Your house is how you display your wealth. Its location, its size, its architectural grandeur and the things you put inside it should all reflect your economic value.
That's my theory anyway. It's operating on a deep level and, to a certain extent, it's fine. Your house should be a place for you to be yourself. But a small number of people are rethinking the concept of "home", and they're getting creative and green while doing it. They're finding new ways to create their homes and it's cool and exciting, and they're creating new maxims to live by:
I read this article the other day about some people whose main criterion for building their house was that it could be vacuumed in five minutes. They built it for the most part by themselves and made it super green and super cheap. It's compact and that's how they like it. Plus, they saved loads of money in the process.
Personally, I like a bit of space to be by myself, to spread out a little and - when I eventually have a home of my own - I'd like to have a spare room/study because I'm self-employed and like to have people to stay. But the fact is that by living in a smaller space, you're taking up fewer resources by sharing them with more people (by resources I mean roads, public transport, community infrastructure).
Modern = Efficient
Old houses are beautiful and full of history, but new houses can be built from the ground up with recycled water and solar energy in mind. They can be built with insulation. They can be built with double-glazed windows, doors that seal properly and keep the heat or cool in. You can give your roof some plantlife, you can choose smart appliances, you can use reclaimed materials.
That's not to say you can't retrofit an old house to be more efficient. My mum, for instance, has installed solar hot water and solar electricity panels, as well as a rainwater tank in her house, which has drastically reduced what she pays for electricity bills. Her place is insulated too, so even when it gets boiling hot in Sydney, she doesn't need an air-conditioner.
Small tricks like having a draught excluder for your doors save energy for heating in the winter, particularly since older houses can have lots of gaps (this is a great cheap tip for renters to save on electricity bills). Hot water bottles are the perfect antidote to a cold winter night, and column heaters are usually more efficient than electric heaters, and not very expensive to buy. A medium-sized hack is investing in some heavy curtains: they keep the cold out in winter and the sun out in summer. More expensive investments include double-glazing, laying carpet instead of floorboards or installing solar or energy efficient appliances are better for home-owners
Less = More
This guy has taken minimalism to the absolute extreme. He used to have loads of junk and now he has next to nothing. He is much happier than he used to be. His life is clutter-free and it frees him up to think and live more. I'm not saying everyone should live like this, but it does seem to make a lot of sense, especially when you read this article - An Interview with The Man. It's funny but it also distils some incredibly pertinent points about the ways mass consumption controls us:
Do you know how people with hoards of money get to have those hoards of money? They make some money, and then they don’t spend it all. They keep some each time it comes in, and they use it to make more come in next time. That’s how power is accumulated. Instead of accumulating power, most of my employees accumulate objects in their homes, or they just burn the money as it comes in, on booze and expensive sandwiches. What I see is people setting up their lives such that they become dependent on powerful people like me, which is exactly the opposite of how one ought to build wealth. That’s why I’m The Man and they work for The Man.
So what am I telling you? I'm telling you that if you buy fewer things (and get rid of the things you currently have), live in smaller places with lower running costs and better green credentials you will be happier, richer and helping the universe while doing it. Sign me up.