When it comes to your home, is there such a thing as too much space? I’ve been wondering as I read another newspaper feature about a family of four having trouble finding the three-bedroom apartment they “need.”
I wonder again as I encounter data from last spring that says there are five million unused or spare bedrooms in Ontario, and I wonder yet again as I happen on a report from a year ago that says we in Canada enjoy more living space per person at an average of 618 square feet, ahead of Australia, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil and Mexico, and second only to the US.
Those are countries we tend to think of as comparable in terms of lifestyle and expectations of niceties like space. I did a quick search to find out the state of space in other parts of the world and wasn’t surprised to find that the percentage of countries in Africa where people enjoy more than 215 square feet (20 square metres) or more is zero according to the UN; likewise in Latin America and the Caribbean.
I’m sure we all know a family of three or four living in a home with more than 3,000 square feet — space like that doesn’t mean it’s particularly lavish by our spoiled modern standards. Just about any home north of Taunton Road in Oshawa boasts that many or more.
We have rec rooms, family rooms, living rooms and home offices, a spare bedroom or two, an eat-in kitchen and a separate dining room and we think that’s what we need.
Though core-dwellers live in 500 square foot condos, we tend to think that once we get married or have children, our needs change drastically. Suddenly, if we don’t have a front lawn and a bedroom each, we think we’re suffering.
Maybe it’s our thinking that needs adjusting.
An academic paper produced last year by the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) examined the relationship between size of living space and subjective well-being, and suggested that the relationship between space and well-being wasn’t strong.
We live in an age when we simultaneously bemoan the fact that “kids these days” spend more time on their phones than they do with the family, and then we move them into 4,000 square feet. It’s hard to keep tabs on what your teenager is up to when he’s got his own wing.
There’s little doubt in my mind that a home can make you happy, but it’s less about size than it is about rightness. I believe the more your outer world aligns with your inner world, the happier you’ll be.
If the house in which you currently live doesn’t support the values and lifestyle you want, a move is probably a good idea. If you can’t find a place nearby to relax on a park bench and read a good book, and that makes you happy, think about a move.
If your home’s unchangeable esthetic doesn’t make you happy (a traditional design when you long for contemporary, for example), think about a move. If your current home is inherently wrong, by all means move. But know it’s not our “stuff” — home included — that makes us happy, it’s whether our stuff supports what does.
There are many things that make us happy. Good health, good food, good friends, good … well, you get the gist. Most days, a really sharp pencil and a strong cup of coffee will make me happy.
In a potentially uncertain market (see our post on TREB’s latest findings), we should be looking at a home purchase as something that furthers our life goals, not merely as an expansion of our square footage.
We don’t have to look to a big move as a way to increase our life satisfaction. Just a move in the right direction.