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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big House, Little House

I live in a little house. I am retired and could no doubt get a mortgage for a much larger and more impressive abode. There are times when I even covet a larger house; however, those times are few and far between.

I have lived in various sizes and qualities of houses. Mostly I just hope that the roof doesn't leak and that the taxes and utilities are reasonable. Early life found me in a large brick farmhouse but without even the basic amenities indoors. The house itself was great - big rooms, high ceilings, large kitchen, a large parlor, and even a large walk-in pantry. And the bathrooms? There weren't any! I could do a whole post about that.

From that house I moved into Army barracks and the less said about that the better. Still had the basics, though, although at a number of posts that indoor bathroom was still elusive. After military life college life improved a bit- no more living space but at least a bathroom just down the hall.

A very good marriage (now in year 52) brought my wife and I to a small apartment behind a garden store. There the roof did leak and the space was very tight. Opening the fold-out bed at night meant a crawl over the bed to reach the closet. Later found us in a small apartment over a garage, then in a small rented cottage, and later into what was to become a successions of houses, the first being quite small. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Our best house was custom built brick and qualifies as large although not really impressive. I do remember insisting on three bedrooms, the smallest of which was 12 x 12 feet. Quite enough room for any couple with two daughters.

The house we live in now would qualify as small be anyone's standards but it is paid for, has low taxes, and extremely low utilities. The roof does not leak. The view is superb and the neighborhood is quiet and quite tolerable.

During all of this time I have done ample reflection on just what is needed in a house. It should be larger than the one we live in now but only enough larger to make storage of "things" easy. A house should, if it can be afforded, have a bedroom in excess of what is needed for the family in order to accomodate overnight guests. If siblings are of like sex they do not really need separate bedrooms.

Beyond that (if the house is occupied by persons of religious faith) a large house has one and only one purpose - that is to provide comfortable and adequate living space without too much regard for the opinion of our peers.

Whether intentionally or subconsciously a large house has only one purpose - to impress others, whether friends, enemies, employers, professional contacts, or business associates with one's success and/or level of achievement in life.

The neighborhood, too, must meet certain standards if it is to impress. Where I live now we have the occasional work vehicle parked for the night, occasional work done on cars, a loud party now and then. In a better neighborhood this would not be tolerated otherwise property (prestige) values would suffer.

If all this sounds like sour grapes, well it is not. My home is doing exactly what is necessary in a home - providing shelter. My neighbors mostly live and let live and seldom try to impress anyone with whom or what they are.

Fortunately, my wife and I are pretty much on the same page. Unfortunately, that is just not true in many marriages. One or both want "more" and more is what they get because it will simply not do to get by with less.

In conclusion that elusive thing happiness has very little, if any, to do with the size or quality of the house you live in.

To quote "It takes a heap of living to make a house a home". That does not say it takes "a heap of house."

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