Sunday, July 13, 2008

the ethics of Moving Up

About a month ago Abe & I graduated from the realm of 1-bedroom cheapo college apartments to a spacious, new 2-bedroom condo. We had done 450 square feet or less for the last 4 years, in an attempt to be conscientious consumers and wise savers.

But 4 years is a lot of time to accumulate stuff. And that stuff needs a place. Plus, as much as we love each other, we needed a little space, too. I've spent the last 4 years knowing exactly where Abe is whenever he's home. And I don't just mean, he's in the kitchen. I mean, he's standing by the sink, holding a bowl under the water faucet. Because in all of our apartments, we could see from any location to any location. I was thrilled when, during our first week in the new condo, I knew Abe was home, but I couldn't find him!

There are many other things to love about our new place. An entry way and hall closet for coats, a dishwasher (three cheers!), a laundry room - kind of - , a spare bedroom converted to office space, a screened in porch for summer evenings without mosquitoes, separate bedroom closets, a guest bathroom, carpet without 40 years of someone else's who-knows-what ground into it. The list could go on.

I am really grateful for a comfortable, enjoyable place to live. And part of me says, Hey, after 4 years, you deserve it. But another part of me wonders. I have been to a few countries (and even within the U.S.) where I have seen families of 6 or 7 living in a smaller, dirtier, older places than I have ever lived. I don't think I need to preach about how unequal the world is - we've all seen it in varying ways.

So my question is, what do I do about my dishwasher? Or my hall closet? Or my screened in porch? If I get the opportunity to have these small luxuries, I take them. But where does that leave the family of 6? I lament the larger, unfair forces of the world to the background of my humming appliances.

And it makes me a little uncomfortable.


Megan said...

Your new apartment sounds great! While I am doing dishes by hand and knowing that Chris is in the kitchen with a dish in his hand, I will think about your life of luxury. Maybe when we reach the 4 year mark (in 1.5 years) we will be living it up like y'all!

Dawn said...

Remember, that you living in tiny dirty dark college housing does not mean that some family of 6 gets to leave in clean, bright, dishwasher heaven. And you living in a clean light-filled space does not relegate another family to live in dinginess. You can do a lot of good in whatever area you want to work in and still live in a comfortable place. And though you wish it were, this is not forever; soon enough you'll be moving back out into the real world, and maybe back into housing that is less light filled. Then you will have these memories to carry you forward. Enjoy it while you can.

amydear said...

Oh, I hear you, Erin! I feel the same way about my spacious house with 3 full baths. I wish I could see the condo! And I just have to think, as Dawn does, that this is the way things are in America. I don't need to live in squalor, I just need to be the type of person who is generous, looking out for others, and not too attached to all of my "stuff." You are definitely that kind of person! Enjoy that screened-in porch. It sounds wonderful! Thanks for all the updates on books, too. I've taken many of your suggestions.

Dave and Margaret said...

I don't know - I would say that perhaps your dishwasher is made with parts from China, your new carpet by some textile mill, your screen by a metal-working company- and probably by someone working for a very low wage. Should this make you feel guiltier? No! You're supporting third world economies. You're keeping men out of lives of crime and women out of prostitution. Your home was probably built by low-wage American (or perhaps Mexican) workers, which means you're supporting the local economy.

I know the consumption-as-salvation argument only goes so far (and should be used in moderation) but it wasn't until some farmer got rich enough to want to pay someone for a pretty pot to store his grain in that the world really took off. I think a sense of moderation keeps you grounded, but the guilt is unfounded.