How microhomes could solve homelessness
The lack of affordable housing is obviously one of the primary causes of homelessness. Although average home prices have fallen during the current economic crisis, many people still cannot afford to buy or rent a home or even an apartment. Those who can afford it often have little or no money left over after paying for the residence and its associated expenses.
This big problem has a small solution: microhomes.
Microhomes are unusually small homes, but typically at least equal in size to RVs, the small size of which does not diminish the enjoyment of staying in them. As I discussed in my free book Microhome Living, common homes are needlessly large, primarily serving as a repository for stuff we collect but no longer want or need. Most home space is frittered away by 2-dimensional thinking that doesn't even come close to fully utilizing 3-dimensional space, yet there is no mortgage, utility, or insurance discount for flagrantly wasting so much cubic volume.
Those needlessly large homes suck an excessive amount of energy and other resources, including the most precious one: time. People spend much of their lives working to buy, maintain, and clean their bloated homes.
Houses are often called “money pits” because they consume so much money in so many ways that homeowners are often left financially drained. We often justify becoming slaves to our homes by thinking of all the money we might make by selling them. Back in the days when home prices rose year after year, I sold my first home for $40,000 more than I paid. When I did the math, I realized that I hadn't made a penny of real profit. After factoring in the money I put into it, I lost $285,000, or almost $8000 per month, during the three years I lived there.
Worse yet, except for fleeting moments of pleasure, living in that needlessly large home did little to make me happier. In fact, after considering how much time I spent working to afford it and keep it clean, the net effect wasn't more happiness, but much less of it, accompanied by more stress and exhaustion.
In Microhome Living, I presented the myriad advantages of living in a microhome. In return for squeezing in a smaller space, people get huge benefits: more free time, better health, and savings that snowball into a mountain of money. The resultant financial freedom enables people to live lives that most people only dream of. People could work much less or do something they love that might pay less.
“No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
People who speak passionately of freedom often fail to consider how little lifestyle freedom they have. Instead of doing what they want, they slave away year after year, decade after decade, at jobs that usually give them just enough money to barely squeak by. Instead of having few bills and a comfortable cushion of money, they are usually in debt and worry about their finances. If you have debt collectors hounding you, you know that financial worries are one of the most onerous forms of stress. Stress can accelerate aging and increase mortality, prematurely robbing you of your looks in addition to malignantly sucking the joy out of a life that ends too soon.
Thus, microhome living is an attractive lifestyle option for almost everyone, but it is especially advantageous for people who cannot afford typical homes.
While microhome living offers compelling advantages to individuals, it also benefits society. Embracing small homes and related ways of downsizing our energy and material needs could erase our dependency on imported goods and foreign oil. Americans who complain of high gas prices would gasp if they knew the true total price that is camouflaged by tax dollars subsidizing the military. Whether we pay at the pump or by having more money deducted from our paychecks to pay taxes, or by saddling future generations with debt bound to crush them, we pay a staggering price for Middle East oil in terms of dollars and lives lost and shattered.
Many folks rationalize our involvement there by thinking that it is necessary to support our lifestyles, but there is an alternative that has precious benefits: less pollution and less risk of our country going bankrupt, which is happening now. As the USA sinks, it is taking many citizens down with it.
The rah-rah support of our military is like cheering as we slit our wrists and slowly bleed to death. The trillions of dollars we've spent on armed forces to preserve our freedom to squander resources will be seen by future historians as a blockheaded and counterproductive means of national economic suicide that ultimately decimates our freedom by impoverishing us. That will heighten our vulnerability in a way analogous to how a woman living in a risky neighborhood could paradoxically reduce her security by spending so much on it that she went bankrupt. Instead of living in a reasonably secure home, she could become homeless. As she sat on a park bench shivering as rain pelted her body and mosquitoes nipped at her neck, if she had an ounce of common sense, she would surely rue the day she decided to spend lavishly on security. By upgrading her home with reinforced doors, iron bars on her bulletproof windows, and a super-duper security system, she lost all that and more.
Consequently, as the United States circles the drain, it behooves us to reconsider our individual and collective actions. By adopting a less is more lifestyle, we would ultimately end up with much more: more personal and economic freedom, more free time, more money to spend on fun, better health, and more years to enjoy it all, along with enhanced long-term national security to benefit us and our descendants. If we keep doing what we've been doing, what is the chance our grandchildren will thank us instead of curse us?
Although microhomes built with standard construction methods can be amazingly affordable (thousands of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars), by thinking outside the box, I developed ways to further slash that cost, producing homes of even better quality for hundreds of dollars. Their construction is so simple that children could do most of it after less than five minutes of instruction. Need more space? Add it in minutes. Want to move? Take your home with you—in hours—if you insist, although doing that would make about as much sense as taking the air you breathe, which will be found in abundance wherever you go.
Now for the biggest surprise: although microhomes are smaller than typical homes, they generally cost so little that their owners can afford to have more total square footage by having multiple buildings, each with a specific purpose. Microhome Living explains why this adds up to remarkable savings of money, energy, and time.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.”
— General George Patton
“Any fool can make things bigger [and] more complex. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”
— Albert Einstein
Living Without Money (unfortunately, it takes money to see that movie!)