Jeff Wilson's life had all the trappings of a conventional adult existence.
For starters, he was living in a comfortable, 280sqm Texas, home with a large walk-in wardrobe, an easily accessible bathroom and a US$1600 (NZ$2181) monthly mortgage payment. He had a professorship at a state university, an hour-long commute and a matrimonial social arrangement with a fellow professional.
Today, Wilson has none of those things - and insists that he's never been happier.
Between then and now, there was a divorce, a new job in a new city, a surrendering of worldly possessions, a new social arrangement with a new romantic partner and - perhaps most importantly - an olive green rubbish skip that he called home.
Until he vacated it last month to move in with his new girlfriend, Wilson - an associate professor of biological sciences at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin - spent an entire year living in a converted trash receptacle on the historically black college campus.
On its face, turning the 3sqm space into a livable home - complete with an air conditioner unit, weather station, mailbox, and a false-floor basement to store cooking equipment and clothes - was a bold exercise in sustainability that demonstrated a person's ability to comfortably exist in a space 1 per cent the size of the average American household.
"It's an insane idea on the surface, and it may be an insane idea below the surface," he told the Washington Post.
Wilson said the immediate benefits of living in the container were myriad: Lower rent, lower utility payments, less time spent doing chores, a shorter commute (approximately 90 seconds on foot) and less money spent on unnecessary possessions. Those benefits may sound underwhelming compared to the sacrifice involved, but in totality, Wilson said, they offered a new freedom.
Because his living space was so small, Wilson said he also spent much less time at home.
Instead, he was frequently on and around campus, having face-to-face interactions. (Importantly, he also had to leave the skip to use the toilet or take showers, which he did at the campus gymnasium.)
He was forced to give away almost everything he owned, he said. At his most spartan, he owned four pants, four shirts (two short-sleeve and two long-sleeve), three pairs of shoes, three hats and eight or nine bowties, according to the SpareFoot Blog.
Among the few possessions he did purchase were a garden gnome and a small AC unit to offset the blazing summer heat, which reached as high as 54C.
But as "Professor Dumpster" (as he is now known) readjusts to a more demanding lifestyle, he has come to realise that the last year was also an experiment in reducing "noise."
Not necessarily the audible kind, he said, but the kind of noise that arrives in the form of endless e-mails and informational overload that has spawned the "digital detox" movement.
For now, the skip will remain on campus as an educational tool for students, artists and educators, who can tour the home or spend a few nights inside.