Thursday, March 05, 2009

House Lust

When looking at a picture of my house with its '70's siding, you may not be surprised to hear that I recently picked up a book entitled House Lust, America's Obsession with Our Homes by Daniel McGinn. I've had some serious cases of house lust in the past, particularly when my family of six was squeezed into a 1,000-square-foot townhouse.

When we were in that townhouse, we had cable TV, and I loved to watch HGTV. All those do-it-yourself shows with beautiful results, House Hunters - following home buyers who had a budget I could only dream of - oh, the envy I felt! Which is why I realized I needed to just STOP WATCHING. Oh, it was hard, but helped me to be content where I was instead of envying those poor folks who couldn't find a house with both a media room AND a pool.

In 2005, we found the house we currently live in, saw it's potential and moved. It's about 1800 square feet - the biggest house in which we've ever lived - but I'm already feeling squeezed. The bedrooms are small, we don't have a family room, and not even half the basement is a full basement. Oh, I am starting to feel some house envy again!

I noticed the trend of envying other people's houses in my own life, but I was a little surprised that McGinn had enough material with which to write an entire book. He does, however, and an interesting one at that.

In House Lust, McGinn chronicles his own compulsion with his house, and introduces us to families from different parts of the United States and their manifestations of house envy. From 9,000-square-foot homes in Maryland to buying vacation homes in Florida, McGinn explores different housing trends in different parts of the country. I did notice that the Midwest was rather left out of the craze, perhaps because we're not given to such extremes as the coasts? (Wishful thinking, I'm sure!)

Unfortunately, McGinn was writing his book just before the housing bubble burst, so it feels a bit like 'old news.' It's still very interesting though - and he addresses the housing bust briefly in his epilogue. I think he's right - Americans will keep obsessing about their homes - perhaps differently now than three or five years ago.

Personally, I've put aside the dream of adding a second floor to my house (although it would work well - and add so much more space). Instead, my husband and I are focusing on one small project at a time - a new front door is first on the list, then adding a shower to our bathroom. And I'm learning - a continuous process - to be content where I am today instead of dreaming how much better life would be in a bigger house.


Glen said...

Very interesting. Only one correction - our house is at most 1450 square feet, not 1800 square feet.

Michelle said...

Thanks for your attention to detail - I guess I wanted to give us the benefit of the doubt. :)

Troy said...

Great attention to detail. BTW, I read the book too. Pretty interesting. For all my hatred of various ranch style homes: split level, bi-level, top hanging over the bottom level, garage as focal point level, living in our partially dream house has made me appreciate the home of our youth in new way. I know dad doesn't have $700 gas bills like me.

I also purchased some old hardcore music off of itunes, particularly a song called "disengage" which I needed to hear again as affirmation that we do not need to keep up with the greed and materialism of those around us. My current goal is only to reduce my gas bills. Cheers.

Molly Sabourin said...

Great post, Michelle! Thanks!