Monday, August 28, 2006

How Much Space Do We Need?

According to an LA Times article last week, a recent survey indicated that one in five respondents who live in homes 2,000 square feet or more would like to downsize. This sounds like good news. Maybe some people are discovering that it's not necessary to "live large." If census data tell us anything, though, many of that small percentage of respondents are probably aging Boomers who are downsizing after a life of significant consumption.

Today the Times reported that new home buyers, usually much younger than Boomers, are continuing to demand more space. This time it was the National Association of Home Builders that weighed in with the stats, reporting that 39 percent of new homes built last year had four bedrooms compared to 23 percent in 1973. And that's in spite of the average size of an American family shrinking from 3.1 to 2.6 people.

I don't know about that "partial person" that always turns up in statistics, but a lot of the rest of us obviously think we need a very large amount of space to call home. And what do we do with that space? Fill it up with stuff. But isn't that the American dream? Work hard to acquire as much as you can so that you can enjoy your life? Well, maybe we need to take another look at how we define "enjoying" life. Is it working long hours to buy more and more stuff, or is it finding more time to spend with our family and friends, doing work that's meaningful to us, feeling like we're contributing to a better future for the planet?

Are we just filling up our spaces instead of filling up our lives?

© 2006 Cynthia Friedlob

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