Home. Just saying that word makes you feel so warm and cozy. However, the definition of home is different for everyone. It seems that in America, we get so stuck in the “American Dream” mentality…more and more people are buying homes that they cannot afford and sometimes homes that they didn’t “need” in the first place. It’s common in other countries to save up until you can buy a house outright…taking whatever measures necessary to reach that goal (living with parents, etc). There is an article on the history of mortgages here. And another interesting little fact: the word mortgage is from the Old French language and translates roughly to “death pledge.”While it’s true that real estate can be a wonderful way to create personal wealth, owning a home is not essential to a happy life. In fact, I would argue that being free from a mortgage makes life VERY happy While it’s not always possible to be completely free of a mortgage or a payment for housing of some sort, there are housing options that cost much less than a traditional home AND are more earth-friendly. Here are some of those options:
A straw bale home is insulated with straw bales. They can be beautiful and elegant…as well as efficient. I have always wanted to take a straw bale workshop…we had actually signed up to go to Dancing Rabbit for a week and do that, but it fell through. I have plans to go there someday and learn. I would love to build my own house as we can pay for it…and do the labor ourselves. More photos here…this one is particularly fun.
Cob is a mixture of sand, clay, and straw. You are able to mold it to your liking…which allows for great creativity in your space. They are so whimsical and lovely with the rounded edges. I love the feel. Here is a cob house in Mayne Island, BC…I am in LOVE with it. Can it be any cuter? Her main website is here which includes more cob resources.
I love yurts. I’ve always been attracted to the round shape and the fact that they can be put anywhere. They can be extremely basic and off the grid, or they can be decked out…to the height of luxury. Although they can be just one large room, they can also be separated into different areas and can also have a loft. Yurts have been around for a long time…and are still used in Mongolia today. There is just something about living in a yurt that thrills me. I love reading stories about those who are doing it.
A “Tiny” House
Tumbleweed houses are so stinking cute…how could you not want to live in one?! If you buy their pre-fab models, the cost is quite high, but if you just buy the plans and build it yourself, they range from $4,000-$14,000. The B-52 Bungalow rings in at 500 sq. feet. Sounds just perfect to me! Check out this great little documentary about a lady who sold her “big” house and moved into a “tiny” house.
Living in Community
Ask any of my closest friends…and they will tell you that “Yes, Sara wants to go live in a commune. She’s crazy”. But seriously. I do. But not a “let’s-all-run-around-naked-commune” in the sense that you may be thinking. I want to live in close COMMUNITY with other like-minded people (it is often referred to as an “intentional community”). I would love to share gardens, share playgrounds, and share meals a few times a week (vegetarian, of course). I would love a community where everyone could have their own living space (preferably a cob home like Kate’s ) There would be a large area where cars were not allowed. Bikes would be the preferred mode of transportation…and everyone would work from home. There would be lots of music, drumming, and singing…and people who like to think and talk a lot (if you’ve ever been in camping ministry, it’s kind of similar!). Ahhh…so fun to dream. I love to read Communities magazine, the Intentional Community website, and dream about living in communities like this or this. When we were visiting our friends in Boulder, we met some wonderful people who were sharing a home to help make it more affordable. There was a married couple with a child, and two single guys. I loved that they were thinking outside the box…combining their resources to achieve their goals. Eventually, they want to acquire land in southern Colorado and build a community.
And of course, another option to buying a traditional home is to rent. We love renting right now. We have a teeny tiny little rent payment (like our square footage ), and we’ve never been happier…knowing that we’re not “tied down” by a house and that we don’t have to work endless hours to make a payment. Renting allows a certain level of freedom that many are attracted to. I know that there are lots of compelling arguments about why you should buy your own house and stop renting. I’ve heard them…so please don’t try to convince me I’m not AGAINST owning a home. There is a wonderful feeling that comes with making it your own and putting down roots. I’m not saying that we won’t ever own again. I just want people to really examine WHY they are buying a home…and to look at all the options that are out there. When we were renting before, we said “we should just buy so we can stop paying rent”. So we qualified for a loan, and bought a house (the house you see at the top of this post). It was a beautiful home and we were happy there, for awhile…but it was too big (in our eyes). but it wasn’t the best for us at that time. And it costs money to maintain a home. And just because you can “afford” a certain home does not mean you have to purchase all the way up to the loan limit. Be smart and buy a house because it’s the right decision for you and your family…and not because your cousin, your brother, and your brother’s friend’s sister’s uncle is doing it. Just think for yourself. And of course, wherever you decide to call home…make it YOUR HOME…whether you are going to be living there for 1 month or 30 years.