Moving in!

Well folks, this is it.

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked recently is, ‘So when do you move in?’

I finally have an answer.

In just four short weeks I’ll be moving into my tiny, ready or not! (Most likely not, let’s be honest). Each weekend as I finish work on the house I pack up and try to change gears back into full time work mode. It’s been getting harder.

As the house gets closer to being habitable it feels more and more like the home that I dreamt for myself. It’s a home that I want to be living in and learning from. A home that still has so much work to be done, work that my hands are still itching to do even while my body is aching and tired at the end of the day. I’ve been moving closer to the life I want to be leading since March last year, when I started this project. While I know there were one or two big decisions that got me this far, it feels far more like a series of tiny opportunities that have snowballed. Each step creating new pathways for the next step down the track. Suddenly I find myself here, on the cusp of changing my whole lifestyle to commit to this project fully.

I don’t have running water, a kitchen or shower, a fridge or any real furniture. Well, not yet anyway. I’ve got two more working weekends before the big move date though – definitely possible, right?

Stay tuned for the countdown.

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Dumpster diving

I saw Just Eat It at the Melbourne International Film Festival a few years ago, a documentary about two Canadians who take on dumpster diving and rescuing otherwise ‘wasted’ food as their primary means of feeding themselves. The epic scale of food waste exposed in the movie is staggering and sadly not uncommon. Since then, I’ve been busting to try dumpster diving for myself.

I finally got the chance when I met someone who has been diving on a regular basis and agreed to take me along. We tried three different dumpsters – two supermarket dumpsters and one from a shopping centre. The supermarket bins were sadly empty when we got there – but had apparently been full of good quality foodstuff just days before when my friend last checked. The last one we stopped at was packed to the brim. Partly with rubbish, but mostly with items that were either perfectly fine, or had tiny faults that meant they’d been returned by customers and turfed straight in the bin.

The stash was varied and surprising, including: an inflatable pool toy, child’s dress up costume, a set of lanterns, a set of fairy lights, an electric toothbrush, women’s bathers, women’s shorts, two romance novels, a coffee machine and a puzzle.

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What a haul! Turns out it’s not just food going to waste (although, no surprise there).

Diving is such a grey area when it comes to legality and it’s hard to find a straight answer to the most common question: ‘What if you get caught?’ Well, maybe that’s the second most common question. (The first one being, ‘You mean, you get stuff out of a bin?? Not food, surely…’)

It seems that diving itself isn’t illegal, much like tiny houses it falls somewhere between laws. It’s illegal to trespass on private property and it’s illegal to steal property that doesn’t belong to you. But what about goods that have been discarded by their owners in publicly accessible places? There are some interesting articles around that discuss the different perspectives on this, please don’t take my word for it. I certainly am not qualified to give legal advice!

The other question is, does the risk of a fine or reprimand from authority put you off doing something that is right for ethical and environmental reasons? At what point does the law exist contrary to common sense, only to mitigate potential risk? Well, in lots of cases probably. But that’s a whole different can of worms there.

I’m so keen to try more diving, to explore more ways to reduce waste and to alter the way we consume. It does make me a bit nervous though!

Even when things make sense and feel right, breaking rules can take some unlearning and discomfort. I’m finding plenty of good reasons to keep practising.

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A lesson in asking

Occasionally throughout this project, when people have asked me where I’m living, I’ve joked that ‘I’m homeless’. That’s really just not true, in fact the opposite is. I’ve been in abundance of homes for a while now, and I certainly don’t take that for granted.

Tonight, walking into my local supermarket, I saw a woman sitting out the front asking for change. Maybe homelessness was on my mind after chatting with co-workers about the change in local Melbourne laws that are making sleeping rough an offence. Maybe it’s just always a little bit on my mind, knowing that family violence is one of the top reasons people end up on the street.

Usually, I would give a few coins in passing and tell myself that I do enough, I give to charities regularly and work for a service that tries to improve the system overall. Stopping to talk to someone can sometimes feel daunting, and although I admire those people you see chatting with people on the street, I’m a bit ashamed to say I’ve never been one of them. At least, not until tonight. After I’d walked into the supermarket with only a quick smile for this woman, I turned around and walked back out.

‘Hey’, I said. ‘Is there anything in there I could get for you?’

The woman’s response surprised me. She looked down into the bag by her side.
‘Thanks, but I’ve got heaps of food. Hey! Do you want these bananas?’ She took some ripe bananas out of her bag and handed them to me. I accepted them gratefully (do you know how hard it is to find ripe bananas in a supermarket these days?) before realising I still had to go in and do my shopping. I told her I’d come and stop on my way back out.

When I finished my shopping I had some cash for her. She had sorted through her bag and managed to fill a whole plastic bag with food she wanted to give me.
‘Do you want any of this?’ She asked me. ‘I just hate waste and I’m not going to be able to eat it all.’ I commented on how much she had put in the bag to give me – fruit, biscuits, bread. ‘Yeah’, she said. ‘It’ll just go bad if I can’t use it. Someone came out earlier and offered me bananas. When I told her I already had some she got offended and stormed off in a rush. I thought, well it was a nice offer but there’s no reason to get upset! There’s only so many bananas you can eat in a day.’

We ended up chatting. She asked to use my phone to check the weather and the radar and then wished me a nice evening. In the end, I walked away with more than I’d given her. And it was a surprising reminder of something so obvious that we often forget it:
Sometimes we like to think we’re helping and that we know how best to do that. Don’t assume you’re helping just because it feels good to you. You might be able to help someone or even give them a way to help themselves, but ask them what that looks like and if they even want it. Choice is a powerful tool that many people have taken away from them, especially in times of hardship. Respecting someone’s ability to choose for themselves is important and empowering, even if it doesn’t sit as nicely as our usual go-to options.

I gave her the money and let go of any judgements around the ‘right things to spend it on’. Cos if I was ever sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness, you can better my bottom dollar I’d like to be choosing what gets me by.

And I’m just not sure it’d be bananas.

 

On a related note, this is a very interesting read for anyone looking to learn a little about economics and human behaviour without having to study it or read textbooks. Think, Freakonomics meets global poverty.
It will make more sense why this note is related if you read the book.

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (2011)
Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo