Cubicles have a bad rap: They’re tiny, humiliating work spaces reserved for monkeys who push buttons all day long. I don’t have to sit in one, so maybe I’d speak differently if I were stuck in a bathroom-sized box all day, but I do live in a one-bedroom apartment with my significant other. And if there’s one good thing about having less room to stretch out in, it’s that you’re forced to use it more wisely.
In other words, you cut down on junk because even a tissue box can make your living room look cluttered. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind having so many gadgets over other household items and fixtures: Many of them are pocket-sized and compact. They can fit neatly on a shelf or in a drawer, out of sight somewhere. All our devices are headed in this direction: Smaller, thinner, and sleeker is better. Less volume for a more economic design.
So I’m not surprised to hear that people are thinking small when it comes to where they live. Tiny houses are apparently a thing.
Take a group of 16 students from Green Mountain College in Vermont. They made a 70-square foot half-dome that’s more an outhouse than a house, but it has a sleeping area, a composting toilet, and its own, natural systems for indoor plumbing and lighting — pods that collect and filter rainwater and solar panels, respectively. It looks like a beautiful but futuristic space cubicle, this OTIS pod home. OTIS stands for Optimal Traveling Independent Space, and it sells for about $9,000.
That kind of do-it-yourself, off-the-land simplicity seems to fit more neatly with the American dreams of our grandparents than with today’s busy society — until you think about how life hasn’t changed all that much. We’re still looking for simpler, more economic ways to live our lives — we’re just searching for them in technology. We still want “green,” but now we have higher-powered resources at our disposal to obtain it.
So while I doubt anyone will be moving out of their two-story houses or swanky apartments to shack up in OTIS pods anytime soon, a lot of people are trying to live more simply — more humbly. Personally, I yearn for a bigger apartment when my wallet can afford it, but I no longer envision myself relaxing in a mini-mansion with a pool like I did when I was younger.
Extra rooms are a pain to clean, first of all, and I don’t need a ton of space. There’s a reason the rich spend their money on rare collectibles and other luxuries (they have dozens of rooms to fill), but living in a cramped apartment has taught me and a lot of other people that we’re better off keeping our possessions light. I own a lot of stuff that I don’t need, and giving it away or selling it off has showed me how little I’m actually attached to it.
The point is, it’s healthier to live with less, not more — especially when our minds are so often jacked into the virtual, electrical Internet world.
As so many of us stand in line to buy the latest gadget, we’re already hopelessly lost to modern consumerism. We’re suckers for new technology and exciting innovations. We crave what we can hold in the palm of our hand, tinier than ever, or what can not only fit snugly in our homes but what will also blend organically, sleekly with our interior design.
Maybe the only way to offset these addictions is to search for a different kind of simplicity: not the simplest, smartest, or most convenient gadget but humbleness in our private lives when we’re not staring at brightly lit screens.