A little movement I can get behind

October 7, 2012 

I've never been much into status symbols. Of course, that could be because when I was a kid we totally couldn't afford status symbols … unlike today when I totally, utterly cannot afford status symbols. Or a pair of cymbals.

I'm definitely not a 1-percenter. Well, unless you're talking about the 1 percent who can pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time without getting confused. Or the 1 percent who've been to at least eight Buffett concerts in their life. Or the 1 percent who not only have been abducted by aliens but also got to drive the UFO.

The problem in America is that so many people who care about status symbols can't afford to care about status symbols. Folks are willing to mortgage their family's futures to make sure they've got the most expensive car, the gaudiest engagement ring and the biggest house. And it's that biggest house thing that has really messed up things.

And I've never really understood that. Ever since one Christmas morning when I had to put my little sister's Barbie Dream House together, I've wondered why anyone would want such a giant house, especially if it's made in China out of toxic plastic.

And I've lived in a couple of really big houses. They weren't status symbols, mind you. They were old houses … and big old houses have big old problems, like bathrooms that were added as an afterthought. And building materials composed of lead, asbestos and anthrax.

Some, though, have come to their senses. Over the last 15 years or so, there has been a Small House Movement in America. It's not often I get behind a movement. And during football season, I'm generally against any movement unless it involves the lifting of chicken wings during the game. But I'm all for this movement because I've had small homes and big homes, and I prefer the small.

Whether it's because I don't care about status symbols or that I don't feel the need to compensate for anything, I just like the simplicity and coziness of a small home and am totally ready to jump on board with this small house movement in which people downsize from 2,500-square-foot homes for homes a fifth that size.

Between marriages, I rented an apartment in a house in Columbus' Historic District that by my calculations was approximately 14 square feet, give or take a millimeter. Yet, it had a mini-fridge, a little twin bed, a tiny bathroom, a TV and a microwave. But because it was in the beautiful District, was steps from the Riverwalk and within biking distance of my desk at the paper and a Wednesday night margarita special, it was perfect. I loved it.

I realized that I could live in a tiny cabin. I could be part of this Small House Movement. And a big part of the movement is simplification and getting rid of stuff. We've got too much stuff. And too many people these days get home from work, shut the doors, close the blinds and only emerge when it's time to go back to work. Having a small home encourages people to get out and experience the world. And get away from their stuff.

Life isn't meant to be owned; life is meant to be lived. A well-lived life is not an inventory you can auction; a well-lived life is a collection of memories. Memories you might even be able to take with you when you go.

So, I'm all in on this whole Small House Movement. I've even got a design for a 500-square-foot cabin picked out. And even my wife is kinda, sorta, maybe on board.

Unfortunately, the cat has vetoed it. Figures. She has more stuff than I do.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Follow his work at Facebook.com/KudzuKidWriting.

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