Houses and Happiness: Does Size Matter?

For many people, home ownership represents success and a stepping stone into adulthood.  But for those who find it difficult to finance a conventional home, being part of a culture that praises, romanticizes, and even expects home ownership can cause feelings of inadequacy and isolation.home

Despite the potential downsides of society’s infatuation with “bigger-is-better” houses, I think it is a reason for the success of tiny houses, which provide an affordable path to the benefits of home ownership and being in control of one’s living space.

And yet, our society discriminates against and sometimes forbids people from living in unconventional dwellings such as RVs/campers, shipping containers, yurts, and the like.  Ironically, these homes are not that different from how people have lived for centuries: small, simple, sufficient.  In fact, bigger is not necessarily better: one recent study (Foye, 2016) found that moving to a bigger house only temporarily increases housing satisfaction (and actually might lead to later declines in happiness).  Importantly, “upsizing” had no effect on people’s overall ratings of their contentment with life.  The results mean that if your current home is adequate, then a bigger one won’t make you any happier in the long run.

If you’re feeling pressured by the cultural compulsion to have a big fancy home, remember that happiness doesn’t depend on house size!

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