So What Makes You Happy (part 1)

While the majority of this little blog of mine deals with cycling and transportation issues, I can’t really divorce that topic from the environment that surrounds it. In my opinion, that would be a mistake since transportation is only part of a system we can call urban existence. So I’m going to depart for a bit to discuss what an urban utopia would be like for me. Since the topic will be long and detailed, it will be necessary to break it down into segments if for no other reason than to keep the few readers I have (and I do appreciate my readers!) So on to Part 1.

A while back, I read a volume entitled A Pattern Language. This book looked at where we live and how it should be designed for optimal living. Along with Jane Jacobs’ book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, this book opened my mind to the way we were screwing up the planet with poor design. While it started with the larger areas and worked back to the home, I`m going to take the opposite approach and look at what makes a great home for me.

Let me start by saying the first ingredient to my own happiness is the love of my wife, Laura, and my love for her along with the love of our kids, siblings, and the friends we consider family. Without that, I could live in otherwise perfection and not be happy.

Sitting here in my three-bedroom, one bath house with 1/2 acre of land and two car garage, I realize fully that we have more “stuff” than we need. The downside to “stuff” is that it has to be taken care of, so we lose a lot of our most precious commodity: time. Once time is past, it’s gone forever except in our memories. I for one don’t want my memories to be those of mowing, painting, cleaning, etc. all of what we possess (or, more accurately, what possesses us!)

So first thing is “smaller.” The house can be two beds, one bath, kitchen, and living/dining area. Oh, and a bathroom with shower! Big enough for two with the occasional guest. Enough yard for the dogs, a couple of chickens, and a vegetable garden. NO LAWN!! Think about how much money and effort goes into growing that green carpet that serves no purpose than to keep the dirt covered. Wasteful! A 1/4 would be more than enough.

But let’s talk about that vegetable garden for a minute. Is it really a necessity? There are community gardens you can join, farmers’ markets you can visit, CSA’s you can support, and grocery stores that sell organic food you can fall back on. So how truly cost effective is that garden, other than for the satisfaction of growing your own (see community garden above?) And the chickens? Some community gardens raise them as well, the same stores/markets mentioned above sell them, and while it may not be “from under the hen” fresh, it comes pretty close in a lot of cases. I have never looked at it, but I suspect that a dozen eggs from my little flock of six costs as much as the organic eggs from Whole Foods Market. So scratch the garden and the space for chickens.

Which leaves the dogs. I love our dogs! Companions extraordinaire, they have their own little 400 sq ft space where they can answer nature’s call. But is it really necessary? If we took them for more frequent walks (with poop bags in hand), would that not cut down on the land requirements? So let’s reclaim and dispose of the dog yard. That leaves space requirements for the garage and the house.

So let’s move on to the garage. Currently our storage space is a large two car (heck I could fit four Foresters in it) garage with another storage shed behind it that could house another car if we could drive it down the stairs to the back yard. Seems like more than sufficient space doesn’t it? But they’re both jam-packed full! Everyone has their addictions! In our case it`s bicycles and kayaks. In our garage there are ten bicycles of various sorts for the two of us, a few for the grandkids to ride when they visit, a couple of trail-a-bikes and trailers for those too small to ride yet, and the tools and equipment I use to maintain the fleet. This list does NOT include the panniers, bags, baskets, and utility trailers that adorn our two-wheeled steeds depending on that day’s needs. WAAAY more than we truly need, but we like them!

As for kayaks, there’s two single recreational kayaks hanging on the wall, and my self-built wooden sea kayak suspended from the ceiling. A tandem Folbot resides in the basement. Add paddles, life jackets, etc. you get the picture.

Tools! Lots of tools! Stuff I brought from NC when I moved here in 2012 that I’ve barely touched in four years! Table saw, radial arm saw, generator, and GOK what else…

You know what, I’ve convinced myself. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a garage to clean and Craigslist ads to compose. I’ll report back on the results in Part 2.

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