You can do something or nothing. Last fall I made a "bin" which was really only 5 wooden pallets in the shape of a "W" or "M". Nothing fancy, no tumbler, etc.
I filled it up with mulched tree
leaves and a little grass clippings. I think I put a tarp on it.
Bought this:http://tinyurl.com/k79yq for about $20. Filled it with table scraps. Every few days (or weeks) I would dump the compost bucket.
Not much seemed to be happening over the winter (the stuff sort of froze). I tried turning it every 2-4 weeks. spring
came. Some new grass clippings. And things started to really heat up. Suddenly, I have steam, worms, bugs, things breaking down, etc. Over the summer I continued adding grass clippings and stuff from the compost bucket. I got some rocks and twigs and branches in there by accident also.
I didn't get to use it this summer because other work got in the way of my lawn/garden projects. Right now I have about 2-3 cubic yards of stuff. When the leaves fall, I am just going to add them on top and take it from there.
I think this is the "normal" way. And, I have lots of stuff. Should help tremendously once I am ready to actually get to work on the gardens.