Living in a Dumpster: a sociological experiment

I feel sometimes that I’m a front porch guy in a back deck world.

dumpsterI came across this article in the Atlantic, Living Simply in a Dumpster. “One professor left his home for a 36-square-foot open-air box, and he is happier for it. How much does a person really need?” It’s all part of a “sustainability-focused experiment.” The idea is that “we could end up with a house under $10,000 that could be placed anywhere in the world.” That’s all great in terms of potentially dealing with housing shortages, or at least temporary dwellings.

But I’m much more interested in the social aspect of the experience. No way Jeff Wilson can stay in the dumpster during the Austin, TX summer.

“But some interesting things happened because of that,” he explained. He spent a lot more time out in the community, just walking around. “I almost feel like East Austin is my home and backyard,” he said. He is constantly thinking about what sorts of things a person really needs in a house, and what can be more communal.

“What if everybody had to go to some sort of laundromat?” Wilson posited. “How would that shift how we have to, or get to, interact with others? I know I have met a much wider circle of people just from going to laundromats and wandering around outside of the dumpster when I would’ve been in there if I had a large flat screen and a La-Z Boy.”

I think about this a lot, the difference between doing the laundry at home and schlepping the stuff in a cart; oddly, I always preferred the latter. Or being in a car versus public transportation. But the local bus has changed greatly in the past couple decades, with more people on some sort of electronic device, so that space allowing for random human interaction has been largely capped.

When I took the train on long trips, I loved going to the dining car and eating with someone I had never met before. When I lived near Washington Park in Albany, I felt the park was my back yard, which was good, because I didn’t have a real one.

A colleague said the framework is the difference between the front porch and the back deck. I feel sometimes that I’m a front porch guy in a back deck world.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “Living in a Dumpster: a sociological experiment”

  1. Or as George Carlin would have said, your house is just a place for your stuff, and if you didn’t have all that stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.

    If you’re the front-porch guy, I’m the wacko stuck in the closet.

  2. The sociological aspect of this interests me, in part because when I was in university I had an independent study course in which Thoreau played a big part. Thoreau thought that no one should have more possessions than they could carry on their back, and much as that intrigued me, I didn’t follow it then or now (though sometimes I wish I did…).

    Related somewhat, I’m utterly fascinated by the “tiny houses” movement. Have you seen anything about that? It’s all about having no more space than a person absolutely needs, which usually also means no debt and sustainable living. The houses are often built on trailers to get around local zoning laws that require a much higher minimum square footage. Still, the houses are bigger than a dumpster.

  3. Arthur – I get e-mails from one of these tiny houses groups. Ecological sound, and I’m nowhere near…

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