Shelter: A Roof and Some Walls

Buddah sitting in snow

It all starts with the need for shelter, sometime after food for our bellies. We need a place to live. A place where we can call home. Or at least a space that protects us from the elements. A outer skin. Somewhere to rest and recharge with systems that promote a fruitful life. A space that provides respite from the world.

Renting does the trick, but have you ever added up your annual rent bill? If you pay $500.00 a month for a studio apartment you’ll end up paying $6000.00 a year. $500.00 a month doesn’t get you much these days either. That said your usually paying for the convenience of location, water, energy, systems, comfort, no responsibility when things break, and the ability to leave when ever you choose. Renting can be a good option when the cost is low. It seems like the value of 31 days of shelter has been horribly over blown.

Buying a house seems like the next logical step, right? Ok, so instead of paying $6000.00 a year to the landlord, I’ll pay the bank. At least my money, and life energy will collect somewhere in the form of equity. The mortgage, the death pledge, the evidence of debt. It’s glorified renting. Where the landlord is the bank, and you pay twice the value of the house in the end. Don’t forget – you fix what breaks. You are supposing that for the next 30 years you will have the capital to provide the house payment. 30 years? I’m not sure about what the next 30 years will bring, but I’m guessing there are going to be some major changes in our world. All the time working hard to create a living, spending much of your time at work – not at home.

Ok, so there’s the game. Seems like it could be so much simpler. Although what’s the alternative? Homelessness? In essence, if you don’t own your home, your homeless. What happens if you can’t work and have used up your savings. Foreclosure. The process of taking possession of a mortgaged property as a result of the mortgagor’s failure to keep up mortgage payments. God forbid this happens, but it’s happening all across the country right now. In one way it could be a blessing, being released from the bondage.

Building a house is yet another option, however, not for the faint of heart. You can create a dwelling with your own two hands. Although it can be an expensive proposition. You need all the materials while you build. This is a massive amount of stuff. Dumpster diving and cob can help keep costs low, but there’s always something you ‘need’ while building. If it’s not one thing it’s another. The investment of money, can be off set with the investment of time. Patience and perseverance instead of mortgage. DIY’s or owner-builders only have so much time, energy, and money. Sometimes you have none of the above. When working on the house, your time is not devoted to creating an income, so there is a hidden cost in that.
A humble dwelling can be built for a years rent. The most resourceful among us have been able to create a home for $500.00. Heart house anyone? The suggestion from Ianto and Linda is to build small. And for good reason. Every inch of the house is usually touched 3 or 4 times before it’s complete. From foundation to roof each square inch requires attention.

So far this has been the best option for me. Though more and more I want a tiny well planned out space. That holds less stuff, that promotes a stuff-less life style and requires less maintenance. A super small house with a big outdoor space and garden is the ideal place in my head.

What is shelter? At it’s basic level shelter provides protection from inclement weather. Providing shade from the sun and protection from the wind. It’s warmth and light. A safe place, a sanctuary, a refuge. A root. A space to share time with friends and family. A envelope. A container for memories. Accommodation, comfort, food preparation, utilities. The ability to control what is in your surroundings and sometimes the ability to create the surroundings themselves. Insulation from the outside world. It can also be a bubble of isolation. It can provide a list a mile long of tasks and maintenance. It’s a roof and some walls. It’s not you, or who you are. Though it can reflect what is important to you. What is shelter to you?

What are we looking for? A place to be for a while? A stable base in the community? A grand display of our wealth? A savings account you can live in? Functional art? An architectural experiment? What ever it is, when it boils down we just need a space we can come home too and rest our weary bones. True home is within us, and our family. All the external stuff is superfluous. We have certain needs for good health, but beyond that it’s just stuff. Material stuff.

There is no getting around the need for shelter. Whether it’s under a bridge, a mobile home, a single family dwelling, a tiny mud and straw pod or a McMansion. This basic aspect of health provides the ground work for what we really want to be doing with our lives. When our food and shelter needs are met we can focus on what we are doing here on planet earth. Focus on dreams. If we imagine what it is we think we need, and minimize it times 10, I think we could come a way with more time to do those things we really cherish; instead of mortgaging our lives away. How much is enough?

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