Living in a Dumpster: a sociological experiment

dumpsterCame 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.

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