Pleasant Inconvenience

We live in a “village” that is located directly adjacent to a much larger metropolis. The houses in our neighborhood, for the most part are classic village homes. Some have shared drives, some are large, some are small. Some are ranch style, some are cedar sided 1 1/2 story cape cods. Our house, like many on our street, has a detached garage.



“Buildings, and especially houses, with a graceful transition between the street and the inside, are more tranquil than those which open directly off the street.” – Christopher Alexander

Perhaps a little space can provide that same transition.

A neighbor across the street had the same set up, but moved recently. I ran into her while perusing the produce at the local market this week, and I asked how she likes the new setting. She replied “I miss the connectivity I had with the neighbors… it used be I would go out to the garage and in the process see somebody and wave. Our new place has an attached garage and I never go outside anymore”.

Last night I was forced to defrost our freezer, which meant I made a dozen trips to the garage. This was a task that included the process of putting on the flip-flops, going through a series of doors, spooking the birds at the feeder, and turning on and off lights.

At one point during one of these promenades, I looked up and was dumbfounded by the abundance of life that surrounded me. Giant oaks spanning the sky, grey and red squirrels jousting for territory, cardinals chirping louder than one can believe from such a small creature. Rain clouds silently lofting past with much drama. Kids laughter weaving through the air.

It dawned on me that although I have cursed the situation that creates this ritualistic strut to the garage, I could have missed this entire scene. And like our ex-neighbor, if we moved to a “more convenient” residential configuration how much I would be missing.

So I’m left with contemplating what else we sacrifice in the name of convenience? We have all heard horror stories of the waste that convenience generates. Just watch how quick a trash can fills up at a burger joint. What if we obtain a dishwasher? What would we innocently forfeit by no longer spending time together doing dishes manually?

What impact does this have on how we organize our lives? Is it more convenient to buy two bottles of dish soap (one for the kitchen and one for the camping gear) than it is to devise an inventory management system? Do we habitually obtain more, rather than spending the time to organize what we have? How many times have you gone to the store to buy that roll of tape that you swear you need for painting the bathroom, only to discover you still have 3 in your brush box when you return?

Somewhere in the gumbo of this is a balance. But it may require some time and thinking to identify. A lot of us began using cell phones under the theory that they would enable us to complete tasks more efficiently and thus create more free time… how convenient. Although I can’t imagine a world without them, I bet all of you would agree that “free time” has alluded you. We may be driving past a lot of life’s rewards when we use the drive-thru.


4 thoughts on “Pleasant Inconvenience

  1. When I cross the patio to take my garbage to the dumpster, I often meet others who live in my apartment complex. Sometimes a grumpy nod, sometimes a brief conversation, sometimes the acknowledgment that it’s a beautiful day, or an unpleasant one. This doesn’t seem terribly important, but I would miss it.

    You alluded to free time having eluded you. When mobile phones, cell phones and laptops became widespread, I didn’t like seeing people become more frazzled, more anxious, more tied to work. I need down time. When I travel, I want to look out the window. When I take a walk, I want to exist in the moment.

  2. Agreed. Not to mention using the phone in some instances is just not safe… and illegal in some cites. I don’t typically check work e-mail when I travel ether. We’ve been helping our kids understand that when you travel, you look around. Thanks for the comments.

  3. I love watering my garden by hand. Having an irrigation system is supposed to be a better way to do it, and it is much more convenient if you have to go out of town. But I love standing outside doing something vital and doing nothing at the same time.

  4. The other night I made a spontaneous visit to a friend of mine (another designer) and found him in the back yard of his house, with his wife and dog watering their trees by hand. We discussed just how therapeutic it was to do that after a long day at the office. I have, of course, proceeded to replicate that act at our own abode since…. and likewise found it beneficial in numerous ways. One of which is more interest in the things growing in my yard… and that the local rabbits have been dinning again!

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