As a huge fan and practitioner of composting, it might sound strange to hear me say, “it isn’t necessary.” What I mean is, “our participation is optional.” And what I mean by that is, “if you spend much time or money, you waste your resources.”
Once you put carbon containing stuff with air and water, it composts. It will happen in your gutters, in the landfill, on your lawn or in your garden. Compost “recipes” can speed things up by adding nitrogen mostly, but newspaper, cardboard, wood chips, fence posts and tree trunks all compost just fine if you aren’t in a hurry. It just might take a while.
There is a composting method used in Scandinavian countries called Hugelskultur (with an umlaut over the first u) where trees are piled up and buried in leaves and soil in the fall. The mixture is planted in the spring and for all following seasons while the trees rot and bacteria dig out nutrients to feed to the mounded gardens.
One highly effective compost method is to spread your organic stuff all over the ground in the fall and let winter start the process of mixing it into the bacteria and fungi rich soil, with the help of rooting animals. By spring, earthworms will eat it, and it can be planted.
The same principle holds for mulch. Spreading up to a foot of wood chips, bark, straw, hay, grass clippings, yard waste, leaves (especially all of the above together!) around your plants while they grow or on your garden over winter might be the best way to release the food and develop your soil.
If you have the room and resources, you can build big piles of composting stuff and gather the heat for your house, shop, or garage. A really good square yard of compost gives off a steady 1000 btu of heat per hour all winter long while it prepares your garden soil for spring.