What is Homesteading? A Simple Answer

What is Homesteading exactly? Here is the simplest definition for the modern age.
red homestead surrounded by farmland with snow capped mountains in the background

There’s a bit of confusion about what really counts as homesteading. Let’s clear that up in this article.

So, what is Homesteading?

Homesteading is doing activities that provide a self-sufficient lifestyle without paying someone else for the goods or services.

But it doesn’t mean you have to make or grow everything yourself from scratch.

Degrees of Homesteading

Here’s a list of activities that count as ‘homesteading’. A homesteader does one, some, most or all of these things. They could do them sometimes, occasionally, or every day.

Homesteading Activities Include:

ingredients for baking laid out on wooden tabletop, including eggs, noodles, flour and rolling pin


  • Growing your own vegetables, fruits and plants to eat or use in another way
  • Raising animals to eat
  • Preserving and canning food
  • Making food from scratch. An example is baking bread from flour you milled. Or cooking with vegetables from your garden or eggs from your chickens. Cooking is a big part of homesteading.


  • Collecting water to drink
  • Rainwater harvesting for drinking


  • Making, sewing, knitting your own clothes

Making whatever you need

  • This could be anything from candles, soap, cutlery, chairs, cupboards, or even your house
father and son in wood workshop, father guiding son holding a saw and cutting through wood

Repairs and Maintenance

  • DIY is a big thing in homesteading. Self-sufficiency means not relying on anyone else. This means you have to fix and repair things yourself on your homestead


  • You could be generating your own electricity via solar panels, wind turbines or hydropower


  • Low to zero waste mentality and sustainable living – homesteaders generally keep waste low by reusing as much as possible. This includes composting, repurposing whatever they can while keeping in harmony with the Earth.
  • Frugal living – many homesteaders practice frugal living. Self-sufficiency extends to money, and homesteaders generally don’t need much of it to provide for themselves. The exception is if they do not own their living space. It is the general aim of a homesteader to own their home or land so that this cost disappears.
woman's hands putting peeled kiwi fruit skin into a green countertop recycling bin

Land Doesn’t Matter

For the definition of homesteading, whether you own land or even your home doesn’t matter. You could be renting an apartment but growing vegetables in pots. You could be using a benchtop composter to compost and you could still consider yourself a homesteader.

Types of Homesteading

Let’s move on to types of homesteading you find people doing depending on where they live.

Traditional Homesteading

When someone says ‘homesteading’, the picture in your head is of a house somewhere on a big plot of land in the countryside. Gardens surround the house with all kinds of vegetables and plants and there’s a paddock of animals. A bunch of chickens, a dairy cow, maybe even a couple of pigs. 

These are definitely homesteads. This is different from commercial farms that raise cattle, vegetables or fruits on a mass scale for sale. Homesteaders can still do these things, but providing your own essentials by making or growing them, rather than buying them, is the key difference between a farmer and a homesteader.

Urban Homesteading

3 chickens eating from 2 trays of chicken feed on backyard grass

Live in the suburbs? Lots of people start out this way. A backyard is enough to grow a few vegetables and raise some chickens. This is also considered homesteading, and you could call it a backyard homestead if you wish.

Apartment Homesteading

Some people start off in the city. A balcony facing the sun works for growing some plants and vegetables. Even indoors, as long as there’s enough sun. Mushrooms and worms can be grown in the dark in bins under the sink. 

Apartment homesteaders might make their own clothes, or repurpose a lot of their waste. 

Selling Stuff is Irrelevant

woman sitting at sewing machine and home making clothes

Whether or not a homesteader makes and sells things through value-added products, or the things they grow doesn’t change the definition of a homesteader. As long as they provide their essentials themselves without buying a lot of it is what counts.

But, some money is still important for homesteaders in case of emergencies. There are things that are difficult, complicated, or simply dangerous to fix yourself. Think broken solar panels, electrical wiring and plumbing systems. Some of these you may have to pay for.

Homesteaders need some money either in the bank or a small income stream. I’ve written about small farm income ideas if you would like to make money while living on your homestead.

Off-Grid Vs. Homesteading

One of the points in the list above was about Power. Using renewable energy or being off-grid is not essential to being a homesteader.

Off-grid living is a part of homesteading, as it’s providing for your own power and electricity needs. It’s a subset of homesteading and self-sufficiency.

In a nutshell, off-grid living is homesteading but homesteading is not living off-grid. Check out my article on how to live off grid, which details the differences between Homesteading and Off-Grid living.

Where did Homesteading Come From?

After all that, I hope you understand the definition of homesteading! Now, where did it come from? 

The word ‘homestead’ became popular during the Homestead Act in the USA in 1862. The Homestead Act was passed by then-president Abraham Lincoln. The Act gave plots of public land to American citizens for a small fee.

That’s how the term became popular and known today.

Closing Thoughts

That’s basically it! If you’re curious about homesteading or want to get started in it, I recommend first learning how to grow your own vegetables. Starting with the easier ones. Here’s our guide on how to begin gardening.