With everything happening in the world right now, including politics, climate change, natural disasters, a lifestyle of grotesque wastefulness, and our reliance on technology and fossil fuels, you might have cause to worry. As someone who lives in an apartment or condo, what do you do? Apartment homesteading is the way to go!
The movement toward small, single-family farms and gardens, growing and raising one’s own food, and learning the skills of our ancestors shines as a little glimmer of hope for all of us.
I rent a one-bedroom apartment in a moderate-sized city. This apartment has a small patio, limited kitchen space and storage, and is located off of a state highway in a huge complex with tons of college students. There is very little I can do in the way of serious “survival” or “old-world” skills.
If I can homestead, so can you!
Let’s take a look.
What is Homesteading?
“Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs … Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options, including solar electricity and wind power. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.”
There are some very important words for us Apartment Dwellers!
- Subsistence agriculture
- Home preservation of foodstuffs
- Renewable energy
- Plant and grow
- Lifestyle choices
When you think of modern homesteading, do you picture a large plot of land in a rural area with a house that runs on solar power, a few acres of vegetables, a working well, a mature orchard, a stocked pond, sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits? Does the picture include a homesteader who makes his or her own clothing, cans his or her own food, and could pretty much survive off the grid without too much trouble?
The Homesteader’s Philosophy
The most important words on that list is “lifestyle choices.” The entire homesteading philosophy is built around the quest for changing or altering your lifestyle in ways that promote self-sufficiency, sustainability, and positive change.
A Homesteader …
- … educates and trains himself or herself to grow, make, raise, or cultivate everything he or she needs to survive.
- … gets to know his or her surroundings so that he or she can work with it to do what he or she needs to survive.
- … uses, reuses, mends, creates, and remakes the resources he or she has so that he or she can sustain his or her lifestyle.
- … is an agent of change in a society that relies too heavily on mass production and technology to survive.
- … learns how to survive by his or her own means, and perhaps, to teach the skills and lifestyle to others.
It’s not where you live. It’s how you live.
Even now, in my tiny apartment, I consider myself a homesteader.
I am an Apartment Homesteader, and you can be, too!
- I could do everything to save money, read and learn about homesteading during my apartment tenure, and dream about my future homestead. But I would not be acting as an agent of change. I want to promote change NOW.
- My homestead looks a lot different from the ideal of a “modern homestead” that you might have pictured.
- There are herbs and potted vegetable plants are on the patio and kitchen counter.
- Conserve as much energy as possible, and use as little as possible.
- There isn’t an option for a gray water system, so conserve water use in your apartment.
- The thought of raising livestock in an apartment is very funny! Seek out homesteaders and organic farmers in your region who sell at the farmer’s markets or who are willing to trade labor for goods.
- It isn’t about where you live … homesteading is about how you live TODAY.
The methods may be different, but the philosophies are the same:
- Educate yourself on how to grow as much food as you can.
- Learn where to find everything you need to survive. Make a list of the things you will need to survive.
- Get to know your region to find gardeners who share your ideals and desire change.
- Purchase from companies who have sustainable practices and business models.
- Get to know the energy and resource systems that are connected with your apartment.
- Find ways to conserve water and electricity, and implement more sustainable energy practices.
- Use, reuse, mend, create, and remake all of your clothing, gear, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. This lifestyle choice helps conserve resources and promotes sustainability.
- As much as you can, end your personal reliance on mass production and technology for survival.
- Learn and do everything you can to survive on your own means as much as is possible, where you are now.
Are you ready to take the “Apartment Homesteader” plunge?
Why be an Apartment Homesteader?
It isn’t easy. Becoming an apartment homesteader takes work—intentional work.
But the benefits are amazing!
First, write down why you want to be an apartment homesteader. When times get tough, your big WHY will help you get through. It’s super-easy to cave into buying that mass-produced item or slipping out to grab a cheap burger when you can make it healthier at home.
Putting Down Roots
The first true benefit in Apartment Homesteading is the way in which a temporary home feels more permanent with a few acts of conservation and sustainable living.
Apartment Homesteading gives those of us in “temporary” living situations a sense of place and the ability to put down literal roots. It gives us a sense of permanency and a sense of being home, which makes it feel less transient.
Through the acts of growing our own food, being present in your environment through conservation and sustainable acts, and living within your means in preparation for the future, we feel as though we belong to the earth, the land, our communities, and ourselves.
Our identity is bound to that belonging.
The idea of belonging leads to a truly beautiful benefit of apartment homesteading: community.
As an apartment or condo dweller, it is impossible to be a subsistence gardener. It is impossible to grow all of your own food, raise animals for meat, milk, cheese, or eggs, or get “off the grid” through the use of sustainable solar and wind energy.
However, connecting with like-minded people to trade goods, resources, and talents to get all of the food you need is a great idea. You can learn the skills you need from modern homesteaders and work with your community in a garden space that benefits everyone.
It is mutually beneficial to help homesteaders operate by trading labor for goods, which allows you to get your hands dirty and be a part of the production of all of your food.
Apartment homesteading gives you the opportunity to reach out to people around you who have the same goals, ideas, and concerns.
It provides a community connection for those of us living in what is typically a solitary life.
Broadening the Sustainable Living Reach
Finally, one of the best benefits of apartment homesteading is its ability to bring the move toward sustainable living into the most unsustainable lifestyles and locations.
We literally live on top of one another in our apartment complexes. We don’t live in places known for sustainability practices. Many of us live in cities whose carbon footprints are off the charts, and most of us don’t know what to do about it.
As apartment homesteaders, we make the choice to live sustainably and lessen our reliance on big-ag and big-pharm.
As we plant and use our herbs for medicinal purposes, make chemical-free cleaning supplies, and conserve our use of natural resources in our apartments or condos, we demonstrate to the people around us that sustainability is a choice we make for ourselves—not a decision dictated by where we live.
If I can do it, you can do it. And if we can do it, they can do it.
Apartment Homesteader Goals
Every homesteader needs to set some goals. In order to make a difference with your apartment homestead, create goals that are specific, manageable, and easily accomplished.
We want to promote change! That means you have to be the change.
What goals can you implement in your apartment to move toward self-sufficiency, lessen your reliance on big-ag, preserve food and resources, conserve energy and natural resources, and make sustainable lifestyle choices?
Look to these major categories for the changes you can make:
- Conservation – Water and Electricity
- DIY – Do as much as you can for yourself, or learn how
- Chemical-free living – make your own cleaning supplies and beauty products
- Gardening – container gardening is perfect, even in small spaces
- Home Medicine – growing herbs on your kitchen counter is a good place to start
- Community – reach out to like-minded community members
Here are 12 first-year goals for your apartment homestead, one for each month:
- Unplug appliances when not in use
- Replace all chemicals in your home with natural, sustainable products that you make yourself
- Plant two vegetables in pots for indoor or patio growing
- Experiment with Instant Pot and traditional canning techniques to preserve food for cold months
- Grow at least 5 different herbs in a mason jar herb garden
- Learn the basics of herbal medicine and implement herbal remedies for common maladies
- Find and inquire about volunteering for two modern homesteaders in your region
- Find a co-op, CSA, or community garden in your area
- Cook all of your own meals from scratch
- Take a basic living skills class in your area, such as baking bread, growing food, sewing basics, canning, home repairs, emergency preparedness)
- Learn basic first aid and CPR
- Hang your laundry out to dry (even inside!)
None of these goals are too big or cost a ton of money. As a matter of fact, they may save you money! All of your goals should be somewhat flexible to account for life happenings. Start small, because those small steps will make a big difference in the long run. Celebrate each goal as you accomplish it. If you have already accomplished some of these goals, choose another one?
What skill do you need to add for your apartment homesteading success?
We are defined by the lifestyle choices we make
There is one trap that every homesteader risks falling into—unrealistic expectations.
When it doesn’t work
Sometimes sustainable living projects that you attempt in your apartment simply won’t work.
You may discover that some of the modern homesteaders you hope to work with don’t practice what they preach.
Relying on the systems may be something you have to do, meaning you may not reach all of your goals. Be kind to yourself. You tried. Be curious. Is there another way to accomplish that goal?
None of these “shortcomings,” mean your apartment homestead has or will fail. Keep moving forward!
Remember that any change toward sustainable living is a good change.
Set realistic, manageable, and sustainable goals in your apartment homestead projects, but remember you may experience setbacks and have to alter your original plans.
Find or Create Community
And most importantly, find or create a community you can count on for support.
Share your ideas and goals and your testimony of change with your apartment- or condo-dwelling friends.
Seek out leaders and guides in sustainable and self-sufficient living practices and glean all that you can from them, and offer your support, too.
A tribe of apartment homesteaders can make real, measurable waves in the urban housing world.
Next in this series, follow along as we explore each apartment homesteading goal. Then, implement your own apartment homesteading goals where you live.
You’ll get the REAL story of this apartment homesteading adventure…
… remember, it’s not about where you live; it’s about how you live.
We—the apartment homesteaders—are defined by the lifestyle choices we make, not where we live.
Are you Apartment Homesteading? Tell us your story in the comments below.
Read the rest of the articles in the Apartment Homesteader series here.
Then, find more tips, tricks, and inspiration in The Apartment Homesteader Facebook group! Join your fellow apartment homesteaders here.