Simplicity: Simple and Small Home

Simplicity > Essential #5 > Simple and Small Home

As I wrote before: I think houses should be smaller so gardens and lawns can be bigger. I think we need less time indoors and more time outdoors. I believe everyone should have a right to hang their laundry outdoors and grow food. The other advantages of a small and simple home are: easier to keep clean, less chemicals required when you can hand scrub surfaces frequently, less electricity/oil/gas/wood needed to heat the home, less furniture (and other stuff) to off-gas into your lungs, less stuff in general, and . . . I am not convinced that we all need super large ovens, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, hot water heaters, washing machines, dryers, etc. I think we should choose the smallest size that works for us, even if that size is not to have one at all.

Our household is four adults sharing a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, with a common kitchen, living room, and laundry facilities, 1400 square foot manufactured home. At times it feels much too large.

My perfect home would include:

  • 12 inch exterior walls, with large southern and eastern facing windows, with small and high northern and western facing windows, working shutters, greenhouse attached to southern wall, and next to it a screen porch with benches for removing and storing shoes.
  • Rain water harvesting system: roof, tanks, pump, and manual pump delivering water straight into the kitchen and bathrooms. Solar hot water tanks. Overflow pond.
  • Gray water wetlands and composting system for composting toilets. Septic for black water.
  • Small kitchen, large pantry. Solar food dehydrator, outdoor bread/pizza oven and grill (wood, not gas or charcoal), root cellar system.
  • Small solar energy system (or bio-digester). Transitioning to fewer electrical items so the system can be small and affordable. Solar battery chargers for small electronics.
  • Heat sink/ masonry by southern windows for winter passive heating — maple trees planted in front of house for summer passive cooling. Small rocket stove for heating and cooking in the cooler months.

The coming years will be filled with mini-experiments with each of the above systems. It will allow us to grow accustomed to the ideas and practicalities of working with these systems. In the meantime, as things break I have to ask myself, “Is this what I want in the future? Is this sustainable? Is this simple?” If the answer is yes, then I repair or replace it. If the answer is no, I let it be and we begin putting an alternative in place.

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