The Upside of the Mortgage Crisis

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It’s hard to believe that most Americans aren’t re-thinking their lifestyle choices in the wake of the economic meltdown we’re navigating. I know I have, and what I’ve mostly been thinking about is how to stay out of debt, slash expenses, build up my savings (now that I live in an economic banana republic), and downsize without sacrificing more comfort than I can sustainably live without. If you thought you were thinking outside the box on insulating yourself from economic turmoil and simplifying your life, check these folks out:

Bill and Sharon Kastrinos practice the ultimate in minimalism. They’ve squeezed into a 154-square-foot home that looks more like a kid’s playhouse than their previous 1,800-square-foot home….

The house cost them $15,000, and the utilities are a mere $15 a month. The couple now live on property owned by their daughter in California wine country, where the average home in 2007 cost $725,000. If they want to leave, the home has wheels and can be pulled behind their vehicle and plugged into any RV park in the nation.

Turns out, there’s a boomlet growing among homebuilders developing this new specialty: dollhouses for people.

I’m pretty sure I’m too cosseted to live in a former walk-in closet, but it does have me realizing that there’s much, much more fat to be cut from my wasteful, self-indulgent lifestyle. Stupid lattes come to mind.

When I shed nearly all my possessions and went off to a law school dorm room (from a townhouse) at 32, I remember how freeing it felt. In basic and officer’s training, it was equally liberating, after the initial shock, to live so spartanly. Not to mention cheap as bloody hell. If it couldn’t fit in your wall locker, you couldn’t have it. Once you couldn’t have it, it wasn’t long before you realized you didn’t need it. It was also equally quick to forget that lesson once let loose in the world again to acquire and acquire and to forget how little it takes to be happy.

So, these folks have shamed me a little. I’m going to go now and count the pairs of shoes I own. Then I’m going to count the ones I actually wear. Then…I don’t know. But that photo of the tiny house on wheels just went up on the wall above my laptop.

Only four inches of floor to mop. Just a coupla drawers of clothes to launder, fold, put away. No tchoktes to dust, no mortgage. Utilities paid from the change jar that would probably fit under a Murphy bed. A lifestyle that would allow you to choose a job you loved.

So, maybe the mortgage crisis will scare us wasteful, greedy Americans into so distrusting the bwanas with our economic futures that will come to envy our neighbors for the smallness of their house, the scarcity of their possessions and their lack of gainful employment.

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And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

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