As many people are discovering in New Jersey and New York, our machine-based designs for living are very brittle and when they fail, they really fail leaving us helpless.
Whatever you might feel about the causes of the changes to our climate, we can all be sure that we are living in unusual climate conditions that place enormous strain on our centralized machine systems. Whether it is floods or drought, wind or ice, relying on the "System" is not a good bet anymore.
In my book, You Don't Need a Job, I make the case for a return to a more decentralized way of living. Only 100 years ago 80% of us lived in rural settings and were very much more resilient. We had our own hand wells. We heated with wood. We had our own food. And our house did not cost a fortune to build or to keep.
But then, of course, the work was local. We went to the cities to get work as work itself became more centralized. But work today is becoming less centralized and much of the work of the future will be the old work. It will not be work in large corporations. It will be work in very small units. We will make and sell things for ourselves and for each other. We will make a living feeding each other. We will make a living by providing services to each other. We won't have a lot of money but then we won't need a lot of money when most of what we need is free! We do not need a lot of money when we share a lot of things.
Key to this new way of living is a new way of looking at a house. Our new houses will be like this.
It will be small - this is less than 700 sf. It will generate most of its own energy and will capture most of its own water. It may well be connected in a network to other small houses that house your extended family. You may well have a common barn that will have animals, your tools and a maker space.
To help you build this, there are new kinds of house builders emerging. This one is from Off Grid Shelters.
There is more to a Tiny House than just a small space. Living in a tiny space forces us to rethink how we live. How much stuff do we really need? Does stuff make us free or a slave? Do we worry about how people will see us if we have a tiny house and few things? The Tiny, or small ,house is a statement about how we live. More on this here:
I have moved to a small cottage. It is not 700 sf - it is 1300 sf. We too have had to rethink all our stuff and what we really need. We are investing in making our small house as minimally dependent on the system as possible. We can walk to any place in the village. We will insulate it thoroughly. With our wood insert stove we rely on the local wood source to back up Hydro Quebec. There is a strong local food system and we have lots of family and real neigbours to offer the security of a real social network.
This shrinking has not been easy. Nor is it easy to show such a small face to the world when I have been indoctrinated to show the biggest face. "What will people think of us?" is a thought running in background.
But when I fuss, I remind myself that I am more free now than I have ever been. And I promise you true freedom is delicious.
We don't have much of an income. But we don't need it. This is my retirement strategy. It's not about having an impossible amount of savings to maintain my old way of living. It is about investing in a new way of living that does not need a lot of cash. It is such a tax effective approach too.
Our greatest exposure to the system at our age - in our 60's - is healthcare. And because of knowing what we do about health, we plan to keep away from that risk too. My Xmas Book - You Don't Need a Doctore to be Healthy - will shed more light on this too.
Many complain abut high home prices but what about low earnings and high student debt?
If you have high student debt, a mortgage is out of the question
If you can only get a minimum wage job, then you will not have the income or the savings to buy a home.
If you have played by the old rules, the old normal of home owning is off the table. So what then about living with your parents?
If you think it is normal to live only an independent life - you and your partner and only your young kids - then living in an extended family will feel bad
The new reality is that few of us can now afford to be as separate and independent as we thought was normal and expected.
I see that much of the stress connected to this sense of failure comes from expectations that are rooted in the old paradigm of Separation that is tied to the idea of a Job.
But if you shift your mindset, then this can open up a lot of opportunity instead of a feeling of failure.
What if you aspired to a Tiny House with all the tiny costs associated with them? Many are starting to think this way. This is a reason why I see that the Tiny House Movement is taking off in America. Tiny houses make all aspects of home ownership more affordable by design. It's not just that they cost less but they drive a different lifestyle that drives down your fixed costs in the future and makes you more free.
In a Tiny House you can also have a low cost base that will enable you to start a business of your own and so become part of the new networked world.
A group of Tiny Houses are a local network where you can share resources with other families rather than having the costs of having everything for your self.
And what about living with your parents? If this is an accident then it may be awful. But what if this was intentional? What if you designed the place to work well? What if you and your parents saw the value?
I write this with 2 grandkids staying with us. We have set up our life now to make this our new normal. We live near the other Granny too and near lots of cousins.
Is not the Extended Family the REAL TRADITIONAL FAMILY? The Tribe is the social and economic structure that works. It is not simply co housing but economic. It works for ALL parties.
You don't need child care costs. I don't need a pension. You have less dysfunction as there are more models. You don't need to commute. You can get time back. As an intention, the Tribe works well.
If you don't have a lot of relatives, what about your close friends? After all as we get older, do you really think we are all going to be in old people's homes?
Is not the barrier in our minds as we hang onto the old paradigm?
Want to know more?
An introduction to this is in my first book - You Don't need a Job - in the spring of 2013, I will publish a book on the Home and the Family where these ideas and the many examples that exist now will be explored more deeply.
We just moved in this weekend. A long unpacking period ahead and lots to do but it is so sweet. We are on a very quiet street. The Marina is 2 minutes walk and there are trails all over where the dog and I will get our exercise.
At about 1,300 square feet - not a "tiny house" but for us who had 3 buildings with over 6,000 square feet before, this is small. And so are the bills and so is the mowing job. 4 plus acres to 1/3 of an acre.
Just got the internet back after more than 40 days and nights - I know now how desperate I am for that connection. The old iPhone kept me just in touch but it is bliss to be back in the full stream.
Next month I will be getting ready to launch the books but for now - it's unpacking and planning what we have top do here.
I have been advocating that Pub Media get behind the Empowerment Movement that comes from using networks to help people gain freedom - local food - health - 3D printers etc.
My pals at WGTE in Toledo are doing this. Here Jay Shafer is interviewed in depth. If you invest your time in this video, you will see more than merely a small house but how by seeing how our house can make us either a prisoner or a free person, we can change our lives completely. For the ideas of a big house and student debt keep us in chains.
Keeping up a house in the traditional way will be impossible over time. So is it possible to look at a house in a new way?
When I first saw this - I reacted with "How quaint" but over time, I have seen more to this.
The industrial system makes us into wage slaves by making us pay too much for key things. Such as now a College Education. We leave school, if we go there, with so much debt that we have to take the job - but now there are so few jobs.
We want to be healthy, so we spend a fortune on pills and procedures. Many Americans spend as much on health insurance as they do on house payments.
We aspire for a house. Usually over 2,000 square feet. We have to heat it. Insure it, Repair it. We fill it with stuff. The only house we can afford is in the suburbs, so we need a car. Maybe 2 cars!
The new financial reality means that none of this is affordable now. So what to do? Live on the street? Live in a flop house? No I think the key is to start to think of what we need in a new light.
Do I need to go to school full time for 4 years and have all this debt? The jobs that demand the degree are not there or are hell. So do I rethink my education?
Is my health dependent on drugs? No it is not. If you eat well and live a real life, it is likely that you will be well.
Do I need a big house full of stuff? No we don't. Does the stuff make us happy? The traditional house ties us down just as the health care costs and student loan do.
Now is it possible to live in a 100 square foot house? As you see, Jay now has his house and a larger one of about 400 square feet for his family. Might not the Network apply to housing too?
See this video for more on this.
It's early days. But I know that my kids can get a better education out there on the web and at a Co Working palce. I know for sure that I don't need the health care system unless I am in an accident.
It will just take a bit more work to think through the practical aspects of networked housing. I am talking to my daughter about this for us right now. How can we be separate and together? How do we combine smaller spaces?
You don't have to wait for your kids to grow up either. You have a teen child? Hey they can have a house now too. Think what he will learn? Not just about buolding a house but about living in a new way. What will be his thoughts over time abiut stuff? How free will he be?
And if you are wondering how to make sure that your eldery mum and da are ok - how about this?