Voluntarily living in less than 175 square feet is a skill. It is not a skill I possess or wish to possess, but I have respect for the people who do and am inspired by their way of life. They find a way to do without traditional conveniences of a home. They sacrifice a great deal of comfort to pursue whatever it is that matters to them more.
This week, I’ve been mesmerized by two articles on extreme minimalist living I want to bring to your attention. The first article from Salon is about a graduate student named Ken Ilgunas who attends Duke University and has chosen to live in his van instead of an apartment:
Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.
I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
Ilgunas continues in his article to describe how he cooks meals over a propane stove, doesn’t clean his dishes, and has no friends at school so that his way of life won’t be discovered.
The second article from the New York Post goes inside the $150,000 175-square-foot condo owned by Zaarath and Christopher Prokop:
The couple wakes up every morning in their queen-size bed, which takes up one-third of the living space.
They then walk five feet toward the tiny kitchen, where they pull out their workout clothes, which are folded neatly in two cabinets above the sink. A third cabinet holds several containers of espresso for their only kitchen appliance, a cappuccino maker.
They turn off their hotplate, and use the space on the counter as a feeding area for their cats, Esmeralda and Beauregard.
“We don’t cook,” Zaarath said, adding that their fridge never has any food in it. “So when you don’t cook, you don’t need plates or pots or pans. So we use that space for our clothes.”
Once in their running attire, the two change the cat litter box (stored under the sink) and start their small Rumba vacuum — which operates automatically while they’re out, picking up cat hair.
They then jog to their jobs in Midtown, picking up along the way their work clothes, which are “strategically stashed at various dry cleaners.”
Be sure to check out the amazing photo gallery that accompanies the second article.
My immediate reaction to both articles was that I wanted to purge everything I own and give extreme minimalism a try. Then I remembered that cooking is a passion of mine and I would be unhappy if instead of pots and pans I had workout clothes lining my cabinets. I am incredibly impressed by all three of the people in the articles, however. I have more than a few things I can learn from them.
(Image by Angel Chevrestt at the New York Post.)