8 Ways to Homestead in an Apartment

Don't Let Your Urban Environment Keep You from Establishing Self-sufficiency
tomatoes growing on a balcony

Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency. In a nutshell, it’s about “doing it yourself” and eliminating your dependence on outside sources for your day-to-day needs of food, consumer products, household energy, and more. But you don’t need a large plot of land–or even a backyard—to start your homesteading journey.

True, you may not be able to raise chickens on your apartment balcony, but there are plenty of other ways you can meet your everyday survival needs on your own. Here are eight ideas worth trying that you won’t have to leave the city for.

1. Clothesline
clothesline in city with trees in the background

There’s little more that conjures up charming images of a country homestead than a clothesline with sheets waving in the wind. In fact, line drying was still the only way to dry your clothes up until the 1950s when the appliance was introduced to the mass market. But while the electric dryer is quick and efficient, eliminating it from your laundry routine can reduce your electric bill by about $100 a year—and a whole lot more if you’re visiting the laundromat. Added bonuses include exercise, free bleaching from the sun, and a fresh-air scent that many people purchase in a bottle.

2. Container Gardening
raised wooden garden bed with herbs

Much has been written about the ease of container gardening. After all, it can still be done even if you don’t have a square of concrete outside to call your own (think: potted herbs on a sunny windowsill or the convenience of heat lamps). Your best bet is to grow the produce that you use the most. After all, what’s the use of growing tomatoes if you can’t stand them, or lettuce if you’re not a salad-lover? Don’t think you’re confined to just vegetables, though. Growing food like berries, small fruit trees, and kitchen staples like onions and garlic will have you running to the grocery store less than before. You can even grow potatoes in a container.

3. Composting
compost barrel with food waste

If you’re growing your own produce, there’s no reason not to be making your own compost, too. It’s as simple as reserving your biodegradable kitchen scraps like eggshells, fruit rinds, coffee grounds, tea bags, bread crusts, etc., for a container where it will all decompose into nutrient-rich fertilizer your plants will love. Follow our tutorial on how to make your own compost container.

4. Rain Barrel
rain barrel with filter under gutter spout

If you’re growing your own food and making your own compost, why not harvest rainwater for your garden as well? If you have a downspout or gutter that drains off your apartment building, there’s no reason why you can’t collect that water and use that to not only hydrate your plants, but wash your car, flush your toilet, or complete other tasks where the water doesn’t have to be fresh and perfectly clean. The benefit? Saving natural resources and a smaller water bill.

5. Solar Panels
solar panel on grass

While you may not be in a position to install a row of solar panels on your apartment roof, you can make use of a portable version or one that charges your handheld electronic devices. Going “off the grid” in this way is a common goal of many homesteaders who own their houses, but even if you’re only powering your iPad, you can achieve a similar feeling of self-sufficiency by essentially making your own electricity.

6. Cleaning Products
cleaning supplies on a blue table

The consumer market bombards us with hundreds of cleaning products that are supposed to work miracles, but are often just overpriced plastic bottles of harmful ingredients. If you were to ask your great-grandmother, she’d say that baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap can do the trick without all the drama. There are multiple recipes online for making your own cleansers with these household ingredients – play around with them to find out what works for you and your cleaning needs (and enjoy the cash you’ll save along the way).

7. Food Preservation
pickles in a bin near jars

If you have a little bit of storage space in your apartment, take advantage of it by stockpiling your own preserved food. There are several options for small scale food preservation including canning, using a dehydrator, and freeze drying. This is an option not only for the produce you grow, but for many food staples you can make including pasta sauce, bread, and granola. The more food you have on hand, the less you will have to run to the grocery store for last-minute meals and shopping trips.

8. Go Paper Towel-less
stack of cloth towels

How tied are you to that roll of paper towels? If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t give a second thought toward reaching for a paper towel when you need a napkin or cleaning rag. But a nice stack of inexpensive dish or hand towels (and an extra load of laundry a week) can change your dependency on such a disposable, expensive product that you continually need to replace in your kitchen.

The key is to make sure you have enough on hand so that you can just as easily grab for one as you can with the paper variety. A large basket or drawer full should do the trick.