The size of new single-family American homes is on the rise again. Not even the recession could stop the relentless push for larger homes. Nor could the mass foreclosures that went with it.
The increase since 1950 is roughly 250%, from an average of 943 square feet to almost 2,500 square feet today.
Europeans live on a much smaller scale, as did we only sixty years ago. And there’s no reason we shouldn’t live that way still — especially as average household size has actually declined 23% since 1950 (from 3.37 people per household to 2.59 in 2010). But then, the drive for more space comes from ambition not need.
So, why does it matter (as long as we can meet our mortgage obligations)?
Excessively large houses have excessive environmental impacts — on open land, landfills, natural resources and climate. Consider, for instance, that the waste from construction of a single-family home is typically over two tons.
Meanwhile, countering the dominant trend toward BIG is a movement (small, naturally) toward smaller homes. The idea is to get out of hock to your house, focus more on doing things for their inherent interest and value and live more sustainably. For some people, that means a home with 1,500 square feet of floor space; for others, 1,000 square feet or considerably less. A special group of questers and visionaries is even living in “tiny houses” of under 100 square feet, complete with living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom (or sleeping loft).
Designs for the small house market have been proliferating and the small-space adaptations are wonderful to see. Whether your tastes run to the traditional or cutting edge, you should be able to find one to suit you.
Learn more about the benefits of downsizing and how to make it work for you.