Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Do We Really Need?

Our little cabin, of 400 square feet, has been pared down to the bare walls and floors. It's liberating, walking into this space, walking around in this space, and considering how we want to use it.

We've decided not to have a bathroom. We'll use a composting toilet* in an outdoor privy, or bath house. We want to save water and make soil, and it seems so civilized not to be shitting inside your house.

As for a kitchen, even though I bake I don't want heat-producing appliances in the house. A hot plate and hot pot might be enough to take care of our most basic needs - coffee, and an occasional can of chili. I'd like to build a wood-fired brick or cob oven outside, and Ken wants to build a smoker. I'd also like to try my hand at a rocket stove and a solar oven, and maybe just eating differently.

So do we really need a fridge? We need to keep the cream for our coffee cold, and maybe a few beers and sodas, but an ice chest will do for now. A small mini fridge will probably suffice in the long run.

Do we need a kitchen at all? Our realtor advised us to slap in an IKEA kitchen but I'm balking at the four-figure price of such a purchase and wonder if a couple of utility tables might not do just as well. We've been brainwashed into thinking that the heart of the home is a fully applianced, humming, built-in kitchen with granite countertops and down lights under the cabinets. I know at some point I'll want cabinets that close, to keep the dust off dishes and food, but I'll probably need fewer than I expect and will have plenty of time to shop for salvage.

We'll put a little wash stand on the front porch with a mirror, and move it to the back porch when the summer heats up. A table, a basin, a mirror, a towel, soap. Why did we think that belonged next to the place where we euphemize (the English and San Franciscans got that right with a separate WC or "water closet") and why did we think that running water while we straighten the parts in our hair was an improvement on a pitcher and a basin? My grand dad used to set a mirror in his roll top desk and shave there each morning. I imagine because the light was good.

What I do want is a bed and the bed will dominate the space. I'm considering a captain's bed with large drawers in which we can keep our clothes and belongings. A large comfortable bed, a fitting luxury that redefines the purpose of the house - shelter for sleeping, resting and relationship. Here is where we'll read when it's dark, with money- and electricity-saving LED lights, which put out very little heat.

There will be a table/desk and some chairs, I'm hoping little else. In all but the hottest times I want to live outside or in community - at the pool, the library, the market, visiting neighbors, sitting in the shade making plans, reading and writing books and pondering a world in which we pull back our hand from nature and live lightly.

I feel blessed to have this empty shell of a house before us and the chance to consider what things we truly need, to have the chance to carefully measure the water and power that we use and the strain we put on the planet and our society. How many times in your life do you get a chance like this?

* Emergency Zone - Honey Bucket Portable Toilet Seat Cover, Fits Standard 5 Gallon Pails