David Friedlander has been an advocate for the widespread adoption of minimal and tiny/low-impact living for over a decade. He’s been featured in the New York times, Minimalism documentary, and more. In this wide-ranging conversation, we explore micro-living, hotel living, and what needs to change in our culture to more fully support a sustainable future living on the planet.
In This Episode:
- Why David thinks the “American Dream” is a nightmare
- What is the cost of ownership?
- When and where social housing models work
- Has it become difficult to be a good person?
- The real housing crisis
- Cultural and regulatory hurdles to leading a low-impact life
- David’s advice for low-impact living
Links and Resources:
- Living Large in 675 Square Feet, Brooklyn Edition
- Life Edited
- Community Cycles in Boulder, CO
- Run Haus
- Why a Runner Runs: He Must in the New York Times
- Life at Home in the 21st Century by Jeanne E. Arnold
- Tao Te Ching by Laozi
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevski
David Friedlander has dedicated his life to demonstrating ways of living that achieve personal and planetary balance. Beginning in 2009 with a NY Times cover feature about bachelors taking on novel housing in the wake of the mortgage bust, David called into question the goal of living happily ever after in the suburbs. He later sought to provide market alternatives through the micro-apartment startup, LifeEdited. During his time there, David became a recognized authority in micro-housing and minimalism, landing in the Times a couple more times, Dwell, and the documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” David currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, consulting and developing a new startup, Run Haus.
This Week's Sponsor:
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David lived in a micro-apartment 3 other people
David believes in living a low-impact life
David Friedlander 0:00
You know, I lived in New York for a long time and I've, I've had my fair exposure to people who've had infinite resources, you know, and they're often such fucking miserable people. People who are not necessarily rich don't necessarily understand what I called the cost of ownership.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 221. With David Friedlander. David has been an advocate for widespread adoption of minimal and tiny slash low impact living for over a decade. He's been featured in The New York Times, the Minimalism documentary and much more. In this wide ranging conversation, we explore micro living, hotel living, and what needs to change in our culture to more fully support a sustainable future living on this planet. I hope you stick around.
I want to tell you about something that I think will be super helpful as you plan, design and build your tiny house. Tiny House Decisions is the guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. It comes in three different packages to help you on your unique Tiny House journey. And if you're struggling to just figure out the systems for your tiny house, you know, like how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it, you know what construction technique are you going to use like SIPs or stick framing or steel framing, Tiny House Decisions will take you through all these processes systematically, and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions. For listeners of the show, you can head over to thetinyhouse.net/THD to learn more, and use the coupon code tiny at checkout for 20% off any package. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/THD and use the coupon code tiny for 20% off.
All right, I am here with David Friedlander. David has dedicated his life to demonstrating ways of living that achieve personal and planetary boundaries. Beginning in 2009, with a New York Times cover feature about bachelors taking on novel housing in the wake of the mortgage bust, David called into question the goal of living happily ever after in the suburbs. He later sought to provide market alternatives through the micro-apartment startup, LifeEdited. During his time there, David became a recognized authority in micro-housing and minimalism, landing in the Times a couple more times, Dwell, and the documentary, “Minimalism A Documentary About the Important Things.” David currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, consulting and developing a new startup, Run Haus. David Friedlander. Welcome to the show.
David Friedlander 2:49
Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
Ethan Waldman 2:51
Yeah, you're very welcome. Good to have you on. I guess, why don't we just start with, with your experience with that, that micro apartment that you lived in with, with two children and a partner? That's that's quite a few people for 675 square feet. How How did it all come about?
David Friedlander 3:10
So that was that was a few stops in? I will say, Okay, no, like, like I mentioned in 2009, I was actually living in, I was living in a big house, except it was a dilapidated house in Brooklyn. And I've always looked for ways of achieving more financial independence through you know, cheaper housing. So I was connected with community I was living in this beautiful townhouse, but rundown townhouse no heat during the winter. And that's when I was covered by the Times. And I think, you know, I think the messaging that I said in the Times turned out to be pretty prescient, because it was I was talking about really, you know, getting away from this goal, you know, buying the house, which so many people had done a couple of years before with the with the subprime mortgage crisis. And it was a perfectly it was a very intentional crisis. I want to be very clear. So, you know, a couple years later, I started with, I had gotten engaged and I needed to get jobs. So I started working with this dude, Graham Hill. And he was, he had, he had exited a couple of startups that had, you know, several million dollars and throw into this startup Life Edited, which was about really about creating micro apartments creating these sustainable models and a lot of the stuff that we It wasn't just about micro apartments, but it was really about the whole ecosystem. It was about if you're living in a small place, you can't have you know, McMansion habits. You can't, you know, trips to Costco or or, you know, kind of a non issue, right. So, really what you know, I kept The newsletter and made presentations and did a lot of work at life edited. And really was was about promoting the lifestyle, we developed a a fairly well known micro apartment we called the LE-1, Life Edited One. That's the one with like the transforming walls and all that stuff. And we built a couple other prototypes, but my apartment was was in the prototype. And like I said, I was engaged. And then later, we had a couple of kids. We needed our own home. And I wanted, you know, as is my habit, I wanted to make a make it a living demonstration of the principles.
Now, full disclosure, I've been separated now for almost six years. And I wouldn't, I won't, I certainly won't blame it on the apartment itself. But I will, I will put a lot of blame on just sort of the, the American dream of being independent. And, yeah, independence in this case means being a homeowner, having your partner that you can basically squirrel away with and watch Netflix, you know, all night, and have these kids and live this very self contained universe where everyone has their own pasta maker and, you know, things like that, versus having this interdependent village community thing, which is I think, really how micro housing and really humans best work when they're in a situation where they're working with other people, they're working with systems, you know, that there's a real community. So anyway, to answer your your final question. I mean, obviously, the marriage didn't work out. The apartment was I mean, apartment was, was nice. It was, it was a little too fancy. For my taste. I'm more of a wood panel type of guy.
Ethan Waldman 6:52
David Friedlander 6:53
But I had no problem with, you know, with the apartment, the main thing was, you know, in someone asked me, I had an interview one time and someone asked me what, what's your favorite thing about LE-1, the Life Edited apartment one. And without even thinking about it, I said, the location. And this is the thing that people you know, like, for all the bells and whistles and stuff like that, really, the main thing that's going to shape your experience of, of a place is where it's located. You know, is it a? Is it in a pretty setting? Is it near your friends? Is it near the restaurants and the food that you like, and things like that, and, you know, so much of American Housing is really devoted towards making your perfect home? Well, you know, like, if you honestly, like, if you're living I mean, for me, my abundant experience, and the data really supports this. Like, if you have a healthy happy community and friends that and you're engaged in the world, your house, isn't that important. It's not that important to to escape, when when, you know, the the main aggregates of your of your life are, are are fulfilling, suddenly, you know, all this fetishization of housing, which has just gone nuts, like, two of my least favorite people in the world, right now, we're the Property Brothers, you know, and, like, just this, like, you know, it's your house is never big enough. And the kitchens never knew enough. And people spend you know, they spend over I know the date on this, they spend over an hour like an hour and a half a day on fucking housework. And a lot of it's a lot of its devoted for the weekends, which is the time when they need to be resting the most. So it didn't work out in that in that guys, but not because not necessarily I don't think because of because of the apartment. It was it's really about where America is at right now. Which is a really grim place.
Ethan Waldman 8:44
Yeah, and it you know, I was struck listening to what you said, the thought first came to me that that micro apartments are kind of like tiny houses for cities, you know, places where you can't pull a 200 square foot tiny house in and parking on a lot like Manhattan or San Francisco. The micro apartment is maybe fulfilling a similar desire for people but that the infrastructure, the structure of our culture doesn't make it easy to live small in that way. Simply because you you need community you need those spaces. You know, I actually I live in an apartment now. And, you know, everyone I know lives in a house and I it's, it's so easy to catch yourself wanting that extra space like man who'd be great if I had a garage where I could, like, you know, change the tires on my bike or like, do this or that, but the reality is like, you don't need that space, but it's just like, it's being constantly kind of sold to you overtly and covertly just that everybody around you is kind of doing it differently.
David Friedlander 9:54
Yeah, no, I mean, the and just the accepted. You know, the accepted The notion that people need something, you know, yeah, I mean, I know what I need. And in it, you know, water, food, love relationships. This is way high on health, you know, and vitality not just health, you know, I see all these people spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on their homes and if pitiable health, you know, like that, to me that, that to me makes no sense, right. But it's, it's certainly it's just, it's in the air. And, and in fact, I mean, I was thinking about an obesity study, but essentially, obesity has gone off the charts, not only because of high fructose corn syrup, which is a big culprit, but also because of marketing. Right? They're marketing food, like, Oh, I didn't realize I needed this snack pack or you know, this, you know, Baconator you know, and like, all of a sudden, people develop these cravings, I see it with, you know, when I turn on the TV, I've got free cable. So I see way too many commercials. And there's like, all these advertisements for pharmaceuticals. You know, it's like, oh, I didn't realize I didn't realize I needed that pharmaceutical like, and it's the same with housing, you know, Zillow, Redfin, and watching these commercials, and they're just stoking the fire, like, you know, to obsess about, you know, getting a better house. And, and, you know, towards your comment, the thing that I've always really been adamant about, because I've, you know, I lived in New York for a long time, and I've, I've had my fair exposure to people who've had infinite resources, you know, and they're often such fuckin miserable people, you know, because, because people really, people who don't have necessarily, or are not necessarily rich, don't necessarily understand what I just called the cost of ownership. Like, really the mental, operational and resource burden of owning stuff, even like being rich and having stocks, like I've had stocks before. And there's anxiety about following the stocks, like, it might be worth the anxiety, but, you know, certainly with residential space, and this is what I talked about in the Netflix documentary, you know, essentially, the data shows, and I've, and I've backed this up with numerous other plays have written a continuing education piece on space, transforming spaces, like, I know, the data here really well. And there's so much of the real estate that is built is not used, and it's just used for these, like rare occasions. So instead of, you know, really nice plug yesterday, speaking of bikes, you know, so we, I live in Boulder here, and there's something called Community Cycles, it's a community-run bike Co Op, where you can register online, and you can use their pool, you know, they have work stands, and with full tools, and volunteers and stuff like that, we need more structures like that, such that people don't, are not craving, you know, their, their garage, which is, you know, for their personnel workshop and stuff like that.
Ethan Waldman 13:04
David Friedlander 13:05
Like, there needs to be those structure public structures for those, but that's not good business. Or, I mean, it's not for investors to, you know, to take passive returns.
Ethan Waldman 13:16
There's a different bottom line there than just a profit.
David Friedlander 13:19
Ethan Waldman 13:21
So, you know, thinking about the idea of call it micro apartments, or even tiny house villages, where, you know, multiple people, multiple families live in small houses share some kind of communal central building or other kind of infrastructure, Is there anywhere in the country or in the world that, that in your mind, or in your research is kind of doing it? Right? And, and also, what would you define as you know, doing it, right?
David Friedlander 13:49
Yeah. You know, I know, I have, I'm not intimate enough with, with a lot of the Eco villages and stuff like that, you know, certainly eco villages as a as a proper movement. I haven't spent any time in there personally, but certainly, conceptually, they're doing the right stuff. Eco villages is a global movement. And, you know, it's just what it sounds like, it's a, you know, independent, usually has some sort of sometimes people work. Do you know about Ecovillages imagined you do?
Ethan Waldman 14:19
Yeah. In general way.
David Friedlander 14:21
Yeah. They tend to be a little bit more off grid. People sometimes work outside, but sometimes work in you know, just inside. I personally, like I'm not, for better or worse. I'm, I'm, I'm a product of culture, and I like being around culture, so that the off-grid stuff has less appeal to me. There's definitely a lot more progressive stuff going on in Europe right now. I know there's a lot of economic crap going on in Europe and I don't know how it's impacting but certainly as a historic model, or not historic model, but um, well, yeah, historic historically, you know, Vienna, they They did a massive building up of social housing in the 30s, which still like 80% of the population live in affordably. And and when you ask what working it, you know, what, what is a working situation, it's when people can, people can, like afford to live their lives and not just you know, and when I say live their lives, I'm saying like, they have life, they have friends, they have recreation, they have balanced between their, their work lives, their, their social lives right now, like everyone, you know, people are generally encouraged to to be imbalanced, you know, working, working to pay for the house that they can enjoy, you know, it just makes no sense. So, so we're like, you know, working, it means that people have the space that they need, you know, that they have safe shelter, and that there's a diversity, like we have, you know, in, in any sort of society, there's going to be young people, you know, like, a, you know, normal adults, you know, adolescents, adults and seniors, like,
Ethan Waldman 16:05
David Friedlander 16:06
everyone needs a place, you know, does everyone do people have a place that means there's a diversity of housing, there's a diversity of jobs, and people don't necessarily have to do super commute. So that's what's working. That's my definition of working. And that can work like in its own independent system, like, you know, off grid, Tiny House village. And, you know, a lot of people in permaculture I know, a lot of that stuff's going up right now. And I'm just starting to get interested in what do you call them? Taos... Like, people are starting to think because the system is so fucked up, are thinking like, how do we create our own system, in terms of ones that are kind of grafted on to a problematic system, the one I wanted to bring up is in Germany and Austria, they have a system called baugruppen and where people, generally friends, and they'll actually develop a building, and they'll develop it around their needs, and they tend to be very social in nature. And, you know, generally, generally speaking, Europeans tend not to be quite as supersized as Americans. And I mean, obviously, there's, there's a lot of like, traditional, I'm sure there's, you know, a million traditional villages that have had been working great until industrialization and some colonials said, hey, you know, work in our Macio Dora, you know, so? Yeah, yeah. I hope that answers your question.
Ethan Waldman 17:33
Yeah. Yeah, totally. I, you know, you mentioned that, that you like to be around culture. So, you know, you lived in New York, you live in Boulder now. And I and I know that Boulder is a very expensive place to live. And it's one of those places much like Burlington, Vermont, where I live where it's getting less and less possible to live here. If you don't have like, a tech job, or, you know, you're not telecommuting from from a city, earning like a lot of money. So I'm curious what you say, you actually sent me a spreadsheet of the places that you've lived over I'm actually not sure how long but it seems like a long time and you also mentioned that you've lived in hotels, more or less since 2019. So what are some ways that you have figured out how to live in the places that you want to live? And do it affordably in a way that that works for you?
David Friedlander 18:30
Yeah, I mean, right now I live in a basically live in efficiency apartments slash long stay hotel, it's, it's, it's not fancy, but it has a decent location, I still can't find this quote, but apparently, the billionaire tycoon what's his name, Aristotle Onassis said something about you know, buy the, you know, live in the best address you can afford. And that's generally been my, my attitude I like I don't believe that every place is the same. I like places that are in the mountains that have mountains and water and you know, in that have decent food and I'm kind of snobby that way. So and, you know, and that's just a function of my history and privilege and all that stuff. The one thing I've been willing to do consistently is take interesting like most people, like look at my living situation, they're like, they kind of scoff at it. Yeah, it's what I it's what I can afford right now. I live alone. I'm also 46 years old and you know, when I you know, when I work I make okay money I'm, I'm I'm not in a great situation. But um, but other things that I've done. I lived out of my van for a couple of summers a couple of summers ago, and have a lot of feelings about again, like differentiating adequate, you know, like adequate shelter with with a home because, you know, so many of them I missed so many aspects of living outside and living living in the van. So yeah, generally, generally trying to find as cheaper rent as I can in the best location. That's that's been my my general strategy. But again, it's it's, it's really, I'm not spending for me like I'm spending over $1,000 Right now, which is a non, which is, which is, which is a reasonable amount of money for me right now. And I think with if you really the end goal is to kind of to make an exit strategy from the matrix that we call modern industrial, American society. I don't think that's, that's, that's too much. That still requires like a real investment in, in kind of perpetuating most a lot of jobs nowadays are really perpetuating pretty ugly agendas. And, to my mind, the best thing you can do to kind of reduce that ugliness is to withdraw from it and not not cosign it and not say like, Hey, it's just a job, you know, which has been, which is, which I've, I've made that choice, but much to the detriment of my income. So it's become, it's become very hard to be a good person, essentially. I don't have I don't have a strong answer that other than I've just been doing my best to really call out the worst of the worst, who are making it bad and hoping that at this point, I think, the government, the Fed, the central banks, they're so overdrawn, they're going to collapse under their own weight, they don't really need like an active revolution, it's just going to be like, and when people you know, when supply chain stops working, and people can't one click shop, you know, I already see it, the gas is gas, gas prices are going up, shipping prices are going up, that's something I've noticed recently. It's not going to be it's it's going to be progressively harder and harder to live a life dependent on the grid, you know, right. And I, for me, it's it's really about, you know, a speaking the truth of the situation, but also becoming, you know, I really Harken on to this idea of adaptation, which is evolution is really about adapting, it's not about power, you know, it's not about brute force, it's about being nimble. And, and that's what you know, micro housing always provides, when you have either a small apartment or a tiny house or living out of your van or something like that. There's just, there's, it's very, it's much easier to adapt with a small system than it is to, you know, you know, go from, you know, go from a McMansion type to a to a tiny house person. It's a hard transition. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 22:46
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And when you talk about adapting do you mean on an individual level like individual people need to adapt or that that like systems need to adapt?
David Friedlander 24:40
I don't see like so this is this is where my focus is right now. I don't see a difference right? The system is the aggregate of the of the individual and the system is a reflection and right now we're just flying blind and most everyone is believed than what they read online and, and, and somehow, you know, we're in a bunch of wars and you know, and there's just so much fucking bullshit out there right now.
Ethan Waldman 25:12
David Friedlander 25:13
So, so people need to start getting more curious first of all on an individual level, I mean, the the dumb ification of I mean, like, literally, we're living in Idiocracy right now. You know, slightly upgraded intellectually. So people need to start getting curious again, you know, start exercising critical thinking in terms of, you know, what is governing the headlines. I mean, one of the big ones for me is, you know, the housing crisis, the housing crisis, the housing crisis, I'm, I'm quite intimate with the people who are promulgating this idea of the housing crisis. There's not there's not really a housing crisis, right. Like, they're, they're, there's, there's these artificial constraints, you know, artificial forces, like 30% of housing now is bought by institutional buyers.
Ethan Waldman 26:02
David Friedlander 26:03
You know, the, you know, housing size keeps on going up, while the number of people living in a house keeps on shrinking, fertility rates are declining. We have plenty of housing, it's just not it's not equitable, equitable, equitably distributed. That's a tough word.
Ethan Waldman 26:17
Right. There's an affordability crisis. There are enough houses.
David Friedlander 26:20
Right. And, and, and, and meanwhile, you have like alternative news, when you go to the investor news sites, they're like, profits have never been better on single family rentals, right?
Ethan Waldman 26:30
David Friedlander 26:31
So which is it going to be and that that, to me, that does not work on an individual level, and I've been a victim of it on an individual level, because I'm, you know, I'm 46. Now, right? Those 38 places the reason i because I'm always like shucking and jiving to find a cheaper place to live, because I don't want to, I don't want like I, I am. I am strange in that. I insist on being happy in my life and doing the things that that that are important to me, you know. I love to work, but I've always managed to find ways of folding my work into, into into my interests. You know, I told you, I was, you know, into cycling, I thought I was cycling was going to be my thing. And then I was in the food because I love food. And now, I'm in housing because it's something that is useful. It's a need, it's a real need. It's not a want.
Ethan Waldman 27:22
David Friedlander 27:23
So, you know, my, my, my latest startup, as I've always, you know, throughout all this, throughout my life, really, I've been a pretty serious athlete. I kind of shrugged because I'm in Boulder. And Boulder is, like I said, Boulder is to athletes, like what Hollywood, Hollywood is to, you know, to movie stars are New Yorkers, to bankers. It's it's really, it's, it's, it's amazing how many amazing, you know, a world class athletes we have here. So starting to explain my latest. Oh, yeah. So. So my latest project was called Run hHaus. And it's really focused on creating a space for runners. And the great thing about running is, and this is, you know, it's applicable to any kind of applied type of thing is when you're running, you really start understanding efficiency. And you started understanding efficiency on a biomechanical level.
Ethan Waldman 28:18
David Friedlander 28:18
And there's a wonderful essay called Why The Runner Runs He Must and it's basically you know, talking about the and this is something really no one talks about is the value of of stripping away. I mean, I mean, obviously, people talk about it in the minimalism minimalism circles, but, but, um, you know, like, the joys of not having to deal with stuff.
Ethan Waldman 28:41
David Friedlander 28:42
And in the, in the space to do whatever you want. And people, it just seems like, there's a, an unregulated inflow of more like, people just assume that more has got more apps, more data, more posts more, and it's like, it's just not working. So and then also, like, on a very, very practical level, we have 72% of the US population right now is overweight. 42% of them are obese, are considered obese, right? 42% of the US population 315 or so million people. Average. TV watching is three hours a day, average time on smartphones, non work stuff is three hours a day, so people are, you know, I think I saw something there day 23 Or a couple years ago, 23% of all groceries are bought at Walmart, right? So, and then lo and behold, we have a health crisis, right? We have a pandemic that that targets and targets people that targets overweight people with immunocompromised compromised Whoa, shocking, right. So I think the most important thing we can do really is get people you know, in touch with you know, really the it, I mean, the joys of being healthy. I it's just really tough to, it's really tough to see the world, I think so many people are really cracked out from whether it's medication or watching the news or stress from taking care of their, their, their homes, you know, like, that was in the in the minimalism movie, I refer to this book quite a bit. It's called Life At Home in the 21st Century. And 32 families open up their homes, and it's by a group of UCL, UCLA researchers. And they basically showed that, you know, everyone's homes were stuffed with all this crap. And, and it was, it was, it was messing with stress hormones, you know, like it was this is creating cortisol, all these, all of the addition is just more and more stuff to think about. And we need to really have a serious conversation about and not and not like a, not sorry, not a Marie Kondo kind of like, like cutesy twee conversation, like, this is some hardcore shit. Like, we're facing an ecological collapse. And people are gonna, like, if people expect the current system to to, to exist in perpetuity, they're going to be really fucking disappointed. And in a few years, and when, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, you're going to want to be prepared with like, where am I going to live? Who are going to be my friends? Where's my food coming from? Where's my water coming from? Am I going to live in a region that's thermally stable, because, you know, South Florida is going to be underwater, and there's going to be a whole bunch of places that are literally going to be uninhabitable. You know, like, do you have answers for those? You know, I've got some preliminary answers, then. For myself, and for my own well being, you know, and I'm, I'm very tapped into people who are working in working those kinds of in those domains, you know, how are we going to move into the 21st century in a way that that dealing with reality, material reality, resource reality, social realities, economic realities? So.
Ethan Waldman 32:05
Don't you think that that Marie Kondo and that kind of stuff, though, it is kind of twee as you, I'll use the word that you used - I do know, you know, I know people who read that book, or saw the show, and that inspired them to actually get rid of some of their crap. And I think that that's ultimately a good thing. However, you get introduced to that idea of like, "Oh, I could get rid of a lot of this stuff that I don't need, and I will be happier." However, however you get introduced to that, I think it's, I think that's an okay, thing.
David Friedlander 32:40
Yeah, I just, I hazard to say, it's just, it's not, it's not urgent enough, you know, like, people act like people, like, people act like this is some sort of, I had an essay that I took down, but it was the New York Times has written like a million different perspectives, I ghost wrote a piece, it was one of the best emailed pieces in 2013. About about minimalism, and people. And, like, this is not, this is not about, like a fad, it's about like, we really need to we need to align, align our consumption with, with available with, with with resources, like we did for, you know, for for thousands of years, but have have basically forgotten about in the abstract. So I don't want to, I certainly don't want to dismiss it. And same goes with, you know, The Minimalists, and I'm you know, I'm in the Minimalist movie, right. I want to be very clear, I've done a lot of other stuff that I'm super proud of that more proud of, but by virtue of it getting aired on Netflix, kind of increased my, my exposure quite a bit and I'm proud of the stuff that I talked about. Yeah, but really, at this point, I think we need to get into like a real systems change and the the times like running now and it's it's almost like I said, it's almost impossible to live a low impact life. I know so many people, I'm a clever guy, and I can charge money for consulting fees and deliver value and you know, and I have no problem with it and, but a lot of people don't have my resources. You know, I went to Columbia University, right? Like, that's impressive to some people. I know a shit ton of people who didn't go to Columbia. And they're like, in my similar financial situation, they have no fucking place to go. They have no like, they have no retirement plan. They have very little place in the system. And I really think I think the discussion about minimalism tiny and I mean, it's it's always been flavor, especially with the tiny house stuff. It's always been flavored with homelessness and whatnot, but I think it needs to be a little bit more more frank, and talking about the economics of it all.
Ethan Waldman 32:40
Yeah. Before we started rolling you kind of use this phrase the kind of the regulatory hurdles to living a low impact life. And I was curious, you know, can you expand on that? Like, what are the regulatory hurdles? Because we, we've definitely, you know, talked about how culturally, living a low impact life is difficult. And the way that our cities and systems are set up is difficult. But from a regulatory perspective, what do you see as... Yeah?
David Friedlander 35:27
Well, the baseline expense of living a life is just, it's too damn expensive. And a lot of it has to do with the way that we've developed our land, just primarily single family housing, right. So 80% of, of US housing, single family housing, and, essentially, single family housing has been developed around the car. So immediately, the average cost of a car per month is $900, you're you're saddled with this car tax. Most people most Americans are saddled with this car tax than they're paying their, you know, most people pay in excess of 30% of their of their housing expenses, or their income to housing expenses. Now we have, you know, basically, we have the Fed has printed 80% of all US currency in the last two years, it has flooded the market with currency, which is driving inflation. So just go into the grocery store to buy your dried beans has become 40% more expensive, right? So, and then forget about health insurance. And if you go to health insurance, your you know, if you do buy health insurance, you're paying, you're basically paying for someone else's sickness a lot of the time, right.
So, I mean, these are some of the baseline things like really, you are like, to the government and to society, you are, you are least likely to be harassed, if you just go to go to work, and pay your rent or your mortgage, you know, and send your kids to school and do all these you know societally normal, normative things, but you will not break free, you know, you will not have a lot of leisure time, you will not have time to spend with your friends.
Ethan Waldman 37:22
David Friedlander 37:22
And you're going to probably start turning to I mean, just as people are, it's so culturally normative to, to talk about housing, it's super culturally normative to numb out, you know, like to go get drunk or to, you know, to, you know, do gaming, you know, or watch TV. Again, that is the message. The message is in the medium, with single family housing in particular, but it's even true of apartments, because because of single zoning, that will have like an apartment just hanging out away from shops away from so people. So essentially, the the nature of the format is to be isolating, is to get people in their homes. Yeah, basically in front of their TV. So suburbia could not exist without TV.
Ethan Waldman 38:15
I mean, isn't, I mean, it's not changing everywhere. But I know that like Minneapolis recently killed single family zoning for any new residential builds. I think that cities are slowly coming around, at least to the idea that single family zoning is bad and creates, it basically helps to perpetuate a racist.
David Friedlander 38:38
Yeah, I mean, the so the, the YIMBY, you know, yes, in my backyard, YIMBY-NIMBY. And I've been long associated with that. I'm in, you know, in general, I'm, you know, like I said at the outset, I'm in favor of much more European flavor of, I mean, I like villages, right? Why wouldn't you want to just, I mean, I lived in Brooklyn, and New York for 20 years, and, and I liked the fact that I could walk out my door and go to a cafe and I was going to run into a few friends. It made me a happier, smarter, more connected person. I see people all around there look scared, and disconnected and lonely. Because they don't have that stuff in their lives. They don't. And what do they do? They go to Europe, they go to Europe to visit it, right? Like, oh, this is so charming. And then they go back home and yeah, you know, sink back into their Lazy Boy with their, you know, with their iPad in their, you know, 60,000 channels. So.
So the problem with that what's happened with the YIMBY conversation is the replacement architecture. It needs. There needs to be a much more sophisticated conversation because a lot of times the people who are supporting me stuff, they are literally supporting these really awful, usually almost invariably what's going up in Cities, whether it's New York, San Francisco, Seattle, DC, Boston, and I'm familiar with all those markets, you can take me to task on this. Or in LA, in every one of those cases, when you up zone stuff is, like some predatory developer comes in and builds what they call five over two, which is, these generic buildings that you see everywhere, they have a two level concrete platform with a stick built five storeys above that. And they, you know, it's basically it's designed for, you know, $2,000 rents for for tech workers and listen, are all my tech worker friends who have gotten to listen to this? Like, I'm not, I'm not shitting on you, but there needs to be more options than that. And, and there needs to be much more sophistication.
Because even I mean, I don't know like what situation you're in, but like in Boulder, unlike Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, you would have, you would have commercial, you have mixed zoning, you have mixed use zoning. So you have a cafe, you have a shop here, even even in Boulder, it's very unlikely that you're going to have an apartment building with shops at the bottom that are so people, even if they're living in apartments generally, are driving and driving really is is I mean, it's such a scourge. I mean, like, would we would we care about what's going on in Ukraine, if it wasn't about power, like all of these things are related to our insatiable appetite for for power. So I mean, especially for petrol power. So any, you know, things that we that's the, that's the real, that's the real frontier. And I really, I was last year, hoping to God that I was I was pushing projects with, with a kind of super group of real estate team to look for pilot projects. And generally speaking, what I'm talking about here is like 15 minute cities, you know, where you can, where you can walk, you know, we're, you know, possibly bike, but I really like walking in, I'm a cyclist, but it's so nice to like, walk places. And it's really not that hard to do, you know, if if it's really just a matter of, of coming up with a regulatory framework that just makes sense.
Ethan Waldman 42:19
Right, there being infrastructure to support that.
David Friedlander 42:21
Yeah, yeah. And listen, to be clear, like, I mean, prior to the car, really, almost all of America was that. So this is, I'm not talking about some pie in the sky type of thing. This is this, we have pictures of it, you know, and not only that, like, you know, like going to go into Brooklyn or going to wherever Cleveland or San Francisco, we're, where do people want to live most they want to live in the old architecture that developed, you know, before the car, you know, it's, and it has very, you know, as pretty normal, you know, like, it's, it's not hard to understand, it's, you know, three to four storey buildings, you have plenty of intersectional spaces, you know, third spaces where people can hang out, you go to, you know, if you go to any European town, they're going to you know, either in Italy, you have a piazza in Germany, you have a plots or, you know, in France, you have gardens, and, you know, and plots. And, you know, these were designed these urban typologies were just designed over 1000s of years and essentially America. And, I mean, the big three are the big our former colonies, America, Canada and Australia have, essentially ditch those as as models, they're like, Nope, we're going to, we're going to have Give everyone their own shitty McMansion Kingdom you know, and they can have their their SUV and you know, forget about being near their friends forget about you know, grabbing, you know, grabbing a pint you know, after work we're gonna everyone's too tired we gotta gotta gotta fix the the whatever, the shingles or the you know, the gutters, like and before you know it, you're 75 and you know, like, no shit, I just, I just spend my whole life taking care of this this asset. Yeah, someone.
Ethan Waldman 44:15
So, I would say that that most of my listeners are at least interested in tiny house living and a good number of them are on the path to either building or buying a tiny house. Many are struggling with where am I going to live in this thing? How you know, how am I going to do it legally? You have any advice for people who are kind of already on this path whether whether or not they agree with you about everything that you're saying? Who knows, but more or less, have some some commonalities what just advice for people what to look for what what to do what to advocate for in their individual lives?
David Friedlander 44:56
Sure. I'm just trying to think of like, my basic habits. Um, I mean, it it is it? I mean, first of all, it, it is a process. And it's a process of awareness. And it's a process of, of learning what, you know, what, on a fundamental level we need and what we don't need.
Ethan Waldman 45:18
David Friedlander 45:19
And, you know, on a, on a, on a deep level, structurally, most of us only need about 180 square feet. Right. Like, like, if you're a single person, I mean, I think there's like, I almost think that there's, there's sort of like a platonic number that people like is a good interior space, maybe a little bit of variability from northern climates, to Southern climates a little bigger in the north. But it's not that much is my point. And then, you know, learning and then, I mean, I think I said it before, but the things that are really important to me are, the health is, is top of list. I mean, like, really basic stuff, like sleeping and eating, making sure that I'm on top of those things. And then that I'm having healthy, that I live in a community and then I'm connected with people, that's, you know, it's super important to me, I, you know, I make a point to, to make sure that I am connected with people, when I'm feeling disconnected. And, and I'm even, like, even trying to deal with it on a on a, on a systems level, which gives me some some peace of mind. And I think, I mean, the tacit advice is tacit advice here is, when you start really accentuating the important stuff, the things that are really valuable to you that the other stuff will start stripping away.
And also really understanding that the I think of a quote from the minimalist, Dave Bruno, I don't know, paraphrasing, but it's like, you know, stuff is not passive, it demands your attention. Yeah. And start really understanding that the things that are not, that are really not part of the things that we love, are generally the things that are actually are detracting from our lives. They're, they're literally they're taking our time away, and to start cultivating an awareness of that stuff and start and start, you know, shedding away like what, you know, what is, what am I here for? And that's, again, that's, I think, that's, that's a, that's a deeper conversation. Like, I think there's, we need like a real spiritual awakening. Like, like, like, just people are so so consumed with consuming and tying their identities up with brands and, and with kind of formulaic processes of life, going from school to job to, you know, house to retirement, it's like, it's, it's, it's a waste, it's a waste of life. So, yeah, again, like cleaning up the important stuff and stripping away the unimportant. And then also realizing, this is something that I, I, I haven't drank in 23 years, right.
But, uh, I was very involved with 12 step recovery and whatnot. And, and one of the, one of the concepts that I like thinking about, and I think about this for, when I'm dealing with any heart situation is, is not doing normal thing is, is a thing. So, not making the purchase, not hopping in the car, not you know, not buying into the, to the, to the nonsense of, of your houses obsessed friends or your stuff upset, like not reacting is, is a, it's an active process. And eventually, you start, you know, like, for years, like I was, it was like a big ask for me to refuse drinks. You know, like, the other day, I was at a place and I refused the french fries, french fries, because, because they're not good for me, you know, and I got a side salad, you know, and like, it might not seem like a big deal to other people. But for me, it was like, Oh, now it's just easier for me to be myself and like, say the thing that I want, like, and I say it often like, you know, because most of my friends do drive and they you know, and they they are much more part of this, you know, part of the system, if you will, you know that I keep on that me doing my thing, you know, whether it's whatever, you know, bringing to go back to, you know, to to the group dinner or you know, riding my bike everywhere that those things are by making the by not taking the conventional path I'm I'm reinforcing you know, my own system and, and I think, I hope, you know, inspiring people to do the same.
Ethan Waldman 49:55
Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests is, what are two or three books or resources that have helped to influence your, your thinking that you'd like to share with listeners?
David Friedlander 50:05
All right. Well, I've
Ethan Waldman 50:10
You mentioned your essay you mentioned Life in the 21st Century.
David Friedlander 50:19
So I read the Tao Te Ching every morning. This is the Shambala version, which I'm really, really into. It just happens to be something that I'm really into. And I think for me, as opposed to, I've studied Christianity and Buddhism and Hinduism and whatnot, and the Tao is philosophy. First of all, it's really about reduction. And so there's a lot of it even it's even written in a very minimalist way.
Ethan Waldman 50:50
David Friedlander 50:51
But it's really about kind of what I described as the how of life versus the what, because I think so many. There's so it's so confusing to know, what's what nowadays. And, you know, people are like, do we have a pandemic? Do we not have a pandemic? Do we, you know, is the economy going recover? Isn't that gonna recover in climate change? You know, so, this, to me, keeps me balanced and like, okay, how am I going through but through my day, am I going through in a peaceful way? Am I going through in a way that's grasping? Am I going in a way that's, you know, encouraging conflict. So, for me, it's, it's brought a lot of centering.
My next few are like, extremely, extremely different. One is a Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, which is a classic. And it's by Viktor Frankl was passed around to four different concentration camps. He was a therapist, like a psychotherapist, and a Jew, obviously. And he basically went through his experience and essentially deduced What was the thing that kept him going in spite of all the hardships, so I thought, and, you know, he, he has one of my favorite lines, which was happiness cannot be pursued and must ensue. And, you know, like, again, you know, in the context of minimalism, or you know, materialism like, you know, Happiness isn't a destination, it's not a purchase, it's not a tiny house. It's not a you know, it's not even a perfect body or anything like that. It's it's, it's it is the outflow of state of being.
So and then the other book is coming up lately is is Crime and Punishment by by Fyodor Dostoevsky. And, and I've, you know, in some I've been into being much more vocal about my anger you know, for for a long time I was really kind of sugarcoating you know, why people should scale back on their consumer habits and what now now realize, like people are really, they're really, I don't know if evil is the right word, but there's, there's a lot of really nasty people out there right now. And, and it's okay. It's okay to feel angry, you know, and like, and, and, and, for me to not act angry is extremely, extremely inauthentic. And I also think it's an inappropriate response like this is this is the time of, of outrage, like what's going on, particularly economically, I think the the racial and diversity stuff, it's a smokescreen for the economic stuff. You know, disenfranchised populations have always been economically disenfranchised, and they create this rift between the whites and the blacks and Hispanics and Asians. So no one's paying attention to you know, this tiny fraction of a population that's fucking everyone over. So, so, so yeah, Crime and Punishment. I haven't read in a while, but I've been thinking about the protagonist quite a bit. And, and just like, okay, you know, like, there's a reason this book was popular and, and to understand these more, more bass, parts of ourselves, but the one I read every day is the Tao Te Ching. So I keep my shit together.
Ethan Waldman 54:22
All right. All right. Well, those are some great recommendations. David Friedlander. Thank you so much for being a guest on the show today.
David Friedlander 54:30
This was this was great, Ethan. Super fun.
Ethan Waldman 54:32
Thank you so much to David Friedlander for being a guest on the show today, you can find the show notes, including a complete transcript of the episode, links to David's recommended reading articles that he's published and places that he's been featured and more at thetinyhouse.net/221. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/221. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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