My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

18 May 2006

Is Smaller Better?

It seems it's populer these days to decry the blight of urban sprawl, that seemingly-inexorable move of the middle- to upper-middle class away from urban centers to outside the city, to "suburbia." I find myself torn somewhat. I like the ideals of stewardship and community that drive those who like city living; I also identify with those who wish to raise their family in safety and comfort.

A couple recent stories from npr brought this to mind, again:

This one details "tiny house" companies and owners. These are houses as small as 70 square feet (!), their benefits being a smaller ecological footprint, a focus on quality over quantity, and the ability to live, well, wherever you want.

This story is from an author who's arguing that urban sprawl isn't the new Satan many make it out to be.

As a family, we've committed to living where people are, not necessarily where we'll be the most comfortable. This is not to denigrate comfort, but to put it in perspective; we're not here for comfort, but to fulfill a mission. We're here to glorify God - part of which is bringing others to glorify Him as well.

Additionally, I'm attracted to the ideal of quality over quantity, of living better rather than bigger. As long as I have enough bookshelves...

So, urban sprawl vs. city-living - what do you think?


quaintlittlehead said...

My first idea is that those tiny houses are not conducive to being fruitful or multiplying, and the people who own them are likely to be just too lazy to clean or do yard work (I saw one on HGTV where the builder was ecstatic about the fact that he could mooch off his brother by living in his driveway).

But suburbia, in my opinion, is all about choice, and isn't that what capitalism is all about? I don't have to live in West Lafayette just because I go to school there, so consequently I spend less money on a nicer apartment and end up living amongst people I wouldn't live amongst otherwise, like SIA workers instead of frat boys. Of course, this assuming you consider either of these cities to fit the definition of "urban" (choking back a laugh....)

Having options forces cities and suburbs alike to be better to attract and keep residents, which means more efforts to improve public schools, public transportation, employment, and the general quality of life of the town.

As far as house size goes, I lament the turning of beautiful old Victorians into studio apartments (back in those days, people had more kids), but I say live in a house as big as you need to hold all the stuff you need and just small enough that it forces you to have a garage sale when you really need to. And let's build houses with actual rooms, not this silly great room business.

Catherine said...

When we went to Connor Prairie I found myself wondering how in the world people lived in such tiny little one room cabins with their whole families (presumably including at least a few children) - certainly they didn't have a lot of stuff that modern families believe we "need." That said, I don't think that either extra small houses or McMansions are in themselves tickets to godliness. I would imagine that the person who lives in the 100 square foot home would struggle with feelings of pride for being so Spartan and too cool to need stuff or else with being envious of other people who have more, while the owner of a starter castle would struggle with pride in having a big nice house and lots of material goods.

I think God calls some of His people to cities and some to suburbs and some to the country - and I think we can serve and glorify Him in a big house or a small house, it really depends on the attitudes of our hearts.

Good point about being where people are; I've been thinking about how our family is supposed to be Christ to our neighbors, and wondering how we should be doing that better since we have nothing in common with our neighbors and find their lifestyles unappealing. That's an explanation of why we avoid them, but not a good excuse for it.

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