Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

4 Things You Can Do to Save the American Home from Dystopian Future

In 1950 the average size for new homes was 983 sq ft; the average household had 3.37 occupants. In 2010 the average size of new homes was 2,392 sq ft with 2.59 occupants. 317% more space.

According to Nielsen, in Q4 of 2010, the average American watched 34:39 hrs of TV per week. Put another way, that’s 1.5 months per year of continuous TV watching annually.

The outstanding domestic debt of the Household and Home Mortgage Sector in 1950 was $411B (adjusted for inflation). Currently, that same figure is $9.7 trillion. While the population has doubled and home ownership and college attendance have increased, this is still an increase of over 23-times.

Something’s wrong in America.

A new report by UCLA-affiliated social scientists called “Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open their Doors” takes a deep look at the lives behind the statistics, entering 32 Los Angeles homes to see how Americans really live. Here are some of their findings:

  • 3 out of 4 of the families garages cannot fit cars because of excessive stockpiling from stores like Costco.
  • 50 of the 64 parents reported not stepping outside in the course of a week.
  • Managing possessions has lead to increased stress hormones in mothers.
  • Most families rely primarily on “convenience foods” even though they only save 11 mins over homemade meals.
  • The majority of leisure time, as the Nielsen statistic suggests, is spent in front of the TV or computer.

A complimentary piece in the Boston Globe that followed Boston families and their consumption patterns suggests that  some of the most pleasurable moments today’s Americans experience is when they are getting rid of the stuff. “I felt so light,” a woman remarked about filling a dumpster with her old stuff following a move.

So what do we do?

Just as we didn’t get into this mess quickly, we might not get out of it so quickly, but there are a few things all of us can do, right now:

  • Challenge the status quo. Many of us have a sense of resignation about over-consumption–as if it’s inevitable that everyone has the latest Macbook or every little girl has a Dora the Explorer Adventure Hut. It’s not true. I use a first generation iPhone that was handed down from my mom. Sure, people snicker, but the phone works fine. We have choices, and though it might mean enduring some screaming, parents can make smart choices for their children. Nothing is inevitable.
  • Think before you buy. From the biggest to the smallest purchase, we should constantly ask ourselves if our purchases are contributing or detracting from our enjoyment of life.
  • Change you behavior. Get rid of clutter, rent stuff instead of buying it, digitize, downsize.
  • Take time to appreciate life every day. Share your meals, get outside, spend time with family and friends, read a book, pay attention to things not coming from a glowing box.

Image credit: Rick Bowmer/AP

Via Boston Globe