Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Living Small

I'm not a habitual ranter, but I feel one coming on. The New York Times ran an editorial today with the title, "Sinful Second Homes." The piece derides those environmentalists who keep second homes – most notably Al Gore, who actually has three homes if you count his family farm.

I not only have a problem with people who keep second homes, I have a problem with people who have a single home. MaGreen and I live in half a home – a two-bedroom apartment. Granted, we own the place and there's a yard, but it is still a two-bedroom apartment, a little unit in a building split down the middle. Every baby book I've read has a section on preparing "the baby's room." Our baby does not have a room. Why does she need a room? She's only seven months old. I don't even have a room. There's the living room, the office with a spare single bed, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen.

Why don't we move to the suburbs where we could easily get a four-bedroom place for the same price? I couldn't bicycle to work. We couldn't walk to our friends' places. We couldn't walk to the Gay Pride Parade or to restaurants, grocers, bars, and schools. We just couldn't walk. The more I walk and ride my bicycle, the more strongly I hate the car-centered lifestyle that I grew up in. It's a prison. The most stunning aspect about my life on bicycle and on foot has been how social it is. I meet people.

I want gigantic house owners to feel bad. MaGreen and I spent the last three days cleaning our apartment. It's hard to keep a place clean when you're packed into it. All space is at a high premium. There is no room – as in physical space – for nostalgia. You can't keep all the ragged shirts of your childhood or the ridiculous collection of knickknacks you've accumulated. You have to pick two or three and chuck the rest. I feel like wealthy people have squandered all the world's resources on creating giant storage spaces. We air-condition formal living room sets, formal dining tables, and closets full of completely useless junk like battery-powered polar bears that clap to the tune of jingle bells.

When I was in Utah with MaGreen and BabyG, we spent the day in the hospital with MaGreen's step-mother. In the evenings, we packed up MaGreen's parent's house, because they had just sold it and needed to move out within the month. My job was to go through the basement. As I went through box after box of porcelain turtles, I couldn't help but think of a lack of space as a saving grace. Having a giant basement and five extra rooms encourages junk collecting. At the hospital, I saw all the new equipment for America's increasingly obese population. This wheelchair was stationed right outside of the hospital room. BabyG's body in that gigantic wheelchair – it just set me to thinking about living small.

Maybe one day soon, our family won't fit into our half-house even more than we're not fitting into it now. Maybe MaGreen will get a high-paying job. The house will start cracking from the pressure and we'll move to a country home with a staircase just for show. But in the meantime, I'm going to lord our lean, green apartment over all the hypocritical environmentalists who have whole houses.

9 comments:

chuck said...

well, as long as you "chuck" the excess knicknacks into a second-hand store . . .

MaGreen said...

i don't mean to stomp on raj's rant, but i don't feel so lordly over the entire-homed or even the many homed, like al gore. i think that when somebody like gore works hard to be a good environmentalist, other people work hard to find cracks in their exterior. i don't think its hard to find cracks in anybody who states that they are something -- environmental, vegetarian, christian, anarchist, republican, whatever. people who try to have no cracks end up doing nothing, or little, out of overwhelm-ed-ness. maybe one day gore will give up one of his homes, or maybe keeping his homes is a line he'll stay on the less-environmental side of.

i know that sometimes i eat meat, and i buy milk in cartons, and pencils, and skirts that were made in factories that pollute. i have gone to wal mart a couple times in the last six months. i painted my sink with poison.

but i still feel like i am overall, a very green person. and i keep adding to ways i can be green.

GreenDaddy said...

Yes, it's true that everyone who states they are something has cracks in their exterior. (Well, everybody has a crack in their exterior, but I guess that's a question of biology not ideology.)

GreenDaddy said...

Yes, it's true that everyone who states they are something has cracks in their exterior. (Well, everybody has a crack in their exterior, but I guess that's a question of biology not ideology.)

Lou said...

Lol-butt-crack jokes rock my world.

Seriously, I completely relate to this post. We just downsized considerably and I'm still siphoning off clutter I didn't even know I had. I have bottles and bottles and bottles of half-used products and I don't even know where they came from. I had to tear myself away from ill-fitting clothes I never wore anyway, and books I didn't like and knew I'd never read again.

It's going to take me a while though to get used to my neighbor's late night flushing.

quixoticmama said...

You know, I agree.

Now, I have to say - We own a whole house. But a *very* small one. And a very *old* one. But we love it!

We had a friend who had a lovely house but wanted something *bigger* before trying to concieve. So you know what they did? THEY BUILT ONE. Because none that they looked at were big enough, or new enough, or perfect enough. They BUILT a brand new HUGE house in a subdivision that DESTROYED the most beautiful farmland in our town. Gack. One word (and some numbers) - $250,000 mortgage.

Yeah, I just don't understand it. We have a bumper sticker hanging on our fridge - Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live.

How true is that?

Fiddler said...

I've lived in many situations, big house/small house, city/country, rent/own... Benefits and drawbacks all around... I try to live simply and green as much as possible for the environment, as an example for family and friends, and most of all because it makes me happy... My 'crack' is that I choose the woods near family and commute to work so that I can live quieter and closer to things that grow but I know the payoff is commuting and using gasoline... I guess what I'm saying is there isn't one clear answer that will work for everyone, and that anyone who is making conscious decisions can be applauded for their choices...

Jessi Louise said...

I've lived in 5 different rentals in the past 5 years (2 houses, 3 apartments) and have found that I like small areas better, even without considering the environmental aspect...they're easier to keep clean, easier not to accumulate too much stuff, cheaper to heat/cool and just generally require less work. We live in a 3 bedroom house now and will be moving to a 2 bedroom apartment soon and ridding ourselves of some more of this excess junk...

GreenDaddy said...

That's great Jessi.

I think Fiddler's situation is a good one to think about. One big, green house in the woods with a big garden and compost pile sounds great to me. I want to have a telecommuting job or something so I can do the woods thing without driving hundreds of miles.