Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thoughts on Sustainable Living

I have had this post floating around in my head for a couple weeks now. It is less of an informative post and more of me thinking out loud. Feel free to hop in and add your thoughts. This post stems from having my choices questioned concerning the path I have taken since becoming  a single parent. I am blessed with some very good friends who get it, who completely understand because they have chosen a similar path or are struggling with taking that first step. I have some very heavy questions as a result of that questioning. What is a sustainable economy, especially for a family? Why is choosing not to have a traditional job seen as taking an oath to poverty and an irresponsible act? Why is society's definition of poverty solely based on income?

I realize that for statisticians purposes, basing poverty on income makes it easier to quantify what is a serious problem in America and across the world, but shouldn't there be a broader definition within society? It is possible, when choosing to live a simplified life to not earn a lot of money and not feel poor. If I chose to live in a tiny house and grow most of my own food, hang my clothes on the line instead of use my energy sucking dryer, buy my clothes from garage sales and second hand stores, am I really still deemed poor by society because I earn very little? I could have chosen to walk into another low paying job while the little one spent most of his time in daycare, but I see my greatest commodity as my time and I would much rather spend it with those I love, even if it means I am barely eking out a living through a patchwork of writing, photography, and teaching jobs. Even if it means not having the American dream, because it is not my dream.

Believe me, I have tried to get another low paying job. As a degree holder, I even applied for a host of jobs that by society's definition, I would be making a living wage. Nothing, nada. Not one single bite on the hook. The job market is just too crumby. If ya don't know somebody you aren't going to get hired, especially if you are walking into middle age after being out of the job market for a while and have no skilled trade. Time to get creative, and creative I've been, patching together income from everything from my writing and photography to dog sitting and holding  a whopper of a yard sale. Nontraditional, yes. But it has allowed me to spend more time with my boys.

A sustainable economy is simply being able to live within your means without taxing your resources financially or environmentally. If you are spending beyond your means (no matter your income) or are using up natural resources faster than they can be regenerated and stripping them from the earth in a damaging way, you are not living in a sustainable economy. It doesn't matter if it is just within your family or in the broader scope of our planetary community. If you earn enough to meet your basic needs and do not overspend, if you are respecting your environmental resources, if you chose to live a simpler life because it affords you greater happiness and more time with your loved ones, you are not only living a sustainable economic model, you are also wealthy in riches far greater than the guy in the big house who spends his life working to pay off the mortgage and two car loans. I have news for that guy. NONE OF THAT STUFF MATTERS!!!! It is just stuff. Stuff we don't need for our well being. Let it go.Get off the deadly treadmill.

I chose to live a more simple life, to raise my boys without the insatiable drive to succeed by American standards at all costs. If this is poverty by the American definition, then so be it. I chose poverty. But what I really think needs to happen is for America to redefine poverty and success. The current definition of success isn't sustainable.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Tiny House for A Tiny Life

I have been absent for a while in order to gain my bearings after some not so great changes to my family that were out of my control. When your world is out of kilter, you either let it knock you down or you fight back and make a plan. After eating a quart of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy and lots of hugs from some very good friends, I have formulated a plan.

I have become fascinated with the tiny house movement. Born from this fascination is a desire to build my own tiny home. I am looking at a living space of 400-875 square feet for me and the boys. We don't need much space. The hard part will be saving up to buy the land to build it on. I'm looking at maybe an acre of land southeast of town, somewhere I can keep some chickens, put in some raised bed vegetable gardens, and live a sustainable life with my boys. In time, maybe I can build a tiny studio for my photography as well.

Here are some of my favorite tiny house designs:

The Betty Lu Lu, by Goodfit Cottages and Small Houses, is by far my favorite design so far. The layout is great and the design is just super cute and cozy. You could still have guests over and not feel like they were invading your bedroom. It has a small footprint of 875 square feet, two bedrooms (bunk beds, boys?), one bathroom, a great room, dining alcove, and a tiny laundry room. Just a perfect little house. And the little porch out front, I so can picture myself curled up with a good book and a glass of iced tea while sitting out on that little porch.

At 404 square feet this tiny house, by Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, makes the Betty Lu Lu look like a mansion. It is a sweet little house with a sleeping loft and the option of a bedroom extension. If I am going for a smaller footprint, this just might be the one for me and the boys.

This little number is the work of Tiny Texas Houses. The houses are built using reclaimed building supplies and green building techniques. I am hoping to get out to Luling, Texas to visit Tiny Texas Houses soon. While I am leaning toward more of a cottage design, this tiny house looks like it walked right out of a Texas history book. I am also loving the idea of building my tiny house out of reclaimed/salvaged building supplies.

I am already thinking along the lines of tiny house living and have begun to look around at all of the things that I would need to get rid of to live the tiny house lifestyle. Oh, baby, am I ready to downsize! The hardest will be getting rid of books and getting the boys to let go of some of their stuff. Maybe I can use the money from the sale of some of this stuff to put toward saving for a little plot of land. I really see this as the best way for me to own a home someday while maintaining a simple, sustainable lifestyle.