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The Permaculture Wardrobe


Permaculturists frequently speak about the Permaculture Wardrobe. I first heard it from Geoff Lawton, but I am not sure if the concept originated with him. The wardrobe is an idea that describes the knowledge that can be drawn from and the skills that can be applied to a Permaculture project. I have seen the wardrobe in my head for years, and I finally decided to put pen to paper.

If we have a chance of turning things around, everything we do must agree with Permaculture’s Three Ethics engraved at the top of the wardrobe.

I purposely do not have the doors opened all the way. This serves two purposes. First, it provides space for all the information, skills, design methods, etc. that I could never really fit in a drawing (especially that one topic that you think I left out!). Second, for me it represents that there will always be more to discover behind that door; how exciting that we never stop learning!

For more on Temperate Climate Permaculture, please visit John here.

John Kitsteiner

John Kitsteiner runs the website Temperate Climate Permaculture which features articles and resources focused mainly on the temperate climate however you will find an array of information about applying Permaculture design principles. You can also follow John on his TCPermaculture Facebook page, here.


  1. Nice drawing! It’s maybe more appealing than all the definitions I heard. About the origin of the concept: I heard Bill Mollison talk about this analogy in a PDC. He heard it from someone and he thought it was “maybe the best anology”.

  2. John,

    I took a lookie at your personal blog. Inspiring to know you are putting so much of your time, energy and money into such things. A lot of wonderful stories, so thank you for sharing.

    In reference to the Permaculture Wardrobe, there is something about it that simply doesn’t sit well with me. This seems to crop up time and time again – the ongoing need to pigeon hole and make certain all things into some sort of order, with permaculture in bright lights at the top.

    Even though I like what permaculture stands for, the very act of creating such schematic representations seems to create a duality of sorts, that is intended to unite, but instead (on ground level) seems to divide.

    It might be interesting to feed this schematic wardrobe through the HM, biodynamics, organics groups, native land groups, etc, etc, to see what they make of it? It’s a bit of a shame, but this seems to be one of the main reasons really talented folk in other disciplines don’t jump at permaculture.

    And if you read between the lines, this might also explain why some of the big names in permaculture are quietly going their own business re-branding what they do. My guess is they have simply realize there is greater strength to be found in ‘diversity’ in all it’s forms.

    As a quick solution, if this idea (wardrobe) could somehow be conceptually turned around on it’s head, it would make a lot more sense, considering many of these closet items already exist on their own terms and often inform permaculture, not always the other way round?

    I think I will leave it at that.

    Thanks again,


  3. If I remember correctly Bill Mollison was once approached by a random man after a presentation that said (paraphrasing here):
    Man: I know what you’ve done here!
    Bill: Oh? Really? What have I done?
    Man: You have created a closet in which to hang all the different design methodologies of humanity as coat hangers.

    Again, paraphrasing, but around that kind of wording.

  4. John, this drawing will be a permie classic, and the decision to keep some contents mysterious is a decision I’m now going to copy in my own illustrations… as the Japanese say, the Void is the place creation comes from. Keep some spots shadowy, for diplomacy and for getting others to ‘interact ‘creatively.
    Below is a Bill Mollison Quote Ive found for you, on the Magical Wardrobe that is Permaculture, in an interview with Alan AtKisson.

    Alan: Let’s get back to permaculture. What’s your current best definition of it?

    Bill: You could say it’s a rational man’s approach to not shitting in his bed.

    But if you’re an optimist, you could say it’s an attempt to actually create a Garden of Eden. Or, if you’re a scientist, you could liken it to a miraculous wardrobe in which you can hang garments of any science or any art and find they’re always harmonious with, and in relation to, that which is already hanging there. It’s a framework that never ceases to move, but that will accept information from anywhere.

    It’s hard to get your mind around it – I can’t. I guess I would know more about permaculture than most people, and I can’t define it. It’s multi-dimensional – chaos theory was inevitably involved in it from the beginning.

    You see, if you’re dealing with an assembly of biological systems, you can bring the things together, but you can’t connect them. We don’t have any power of creation – we have only the power of assembly. So you just stand there and watch things connect to each other, in some amazement actually. You start by doing something right, and you watch it get more right than you thought possible.
    Permaculture: Design For Living
    Permaculture is more than a new way of gardening –
    it’s a sustainable way to live on planet Earth

    An Interview With Bill Mollison, by Alan AtKisson

    One of the articles in Making It Happen (IC#28)
    Originally published in Spring 1991 on page 50
    Copyright (c)1991, 1996 by Context Institute

    John, I’m finally getting to the ‘miraculous wardrobe’ stage of designing my own home and life. By curating very, very carefully, every new houseguest I have to stay loves every other houseguest. Every object I finally agree to buy works well with so many other objects I already have.
    Its really something worth devoting a lifetime to.

    By the way, I loved your Temeperate Permaculture site. Thanks for that thrilling introduction to the ‘Permaculture’ of Bruce Lee.

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