Increasing numbers of people are finding more meaningful alternatives to the 9 to 5 cubicled existence, the fetters of a mortgage, or the burden of debt accrued from the pursuit of unnecessary stuff. Some may give it all away, or downsize to live in a tiny home, or convert a bus or a Prius into a full-time, off-grid residence, or dabble in full-time digital nomadism, perhaps signing up for a global co-living subscription.
In any case, we know there are options galore when it comes to living a fuller life -- all that one needs to do is to find out which scenario fits best and to courageously go full steam ahead. For Portland, Oregon based couple Bryan and Jen Danger, that meant quitting their well-paid but stressful jobs, moving to British Columbia for a change of scenery, before embarking on a year-long road trip inside a renovated van through Central America.
After three years away, they returned to Portland and decided to stay put -- by renovating the garage attached to their old home as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), living in there and renting out the main house instead. Their DIY renovation is a remarkable, modern industrial tour de force, as you can see from this video tour from Houzz:
The couple's choice was driven by finances and by the realization that they didn't even have enough stuff to fill up their old, three-bedroom home, and the fact that the current tenants asked to stay, says Bryan:
When we got back, we realized we wanted to be here a significant portion of the year but we couldn’t afford our mortgage, so we talked through the options. The garage became an ‘aha’ moment.
The 480-square-foot space utilizes many of the standard tricks to maximize small spaces: lots of transformer furniture that morph to create new uses and spaces, as well as stacking spatial elements on top of one another (sleeping loft, check). Reclaimed materials have also be incorporated, and the couple learned new construction skills along the way, using a community woodworking space to build their customized furnishings.
The kitchen is the main attraction, and features a neat rolling dining table that can either be part of the kitchen island, or trundled out to accommodate dinner with friends and family. The wine rack -- handmade by Bryan -- is a clever design.
The stairs leading up to the sleeping loft are clever too -- they can be pushed in and hidden away in a wall of storage cabinets. Under the loft, there's a space for the washer and dryer, and there's space for a TV and a built-in fireplace.
The bathroom, which has a large skylit shower, lies behind the kitchen, which once held a stairway and entry into the main house.
Another great feature is the full-length set of glazed, folding doors at the front of the garage home, which help to really open up the space to the outside. Bryan jokes that when it's open, people on the street tend to wander in, thinking that it's a new resto-bar that's appeared in the neighbourhood.
Getting free of the mortgage and debt trap looks different for each person. But whatever form it may take, it's highly likely life will be simplified and much more enjoyable -- and heck, better for the planet and future generations too. The first step is to let go of any preconceived notions of what society might deem "successful" or "acceptable" business-as-usual, and to boldly go to the unexpected places where your passions might lead you.
After building their garage home, the couple has since launched their own small-space renovation and design business, Zenbox. On Houzz, Bryan reflects on what downsizing has done for their lives. "The space is what allows us to do everything else. We don’t have to take high-paying jobs that we don’t like, because someone else is paying the mortgage. It’s made a resounding impact on our lives.”