Wednesday, March 7

Why Not-So-Big Living?

I love Sarah Susanka's books. I ran across The Not So Big House many years ago while I lived in an apartment and I've carried it with me through many moves. It occupies a prominent place in my current home.

I like the idea of living small. I don't do it very well. I grew up in a large home in an urban neighborhood and over time our three stories filled up with books and paper and art and projects and clothes and furniture. There's an amount of stuff that makes my life feel grown-up. There's a period of time that I feel I have to go shopping, even if I have 5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of khakis, 4 pairs of dress slacks, enough dress shirts to go for two weeks without a repeat and enough underwear to go the same time without washing anything. In short, I have too much stuff to make living small easy.

I like the idea of living small, but I am not a hermit. The cabin in the forest isn't my style. I want a comfortable but urban life. I don't throw parties often, but I like having people around. I like my space to feel like they are welcome. I also have significant people in my life for periods of time. None have "taken" yet, but I haven't given up hope.

What appeals to me most about living small is the idea of not adding my footprint to the millions of careless footprints trampling the ecosystem. I believe there is an amount of space one needs, and more than that is wasteful, frankly. I love the concept of "enoughness" as presented in Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez. I currently have more than enough stuff, I am spending more than enough money. I'm restless about my impact on the world and I want to explore lessening it.

For a time in my childhood, a Mennonite family lived across from us and the mother, Karen, was our primary babysitter. I remember helping in the huge garden, washing dishes by hand, eating everything I took, cleaning up after myself, and never, ever pretending anything was a gun. I also remember being appreciated. There was little stuff in their home, but there was always room for friends... and for a rambunctious, odd little girl to explore a different world. Here's to making a little more of that world real.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.