What got me started was a small pile like this... You can find a list of things to compost HERE! Never use meat, dairy products or pet droppings. My hard clay soil smiles when I bring out egg shells(that I have washed out with hot water). It loosens the soil for easier tilling and lets oxygen into the soil.
How I got started was very simple... I dug several holes throughout the garden in late fall after harvesting was complete. I left the dirt mound close to the hole. During the course of winter, I took my scraps to the holes and buried them. In the spring, what little was left of my kitchen rubbish was tilled in before spring planting. Then our city provided these...at minimal cost. I use this faithfully now. I place it in the garden and move it every 3rd year.
Seven years ago I moved the compost bin, and the following spring had a peach tree growing where the bin had been sitting. SO from the compost pile I reaped a beautiful tree that will give me fruit for a third year. I would say that is a nice benefit that keeps giving back to my family.
I layer my compost with a balance of grass and leaves, a little added dirt and kitchen rubbish. I take the lid off when I water or when rain is predicted. I stir it frequently with the rake or shovel(if your compost bin tumbles it does this work for you). The secret is to stir frequently! At the end of the growing season and the garden has been harvested, I will open the door on the bottom, dig out my lovely and nourished soil and till it in.
A compost bin doesn't have to take up much space. Here is Lorie's compost bin. A simple Rubbermaid tote.Poke several holes to let in air and let heat escape. Take a look inside and see the bugs at work. Click on the photo to enlarge if you are truly interested in the bugs. The soil is beautiful. This can be kept under or behind a shrub out of sight of neighbors, but where it will get some sun. The heat of the compost helps to break down the layers and create dark, rich soil. If it begins stinking...then you need to water and stir more frequently. This is my indication I haven't added enough brown (List to follow) to keep the mixture balanced between carbon(browns) and nitrogen(greens).
If you have space for a larger compost bin...it can be made similar to this one.
This is AmberLou's bin. She has adequate space for a larger bin. It is simply made with pallets or could be done with the sides of wooden crates or fencing. Make good use of what you have - this makes the cost minimal.
Get the kids involved. There are many websites that assist in getting started. Some discuss benefits of worms - what boy wouldn't love having "pet" worms?
Composting doesn't take much time and has so many benefits to your family. I included a link below to composting indoors. It is so easy it can be done with a #10 can.
Some resources to browse concerning composting...
List of Browns and Greens from composting 101
Browns = High Carbon
Stems and twigs, shredded
Greens = High Nitrogen
I have linked to...
The Finer Things in Life
It's A Blog Party!
I heart naptime with Chocolate Sundaes
A Few of My Favorite Things
Chic on a Shoestring Decorating
Smart and Trendy Moms
The Shabby Nest Frugal Friday
Lit and Laundry
Tatertots and Jello
A Southern Daydreamer