Compost Beginner – Tips to Get Started, Even If You’re A Renter

Compost beginner tips - even if you live in a small space or rent your homeIf you’re a compost beginner, never fear! Composting is one of my favorite things in the world, and you’re going to love it, too! I mean, think about it… you can take your trash and turn it into something highly useful. How awesome is that?!

9 years ago I was a compost beginner living in a rental house. A house of my very own with all the yard in the world was right around the corner, but I wanted to get started with composting right away. When you’ve got enough of your own land you can have permanent compost bins. But as long as I was renting I got started with garbage cans.

I started with a big trash can (I don’t remember the gallons, but it’s about 3 feet tall) with a good lid. I drilled holes in the bottom and sides for air flow and bug access. Then I started dumping in our waste.

Compost beginner tips - even if you live in a small space or rent your homeSome things that DO go in the compost:

  • Egg shells and cardboard egg cartons
  • Fruit rinds, peels, seeds, and pits
  • Veggie tops, bottoms, and wilted stuff
  • Coffee grinds and our eco-friendly coffee filters
  • Paper towels, cardboard toilet paper rolls
  • Swept up random debris and dog hair

You might be amazed at how quickly this stuff builds up!

Compost beginner tips


Some things that DON’T go in the compost:

  • Meat, cheese, or any dairy
  • Greasy or saucy stuff
  • Bread, pasta, and rice are kept to a minimum
  • People or dog manure

At one point my trash can compost got maggots. As a compost beginner, I pretty much panicked at that point! I knew the whole thing must be ruined. But, nope. Turns out they were a sign that my compost was too wet and had too much nitrogen. I worked in a LOT more dried leaves than I had previously been using, and the maggots went away.

Compost is easy like that. Even when you’re a compost beginner, problems are pretty simple and easy to turn around.

Another sign of a problem I enjoy looking out for is the smell. Contrary to popular belief, compost should smell good. It should not smell like a rotting mess. It should have a clean, earthy, dirt smell. During the maggot period, my compost smelled like shit. Literally. After working in more brown yard stuff, the smell came back to the pleasant earthy smell (with heavy coffee overtones!) I really love smelling my compost, both to check in on it and just to get a big nose-full of the earth-happy project I’m working on.


Are you a compost beginner? What do you need to know to get started?

Composting Beginner pin