Step Into My Office
The story began when I gave up my apartment and moved into my office. Secretly. This site is an exploration of my journey of home-free living, the antithesis of homelessness in that it highlights the crucial element of choice. Among the modern incarnations of voluntary simplicity, living home-free shirks traditional housing–and the rents and mortgages they entail–in favor of a more flexible, less obligatory lifestyle.
The last time I paid rent was in December of 2012. (Yes, that streak continues into 2016.) While living in the office, I built a tiny home in the back of my truck (see below) where I spend my nights when I’m not house/pet-sitting, trading housing for favors, or spending time on the road. As of Spring 2016, my total savings in living costs has eclipsed $50,000. But that’s been just one of many benefits of living home-free…
“Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Why an Office?
Imagine a world in which millions of square feet of safe, comfortable space are abandoned for more than 50% of any given week. This space is indoors, largely protected from rain and snow, cold and heat, violence and disturbance. Often outside of these spaces lie an ever-increasing population of homeless men, women, and children, unable to afford the rising cost of living within a reasonable distance of where they are employed. Some of these folks wake up in the morning only to work in the very places they are locked out of at night. Yet the disparity remains unchallenged.
If you have trouble imagining this, you’re in luck–this is the state of affairs in most cities in the world.
But what if it wasn’t? What if we took our underutilized space and accepted it for what it is–a safe, livable solution for those struggling to afford traditional housing?
This idea has been tested more and more as of late, and perhaps it’s time to consider commercial living as a temporary housing solution for those who need it.
Back in the summer of 2012, I was one of the ones who needed it. I was frustrated with rising cost of living, student and car loan bills, and stagnant pay. I watched others get ahead courtesy of parents’ bailouts or soulless jobs, while I worked my butt off just to turn around hand my hard-earned money to some absentee landlord.
I started to wonder why. Why anyone would I agree to that? To trade my freedom for a glorified cage? So I said “no”. No to slaving away needlessly. No to cashing in my happiness for obligation. No to complacency. I did what I wanted to do despite popular convention. My experiment was to study my reaction and the reaction of others to this change of lifestyle. My lifestyle was born out of the realization that the benefits far outweighed the negatives.
I am far from the first person to test the viability of living in my workplace. In Washington D.C., a handful of members–up to 33 at one point–of the United States House of Representatives have been bedding down in their offices for years. These are people Americans have chosen to represent them to create (or completely filibuster any attempt to create) laws in this country, and remains the highest profile account of office-living to date. In 2012, it was nationally reported that a 19-year-old entrepreneur lived in AOL’s offices for a couple months to prioritize his ambitions over rent. Eric Simons later raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to get his startup company off the ground. In 2014, new Penn State football coach James Franklin admitted to sleeping in his office as his family searched for housing. Countless others do the same without the resultant publicity. Yet we still find the idea exotic and unachievable.
There are arguments for why this shouldn’t change–some reasonable, others downright obtuse. But there are benefits, too. READ MORE HERE.
“Can you imagine doing something in your life that will be fully satisfying and redeeming for your having tried to do it, whether you succeeded in it or failed, and that, correspondingly, would be fully shameful had you not tried to do it?”
– Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood
Phase II of Home-Free Living:
During my time in the office, I began building a home in the back of my truck…
My truck bed has a cozy setup, built mostly with my own hands. Plywood panels line the interior of the bed, providing a complex system of storage and shelving that keep the essentials close at hand. A butane stove sits atop the passenger-side cabinet, hinged to fold into a table for work or dining. Across the centered memory foam mattress is a driver’s-side bookcase, housing a small library of my favorite authors—Jon Krakauer, Charles Bukowski, Aimee Bender—below a water jug and paper towel rack. The truck-home includes a clothes hangar, mini fridge, and plans to install a solar panel and moonroof… READ MORE ABOUT MY TINY HOME ON FOUR WHEELS
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction.”
– Ernst F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
The Home-Free Snapshot Series
Brief encounters between The Office Hobo and other home-free folks, in Los Angeles and beyond.
… Lizandro made the decision to live home-free after a divorce with his wife of 14 years. Suddenly he found himself on his own, working a job that barely paid his expenses. Instead of moving further away from his time, spending precious time, money, and resources on his commute, Lizandro packed up his house and moved into his Volkswagen. Now, as a 43-year-old single man living in his vehicle, Lizandro is perfectly content.
“Yeah, I can live somewhere else and pay more,” he reasoned, “but then I waste more on commute. I love playing soccer, I love being at the beach. Everything kind of for me is right here.”
Instead of pouring his paychecks into monthly rent, Lizandro is saving money. What he doesn’t save is sent home to his family in Guadalajara, Mexico, while the rest funds his hobbies–eating healthy and attending concerts. He can often be seen at the park on days like today, communing with friends over a freshly cooked meal of ceviche. Thanks to his Whole Foods employee discount–and his frugal lifestyle–he can afford to eat without breaking the bank.
“I used to be stressed,” Lizandro says, nodding. “‘Oh ****, I’m paying too much,’ Then I didn’t feel good. I didn’t have energy. Believe me, there’s a big difference. I was sacrificing my health.”
“Society is like a stew–if you don’t stir it up every once in a while, then a layer of scum floats to the top.“
– Edward Abbey
The Office Hobo in the Media
“I give boring people something to discuss over corn.”
– Aimee Bender, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
The Benefits of Home-Free Living
When I started this journey, I called it an experiment. I wasn’t sure what fate was to come of subleasing my apartment and moving into my office. At that time, I was flat broke and borderline depressed. I had car loans, medical bills, and student debt beyond what my budget could muster, event working a second job. I stopped devoting time to the creative arts and wasn’t sure what my future held. The mere question of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” drove up my stress levels, because I didn’t know the answer.
While there are apparent downsides to living home-free, I’ve found the upsides both liberating and empowering. The numbers are staggering. And the minor achievements and rewards along the way are fun, too. While there remains a great deal of work to be done in achieving my goals, much has transpired in the over-two years of home-free living. The 3 most important results thus far are as follows… CONTINUE READING HERE
“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
About the The Office Hobo
I’m your average American male. Until a recent unchecked growth of hair on my face–as is the trend of the day–my appearance has been relatively common. Pass me in the street and you wouldn’t have a clue that I live without a home. Meet me in a bar and you might peg me for a white collar ladder-climber. Watch me pull into and out of a parking space 4 times to make sure my car is within the lines, and you’d never believe my lifestyle is so outside normal boundaries. My story is an example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. READ MORE ABOUT THE OFFICE HOBO
“Don’t try to drive the homeless into places we find suitable. Help them survive in places they find suitable.“
– Daniel Quinn
A Sample from the Diary:
Day 1,068: Apartment Searching in L.A.
The ad called it a sublease. That’s the first promise that wasn’t delivered.
The apartment itself was a gem of a space. Vaulted ceilings with a high-on-character arched hallway leading from the door to the main room, separate openings to the right and left for a walk-in closet, bathroom, and kitchen, respectively. This was a second story corner unit, Southwest-facing with plenty of natural light. The building was a recently refurbished building in the heart of Koreatown. Electricity and gas included, according to Brandon. The place was mine if I wanted it. $900. Just fill out the application for Steven, the manager.
It was almost too good to be true.
It was too good to be true.
First off, Steven, the apartment manager, was something of a hobbit. Not because he was ugly, but because I’d have no way of knowing. I’m pretty sure Steven was an invisible, mythical character, the kind tenants talk about in fireside chats during power outages, wondering who to contact because no one had ever gotten a hold of Steven, much less seen him.
“I’ve heard his mother was Eleanor Roosevelt’s daughter’s best friend.”
“No, no, no! He was an orphan, raised by a rogue tribe of Samoan kayakers off Baja California.”
“Someone told me… Steven? He isn’t a man at all. He’s actually… a Port Orford cedar tree.”
You get the gist.
Days later, having had no luck reaching “Steven” (who, at this point, I was convinced was a cedar tree of some sort), I decided to go visit him in person. And when he didn’t answer his door, during his stated office hours, I waited. For twenty minutes. During which time I made some friends. One tenant came by to drop off a rent check. When asked about “Steven”, this man agreed that he was “elusive”. Yeah. Another girl showed up. A prospective tenant. A model.
Take your time, “Steven”.