The Paradox of Choice: Lines Drawn Between the Liberty Home and A “Typical” American Home

Keith Howard | Monday, November 30, 2015


Sunday, November 29, 2015, in the Liberty Home Trailer

5:00 pm—36 degrees

The propane heater is on, along with a series of fans to distribute the heat.

I just got back to the Liberty Home after spending a couple days away. The time spent in a friend’s relatively huge house was nice—very nice, in fact—but I was struck by all the SPACE that never gets used. This says nothing bad about my friend, who is no more of a volume-spendthrift than any of the rest of us, but imagine:

–No thoughts of conserving/managing heat, electricity and water.

–Two bedrooms never used, except for guests.

–Two bathrooms, each with hot and cold running water, one with a full bath, including a shower that heats up the whole room.

–A master bedroom with a full closet and a large bureau, and twice the space of the Liberty Home’s 172 or so square feet.

–Said bedroom including an electric blanket!

–A kitchen with a working sink, a dishwasher, a four-burner stove, an oven, a refrigerator and a freezer.

–A dining room with a table big enough for eight people to sit around.

–A screened-in porch.

Coming back to the box, I feel like the poor country cousin.

5:15 pm—42 degrees

(temperature taken on a wall thermometer located on the far end of the box from the heat source)

Like the country cousin, though, I also have much for which to be thankful:

–Picking up is a breeze! When everything has a place—and no other place—it’s easy to make sure things are put away.

–Many fewer distractions. Walking aimlessly from room to room takes less than 10 seconds in the box.

–No television and no need to check incessantly on the score of the UNH-Colgate playoff football game (particularly given the Wildcats’ loss).

–The solution to the Paradox of Choice, which suggests that the more choices a human has, the harder it is for her to choose. In the box, the rocking chair is where I sit, the table is where I eat or prepare food and the bed is where I sleep. Most Americans have a dozen choices for these activities.

–The knowledge that this year-long experiment is so far demonstrating that this simple life is sustainable for those who choose it.

5:30 pm—53 degrees

The chill is off in the box!

Funny how 53 degrees can be comfortable here, but would be a crisis in a typical New Hampshire home. While it will take another 45 minutes or so for the box to heat up to 70 degrees, knowing that it will is enough to kill the chill.

As an American male, I’ve owned and lived in a typical home—3 bedrooms, 1 ¾ baths, living room, family room, dining room, kitchen, scullery and porch. With three small girls at the time (in the last millennium), that was a perfect size for us. Today, though, entering my dotage at 57, I think I’m happier with my living situation than I’ve been in a long time.

Especially now that it’s 6:00 and 63 degrees!

-Keith Howard

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