Bigger houses year after year, has been a trend in the US for many years, with houses increasing in size from 1,000 square feet in 1950 to more than 2,200 square feet in 2010. What's even more surprising is while houses have gotten bigger, the average household size has shrunk from 3.6 members to 2.55 in 2012.
During an evening spent with a group of women homeowners, we talked about our homes. We only talked about our own homes, although the discussion did cover everything from our childhood homes, to our first home as an adult as well as our houses today.
As I thought about how to share our discussion, it was surprising that so many of the points brought up, seemed to contradict the industry trend towards bigger houses.
Bigger Houses Versus Smaller Living Spaces
To begin the discussion, everyone shared what their favorite room or living space was and why they loved the space. The surprise was that in almost all descriptions, our group of women homeowners described the spaces they love as “small and cozy” in contrast to other rooms in their homes which are large and lonely.
- One woman explained how she'd focused on decorating her den to make it the place where she could go to relax. Afterwards she realized it was too large and felt lonely, so she now relaxes in her bedroom which is smaller and cozy.
- Another woman shared how they'd taken their vacation home and split it into the main house which they now rent, and a small apartment on the ground floor. She said that she and her husband actually like the small apartment better than the house because it contains only the things they need and everything is more convenient, which leads to the question of why do we think bigger houses are better?
- One of the women is going through a major renovation of her home, so she explained how she loves her kitchen best because it's warm and friendly versus much of the house which is unfinished currently.
- My favorite space is my office. What I love are the big windows with a great view and how I've surrounded myself with lots of colorful things.
What we learned from this discussion was the size of a room, and quite likely, the size of the house isn't as important as we think. In fact smaller rooms/spaces appear to be more attractive because they're cozy and easier to personalize. When you step back and recognize that most of the world lives in homes much smaller than the average American house, and that many people living in US cities like New York, live in spaces under 1,000 feet, you begin to wonder what is driving us to build (and buy) bigger houses?
And the discussion continued as we talked about what we didn't like with bigger houses …
Bigger Houses Lead to Buying Stuff You Don't Need
The discussion was fascinating so rather than adding my twist, I'll try to share the points as they were made …
- We tend to acquire stuff to fill up the space we have, and we know we don't need all the stuff we own.
- With less space, you're forced to spend more time together and that's a good thing. One member of our group talked about how they've lost this together time because they have fewer people living in their home today, and they recognized that life was more fun with more people even if you had to work at getting along together.
- Someone else shared that some of their best memories are from summer vacation at the beach cottage where you have 10 to 15 people living together in a 1,300 square foot house.
The most important message someone said was “… we must stop buying things, in order to downsize”. We should really challenge our wish for more space, especially more storage space, with why can't we let go of the things taking up the space? Why can't we stop wishing for bigger houses and instead, focus on small cozy spaces filled only with stuff we love?
Ready to create more space with a giant yard sale?