Space: More Or Less? (Reflections on Community)

From The Suburban Christian

American houses are larger by far than those in other societies – the average size of an American single-family home has increased from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,329 square feet today. The typical American has 718 square feet of living space per person, compared to 442 square feet in Canada and just 170 square feet in Japan.

I currently live in a house (2 units in a triplex, think of it as a big house with an outdoor hallway) with 9 other people. Our home is about 2100 sq. ft. total space, averaging 233 sq. ft./ per person. Two of the 9 are small children, you decided if that’s more or less impeding on others space.

It’s interesting because a lot of people who come to visit and see our place often comment that we have a lot of space, and there is some truth to that. 2100 sq. ft. is much bigger then any apartment we’ve lived in. Even just the common areas are much bigger then our old apartments, however, on a square feet per person basis, we have much less then most people. Do we have more space or less?

I wonder if people often respond with the comment that we have a lot of space because their idea of community is being trapped in a small place with no room for privacy. That seems to be one of the common response people give to us when we talk about community. “I could never do that, I need my privacy.” “We need our family time.” “My alone time is important.” The responses and excuses go on and on.
It’s funny because you often want to reply, “I value privacy, alone time, and family time too!” Community isn’t as evasive as it’s made out to be.

I’ve said before that it’s all a matter of boundaries. We are taught by our culture that appropriate boundaries for a married couple is their own front door, bathroom and kitchen. Families might even need their own fence, with a yard and play things. Yet, the majority of the worlds couples and families are lucky if they even have a separate room! It’s time we consider changing our expectations of appropriate boundaries. I feel blessed we can have our own private bedroom, but I’m totally open and fine with sharing a bathroom, living room, kitchen and front door with others.

What are your boundaries? How much space do you really need?

4 thoughts on “Space: More Or Less? (Reflections on Community)”

  1. Now I’m curious to find out how much square footage my apartment is. I love the place you stay at. It is big and open, which makes the 9 people that stay there seem so much more doable. I think the “privacy-watch” people would just need to come to your home and hang out for an evening to really see what it’s like.

  2. I feel blessed we can have our own private bedroom, but Iā€™m totally open and fine with sharing a bathroom, living room, kitchen and front door with others.

    By others do you mean the people with whom you live or anyone?

    I suspect part of it is who we include in the circle of “roommate/family”. Mentally I think I could deal with living with 9 people that I knew and that we all agreed to live together, but living together with 9 strangers would drain me (especially with me being an introvert). I’m also realizing that when I hear you say 9 people living in a house, I automatically think strangers/non-family/people not within that circle.

    All this to say, I think that the issue, and the crux of community, is not living in close proximity, or in the same building, but making a greater effort to include people in that circle, and developing/deepening/nurturing the relationships with those people.

  3. Richard,

    You bring up an interesting point. I was specifically talking about the people with who we live. But I would love the idea of being a community that was created in such a way that anyone was welcome. I’m not quite sure how that would work, but I’ve brainstormed about it.

    The thing is when we all moved in together some of us were definitly “strangers” to one another. It’s been a beautiful community even amidst that. And we are much more family then strangers now.

    Let me know how much space you have. And I guess you can count the dog as a person…

  4. Interesting stuff. Loving this conversation!!

    I’ll have to check into how much actual space we have here at the new place. Square footage, that is.

    I know sometimes it feels like plenty, other times, not like nearly enough. Like Richard, I’m an introvert, and the kids are completely wide open. That can make it seem pretty crazy to me at times, but we do have a back yard which helps tons. We live in a small two bedroom/ 1 bath house…2 adults,three children (ages 10, 3 and 1), a cat and a bird. šŸ˜›

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