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Tues, Jan 11, 2011
6:00 am

Will a strawbale house make you happy? I'm beginning a blog today because visitors to my site have asked me to do so and since I find myself answering the same questions many times. It is 1-11-11 - a good day to begin things.

I will dedicate all the blogs to Gabby Giffords, a very strong and determined lady whom I met many years ago, before I began building. She was a fairly unknown politician in Tucson, young and idealistic, interested in sustainable building. Today she is fighting for her life. I am coming out of the shadows of my webpage to begin a discussion on all that was involved in building this house and changing my lifestyle, in the hopes it will help others take charge of their lives, be happy and have no need for anger. I am going to write from my depths, not just about how to stack straw bales, but how I stepped out from the norm of society, challenged myself with an unknown, and ended up with a highlight of my life. When I wrote the book, it was mostly to keep myself company on a long, lonely journey and to write down the details of construction for those who might want to do the same. If the house failed, I would use it as a reminder to stop dreaming and being too idealistic in a practical world. Fortunately, it did not fail and I use it instead as a reminder of what we can all accomplish if we set our minds on our goal and keep moving forward, though the steps be very small or invisible at times.

Has this house made me happier? Definitely. That is not just because I have straw in my walls, but from the entire journey of challenging myself to live a dream of simplicity in harmony with nature. I love nature; always have. I also have always wanted to afford life without the stress of a high-paying job. I tried being a manager once, and didn't like it. This house has enabled me to live in elegance and simplicity, to become an author, to meet similar-minded people through the website and home tours, to have low monthly bills, so I can help my kids get through college, and to have a welcoming, quiet, beautiful home to come to each day. It's also given me a hobby - earthen plasters. Do I recommend that you do what I did? No, I don't think I do - as a general statement. There were too many chances for failure, too many times close to nervous-breakdown, and too much divine intervention required. Many who begin construction of a house end up divorced or broke before they reach the end. This particular journey took lots of hard work, prayers for guidance and practical analysis. If you feel ready for all of the above, then I would cheer you on. But you should know more than I did about construction, have more money than I did, so you can get help when you need it and have two people working on the project. Maybe your dream is not the same as mine, so I can encourage you to strive for whatever feels appropriate for you. I like to think that building this house is a metaphor for anyone who has a dream or a goal.

I would like to throw out some thoughts on choosing a goal that will make you happier. First of all, choose a lifestyle that genuinely brings happiness. Not so easy. We are bombarded by ideas of how to make more money, but very few ideas on how to be happier. I have lived in upper society and decided those people are not having more fun - quite the opposite. Studies have shown that happiness does not grow in proportion to the amount of money we make. There is a level people reach when they can pay their bills and beyond that, happiness is a lifestyle choice. Building a house like this so you can pay your monthly bills is something I would encourage - if you can pay your bills another way and avoid giving everything to the electric company, then great.

I think the happiest people are those who have discovered the joy of giving, the joy of living in harmony with nature, the joy of exercise and healthy eating, the choice of setting goals and challenges rather than seeking pampering luxury. I also think the happiest people are those with a faith that allows them to accept solitude and therefore an ability to make choices from within themselves. Then, they don't have to worry too much about what others say about them, or whether they will lose friends. If building a straw bale house includes these sorts of lifestyle choices for you, then yes, I think building one will make you happier.

And now I have to go to work, so I stop. More tomorrow.

Aloha, Carolyn