The median size of a new home in America has grown from 1,200 square feet in 1940 to over 2,200 square feet in 2008. Why is this? Is it because our families are growing? Nope. The average household size has shrunk from 3.7 to 2.6 in that same time period. Our families are getting smaller, but our houses are getting bigger. It’s no small matter either. Using a $90/square foot average cost, the difference is $90,000 – not including increased property taxes, utilities, maintenance, repairs, and insurance costs. How does a bigger house for a smaller family make any sense? What’s the reason behind this?
The only reason we’d need bigger houses for smaller families is our lack of contentment. Obviously, smaller houses worked just fine for the bigger families of the 1940s. They provided the shelter needed for the family. The size of the home didn’t matter nearly as much as whether it met your family’s needs or not. Today, we have homes that far exceed our needs while we’re languishing in debt and foreclosure. We want more amenities, more space, more bathrooms, more bedrooms, an entertainment room, a study, a bonus room, bigger garages, a fireplace, and it never ends.
If we knew the power of enough, America might not be in the mess it’s in today. Materialism and consumerism have blinded us to our astounding wealth. We have wasted this wealth on our wants and desires and fantasies instead of using it to help the billions of poor around the world. Learning contentment would help us and the rest of the world.
What Does a Home Represent?
To understand your motives for desiring a bigger house even when you don’t need it, you should start by looking at what a home represents to you. Here are few things a home could mean to you:
- Shelter – This is the most basic function of a home. It serves to shelter and protect you from the outside. It provides the necessities for a suitable home – a place to cook and eat, a place to sleep, a place to clean yourself, and a place to relax. It doesn’t take very much (at least in America) for a home to fulfill the purpose of a suitable shelter.
- Hospitality – A home gives you a place to entertain your family, friends, and strangers. Without adequate room this can be difficult. But a fold-up table and some chairs outside will often do just fine weather permitting. What you need your home to be for the purposes of hospitality will depend a great deal on what you plan to do, but you don’t need much to enjoy time with family and friends.
- Home – Home is where the heart is. For many people, a home is a place to make memories with their family. It’s a refuge from the troubles of the world. But does it take over 2,000 square feet for a home to serve this purpose? Not really – if your family is grounded in the Lord and love is there, you can have a strong, happy home with very little extra space.
- Creativity – A home can be a place to express yourself. You can decorate however you want, create a garden, or remodel it to suit your tastes. It can be an outlet for creativity when none other is available. But again, having more space than you really need doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel like you’re able to express your creativity much better.
- Storage – Most of the extra space in American homes today is filled to the brim with Stuff. You’ll see two or three car garages with all the vehicles sitting outside. What’s in the garage? Stuff, Stuff, and more Stuff. We’ve even created storage units so we can rent even more space to store all that Stuff we can’t find a place for in our overStuffed homes. Here’s a thought – get rid of your Stuff!!!
- Investment – Your home is your most valuable asset, right? Think again. Home values barely keep up with inflation over a long period of time, and that’s before you account for all the costs associated with ownership. A home is not an investment, and it can barely be called an asset. It’s a place to live – buying more home than you need is money down the drain. (The whole issue of a home being a good investment deserves it’s own series of posts…)
- Status – The most superficial of all possible meanings, status is one of the biggest factors involved when people seek a home that’s larger than what they really need. We use our homes to impress our families, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, strangers, and most of all – ourselves. Too often we derive our success in life from our possessions. Do we own a home? 20 points. Do we have a fancy car? 10 points. Can we retire early? 15 points. Do we have all the newest gadgets? 5 points. We need to stop valuing our success on our wealth and possessions. Life is so much more than our Stuff.
Does Your Home Meet Your Needs?
Be brutally honest with yourself. Does your home meet your needs? Does it exceed your needs? The basic function of a home is to provide suitable shelter. If your home does that, it meets your needs. We need to learn to look at possessions for what they really are when we talk about what we need. They are tools to be used – not symbols to reflect our worth or success as a person.
Our possessions do not define who we are. We can be happy without having more Stuff, bigger Stuff, or better Stuff. As Christians, our sufficiency, happiness, and joy come from contentment in Christ – knowing that all things count for nothing compared to knowing Him. We must realize that our eternal homes matter much more than our earthly homes. Jesus has prepared a place for us that is so much better than the biggest and fanciest home we could ever build on earth. Our hope and worth are found only in the salvation Christ has provided for us – not in our homes down here.
Question the Motives of Your Desires
Why do you find yourself wanting a bigger home? Do you actually need more space? Carefully consider your answer. Is your reason for needing more space a true need, a must have, or is it something that would be nice to have? It’s not about what you can afford. It’s about what you need.
Consider how blessed you are to even have a home. Over 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless in any given year, and over 1.1 billion people in the world don’t have suitable housing. The mere fact that you have a home means you are more blessed than many other people can even imagine.
If you want a bigger house for any reason other than a real need, acknowledge your motives for what they are. The happiness you think you’ll get from owning a bigger home will never cover the true cost of your greed, envy, or pride. If your home meets your needs, be happy, content, and thankful that you are blessed with a home. If you honestly need a larger home, then by all means buy one. If you’re just seeking to fulfill your desires and fantasies, take time to consider your motives.
The Power of Enough Home
If you can learn to be content with your home – or even better, a smaller home – you’ll be able to harness the power of having “enough” home. You’ll spend less on your housing costs (the biggest financial drain for most people) – leaving you with much more to fulfill God’s Provident Plan for your finances. Saving 10% on your housing costs is a lot more powerful than saving 10% on your food costs. Sign up to get free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in learning about specific ways you can lower your housing costs!