Recently I watched an episode of Tiny House Hunters on Netflix. I love watching HGTV while I fold laundry. It's (mostly) ok to have on while the kids are in the room (unlike my other faves -- Law and Order, Blue Bloods or Call the Midwife), and all the home improvement shows are fascinating to me. My favorite HGTV show is Fixer Upper, but alas, I have watched all the episodes (I do a LOT of laundry).
Anyway, back to this episodes of Tiny House Hunters. This episode was about a family of six (2 parents, 4 kids), who lived in LA and were moving to upstate New York. They had a 2500 square ft house in LA and wanted to find a house about 600 square ft in NY. They wanted to buy the house with cash and live debt-free so they would have more opportunity to travel etc. It made good fiscal sense, but that is not what really grabbed my attention about the family.
Early in the episode, the wife talked about taking a cross-country road trip with her kids which had spanned several weeks. When she returned home, she told her husband her interest in buying a smaller home. For the togetherness. Instead of running far away from her kids on the heels of such a long trip in close quarters, she was craving more family time. She saw her oldest daughter spending more and more time away from the family -- texting instead of coming downstairs and the like, and she wanted to circumvent that kind of activity as much as possible.
It really resonated with me. While I doubt we will be moving anytime soon (for a variety of reasons), I really understood what she was saying. My family has taken many a long cross-county trip in the pop-up and spent a lot of time together in the suburban (and Astro before that!). And those trips are full of good memories! Of time spent laughing, sharing, talking, singing, and just plain being together.
Even though our house is not big by American standards , it is huge compared to the pop-up, and we can spread out fairly well. But I would go out on a limb and say that we don't really need a house even as big as ours! People in the 1950s lived in 2 bedroom houses with 10 kids and somehow managed just fine! This subject came up when I blogged about large families (you can read it here), and one of the first things that comes to mind about owning a bigger house is -- who's going to clean it? A cleaning lady isn't exactly in our budget, so why would I want to take all that on?
I guess my rambling point in all of this is, why do we crave such huge houses? If a house is big enough to give refuge and quiet when needed, do we really need all that extra space? I'm leaning toward no. The family years are fleeting, and daily time together doesn't last forever. Maybe 600 square ft for a family of 6 is a little extreme, but then again, maybe not. Maybe that family is getting it right -- that talking and sitting and working and eating together is more important than everyone having their own sacred space where they spend all their time. Maybe that family understands that compromising and sharing is a more valuable skill than retreating. Maybe that family is sitting in upstate New York right now in their close quarters and enjoying each other.