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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?

Community launching in T-minus 24 hours…

Let me start by saying that I am extremely excited.
In less then twenty four hours I will be sharing living space with a family of four. Dawn and Bryan and their two kids will be moving into our two bedroom apartment with us (Mindy is visiting family for a couple weeks). This is a temporary location, but it is the beginning of our community. I believe I’ve mentioned this community thing on here once or twice, but I’ll be writing and maybe podcasting a LOT more about it in the months to come.
There are a million and a half reasons why we are choosing to live together, and I’ll try to begin articulating those as time goes on. For now it’s a matter of preparing the space so that everyone feels welcome. That means a few things for me (like packing stuff up, and we’ll see what it means for all of us tomorrow. It’s such an exciting time.

I think the first couple nights are going to seem like middle school sleep-overs. We’ve already had a few of those with Bryan and Dawn (once cause of car trouble, once cause I fell asleep), but it’s going to be an exciting time. We have exactly two weeks to find a new location to live. I’m not sure where that location will be (it will be in Nashville).

We are still at a great dilemma as far as renting or buying, apartment or house, distance from work, etc. We are trying our best to keep the conversation open, but it’s also difficult as the clock counts down. If you have any wisdom to share please do.