The Modernism Backlash: Smaller Homes, Gardens, Mass Transit, Composting Toilets?
Lately I have noticed a backlash of sorts against the status quo.Â Sure, we have seen this in every age when society gets to a specific point, but this one seems to be more extreme, at least in my opinion.Â Perhaps it's because I'm looking for this element, or perhaps it's because my attention has been focused in this way, but it seems that the modern world of large homes, expensive vehicles, and modern conveniences is being seen as a distraction.
For instance, the Tiny Home movement talks about living in a small space, between 86 sq. ft. to up to 500 sq. ft. (about).Â These are dimentions of homes that have existed for centuries.Â Log cabins, tents, cottages, etc. have all been built small.Â Why?Â Generally because building a home is time consuming, and generally you need to get into the house before the elements become too extreme for survival.Â Therefore people learned to live in small spaces out of necessity.Â As such, their "private time" was spent outdoors in woods, fields, mountains, etc.Â
The really interesting thing about the current housing market is the size of the homes being built are larger than many of the castles built in the Middle Ages, or even many of the Roman villas (with a few exceptions of both, to be sure).Â They are built to contain an entire ecosystem consisting of a local pub, dance hall, hotel for vistors with washing facilities, and theatre.Â How much really does get used, and for how often?Â Then there is the maintenance:Â repairs, cleaning, dusting, decorating..Â the list goes on, and all for space that is hardly ever used.Â How easy would it be to replace it with, say, renting a space at a local restaurant, town hall, church, etc. and save the money you would have otherwise spent yearly for the upkeep of a space you may never use again.Â
The tiny home community has worked on building a home that fits their needs, while limiting the excess that has come to represent the modern debt-based economy.Â Often times modern conveniences are worked around for convenience to the builder, so things such as toilets are turned into composting toilets or outhouses, again a throw back to the chamber pots and latrines of the early decades.Â
Farming is also making a comeback, or at least gardening.Â Partly for help in the food expenses, partly because it keeps one's mind busy on something that is rewarding in and of itself, more people are growing vegetables and fruits in their yards than before.Â Urban Farming has become a new focus for those in apartments or suburban areas, with window boxes full of tomatoes or salad greens gracing many a home.Â This, again, is a throwback to a time when gardening provided a huge amount of variety to the diet.Â
Mass transportation has been growing, and more people are buying homes where they can walk or bike to work or to a transit station and commute to work that way.Â Before the Model T when the Automobile was king and represented the wealth of those who purchased them, people would often walk if they didn't have the convenience of a buggy and/or horse.Â Bicycles were also very popular because of the level of mobility they provided the individual.Â All before the automobile became the new standard of travel.Â
It's interesting to see how the failing economy that was based on so many unsustainable practices has changed the outlook of people in general.Â More people are willing to commute to work, more people are willing to due without the guest wing in their new giant home for something a bit more manageable, or people looking for a deeper connection to their land than a lawn that is only mowed and never walked on.Â
The really surprising thing is the move toward more primitive living: i.e. the move away from indoor plumbing.Â Perhaps it's just a fringe, but people who currently live in modern homes are building their own dwellings without the convenience of indoor plumbing.Â Water is brought in from a well, stream, sistern, or other outdoor source.Â The toilet is processed into "humanure", and used for a garden, while gray water is filtered out and used for gardening as well.Â Hygenics aside, the fact that people are choosing to make this move is fascinating.Â
So I suppose the only question that remains is where this movement will end.Â My guess is the housing market will see a reduction in house sizes in response, lot sizes will increase relative to the size of the home, and more gardens will be grown for home-grown produce.Â For some reason, though, I don't see the general public giving up their indoor plumbing.