After discussing issues related to clothing, Thoreau, in Chapter One of Walden, next turns to the issue of housing.
(The picture here is one Jana took of the Thoreau cabin replica at Walden Pond Park).
Throughout this discussion Thoreau says things that sound downright Christian in calling out materialism and consumerism. Why buy bigger and bigger houses? Why not be content with less? Why enslave yourself to a mortgage?
Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.When Jana and I were shopping for our first house, which is the house we still live in and plan to live in (Lord willing) for the rest of our lives, we were given the following advice: Buy as much house as you can afford....Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?...[T]he cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
Anyone else ever hear that?
Trouble was, I was a student of Walden. So we went the opposite direction. We went small.
We figured, why tie up all our monthly income into a mortgage? Why not content ourselves with a smaller house and free up our money for other things? Vacations. Eating out with the family. Going to the movies. Savings. And charity. Lets spend our money on life rather than on a house.
From the start we called our house "Briarwood Cottage," because it is small and we live on Briarwood street. It is, square footage-wise, the smallest house of any of the houses of our friends and acquaintances. And I feel a sort of perverse pride in that, having the smallest house of anyone we know.
I'm not saying this to be boastful. I'm mainly wanting to share our story as it is, I think, interestingly unAmerican. In America the push is for bigger and bigger houses. And we've seen, in recent years, the ruinous effect this can have on people and upon our national economy. So if you are young, and your first house is in your future, let me pass on our story and the advice of Mr. Thoreau: