As I mentioned before, making and inhabiting a custom built house is a little like the nesting process birds go through in preparation for mating. We gather the materials and use what nature gave each of us (beaks, thumbs, etc.) to fasten these materials together and create an enclosure, a separate and distinct space that provides safety and comfort. One big difference is that birds nest by instinct (while it is true that some benefit from experience to create better nests each time), and they only need a nest to raise their offspring, while people need a place to sleep every night, and their nests are generally regulated by local laws. Since my nest was built on wheels, the local laws don’t apply to it, so I was able to build it the way I saw fit at the time. I must admit that, if given the chance, I think I would learn from experience as much as the next bird. As it stands, there is a little home-improvement project in the pipes nearly every day, and new needs are identified and met.
Part of daily living is object use. Tooth brush in the morning, the coffee cup, the stove, flatware, cleaning supplies, clothes, and tools, all populate our lives from dawn to dusk, to meet human needs from the most basic, to the most sophisticated. In fact, if I look around my house, I see that it is filled with objects. If I were to categorize them, I might label them 4 ways:
The infrastructure objects are furniture, like the couch, the cupboard, and the carpet. They are always there, and cannot be construed to belong to the other categories. The perishables are easy to guess: they are generally food, consumable substances and/or objects (I have flowers on my counter, which I consider to be consumable). The tools label encompasses all objects that do a job, like pens, bobbins, toilet paper, batteries, etc. The rest is all about container objects: pots, pans, bottles, bags, cups, saucers, clothes, shoes, books, buckets, etc. It is tempting to think of the house itself as a container, since it contains life itself, but as a container of containers (like a shelf) I’m more inclined to label it as an infrastructure object. Bedding (sheets, blankets) also comes to mind as an in between object, since it is similar to clothing, but since it belongs to the bed as infrastructure object, I think I will also label bedding as such. I’m sure I haven’t thought of all the possible objects around people’s homes, but I do believe these 4 categories cover if not all, then most of the daily objects we use in our lives.
All of these objects that inhabit our space with us have to be acquired somehow, either made, or procured from someone who makes them. I tried to make most of the objects I needed just to see how far I could get on my own. It turned out not to be far at all. I needed tools to make objects in the first place, so most of the tools in my house are bought or borrowed. But I did manage to make a lot of containers and most of my infrastructure. And in the summer I grow some consumables (they taste that much better for it). In the process of making objects for use, I started making a surplus that I offered for sale on Etsy (because I couldn’t make everything I needed, I had to make money to buy the stuff I couldn’t make). Most of them are containers, but the most sought after object I make is a tool: the humble weaving bobbin, an object that makes objects.
I think it’s important to pay attention to objects because they are our companions throughout life, and sometimes we collect more than we need, because we can only use so many in a given day. In my opinion, objects that are not used (whatever their purpose might be) just become waste at some point, dead weight that can hold people back from better, more sustainable, and happier lives. I won’t get into the politics of objects and resources, though it’s an important aspect of sustainable living. Suffice it to say, more objects does not equal a better life in the end for anyone (especially not for future generations).