Your Worst Home

Your worst home was better than what most of human kind has ever known.

Most Canadians and Americans today live much more luxuriously than our ancestors could have imagined, yet many are not satisfied with where they live and want more.

According to ShrinkThatFootPrint web site, the average size of a newly built home in Canada in 2009 was one thousand nine hundred and forty eight square feet, and in the US it was two thousand one hundred sixty four square feet .

My parent’s generation (the WWII gen) had homes with around 900 – 1000 square feet – typically with 2 bedrooms and a bath.

Their parents (according to the Chicago Tribune article 1900 To 2010: Evolution Of The American Home Today: Fun Housing Facts:

“.…lived in crowded units, with entire families often sharing one or two rooms. Most homes were small, rural farmhouses and lacked many basic amenities, complete plumbing and central heating chief among them.”

I can personally vouch for this. My paternal grandparents were farmers. By the time I was a kid, they lived in what used to be a doctor’s home on their 200 acres. There were 2 sides to the home, one side having a waiting room and an examining room, the other having 2 bedrooms and a kitchen, with a central hallway running throughout. Although their home was larger than described above, they had no indoor plumbing and heated with a wood stove and cooked on a wood stove.

Not only are current home sizes big, the amenities were unheard of in our past. If you listen to any of the Home and Garden type TV shows, mentions of Open Concept, Master suite (with walkin closet and on suites with jetted tubes, large showers, rain forest shower heads, heated flooring, double vanities and more), and elegant kitchens with high end appliances, cabinets, counter tops, butler pantries and finishes abound.

Our bedrooms are big enough to hold king sized beds. Even the kings and queens of prior days slept in very small beds, as evidenced by my memory of  the furnishings displayed in the kings bedroom museum of Windsor Castle – barely wider than a twin bed and much shorter.

Our bath rooms and kitchens and utility rooms and mud rooms and basements have hot and cold running water flowing from beautiful faucets. We have ‘game rooms’; media rooms; home offices; kids play rooms; dining rooms; The entire home and sometimes the garage or outbuildings are climate controlled for hot and cold weather.

We are the fortunate inheritors of advances in many fields – and the selfish consumers of products from those advances.

Unless you are homeless, and I know that many are, no matter what your home is like, it is better by far than what your predecessors experienced. Our ancestors may have lived in tepees, igloos, one room log cabins, adobe houses, caves, or tree houses. They would be amazed at the luxury we take for granted!

My worst home.

I’ve lived several different places, both in my childhood and afterwards.

When I was born, my parents owned a 700 square foot house, with no indoor plumbing or central heat. We had an out house, a well and a coal stove. There were two bedrooms, one living room and one kitchen. No basement, no garage, no bathroom. However, by the time I was old enough to do much damage, Dad had installed a furnace and plumbing. We moved when I was 7. Our next house was a three bedroom, one bath, one living room, one kitchen with a basement and a detached garage and about 890 square feet. It had central heat, indoor plumbing, and an attic fan.

Later we moved to Arizona and bought a brand new ranch on a slab. It also had three bedrooms, one bath. But it had both a family room and a living room and a small kitchen. It also had an attached single car garage and central heat and cooling and indoor plumbing. It had about 1200 square feet.

Still later, my folks moved again to a 1380 square foot home with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths plus a double car garage – with of course, central air and heat and indoor plumbing. It had a small kitchen, laundry area, dining room, living room and family room as well.

In college, I lived in a 2 person dorm room, then in a pretty swank sorority house – in a large room with one other girl.

After marrying, my spouse and I moved into a small one bedroom apartment with a tiny kitchen, one closet and a living room – but IT HAD A POOL!

Later, when he joined the Army, we moved into a tiny duplex – a small ranch home that had been divided to two parts. Although we had indoor plumbing, we were back to a stove for heating.

The worst house we ever owned, we didn’t live in. We bought some property that had 3 old farm buildings on it. Two were living spaces. There was no heat or cooling and certainly no indoor plumbing. The roofs were of rusted metal, the siding of tan asphalt shingles. The one building we stayed in occasionally had two rooms. Both had old linoleum on the floor. Neither had cabinets or kitchen equipment of any kinds. When my Dad saw it, he asked if we were going to live in it. I was horrified at the idea. His response was that he had lived in worse.

There are other ways of living.

Just a bit of internet research revealed that people can (and some still do) live in many different forms of alternative housing. Shelters range from Tiny (yet still luxurious) Houses to trailers; from underground bunkers to sthipping containers turned house; from house boats to houses made of straw or mud filled plastic bottles and from storage units to cardboard boxes.

What was your worst home?


Your Worst Home — 4 Comments

  1. While this is definitely true, unfortunately there are laws in many American towns and cities where minimum size requirements force this type of “modern” living for “safety” and other bogus values. At one point in time, not even a century ago, the size of homes equaled roughly the size of the garage many people have now.

    Many communities I’ve lived in have standards where it is suggested to have a bedroom for each child, where again not all that long ago kids shared bedrooms.

    One historical fact which amazes me is that closet space was not common as it is now. Having closets meant you had money for clothing and other “luxuries”. Kitchens are bigger, yet fewer people use them. Indoor plumbing and bathrooms are pretty much a stipulation for building. And one of the biggest oddities of modern living – the requirement for minimum lot sizes of an acre or more, yet it must be “green space” and you can’t have more than a small percentage for gardening. Most people had never, and often still wouldn’t, think of wasting land like that.

  2. This is so true, many prefer to impress with living situations. I believe the smaller the house the more you tend to do stuff outside, and the easier to communicate and spend time with family.

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