Why do we want?

I love the idea behind Andy’s simple living experiment.  I suspect that he’ll miss having an oven and stove — as well as a shower, but that’s just my prediction.  I also think that he doesn’t realize how far it is to a health club from the places he’s considering building his 100 square foot home — but that’s not my point here…

A conversation with Andy started me thinking about why many folks think owning a big house is achieving the American Dream?  I’m sure I don’t have the answers, but I’d like to think about it more —

First of all, I think that it’s preposterous to live in a house much bigger than the needs of your family.  Hubby and I did some house sitting in Omaha.  The two of us spent a significant amount of time in a 4,000 square foot home.  It was a lovely suburban home — built for a family.  The two of us spent nearly all of our time in two or three rooms — not even going into many of the others for weeks at a time.

This told me exactly how much room the two of us need — a livingroom/office, a bedroom and a kitchen.  We also did the usual homeowner stuff like mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, raking etc… and concluded that we didn’t want to do that stuff.  It’s important to note that Hubby and I only have feline fur-children — so a big house in the suburbs doesn’t fit our family.

The house sitting experience prompted us to make a move — literally.  We moved from a larger apartment about 30 minutes from BNCC to a smaller (but nicer, more expensive… sigh) apartment less than 5 minutes from BNCC.  In order to do so, we significantly decreased the amount of furniture we had — and gave away a lot of books, clothes etc.  I don’t miss any of it.   When we moved we decreased our carbon footprint by nearly eliminating my commute and significantly decreasing our electricity use.  I don’t miss the commute — or the higher electric bills.

I think that there are powerful influences shaping our desires and making them seem more like needs than wants.  Whenever I see one of those “buy your first house” shows, the young couple is usually planning to “start a family”, and thus needs 5,000 square feet, a pool, granite counter tops and a whirlpool tub.  Their desires for those things seem like needs to them (they reject nice homes missing those things) and those impulses didn’t start when they walked in the door of the first home.

It seems to me that there are more complicated reasons for this — and horrific economic implications to the housing bubble… and all of that will wait for another post…

For now think about what you need to be comfortable, verses what you desire…. you may find that you’ve bought into an ideal that just doesn’t make sense…


4 Responses

  1. I’m pretty desperate for more space myself. Three kids, me, and PH and a dog in 2 bedrooms and just under 850 square feet. Is it adequate? Yeah. Would I like 200 more square feet and another bedroom (plus maybe a half bath)? Oh heck yes. I need more room for my books.

    Anyway. Point being there is such a thing as too small for comfort in my mind even though we’d prioritize location–the ability to commute by foot or bike would be ideal–and public schools over amount of space.

  2. Five of you in 850 square feet is pretty tight — I can see that. Not counting the dog, y’all are living in about 170 sq feet per person — that’s pretty small, considering Andy’s plan is to design a 100 square foot place to live in by himself.

    Really, I think it would be reasonable for your growing family to live in the 4,000 square foot house Hubby and I house sat in Omaha. Three small children have a lot of equipment — y’all are completely justified in wanting a larger space.

    My point is that couples without kids — especially couples whose kids are grown, are living in much more space than they need to be comfortable.

  3. […] Why do we want… part 2 So, I’ve been thinking about this… why the “American Dream” is owning the biggest house you can’t really afford&#8230… […]

  4. I totally agree with you. I mean, we’d be happy with maybe 1400 square feet, which is way less than the enormous suburban houses one can find around here.

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