Personal Independence Day Built Affordable Home
The Solution to the Housing Bubble: Modest Houses and Simple Living
The Simple Life: Thoreau's Cabin at Walden Pond
Henry David Thoreau reportedly marched into the woods on the 4th of July, Independence Day, in 1845 to begin his experiment in simple living at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau's action was his personal Declaration of Independence.
Throreau's do-it-yourself (DIY) 10x15-foot cabin provided 150 square feet or primary living space--and that even included a home office. Some people at first find a small house to be strange but only because they forget all the more socially-acceptable ways of people living with less personal space (in-law apartment, room rental in 2-bedroom apartment). The idea is not so unusual if you think of a studio "efficiency" apartment to free your life of clutter. The average US household today shelters fewer than 3 people each so a family-sized Walden might provide 450 square feet.
Simple Living: The Interior of Thoreau's Walden Pond Cabin (replica)
Thoreau finagled some sweetheart deals to keep costs down. Even so, you can price the cost of building a Walden-Pond-type home today and find that many "unaffordable housing" complaints are actually about discretionary consumption of extra rooms and amenities, not necessities.
Cheap too: Thoreau’s cabin’s material building costs totaled $28 and change.
- Board's: $8.03 1/2, mostly shanty boards
- Refuse shingles for roof and sides: $4.00
- Laths: $1.25
- Two second-hand windows with glass: $2.43
- One thousand old brick: $4.00
- Two casts of lime: $2.40. That was high.
- Hair: $0.31. More than I needed
- Mantle-tree iron: $0.15
- Nails: $3.90
- Hinges and screws: $0.14
- Latch: $0.10
- Chalk: $0.01
- Transportation: $1.40. I carried a good part on my back.
“These are all the material excepting the timber, stones and sand, which I claimed by squatter's right.” (Walden)
Building a house is so cheap that it can be a class project: Students built this replica of Thoreau's Walden Pond cabin. Could you?
Thoreau's idea lives today in the "tiny houses" movement (small, modular, and kit homes)--just beware of overpriced kitsch that defies the purpose and soul.
Photo credits: 1 2 3 4