Small Is The New Black

5 12 2010

You can always tell the age of a neighborhood. Look at how big the houses are, and how many garage stalls there are. The norm today is about 2400 square feet and room for three cars. If there is anything as predictable as the sun rising in the east, it has been that USAmerican houses have been getting bigger and bigger, with ever more room for our cars and stuff. Heck, about 40% of us even have to rent storage space elsewhere to accommodate that second tier of possessions (otherwise known as junk).

But the recession may have started to sink in to our more-is-better frame of mind. Maybe…just maybe…less is more. Smaller is bigger (in a metaphoric kind of way, of course). And simple is just…well, simpler.

As evidenced by the who-would-have-guessed trend toward smaller houses. And I mean small. As in extremely lower-case. Closet-sized.

And everyone said, What the heck?

But it’s true. The new frugality of the 21C is causing people to reconsider their station in life, the place they call home, their overall footprint. Tumbleweed Houses is one of several home builders specializing in compact dwellings that can be as small as 65 square feet, but more than likely in the 500-900 square foot range.

I realize that this is a hard pill to swallow for anyone who has grown up in a consumer-based economy like the US. After all, about 70% of our economy is accounted for by retail. That’s a lot of stuff. And stuff has a way of hanging around like unwanted company. Once they get their foot in the door, they just won’t leave. It’s the Cousin Eddie of material wealth.

But in this era of going digital, maybe downsizing our homes isn’t such a bad idea. We may not necessarily move to a new location. Instead, maybe we’ll make our location a new one by shedding a bunch of stuff. It may not be out of the question. In fact, it may be the question.

I feel completely liberated knowing I never need to purchase another CD or DVD. If iTunes would get with the program and start selling e-books the same day their tangible counterparts hit bookstore shelves, I could cut that tie as well.

And God knows we all could all survive just fine with a lot fewer clothes. Unless you have had the utter misfortune of tornado, earthquake, fire or abject poverty, you probably have enough clothes to get you through a few months.

Without re-wearing anything.

Of course, with an economy so dependent on our Pavlovian response to anything heralded as New And Improved, I do wonder what the effects might be on jobs. And bottom lines. The environment may thank us, and we might live a lot closer to stress-free, but let’s face it: There are a lot of folks counting on me spending a bunch of dough. All the time, And you, too.

It’s something to think about as we plunge ever farther into the holiday season. It’s something to ponder as we take the trash out to the Dumpster, wondering “Where the hell did all of this trash come from?” It’s something to ruminate as we notice the pile of stuff we kept is still bigger, even after a trash run.

And it’s worth trying to solve this sobering observation, one I made shortly after moving into a 2900-foot house and thinking I would never need more room: Your stuff will always grow to meet or exceed the available space for it.

In other words, no matter how much space you have, you will always have several hundred square feet of stuff that won’t fit into it. Five thousand square-foot McMansion? Yep. Six thousand square-feet of stuff. Junk. Crap.

Downsizing may drive the marketers, politicians and economists crazy, but I agree it is something we need to do. It may not be easy, but we’ve got to start somewhere. Whatever I can’t recycle or reuse, I will try to remove. And then reduce.

I’ll meet you out at the Dumpster.

Dr “The Leaves Are Falling” Gerlich

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One response

7 12 2010
Lyndy Forrester

I couldn’t agree with you more. I bought a house last year– 1300 square feet. 3 bedroom. 1 bathroom. And I live in this house with my 4 children. Couldn’t be happier. It’s easy to clean. And the small space makes me really think about what I want to buy and keep.

I guess I’m cooler than I realized…

Good blog.

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