Less House, More Home
Posted by ssbg on August 2, 2006
Why bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to creating a space for your family.
By Francisco Ramos, Jr.
To live in America is to live big. Regular fries won’t do. Supersize them. A 19-inch television? No way—a 40-inch plasma set is more like it. In a land where SUVs have pushed sedans off the highways and warehouse stores litter the landscape with their oversized carts used to haul their oversized products, the saying “bigger is better” is more than a cliché; it’s a way of life. And just as everything from our televisions to our appliances to our cars keep getting bigger, so do our houses.
Gone are the days when large families lived in cramped quarters, two to three in a room. More and more, every family member has his or her own room, sometimes two. The husband has his den, the wife has her study, the older son has his own bedroom and the younger son has his own bedroom too. Each of them doing their own thing—watching the game, reading a novel, playing video games, downloading music on the PC. So much space. So much alone time.
At first glance, it seems ideal. But look closer and you’ll see how destructive all that extra space can be. You realize that it’s hard for a family to grow closer together when there is so much space for it to drift apart.
I’ve been married for ten years. I live with my wife, Ana, and our two boys, David, 6, and Michael, 3, in a two-bedroom home, and small bedrooms at that. Bedrooms big enough to fit a bed and a dresser and little else. You feel claustrophobic in them. You want to escape them, and in doing so, you end up in the living room. All four of us. Day after day, and night after night. And to be honest, the living room isn’t much bigger than the bedrooms. The diminutive dimensions of our home make us come together every day and be a family.
I work long days as a lawyer. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. Sometimes, I want to be by myself. I want to be the guy with the big house who escapes to his study and his 40-inch plasma set to watch the Florida Marlins pull it out in the ninth. My wife stays home with our two boys. By the time I get home, she’s exhausted. I don’t doubt that sometimes she wants to be the woman with the big house who escapes to her own secluded spot to read the latest novel by Nicholas Sparks. But there is no escape for us.
Instead of running to our own separate rooms, the four of us spend our evenings together. Ana tells me how her day went, and I tell her about work. We read to the boys and play with them—with blocks, or trains, or action figures. Sometimes we play hide-and-seek. Suffice it to say, you have to be pretty creative to play hide-and-seek in our house. The boys hide under the covers, Michael giggling the entire time. “I found you!” I scream. David shrieks in laughter. Michael just giggles louder. It’s moments like these that I realize that you don’t need much space to enjoy your family. Space just gets in the way.
The truth is, there’s no place to hide in my house. No den, no game room, no garage, no upstairs, no downstairs. As much as the stress from work may make me want to run and hide sometimes, it’s no use. And for that, I’m grateful.
For those of you who live in small houses or tiny apartments, don’t feel that God has shortchanged you. He has blessed you. He has blessed you with a home that fosters closeness and togetherness. The lack of space you complain about, the lack of space to store things or host dinner parties is exactly what you need to grow closer to your spouse and children. By giving you less, God has given you so much more.
And for those of you who live in big houses, with far more rooms than family members, do not allow that big house to divide and conquer your family. Don’t run and hide in that private study. Turn off the television, the video games, and the computer. Rediscover the living room. Then live there. Talk about your day. Play games with your kids. Tell stories. Enjoy each other.
Keep the doors of those other rooms closed. You won’t find what you’re looking for there.
Francisco Ramos, Jr., is a lawyer and writer who lives in a tiny house in Miami, Florida.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today’s Christian magazine.
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