Grist

My husband and I think we’ve found a way to pay off our mortgage early, without taking on an extra job or working nights. We’ve decided to construct a rental unit — a “mother-in-law suite” — within our home. If it pans out as we hope, the rental income will let us pay off our loan 10 years early. And who knows: It could give us a chance to live closer to family as we, or they, get on in years.

Jason and I are not alone; lots of folks across the country are experimenting with adding a second (or third) dwelling to an existing single-family home. And in perhaps the most interesting development, more and more people are choosing to buck the “bigger is better” trend in North American housing. They’re taking small spaces — backyards, side lots, or freestanding garages — and using them to build tiny houses.

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The changing culture of disposability

Make Wealth History

In the past, most things that you owned were built to last. Household goods were expensive, and you looked after what you had, repairing things and maintaining them. In the early 20th century, new industrial processes and new materials – plastic especially – began to change that. One of the first and best known examples is the Dixie cup, invented in 1907 in response to a health scare about shared tin cups used at public water fountains. Vending machines with paper cups were a much more hygienic solution. Today, we get through billions of paper and plastic cups every year, 146 billion in the US alone.

It’s a funny thing, disposability. One-use items are often more convenient. You don’t need to wash them and put them away, or worry about breaking them, and they’re more hygienic, especially for medical equipment. On the other hand, it’s far cheaper to own…

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