In Tribute to Misunderstood “Container Crazies and Controversy” Everywhere!

10 Apr

You know…

I get contacted a lot by families that want to build an affordable home. Most of these families are living just like my family is, from paycheck to paycheck. These aren’t people trying to be “fashionable,” or people trying to buy a container full of “green envy.” They are people who are looking for a way out, that gives them a way in… to a home of their own.

They aren’t trying to draw attention to themselves, so that they can brag about their house being showcased on some cable TV show, or blabbered about on CNN or Good Morning America, like they were some kind of “American Folk Heroes.” They’re not your typical “attention whores.”  They’re just “average Joes,” trying to house their families.

And that brings me to the topic of this post;

Don’t believe everything you read.

Recently, a family approached me and told me that they were thinking about building an ISBU home, but the blogs they were reading were full of drama and angst. At first, I immediately started to apologize for messing with their vibe, because they were talking about ME! 🙂

Then, they recounted a story to me about a woman who was building her ISBU home in Missouri. This family actually got grief from the local planning and Zoning Nazi’s, because they were aware of this “other” ISBU  house, and “didn’t want their town turned into a circus by liberal lunatics and whining idiots!”

Hey, THAT sentiment I’m used to. It’s hard to be different.

But they were actually talking about a lady in Missouri who is building a container house “out in the country” on the James River.  She’s doing what I’m doing, in that she’s recording the build for posterity. Unlike me, (whether she planned it that way or not) it appears that she’s become a poster child for “Look at me!” I’m so cool! I’m better than you. I’m the center of the world!” if you believe the dozens of emails that I have received about her, and her project.

Now, I’ve communicated with the architectural firm that designed the home. They tell me that;

“”M” is probably one of the greatest people you could hope to ever meet. I wish I had the time to sit here a write everything down that is great about her but I don’t.  We have become very good friends with her over the last couple years. We have spent a lot of time working to get her into the house of her dreams because like your readers she doesn’t have a lot of money. We tried to design a house using conventional means but we were unable to get it within the budget.”

The designer, Michael Mardis,  goes on to say that;

“The shipping containers were our idea, knowing that it would save money and allow us to get all the features we were all hoping for.”

I spend enough time defending myself (I’m not quite sure “why?” I “seem” like such a nice guy!), so it’s odd that I find myself defending someone else, but here goes…

I’ve been aware of this build, for a while. It’s real cool that she’s getting media attention. It’s real cool that she’s spreading the word. If you feel like she’s acting out, you may be misreading what she’s trying to convey to you.  She ISN’T the “Countess of Containers!”

It’s not only zealots, idiots, and “deadbeats, drop-outs, or people with no life,” who build alternative homes. Some of those ISBU dwellers are just “enthusiastic old ladies caught up in the emotion of their build.”  I suspect this is the case, here.

I get LOTS of feedback on her. I’m not quite sure why, because I’m not associated with her at all, except in the “ISBU” commonality.

As a Jew in Mississippi, I get asked all the time if I know “so-and-so” who lives in NY, because they are Jews, too. Sure, all Jews know each other. We get introduced at birth, and we all exchange Hanukkah cards!

As a builder/designer/plasma cutting toadie of shipping container homes in America “and parts unknown,” I get asked if I know this lady. Again… you do the math…

I don’t KNOW her. I’ve never spoken to her. All I know about her, I learned just like you, by reading her blog, or from my communication with her designer. I’m sure that she’s a nice lady. I suspect that if you’re “set off” by her blog, you’re just seeing that she’s just a tad “overzealous.”


Here’s the gist of it;

Building a shipping container house is less about throwing money at an architect, designer,  or  contractor, and more about understanding that your life is changing. It’s less about “complaining about the right sofa,” and more about learning to live a simpler, more comfortable life, free of the drama that comes with “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Once you’ve figured THAT out, those conversations with that architect will become much more rewarding. An architects job is to design “space.” If you understand what “spaces” you need, their job get’s easier, and their creativity gets wings to soar with!

It’s important that you understand what you’re building, if you’re trying to change your lifestyle. That comprehension will help you build the bridges you require, to have that life you seek. So I urge you to swing that hammer or fire up that screw gun, at every opportunity. Get concrete on your shoes! Become intimate with a caulking gun! Don’t just pay someone else to do it, actually participate!

Living in an ISBU home, doesn’t make you “the new messiah.” It just makes you smart, and environmental, and capable of seeing life from inside the confines of your steel home.

Understand that when people say things like;

“Yessirree! Sign up NOW for a tour of a shipping container house in progress. Touch it! Stand inside! Look out the windows! Jump up and down! Close your eyes and imagine where this vessel has been! (or maybe not) Close your eyes again and imagine that this will be a real house someday soon! Self-guided tours are always welcome….day or night…..or make arrangements for an informative PCO/D (plasma cutter operator/designer) guide to show you around and tell you hair-raising stories of sparks and grass fires and a transient support team nearby. And all of this is just a step away…..downtown….in the Queen City of the Ozarks…..Main Street, U.S.A. …”

They aren’t necessarily trying to be “Carnival Barkers.”  Heck, when I read that, I immediately thought of Emerson, Lake and Palmer… “Welcome now my friends, to the show that never ends…”

I suspect that she’s just  caught up in the build, and excited about her new home. It’s not necessarily that she’s “overcompensating” for something… like the middle-aged guy who sells the Mini-Van and buys a Corvette…

There’s more to this “ISBU stuff”  than just paying someone else to do it for you. It’s the beginning of an adventure;

  • You’re probably going to “downsize” and get rid of stuff you’ve been hanging onto for years.
  • You’re probably going to learn what you can live without.
  • You’re probably going to become more organized.
  • You’re probably going to become more “accountable” for the things you do daily.
  • You’re probably going to plant a garden.

And, you’ll be the better for it.

As for “Marti…” I’m betting that she’s  the perfect candidate for a life lived out in the country, in her “steel box.”

She’s probably just an enthusiastic old lady, who is really passionate about her “new life.” She’s doing something “good.” And she’s proud of it. She’s realizing a dream!

Perhaps you read her blog, and see “circus antics.” But, I’d offer up that she’s the just trying to “spread the word,” just like the rest of us. She could be “mellower,” or tone it down, but that would be YOU, not her. She’s debuting “her new prom dress,” and she’s entitled to do it any way that she wants. It’s HER blog. If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

Where have you heard that before?

If you’re not sure… read MY disclaimer, up there on the right side of this page!

There’s a lesson here for all of us…

You know, something like; “If you find yourself visiting the Land of Oz… Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

FYI: Even in my blog, the disclaimer contains the “if you don’t like it here… leave” inclusion.

BUT… I really wish that she’d stop complaining abut DWELL magazine. It’s one of the few publications that gives press time to “Alternatives to McMansions.” Sure, it’s a little artsy. You have to appeal to a broad market, in order to get enough subscribers to keep a publication running. DWELL is full of ideas! Just strip out the “glitz and expensive glamour stuff” and you have the “nuts and bolts!”

I heartily endorse DWELL Magazine. So there!

‘Nuff said.

Stay Tuned!

addendum: I just saw (on “M’s” blog) that she actually loves DWELL magazine! So, that proves it! She’s not “CRAZY,” she’s just “exuberant!” Go get ’em, girl! 🙂

The Renaissance RoninAnd please remember that we’re trying desperately to save this blog. As my wife’s illness worsens, the budget gets tighter and tighter. If you like what you read, and it helps you find your path, please consider hitting the Paypal button, and donatining a few bucks to the cause, okay? We really want to keep this blog going!

10 Responses to “In Tribute to Misunderstood “Container Crazies and Controversy” Everywhere!”

  1. Davis April 10, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    glad you’re able to help these folks in such difficult times

    • renaissanceronin April 10, 2009 at 11:06 am #

      I suspect that a lot of us are just doing whatever we can to make it easier. It’s only going to get harder from here.

      That big “Stimulus Package” isn’t going to make things better for quite a while, if at all.

      In the meantime, we need affordable housing. And we need it fast.

  2. Build_Green April 11, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with this. I will build an ISBU home in the, hopefully, near future. For me it’s about living a more modest and comfortable life and helping the environment along the way. Fear and ignorance creates resistance to change, any change, you know this first hand. Keep blogging RR, it’s part of the education many readers want and need to make a difference.

    • renaissanceronin April 11, 2009 at 10:30 am #

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate it.

      Sometimes I’m accused of “living on another planet” by those who just don’t seem to see what I see.

      All I can do is call them the way I see them, and then… fix the broken windows I get from having rocks thrown thru them! 🙂

      If we work together, we’ll ALL (us ISBU’rs) make that difference you speak of, and our families will benefit from it. If the neighbors don’t understand… well… I probably won’t lose any sleep over it.

      Good luck with your build. Keep me posted!


  3. Phlander April 30, 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    Your “old lady” has spoken.

    • renaissanceronin April 30, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

      Yeah, I saw that too, a few days ago.

      I stand by what I’ve said, and wish “that old lady” all the best.

      BTW: I’m over 50, and anybody older than me is OLD. Period. Deal with it! 😛

      Her successful project will be the best “testimony” that she can give. Every ISBU home successfully built becomes an example for the next. And she’s gonna be living out in the woods, so she can make as much “noise” as she wants!


  4. karen in philly May 3, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    It never ceases to amaze me how folks speak so confidently of that which they know nothing about. In this case, a PERSON, whom they know nothing about. That would be my aunt Marti, who would give any of you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She could make you laugh on your darkest day. She can find the most creative twist on the dullest idea across your desk. She is the LAST person who would want to be the center of attention–she doesn’t even like color, for goodness sake, you think she is building this house for the publicity? Life has dealt her some super crappy cards but she has, and continues to, rise above & “make” the lives of those who are fortunate to actually know her personally. SO, before you make assumptions about anyone, try making positive assumptions first. You can always let them change your mind later, but why not start out with the glass half full, eh? ’nuff said! oxox

    • renaissanceronin May 3, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

      See folks…

      The circus is pitching a tent, here on RR…

      For the record, I NEVER write a post without research. EVER.

      I not only read “M’s” blog (several times), I spoke to people who had spoken to her, people who interviewed her, and then… to her designer at length (via several emails.)…

      Just because your aunt is a funny and charitable person, doesn’t mean that it precludes any other “type” of activity.

      According to witness accounts, Charles Manson was a pretty funny guy, too…

      If you read her blog, it’s clear that she has a “flair for the dramatic.” I’ve used her own quotes as the basis for that. And, I’m sorry that her life has “sucked,” we here at RR can identify with that condition.

      And, if you reread my posts, although I’ve allowed that she appears “eccentric” at best, I’ve DEFENDED her and her actions, although I do not agree with the aftermath that has had to be dealt with, by others trying to do what she’s done, so publicly.

      I suggest that you reread your own comment, and take a big dose of your own medicine.

      I stand by my posts. If you don’t like it, turn the channel.

      BTW: Just because MY aunt is a nice person, doesn’t mean that she ain’t the “family crazy…”

  5. Joanna May 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    I couldn’t help notice the tone of the majority of your postings. You cleverly paste a “catch all” disclaimer, that the opinions of your blog are just that, opinions. But for some reason, you seem intolerable of other people’s opinions.

    For example, I have been following the blog of “M” (much discussed on your blog) for awhile now. I used to live in the Springfield area and her story caught my attention. I have never met the woman and have no ties to her whatsoever, but I have truly enjoyed following her journey from a “small plastic box” to a “home.” Some of her postings were over the top, but that seemed like her personality coming through the computer screen. Her story garnered attention because she lives in a town where thinking green and container homes are new and interesting ideas (something you seem to champion, yet find appalling when it’s someone else behind the cause.) I also find it ironic that you were so offended by her “self-promotion,” when your very own blog solicits donations through paypal for your personal use.

    The beauty of our blog generation is that everyone has a voice– a journal that happens to be hidden in plain sight for the entire Internet to read. Unfortunately, there are those (and I am including you in this group) who take advantage of that voice, while hiding behind the relative anonymity of the Internet to personally attack fellow bloggers who are merely using the medium to express their personal views. I may have missed the posting, and would love for you to point it out to me if I did, wherein Marti called you out for being a narcissistic prick who feels he has a corner on the “container house blog” market.

    From reading a few of your posts, it appears that you have had a tough go of it- and for that, I truly feel for you. However, your energy would be best served dealing with your own issues than worrying about what an “old lady” in the Ozarks is doing.

    You ironically urged your loyal followers that if they did not like Marti’s blog, they could stop reading- yet you then went on to post a second entry bashing her after reading her response to you. Either way, I will follow your bit of advice and you can count on my not returning to your blog.

    • renaissanceronin May 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

      So tell me… Joann, how do you really feel? 🙂

      BTW: About those “clever disclaimers;” My wife says I ain’t all that clever, so that’s not it. 🙂

      It’s the damned lawyers. I make it a point to make sure that people know I’m stating my “personal” opinion. Legalities, so they’ll know who to blame… don’t ya know… 🙂

      Look, I’m not saying that “M” is a monster, or even acting out intending to do others harm. In fact, I’ve said publicly that I think she’s just a lady caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm of her build, and it’s a little out of control at times. I am actually quite happy for her, that she’s achieving her goals.

      I have a problem with “the circumstances” that inhibit other people from following you. The manner in which things have progressed has actually caused harm to other people not associated with “M.” It’s fact. This whole thing started because some people I know were catching hell, because the P&Z guys in their town were influenced by “M’s” build, and didn’t want “to get overrun with crazies and media crews.” It was further fueled by many, many emails from people who were aghast at the “raw spectacle” of the Missouri build, the implications, and it’s consequences.

      Call it “social consciousness.”

      Not to mention that some of her “public offerings” would give her insurance agent a heart attack.

      I’ll remind you that YOUR rights (whoever you happen to be) only extend to the tip of my nose. It’s the “I can just do whatever I want, so what the hell…” cavalier thinking that got this country into the mess it’s in, now. I just hope that somehow, we can overcome the tide that has seemingly turned against us, and find a safe and productive future for our children.

      So, I point out that your actions have consequences. And, when doing something that is already controversial, you might want to think about those who might follow, if your intentions are anything but self-promotion. At least consider it. And then, do what you will, I suppose. But, if you hurt someone else, cause obstacles for others, or pour gasoline on an already burning fire, don’t be shocked when you get burned. Don’t be surprised if you get called on it.

      Even SHE says that she’s “over the top,” to use your words… And if you really read my posts, you’ll figure out that I actually defended her position, although I certainly don’t agree with it. Perhaps you missed that. Maybe you should read it again…

      Again, it’s not the “I’m building a container house” message,(I actually have no problems at all with “her house”) it’s the manner in which her message is getting across. I love her enthusiasm, and I am POSITIVE that she’s damned proud of that house. She should be. She’s realizing a dream. I just hate the message that is getting “piggybacked” along with all that glee and joy… Just let other people realize their dream too, huh?

      I openly welcome anyone with an alternative view to chime in, and help promote a “new” manner in which people might find homes, where before there were none.

      (Or they can even attack me or my character, as you have… for stating my position and the positions of others who have contacted me, in this case.)

      I did a lot of research before I wrote that blog, and the follow-up (which came not just because she posted “addressing” it specifically, but additionally because of all the email I received).

      We shouldn’t be tasked with building a safety net, to survive the obstacles put in place by other people. It sucks that it happens, but it happens, none the less. Life is hard enough now.

      My own family is one of those families trying to make it thru, and that often means that sacrifices get made. If I wasn’t getting hundreds of reads a day (the blog averages about 350 views daily), I’d think about shutting down RR. But, it appears that we’re making a difference. Many families are building, all over the country. Many more are in pre- and “ongoing” development. In fact, one is fairly close to you, in South Carolina. Most of my help goes on without any compensation of any kind. So I ask people who enjoy the blog, and gain aid from the posts to help out with it’s operation.

      You don’t like it? Sue me. That implied “middle finger clause” is up there in my disclaimer, for a reason. (Perhaps I should just “hard-code” it in there.) You won’t get much, if anything.

      And about those “donations” I solicited… We are grateful to those people who enjoyed the blog enough to help out, but in the timeframe that those requests for help have run, I haven’t made enough money to cover more than one month’s bandwidth (much less run off with “all that Internet money” to the Bahamas or Rio…).

      As for calling me “a narcissistic prick who feels he has a corner on the “container house blog” market…” Surely, you jest…. I’m hardly narcissistic… I’m not at all vain (I’m an old, pudgy, balding Jewish Redneck with a bad attitude and a middle finger, apparently), and actually, I don’t really give a crap what you (or anybody else) might think of me. I don’t see YOU when I look in the mirror in the morning.

      My writing style (or lack thereof) is calculated to make you think, and maybe even make you laugh (with me, at me, I don’t care), as you learn, with the rest of us. My blog is written to entertain and help educate, and some like it, some don’t. I could just post textbook monotone lectures about building, but I doubt anyone would read them.

      And by the way, my “narcissistic ego” doesn’t build houses… Facts, hard work, sweat equity, and fundamental building practices do. And that’s what I’m sharing, daily.

      I’d like to think that we’re pretty charitable here at “RR.” We operate a food bank out of our house, out of necessity. We do volunteer work locally. I give much of my time away to anyone who needs it… so it doesn’t appear that I’m all that “narcissistic-ly selfish” either. In fact, I’m giving up some of my time right now, responding to you instead of just killing your maligning comment. 🙂

      BTW: there are hundreds of blogs on alternative housing, and many of those follow ISBU construction. I hardly have the market cornered… If that was the case, I’d be making an income from the blog, and I probably wouldn’t need to weigh the acquisition of diapers and medicine against bandwidth.

      FYI: In fact, there are a few other “shipping container blogs” that I like more than my own, if the truth be told.

      You don’t like my blog? You certainly have the right to say so, and rest assured that I’ll print it. As for “leaving never to return?” I’ll live… It’ll just make room for somebody else.


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