The Solution to the Housing Bubble: Modest Houses and Simple LivingThe 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.
In all: $28.12 1/2
“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