I once went to visit the home that I grew up in and was struck by how much STUFF the people who now live there have crammed into the place.
The current occupants are a family of five and mine was also a family of five. But the people living in my old home have so many more things than we did. Everyone does these days.
Back then (I’m really going to show my age now), we had a telephone, a record player, a television, a radio, a vacuum cleaner, a wood-fired Raeburn stove, and an electric iron. And that was it. No computer, no printer, no router, no camera, no washing machine, no tumble dryer, no dishwasher, no fridge, no toaster, no kitchen gadgets, no DVD player, no Xbox, no hair dryer, no central heating – none of the things that most people take for granted nowadays.
Our entire family owned two shelves of books, a handful or ornaments, essential furniture, some clothes, a car and some bicycles. And it wasn’t that we were poor. My father was a self-made man and we were a fairly well-to-do middle class family. People just owned a lot less things in those days, and many of the items they have today hadn’t been invented yet.
The difference between then and now
But the thing is, many people are still living in houses built 20, 50, or 100 years ago or more, when no one thought so much storage space would ever be needed. In fact, according to a BBC radio interview with Harry Rich, chief executive of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a study has shown that architects are still designing houses without enough storage space.
“Quite a lot of new-build homes are built in a way that is similar to 20 years ago,” he says.
The interviewer gave the example of one family that has to keep their vacuum cleaner at their parent’s house 20 minutes away because there is just nowhere to put it in their own home.
Here’s my suggestion to the architects of the world
The plan is to start designing homes that have the storage space that’s needed these days, and that’s really good news. But of course, with the speed of modern technological development, what we’ll need in 20 years’ time will be very different again.
So here’s my suggestion. Start designing homes now that are bigger than you can possibly imagine anyone will need and have a heck of a lot more storage space, so we won’t need to have this discussion again in 20 years’ time.
And while you’re at it, please add some decent ceiling height. This modern cost-cutting trend for saving half a meter of bricks doesn’t take account of how creatively stifled people are when they live in low-ceilinged homes. People of the future will need and want head space, so plan for it now.
How our homes affect us
Winston Churchill famously said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” When you squeeze people into small boxes, guess what you get? People with small lives. It’s not rocket science. With all the will in the world, it’s very difficult to have big ideas and achieve big things when you live in small spaces or ones that are jam-packed with clutter because you don’t have enough storage space for essentials. Minimalism is lovely concept but it’s very restricting as a way of life.
Yes, I know it comes down to economics. Bigger homes need more land and more building materials, which all cost more. They also cost more to heat or cool. But the fact is, we are not thriving in small homes, and as the years go by, they feel smaller and smaller as we try to cram more and more in. Technological advances are not going to stop, and we need to face this fact and start planning for it now.
In the meantime – or in case this idyllic scenario of bigger homes and more storage space never comes about – regular clutter clearing is not just highly desirable, it’s become essential for sanity and well-being.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2012 and © Clear Space Living Ltd, updated 2021
What’s missing from minimalism
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