After watching a PBS Frontline report on coronavirus in Italy , I had an idea about people living smaller lives, and not just during a pandemic. What if we chose to live this way on a daily basis? Ideas led to writing and writing led me to creating this post – even though it’s not really about writing… but ends up that way, I guess.
In other words, when something moves you, write about it.
Small and Close Is a Good Thing…Usually
Smaller living spaces bring people closer together. There’s plenty of room for everything you need using smarter design, smarter placements, living with less stuff. Simpler lives are happier lives. People are then able to focus on what really matters: relationships and community – look at Italians, they seem to have perfected it.
Europeans have lived this way for a long time out of necessity because there’s no room for the multitudes of sprawling American McMansions or penthouse-sized apartments in most European cities. Americans seem to think they need more open living space, so they purchase bigger homes and more material items, like furniture and art and expensive kitchen toys. But is it all really necessary in order to feel fulfilled? Or is it a nod to some internal need to “keep up with the Joneses?”
Or perhaps it’s the result of an overblown sense of entitlement; that what we want we deserve simply because we work for it or can afford it. That seems more like an individual-oriented mindset.
What’s Really Important
Watching the video, seeing the small spaces Italian families share, it’s no wonder they’re as close as they are. Normally, that’s a good thing but during a pandemic that kind of intimacy, sadly, has had a deleterious effect on their lives. But I doubt they’ll change their ways because those very connections are the lifeline of Italian life.
Smaller apartment homes force people to share the whole living space, including common and private areas (in Europe, brothers and sisters routinely share bedrooms). This type of living also provides lessons in conflict resolution since we’re not going to get along well all of the time. This is a community-oriented approach.
Smaller is Better for Everyone
Tiny houses are all the rage here in America but what we need is to reduce overall apartment living space (square footage) to make room for more people in each building. With burgeoning populations across the globe, it makes sense for us to adopt more of a European style of living. We’ve been spoon fed the ideal that the “American Dream” is to own a single family home, which requires more land space and finite natural resources (and equates to a much larger individual environmental footprint). For some reason, in America, living with others in apartment or multi-family (aka tenement) housing is perceived as inferior to owning your own home (which actually owns you for 20-30 years until the deed is in your hands). The benefits of community living can far outweigh life in the suburbs.
European style refrigerators, for example, which are much smaller than their American counterparts, force people to think about what to eat, how much, and how often. Shopping becomes a daily responsibility or at least every 2-3 days, depending on how many one is shopping for and feeding. Smaller fridges force people to choose foods that are most important: what is fresh and made daily, rather than something with a 6-month or more shelf life; that’s hoarding for a future that may or may not come. This pandemic has certainly reminded us of that.
Living smaller means living well today, within our community. Tomorrow will come when it comes.