The Size of Our Houses

The house where we now live until our move this summer is 2300 square feet on two floors plus a basement. That makes it one of the smaller in our neighborhood, but by any standard that matters it’s obscenely large.


Even when we had two children living at home, we had more space than we needed. Now that we are empty nesters, it’s ridiculous how much space in our house almost never gets used except to store the stuff we don’t need.

Amanda and I spend a not insignificant amount of time moving from one part of the house to another. I’ve always been vaguely aware of that, but that awareness has become more tender now that I have injured my knee.

At first, before I got my cool brace, every stair up or down was a two step process. Always keep the healing knee straight. It leads down. The good knee leads up. Step, step. Step, step. Step, step. And always keep one hand free to hold the banister. Okay, now I’m downstairs. Oh, no. I forgot my glasses. Back up we go. And where is Amanda anyway? Oh, she’s at the other end of the house. I’ll wait to talk to her, because I don’t want to have to yell loudly enough to be heard that far away.

Now I have the best brace in the world, from Townsend. It’s lightweight, strong, and flexible, and while wearing it I can do almost anything I could with a healthy knee, as long as I do it in moderation. But I still chafe at the time both of us spend knocking about in this mansion that at one time we thought we needed.

We affluent Americans love big houses. The average size of the U.S. residence has doubled since 1950. And it’s not just we Yanks. Our neighbors in Australia have caught the bug too, probably from us.

When electricity costs 30 cents/kwh or just can’t be relied on, and when natural gas supplies are no longer assured, our large houses may become unusable hulks. Perhaps those who can afford to do so will move. Others will huddle in the basement and leave the rest of the house to function as a gigantic overpriced attic. Or maybe five families will gather in one house, divvying up time in the kitchen, and abandon one out of every two or three mansions in the neighborhood, cannibalizing it for parts.

The barn apartment where we will live when we move to Longleaf Breeze is about 600 sq. ft. Everything we need to do, at least indoors, will be just a few steps away. I can’t wait, perhaps because I’ve spent more than a year now reading the messages from and becoming convinced by the dedicated men and women in the Yahoo LittleHouses group. Amanda, always more ambivalent than I and more thoughtful, worries that our children won’t come to see us as often. As usual, she has a point.

We shall deal with that soon enough. Gotta go now. I need to journey back upstairs.

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