Monday, July 19, 2010

Living 12’ x 12’

I just finished a fascinating book called Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream by William Powers. Powers, an environmental writer and activist, tells of his experiences staying in the 12’ x 12’ house (technically, a shed) of his friend, “Dr. Jackie Benton” (not her real name) in North Carolina. “Jackie” (a woman of such modesty that she doesn’t use her professional title) lives this way because in North Carolina, a structure 12’ x 12’ is legally too small to be a house, and therefore not subject to taxation. “Jackie” refuses to fuel the American war machine. Of course, if your house is not really a house, you won’t receive electricity or sewage from the state, either. (Powers used candles at night, a solar shower for bathing, and a composting toilet under the porch.)

One of my goals is to live a simpler life. I want to live with less stuff overall. The less stuff you have, the lighter you live and the freer you are. I could be content in a 1 BD/1 BA condo or apartment. But I cannot live 12’ x 12’ with no electricity and no plumbing. Well, in theory I could, but I would not be a very happy Meandering Mouse.

Not quite 12' x 12'. (Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Practically speaking, I need electricity so I can do my writing and graphics work on my computer. Emotionally speaking, I want to be able to take a bath indoors once in a while, open the refrigerator for cold drinks, and watch movies on DVD. Viscerally speaking, I do not want to deal with “humanure” (even if it is good for the garden).

Plus, 12’ x 12’ gets even smaller when divided by two. It is easier for a single person (like “Jackie” and Powers) than a couple. I know without asking that living 12’ x 12’ is a NFW for Two Dogs.

Even for those who will not take simple living that far, Twelve by Twelve is a beautifully written book that will open your mind to asking: What do I really need to be happy? Is there more to life than being a consumer? Are American exceptionalism and individualism insurmountable obstacles to making sustainable living the norm?

I love books that help me to ask questions.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever read "Pilgrim by Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard or "On Walden Pond" by Henry David Thoreau? These works are also about the experience of living simply, but they're more about nature writing than anti-materialism or anti-corporations. I think you would enjoy these books.

    And I know what you mean, it can be hard to live knowing that some of the necessities and luxuries you enjoy were created under a backbone of greed and disregard for human, animal and environmental life.