We're living smaller -- financially, ecologically, consuming less... We're able to spend less time working to support the things in our life and more time just living.Or so said Ann Holley in The New York Times in a Trendspotting article last January. Holley and her husband live in a 127 square foot living space. They are graduate students.
That such a quote would end up in a Trendspotting article is of a piece with another Census study that's been making the rounds all year. 2009's Characteristics of New Housing published by the US Census bureau found that the average new home in the US averaged 2438 square feet in 2009. That's down 100 square feet from the peak finding in 2007.
A little perspective. The difference between a 2538 square foot home and a 2438 sqare foot home is imperceptible. And in using that example, I'm falling into the same statistical trap that every trendspotter in the land made when they read it. Because this number is an average, it doesn't take into account anything other than a structure's status as new housing. The condominiums now languishing on the market might very well be the driver of that square foot drop. They might be, I don't know for sure. I don't think it matters here though.
The conventional wisdom is that Americans are indeed living smaller but I don't believe it. The majority of the people in the US live in suburbia. Suburbia that looks like this.
Despite all the claims to the contrary, this is what the American Dream looks like in 2010.
A new, disposable home in inhuman scale set in a car-dependent neighborhood, which is also at a scale that something less than human. It's also a version of the American Dream that's as unsustainable today as it was when it was conceived.
The American living room looks like this. No wonder Americans are so cranky. They could really use a remodel by a talented team like SHS Roofing to make that living room into a happier space.
Shopping and town square socializing looks like this.
The places where such things as socializing and shopping used to take place now look like this.
So long as American downtowns continue to be abandoned and neglected, so long as the overwhelming majority of Americans need a car to go about their day-to-day lives, so long as Wal-Mart continues to be the the US's largest private employer and grocery retailer, I won't believe that Americans are living smaller.
Sorry to be such a party pooper. The rest of the gang'll be writing about the joys of smaller scale living but I feel like a voice in the wilderness with this stuff. So to answer the group question this morning, Is living smaller the new living large? I say the answer is no.
To read more ideas on this theme, check out:
Veronica Miller at Modenus, A Small Life is Good, but Slow Down to enjoy it!
Richard Holdschuh at Concrete Detail, Small is Beautiful but Relativity Rules
Nick Lovelady at Cupboards Kitchen and Bath, Is Small Really Realistic?
Rufus the dog at Dog Walk Blog, How Much Does it Cost You To Exist for One Hour? Size Matters
Becky Shankle from Eco Modernism, Is Living Smaller the New Living Large?
Saxon Henry's Chair Chick, Living Small (and Getting Shagged!)
Sean Lintow's The Homeowner's Resource Center, Building Smaller, Is it the Next Big Thing?
Cindy Fruen-Wuellner as Urban Verse and her Posterous, Living Large and Small: Trading Hummers for Pumas Ain't the Whole Story