I’m at the stage in my life when I’ve started to reflect on where I’ve been and where I hope to go. Some may label this a ‘mid-life crisis’, but I’m not interested in buying a sports car or getting plastic surgery. In fact my interests lie in quite the opposite, owning less and living more organically. I want to have time to make my relationships deeper, my experiences greater, my faith more integral. A new term in my vocabulary has been ‘margin’. I want to make margin in my life to “be”, not just “do”. Can anyone else relate to this? It’s a choice that needs to be made, it doesn’t just happen. Our North American society has programmed us to ‘do more’, ‘make more’, ‘strive more’…..what if ‘less is more’? What if ‘quality replaced quantity’ and ‘being replaced doing?’
I think design plays a part in achieving these goals. Our built environment directly impacts how we function and how we feel. Over the past 2 weeks I had the opportunity to travel to Europe, specifically Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. While in Rotterdam I stayed in an apartment-style hotel. It was a lovely, bright and modern suite; about 500 sf in size. For my husband and I, it offered all the amenities we needed; a kitchen-dining area, a closet for laundry & utilities, a living room, a corner for the bed with a substantial closet and even a split bathroom (sink and shower in one room and toilet & second sink in the other.) I began to think about what it would be like to live in a space this size on a permanent basis (maybe once the kids move out).
What would a space of this size and efficiency mean to our daily lives?
Would it allow us to work less and travel more? A smaller space would mean a smaller mortgage, lower monthly utilities, less maintenance costs and reduced taxes.
Would it allow us to free up time in the evenings and weekends? A smaller foot print would mean less to clean. Putting away “stuff” would be minimal since room for extra “stuff” simply wouldn’t exist. And wouldn’t less ‘stuff ‘offer more room to breathe instead suffocating under the weight of it all? A direct result might be the purchasing of fewer, quality items rather than mounds of disposable crap.
Would it encourage us to be more social? A tiny living space could get claustrophobic after a while, so going out with friends and experiencing the world around us would be necessary. Sharing common resources and space might even be a thought. What if numerous ‘tiny space dwellers’ owned a common green space and shared the duties of maintaining it? One lawn mower, one weed-wacker and one snow shovel….take turns….a fraction of the work and cost. Maybe the children of these families would spend endless hours playing with each other and neighbours would help each other with childcare? Maybe the grandma living next door could avoid the nursing home for a few more years because there would be people around her to help her out. Maybe we’d find community!
Mid-life crisis? I hope not. I’d like to think of it as a mid-life passion. It’s a way of life that scares me and intrigues me all at the same time. It’s a culture shift that Winnipeg is slowly being introduced to and one in which our willingness to redesign the physical environment will be paramount.