How to Do More With Less in Your Home and Garden

Find ways to make the most of what you already have access to.

upcycled tire planters

Simon McGill / Getty Images

Doing more with less in your home and garden means finding ways to truly make the most of what you have. In a sustainable home and garden, this involves a number of different strategies. You might be surprised by how many resources are already available to you, and how far those resources can go.

Sustainability often seems an area that ignores disparity in wealth. To some, doing the right thing when it comes to people and our planet can feel like a luxury they cannot afford. But true sustainability is not about what you can buy. Often, it has more to do with what you choose not to. 

The choice to avoid consumption is something that anyone can embrace. And beyond this, there are many small sustainable changes we can make that don't require any financial outlay at all. Small re-thinks about our ways of life can make a big difference to our impact.

Recognize What We Already Have

A great place to begin is by thinking carefully about what you already have. If you are lucky enough to have a home and garden, however small and imperfect they may currently be, then you have more to work with than you might imagine.

For example, it can be useful to think about space. Many of us wish we had more space available, either within our homes or in our outside spaces. But thinking vertically as well as horizontally, and embracing small space solutions for growing, storage, etc., we often have more usable space than we imagine.

Another area to look at is natural systems around us, and what they can provide for free. For example, in starting a garden, we might not need to look beyond our own gardens or neighborhoods to find the organic materials we need to create new growing areas, source seeds and plants, and create organic feeds to maintain the system.

No matter where or how we live, our own imaginations are a resource that is often overlooked. Our ability to imagine better and see pathways to creating it and meeting our goals is the thing that can take us the furthest.

It is important, however, if we seek to make changes in our lives, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is crucial to look at what works for us and what does not before we can think about how things can be improved and what more we can do toward a sustainable lifestyle.

Rethink "Waste"

When we think about what we have, we should not only think about the things around us, things we use every day, but also about the things that we might have been accustomed to discarding or throwing away.

For example, in our kitchens we might be able to:

  • Make the most of leftovers to make food go further and to reduce food waste.
  • Learn how to store and preserve produce so nothing goes to waste. 
  • Regrow vegetables from scraps and ends. 
  • Save some kitchen scraps to make our own stock or broth. 
  • Compost what is left to return nutrients to growing spaces. 
food scraps in a stock pot

Flavia Morlachetti / Getty Images

Our ancestors understood how to make food go further, and some of those skills have been lost. Think about how to maximize meals you can make from a smaller list of ingredients, planning at least a little bit ahead to stretch food further.

We can also reuse, repair, and repurpose many items and materials from around our homes, to give them a new lease of life, prevent waste, and make sure that we wring absolutely all we can out of everything we own and everything that comes into our homes.

For example, we can:

  • Mend old clothes and bedding, repurposing the fabric for other things once they are no longer usable.
  • Repurpose old kitchen items no longer fit for use for growing systems, etc.
  • Turn packaging and waste materials into useful pots, trays, labels, or other items for home growing. 
  • Upcycle old furniture to create beautiful new things for our homes and gardens. 

In short, we can reuse, repair, repurpose, and recycle things that would otherwise be thrown away—not just to reduce waste but also to improve things in our homes and gardens without having to buy anything new.

woman sands a chair for repair

Alistair Berg / Getty Images

Design Carefully and Stack Functions

Beyond embracing what we already own, the natural resources available to us, and new ways of repurposing items that would otherwise go to waste, we can also do more with less through careful design of our living spaces and gardens.

"Stacking functions" is something that we talk about a lot in permaculture and sustainability. This idea involves recognizing what spaces, items, and plants can do, and trying to make sure that each system has multiple elements, each serving multiple purposes. Stacking functions is about making the most of space, but also of time—both our own time and that available to us in a particular area of our homes or gardens.

By making the most of time and space, we can continue on the path toward making sure that we can do more with less wherever we live. When it comes to making the most of any environment, a little planning and some intentional design can go a long way.