Homesteading For Renters: Can It Be Done?



homesteading, homesteader, urban prepper, apartment prepping

It can be challenging to live a prepper lifestyle in a rented house or apartment, and homesteading in such an environment seems almost impossible.

But don't give up your homesteading aspirations just because you live in a small space or don't own your home. Homesteading is still possible even for renters.

Gaye Levy from Backdoor Survival has some homesteading tips for all you renters and urban preppers. Read on to learn more, and be sure to check out her site for more prepping and homesteading tips.

There are fruits and vegetables that can easily grow in your apartment.Via

Besides plants, there are fruits and vegetables that can easily grow in your apartment.Via

Homesteading for Renters: Can It Be Done?

Homesteading is the buzz word of the year within the preparedness community, and rightfully so. The desire to be self-sufficient and self-reliant has never been stronger.  Folks of all ages and all walks of life are beginning to look back to pioneer days as they seek skills to learn how to grow food, cook from scratch, raise farm animals, and repair and repurpose what is old and tired into something that is new and useful.

Although I have written about homesteading, and especially how to homestead in place, there is so much more to write about.  To that end, I have asked my friend LeAnn Edmondson aka the Homestead Dreamer, to create a brand new, exclusive series for Backdoor Survival readers.  The focus of this series is how to homestead when you rent.

In this series you will learn how to define homesteading using your own criteria and your own rules.  You will learn to plan, assess your resources however meager, jump start implementation and the best part of all, how to reap the rewards!

Enjoy the series and of course, be sure to leave a comment to share your own experience or to ask a question.

How to Homestead When Rent – Set Your Mind

It seems that just about every time you turn around, someone is talking about homesteading, or there are posts about it all over your social media feeds, and your friends who own their homes and property all seem like they are getting chickens and constructing gardens to grow food.

Maybe you have always wanted to homestead as well and dream (Iike me) of having a large spread of land out of the city filled with livestock and gardens. The problem is, you rent. Because of that, you may write off homesteading as something that is ‘impossible’ or ‘it will happen someday.’ This is the first fatal step people make in realizing their dream. If you are serious about it, you have to decide that you are going to homestead, no matter where you are.

You have to change the way you approach homesteading.

These days, you can go off grid to some degree with the right solar power setup .

These days, you can go off grid to some degree with the right solar power setup. Via YouTube

We live in an apartment – and we homestead. Ironically enough, we live in an old dairy barn that was converted. Perhaps it was living here that made me finally say to my husband, “I want to homestead, I want to be more self-reliant, and I want to be more prepared for natural disasters.”

Growing up in rural Alaska, we are very used to having extra bags of rice and pasta around ‘just in case.’ Since all of our supplies come up on the barge, there were times when they would be delayed due to weather or have to skip a week altogether. So, that aspect for us wasn’t such a stretch. We just upped what we had set back ‘just in case.’

The homesteading side was more of a challenge. We discussed the fact that we rented and would be limited on just how much we could do. We knew it would be a challenge. I was absolutely determined though. I had made up my mind and nothing was going to stop me.

I began researching, but will go more into that in a future article. It is what the researching did to my mental state that I want to stress here. Homesteaders didn’t just head to the local trading post and buy whatever they needed. They created, adapted, and overcame. The more I looked into homesteading, the more I realized that there is no ‘one size fits all’ definition for exactly what it is to homestead. Just look at the differences between online dictionaries! defines homestead as:

  1. any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.
  2. a tract of land acquired under the Homestead Act.

Whereas defines homestead as:

  1. a house and the farmland it is on
  2. the home and adjoining land occupied by a family

So basically, what the word means is: “home!”  The definition of ‘homestead’ back when the Western United States was being settled does not ring as true now. Ask 5 people what homesteading means to them and while there will be some similarities, none will be the same.

My personal definition? Homesteading is using as much of what you have to provide for your needs on your own. Even that doesn’t quite cover it all! You have to make some investment, of course. It is not what you have or can buy that makes you a homesteader. It is more of how you look at the world around you, the tools and resources you have available and thinking outside the box to adapt your resources with your needs. There is an incredible satisfaction that is derived from turning something that others may have discarded into something that helps you be more self-reliant.

The most significant change I have noticed in how we look at the world around us and approach projects was the idea that we can do it ourselves.

Need a post for a greenhouse? Head into the forest and find a fallen tree or standing dead tree and utilize it! I know what you’re saying, “I don’t live in a forest and have no space to put a greenhouse, this does not apply to me!”  Well, you are correct. The situation applies to me because those are the resources I have available. I live in a rural area. There is no plethora of people who have lots of junk lying around that you can get off Craigslist for free (or barter). We also do not have reclamation sites where people can go and buy building materials that have been reclaimed from demolition sites on the super cheap. Heck, we don’t even have access to a Lowe’s or Home Depot for reasonably priced building materials in the first place!

The point is, you have to break the idea that to do something, you need to get your supplies new, from the store, every time.

If you live in a large city, you have access to more of those kinds of places. If you have a balcony, you could build a little greenhouse of sorts or container garden on it. It is all about the mindset. You have to stop the “I can’t do that because…” and challenge your imagination to come up with ways you “Could do it this way…” Chances are pretty darn high that someone else has already done it and talked about it on the Internet.

Of course, sometimes you simply can’t do a project you want to because of the rules of where you live or physical limitations, not to mention financial ones. So, shift your focus. Can you do it on a smaller scale and build up? Do you know someone who would let you do the project on their property and everyone benefits?

Canning is not so difficult to do even if you don't have much space. Via

Canning is not so difficult to do even if you don't have much space. Via

The Other Side

Another important part of the homesteading mentality is the acceptance of failures and limitations overall.

Even if you had the 50 acres of pristine land and all the livestock you dream of now, you can’t do it all! Not everyone can grow everything they want to. Not without help anyway! Networking and bartering are integrated into the lifestyle of homesteading. Maybe you are able to grow some fantastic cherry tomatoes on your balcony or in your window and end up with an abundance. That person you met at the farmer’s market last week who also grows food on their balcony has an abundance of peppers. Trading with them makes sure nothing goes to waste, not to mention now you have more variety!

It’s the network you create with others that helps you get over the disappointing times of homesteading when you rent. Sometimes those limitations seem to creep in on you and you just want to kick them down! You may feel the urge to scream for wanting the full scale homestead so badly and being unable to get it. I’ve been there many times over the last couple of years. My friends both off and online help me get over it. They inspire me and remind me that even though I rent, I now have a whole new set of skills I have learned that will allow me to hit the ground running when the land does come through. They also usually have some great suggestions on how I can overcome the challenges.

Changing your lifestyle starts with changing your mentality.

Some challenges will be greater than others and your determination will play a key role in your success. Keeping the balance between thinking outside the box to work around restrictions and knowing when to focus your efforts elsewhere can be one of the greatest challenges of all. If you really want to homestead, it does not matter where you live. What matters is how you think, how you use your resources, and learning the skills to provide more of what you need for yourself.

Once you have made the choice that you want to pursue a homesteading life, the next step is to Make the Plan which will be part two in this series, How to Homestead When You Rent.

You can dry the food you grow in your apartment but you can take it one step further by freeze-drying them.

You can dry the food you grow in your apartment but you can take it one step further by freeze-drying them.

The Final Word

As much as I dream of homesteading with acres of land and unlimited vistas of fruit trees and garden beds, that is simply not in the cards given my age and personal situation.  That said, I am happy to grow herbs and tomatoes, bake my own bread, and craft soaps and personal products for my own use.  That is how I homestead.

Remember that homesteading is not a one size fits all.  My challenge to you is to move beyond your dream and get started.  Let us grow not only as preppers, but as homesteaders, too.  We all can do it!

Want to know more? Check out these related articles:

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 3, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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