small houses

i have a small house.  in 1941 its 1,400 square feet would have been a little larger than average for a new home built at the same time.  the rooms are nicely proportioned, but all of them are small.  and-- by current american standards-- the closets are tiny.

in 1941 the average american did not have very much stuff.  consumer goods had not yet become disposable.  we had 4-8 outfits, 3 pairs of shoes, one or two pieces of outerwear-- total.  we did not need big closets in 1941.  the one item we might have had a lot of at that time were books.  and even then, for the average american family, a lot of books were measured in dozens rather than hundreds.

in my little home stuff does not accumulate.  there just isn't room.  we are aware of every piece of clothing or household item that is brought in.  it is a good reminder for us not to buy more than we need-- of anything.  in this house there is not even a place to put extra food-- so we tend to buy what we will eat over the course of a week and then shop again-- very little is wasted.

the average house size being built in the united states this year is over 2,400 square feet-- almost twice the size of my home but still not enormous compared with the 10,000- 30,000 foot homes built in the wealthiest communities.  but what has become enormous in every new american home is the amount of space given over to 'storage'.  closets are, on average, twenty times larger than they were in new homes built 60 years ago.  we live beyond our means-- however affluent we are-- in order to continue to buy more and more stuff.  we fill our basements and our attics and our garages-- and ultimately our landfills-- with the pieces of our material world that no longer work for us.

my thoughts?  we need to learn to buy less stuff.  buying less stuff will be good for the environment in a decrease in manufacturing, shipping, and in the growth of landfills.  buying less stuff will allow us more time-- more time to be with our families and friends, more time to be in our communities, more time to listen to ourselves and find what makes us whole.  buying less stuff will create in us a sense of the value of our material goods-- we will have more money to buy better quality, more local, more hand made items.

this photograph is of a prime example of a small mudroom that packs a powerfully efficient punch.  it provides what is needed-- space to enter the house, a floor that can handle new england winters, a nice deep closet for boots and coats, and a few hooks for bags or jackets-- it is plenty big enough for a family of four-- as long as they don't have ten coats and twenty pairs of shoes each.

think about it.


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