My ponderings this week started when my husband and I were driving on a road between two subdivisions on our way home from "Downtown". The subdivision on one side is having trouble selling homes even though it had only recently been "the address" to have in our area.
The new subdivision on our other side is full of McMansions... grand, big, and beautiful... huge homes standing where only a couple of years ago...corn grew.
We talked about what used to be normal in housing compared to what the average homeowner now expects. I continued this conversation with my daughter when she called later... alone in her van so she could talk and drive. She worked in kitchen design when we had our two story house "in town" up for sale before moving to Detroit.
It took such a long time to sell, even though it was a beautiful home and in a nice neighborhood. Problem was... that neighborhood was "the address" to have way back in the 70s and early 80s and not in the year 2000. Also, people wanted a brand new house instead of a nice, older colonial style.
We now live in another 1960s home, a 1400 sq. ft. ranch house. Did you know that was the average size of a 1960's family home? Yes... 1400 sq. ft. Kinda' hard to get a big screen TV in it, well... impossible unless one wants to sit four or five feet from the TV. In our bigger house, if we got a little miffed with each other there was plenty of space to get away. Now we have to forgive and forget quickly because we rub shoulders more often.
We chatted about an article I had read many years ago regarding the houses one would see on the old 1950s and 1960s TV shows. I mean, Donna Reed was married to a doctor but the house they lived in was very modest. Same for engineer Steve and his three sons. Danny Thomas and Lucy Ricardo both lived in small apartments until Lucy moved to the country (and that place was small!). Most of the TV shows back then portraying middle class and upper middle class families will show very modest houses. Only shows portraying the rich had opulent homes, including the guy who shot a hole in the ground and up came bubbling crude... oil that is (don't you wish it was that easy to find NOW?).
So... as you sip some tea and break a piece off your scone... think about it. What changed our perspectives about houses, belongings, and how much the world owes us? Not to say it is bad to have a big home. I love to visit big, beautiful homes of friends who can afford them. There are days I do miss mine (although not when I'm cleaning). Big homes can be wonderful and I'd be tarred and feathered for being a hypocrite if I told people not to shop for such beautiful things as china... and books... and fabric... and... well, you get my point.
It's not about buying what we can afford... it is about expectations and contentment and what it takes (debt, not spending time with family, stress, etc.) to keep up such a lifestyle. Of course, mankind has always wanted more than they have... ask Adam and Eve. However, I think a lot of what we are experiencing now started way back when Madison Avenue first discovered they could make people think they weren't happy unless they bought their particular food, clothing, house, car, etc. It was in full bloom by the 1980s.
As I've said, I'm a recovering Yuppie. I worked with a lot of other Yuppies. We were taught that you deserved the very best life had to offer. Post WWII children (aka: Baby Boomers) were brought up being told we deserved more than our parents had when they were young. We now know what they had was the gold standard.
Donna Reed had it right my friends and today's world scoffs at her and those like her. No wonder people watch the Waltons, the Little House shows, Leave It to Beaver, Andy Griffith, and the other shows depicting life when it was more sane.
I am finding each day to joy of looking for contentment in the important stuff of life. I have truly learned to be content in the small house... in the country... at the edge of the forest... with the cutest deck and inherited landscape. I adore how my inexpensive flower arrangements on the deck brighten up my world, not to mention the quintessential country front porch.
I wish I had learned this contentment long ago. It has taken a lifetime of living to find one can reach for the golden ring, grab it, and find it not gold but tarnished brass. As I watch the evening news and read the papers... I think the world will soon be knocking on the doors of those who have learned to live simply... to live on less... and do it gracefully, graciously, and with a thankful heart for what we have been given.