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My goodness, you look beautiful today...

No rent. No commute. And most importantly, no washing dishes.


Step Into My Office


 

An Experiment-Turned-Lifestyle

TOH Graphic - Rent SavingsUPDATE TOH Graphic - Commute Hours

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…

I’ve been keeping a diary ever since. Browse through the ENTIRE ONLINE DIARY here, or check out the EDITOR’S PICKS here to see some favorite entries from The Office Hobo’s diary.

 


 

“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?

TOH Graphic - Thwarted Theft TOH Graphic - Energy Saved

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:

The Truck-Home

The world's tiniest home.

The world’s tiniest home, custom built for my convenience and sanity.

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 - photo 2

“I don’t really care because society don’t pay my bills,” Lizandro says of his home-free lifestyle.   (Photo by T. Maloney)

… 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.”

READ MORE FROM THE “HOME-FREE SNAPSHOTS” SERIES HERE

 


 

“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

 

 

Press Logos Photo Update

Click for direct links…

And announcing…

THJ16

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The Office Hobo has been invited as a Keynote Speaker at this year’s Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colorado! Click here for more information.

 


 

“I give boring people something to discuss over corn.

– Aimee Bender, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

 


 

The Benefits of Home-Free Living

TOH Graphic - TravelUPDATE TOH Graphic - BeforeAfter

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

 

MeBlue2negart

Actually me…

 

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.

 

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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.

Correction.

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.”

“Chamaecyparis lawsoniana?”

“Scout’s honor.”

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”.

 

READ MORE FROM DAY: 1,068 HERE


 

Scroll through The Office Hobo’s most recent posts below or click here for the chronological blog roll.

FROM THE BLOG

10 Best Books for the Voluntary Homeless (and Those Wishing to Understand Them)
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The 10 Best Books for Living Home-Free (And Those Wanting to Better Understand Those Who Do)   Thinking about living a more intentional life? Already living simply and seeking some inspiration to continue your journey? Know someone who lives in her RV and want to read up on the greats to understand why on Earth someone would do such a thing? If you answered "yes" or "maybe" or "kind of I dunno quit asking me questions", this is the reading list for you. Disclaimer: Most literature that helps understand the reasoning behind giving up one's house or apartment and living home-free only indirectly addresses the lifestyle. Most relevant literature discusses...
Day 1,141: Living the #Barnlife
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Neigh! A horse bellows behind me as I wring out a newly laundered thermal in the basin, shaking it out before draping it over the fence to dry. The sun hurries off behind the hills surrounding our desert horse ranch, educating me once again on the finer details of wash-by-hand laundry—do it earlier in the day. I’ve been living here, in the Southern California desert, at the southernmost foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, for a few days now, but already it feels like home. I arrived here this past weekend, taking a private room in a part of the ranch’s barn which has been converted into a living space. My goal has been to (finally) finish this beast of a book I’ve...
Day 1,112: Add Cat-Sitter to My Resume
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The report of a meow rings out behind me as I open the fridge and reach for a plastic container of food. The label calls for ocean whitefish with organic emulsified kale, kelp, and bok choy. I'm hungry as a grizzly in Spring, but this food's not for me. No, for the first half of January I've been asked to cat-sit for a friend. And the cats always eat first. This gig calls for 17 days of all-out, no-holds-barred feline supervision, complete with two meals per day, medicine administration, and daily cat litter changes. These cats are old, too, so in truth I'm just here to make sure they don't visit Kitty Heaven on my watch. In cat years, these three gericatrics total 263 years, which...
Day 1,068: Apartment Searching in L.A.
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There are few pursuits less rewarding than searching for affordable housing in Los Angeles. It was with a measure of reluctance I dove into searching for an apartment again. As described in a previous post, I'd grown weary of the demands of home-free living for the hustling urban creative professional. A stable homestead seemed like a plausible solution, even if just for a temporary stay. Plus, with my social life taking on a recent and unexpected vibrancy as of late, I was more and more deflecting questions about where I lived. Subconsciously, I started wondering if the right rental situation might be out there for me after all. After all, luck seemed to be on my side. I'd recently...
Day 1,015: #vanlife issues
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My return to full-time urban trucklife couldn't have been less smooth. Thanks to a bike thief attempting to steal my locked-up ride earlier this summer, I've grown reluctant parking the thing outside overnight. The problem is that, save for Dawn's garage in Calabasas, I no longer have a storage unit. Being that I really want the exercise, convenience, and youthful joy of taking my road bike to the streets, I have little option but to lock it up outside overnight... or sleep alongside it. Inside my camper. At risk of admitting my own absurd level of commitment to an idea, I'll post a photo of the tight squeeze below.   Some might think this is a little ridiculous. And...
Day 1,010: Lizandro’s VW Van (A Home-Free Snapshot)
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Lizandro rests his arm on the brim of his classic Volkswagen van’s driver’s side door, taking in the cool winter air of the Mar Vista Rec Center. A group of men congregate nearby, drooling over what will soon be a tasty ceviche dinner. One of the men asks for the tomato and Lizandro points to the picnic table. He should know where it is—he was the one who bought the food. Not that Lizandro is rich. In fact, he’s homeless. Voluntarily homeless. Lizandro and is one of a growing number of Los Angeles residents living in his vehicle. According to last year’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority census, over 6,000 vehicles were being used as residences, an 85% increase over...
Day 1,000: Lake Arrowhead and the Cost of Housing
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It's Labor Day weekend and I sit in the passenger seat of my friend Dawn's Cadillac Escalade, following a line of European coupes and late-model sport utility vehicles as we wind our way up the switchbacking highway cutting through the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest. Our destination is Lake Arrowhead, where Southern California's ultra-wealthy holiday on the balconies of their mile-high vacation homes and behind the wheels of their six-figure speedboats. For a part-time wage-earner and emerging writer, it's lifestyle shock to the max.                                     . I was invited to spend the weekend here as a guest of the family and I reluctantly...
Day 992: What the Future Holds
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It will soon be time to call it quits on my Calabasas experiment--or will it? Dawn's downtown library project is underway, and I'm proud to say that my involvement has been the spark that's kick-started her back into action. By helping design, organize, and help labor through organizing the over 10,000 books she has laying around to make the library a success, Dawn's been re-motivated to make regular trips down to the center to ensure the facility is prepared for their arrival. The books will soon be ready to be transported downtown, and we're hoping for a grand opening before the holidays. There's much work to be done yet, but I feel satisfied I've done my part to help Dawn realize...
Day 974: Stranded Truck-Home
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  We thought we were going the right way. My friend Paul and I had set out on a plan to hike up Shepherd's Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with the goal of climbing both Mt. Williamson and Mt. Tyndall on the same three-day trip. Physically, we were prepared, having independently tailored our workouts to the rigors of the 30+ mile roundtip topping out at over 14,000 feet of elevation. Our route was mapped out, too, along with precisely how much food, water, and equipment to bring along for the trip. As long as the weather held up--and it appeared that it would--the only thing standing between us and the summits were, effectively, ourselves. "What could possibly go...
Day 937: Chila’s Cabin (A Home-Free Snapshot)
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I stroll up the stairs to my place, using the soft hum of guitar strings to guide me in the right direction. It is the perfect way to put a night cap on the last night of my vacation in Belize, a place I might not have had the time or money to visit had I chosen to keep a full-time job and an apartment. The cool breeze of the Caribbean swayed tickling validation all over my smiling face. This was exactly where I wanted to be. Where I was is a place called Caye Caulker, and island known for its proximity to world class barrier reefs and a motor-vehicle-free dirt strip that breathes life into the islands' only town. I couldn't have taken my truck-home here if I wanted. So instead, I...