McMansions-or super-sized homes-have been a growing trend in the home building industry for several years. Gargantuan houses are popping up in residential neighborhoods and rural areas, blocking views, and dwarfing neighboring houses. With some homes as large as 11,000 square feet, many people wonder how long this trend will continue, and how much bigger our houses can get.
With energy prices soaring, and environmental catch phrases like “carbon footprint” becoming commonplace, more and more homeowners are questioning the decision to go “big.” Larger houses require more building materials in the construction phase, take longer to build, and use up much more energy than their moderately sized counterparts.
Environmental concerns are just some of the motivation behind what’s known as the Small House Movement, which is a growing community of homeowners and builders that are encouraging people to live in smaller homes or in multi-family dwellings.
Condos and townhouses offer a much more environmentally responsible choice when it comes to home ownership. As opposed to McMansions, multi-family residences involves shared walls and common rooms, which can greatly reduce heating and cooling costs, as well as promote a spirit of community.
North Americans today are isolating themselves in homes that are on average more than twice the size they were back in 1950. Yet, on average we have fewer children and often live far away from our extended families. The result is sky-high mortgage payments and heating bills, with minimal interaction between family members. This separation and need for large empty spaces isn’t healthy for us as a society, and indeed depression and loneliness continues to rise every year.
By choosing to live in a multi family dwelling, you’re opting to share resources and create a network of neighbors. You’re also learning to share space and respect boundaries in a way that a large house could never teach you.
Many who want the independence that comes with buying a detached home are opting for smaller spaces as well, buying or building homes that are less than 1,000 square feet in size.
Small homes are generally much cheaper in terms of their purchase price, and they also require much less energy to heat or cool throughout the year. In addition, small homes require less time to keep clean, so homeowners have more time to simply enjoy the space.
An added benefit of smaller homes is the fact that they force you to downsize your possessions, and to keep only those items that are necessary for your well-being. Living simpler, with less material possessions can be an emotionally freeing experience. Often, we keep buying things until we’ve filled our space, much like a goldfish grows to fit its tank. If we proactively set limits for ourselves, we’ll quickly adapt to smaller, more minimalist lifestyles.
Of course, living in 100 square feet is not for everyone. If you’re in a relationship or you have children, small spaces can easily become claustrophobic if there’s too much physical clutter in the home, or if family members don’t know how to share a tight space.
If you’re thinking about downsizing, make sure you and your partner establish boundaries right from the get-go to avoid conflict. Respect each other’s need for privacy, and be sure to pare down your belongings and organize the space as efficiently as possible.
Going small in an era of big will likely garner some strange looks from friends and neighbors, but when your energy bills are minuscule, and you’re able to spend your free time relaxing rather than working overtime to afford your mortgage payments, they’ll soon see the wisdom in your choice.