popularize the idea of homesteading, with quirky videos of farm animals and tiny houses sparking a desire to live a simpler life in millions of people.
Get In The Homesteading Mindset
What does it mean to be a homesteader?
At the core, being a homesteader means that you work toward the goal of growing your own food, creating your own power, and living your life to the fullest.
To get into the homesteader headspace, there are a few things you need to remember:
Live Simply – Don’t overcomplicate things. At the center of the homesteading ideology is efficiency and simplicity. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control, instead, focus on what you can do. Growing food, making your own clothes, etc.
Be Frugal – Similar to the tiny house mindset, homesteaders don’t try to live outside their means. Instead of buying a fancy new car, save that money, or put it toward improving your homesteading efforts.
Downsize – With the onslaught of ads and marketing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of capitalism. A lot of us have junk around the house that really has no purpose other than to fill space. Get rid of it. If you have a full closet but only wear 15% of the clothes, donate them, or repurpose them.
Everything Has a Purpose – Right in line with the previous edict, homesteaders believe that everything they own should have a purpose. Whether it’s a tool or a comfort item, everything has a place and a purpose.
How To Start Homesteading
Now, it takes a long time to set up all the systems and really become self-sufficient, and creating a homestead doesn’t happen overnight. You have to remember to take it one project at a time. Don’t get discouraged if things don’t progress as fast as you might have hoped. People who are living entirely off the grid had years of preparation and knowledge that got them to that place.
That being said, start small, and work hard. Eventually, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come!
The first steps to building a more efficient lifestyle is to consider high impact areas in your home or apartment. Think:
- Environmental Impact
Start Growing Your Own Food
A core principle of the homesteading movement is being able to put your own food on the table. No $300 trips to the grocery story, no fast-food drive through; real, homegrown food.
And you might be thinking, “how’s that possible in my apartment?”. True, reasonable question. And if you don’t have access to a yard or any kind of land, it might be difficult to get started. But there are plenty of ways you can start growing a small herb and vegetable garden indoors.
Start off with simple, easy-to-maintain plants, like:
- Leafy greens (spinach, mustard greens, kale)
- Sprouts (alfalfa, peas, mung beans)
- Warmth-loving plants (tomatoes, strawberries, peppers)
- Herbs (basil, rosemary, mint, etc.)
These plants grow best in warm conditions, like in a sunny room, or a window-box during the summer. Sprouts are the fastest growing, and are high in nutrients. Use them to garnish salads, sandwiches, and soups, or eat them by themselves!
Now let’s get into some of the growing methods for your homestead apartment!
Glass Jars Gardens
One of the easiest ways (and cheapest) to start a home garden is to use glass Mason jars. This method is best for sprouts, and within a few days, you can harvest your sprout crop! It’s also a low-investment gardening method; you can use jars or empty plastic containers. All you really need to buy are seeds!
Gardening in Pots and Window Boxes
For more robust plants, like herbs, greens, or vegetables, using pots and trays with some soil is one of the best methods. If you’re short on space, you can buy or make your own window boxes. Window boxes are great because you can attach them to your window sill either outdoors or indoors, making it easy to move your plants around when the seasons change.
Alternatively, you can use terra cotta or plastic pots for planting tomatoes, strawberries, and other vegetables. Hanging baskets also work great.
Using growing trays is good for starting out leafy greens. Within a few days, you’ll be able to harvest small spinach, kale, and mustard greens.
Hydroponics and Growing Kits
Hydroponics has been growing in popularity over the past few years as people in cities and urban areas are turning to homesteading lifestyles. Hydroponics is often considered one of the most efficient ways for growing food, and it doesn’t require an outdoor garden or soil of any kind.
You can start a hydroponic growing system with a little bit of ingenuity, or you can purchase a fairly cheap system from Amazon.
The Food Mindset
Growing your own food is one of the biggest components of both homesteading and self-sufficiency. But it’s unreasonable to assume you’ll cut out the need to go grocery shopping, especially if you have limited space. Remember that homesteading is about cutting out waste and trying to live more naturally. When you do have to go to the store, think about what you NEED versus what you WANT.
Do you need a pack of Oreos or a bag of chips? Cutting out unnecessary food items is one of the first steps to becoming less reliant on supermarkets.
Create Your Own Energy
One of the first steps toward self-sufficiency is getting off the grid. And while that might be difficult—or impossible—if you’re living in an inner-city apartment complex, there are a few things you can do.
Creating your own energy is the definition of self-sufficiency. It allows you to focus on reducing your energy consumption so you can allot resources to the areas of highest need.
To start reducing your electric bill, you can explore solar power options. Solar is famously one of the cheapest renewable energy options out there, and many people can cover all their energy needs with a dozen panels.
Now, if you don’t have free reign of the property, you might not want to go hog-wild with solar panels just yet. Start small.
There are many different solar-powered battery banks on the market that are great for charging your electronic devices, including your phone, laptop, headphones, or tablet.
Typically, most portable solar-powered battery packs have 2-watt panels, which can take a while to fully charge the battery, even in full sun. Many campers prefer battery packs with around 25,000 mAh because they last much longer out in the wild. You can certainly start weening yourself off the electric grid with a solar battery pack for your devices.
If you’re really into solar power, you can purchase flexible solar panels to keep in your windows or skylights. The appeal of flexible panels is that they aren’t encased in glass, which expands the range of how they can be used. Most flexible panels operate at about 150 watts, which might not be enough to power your whole apartment, but can certainly be used to charge your laptop. Plus, you can rig up a battery storage system so you can plug in your TV, gaming console, or other electronic devices to reduce your electric bill further.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance that you’re already conscious of your waste output. Recycling has become a necessity more than ever before, with single use plastics dominating much of the commercial world.
A lot of the products we buy come with unnecessary packaging that might not ever get reused or recycled.
The easiest step of working toward homesteading in an apartment is reduce the amount of waste you’re putting out, and recycle what you can.
Here are some tips:
- Food waste, such as fruit or vegetable offcuts and eggshells, can be mixed with soil, leaves, straw, and other natural materials to form compost for your indoor garden.
- Plastic bags, cellophane, and used cling wrap can be recycled at many locations. I know for a fact most Walmarts have a bag return box where you can recycle these things.
- Glass jars, plastic containers, and milk cartons can all be used to start growing sprouts or starting seeds for vegetables and leafy greens
- Intentionally purchasing products without packaging, or biodegradable packaging, will help decrease your waste output.
- Reusable shopping totes and fabric/mesh produce bags eliminates the need for plastic or paper bags at the supermarket.
The RRR practice extends far beyond plastic, paper, and glass items, too. Old clothes can be turned into dishrags, shopping bags, or woven into rugs. Old or ugly furniture can be used to build bookshelves (or plant shelves), new furniture, or used as firewood. Tin cans can serve as pots for plants or be turned into bird feeders. The possibilities are really endless, and as long as you use your imagination, you can turn old junk and trash into a purposeful item.
The Basics of Homesteading in an Apartment
At the highest level, homesteading is about intent. You might want to start homesteading to get away from spending so much on bills and food, or you might want to start homesteading for health reasons or just to reduce your overall carbon footprint.
Your intent will determine what homesteading practices are most critical for you. If you’re all about reducing your carbon footprint, setting up a clean energy system might take priority. Or, if you want to move away from processed foods and GMO produce, your indoor garden will be the first logical step.
It’s a common misconception that homesteading is a lifestyle reserved for people who live in the country with large plots of land and a tiny house. Anyone can adhere to the philosophy and start making small changes to their day-to-day, and that’s homesteading too!