Right, I’ve had a good read about the psychological impact of living in places that are too small, and worked it all out. As said elsewhere on this blog , there is a lower limit to the size of homes we should live in. But if all homes of that size are room enough, why are so many people desperate to live somewhere larger than that? What are the things make a house feel overcrowded?
There’s more to it than thinking each person needs 300square foot, or something. The number of people per area tells you the population density, what it doesn’t tell you is how crowded that space will be- because ‘crowding’ is what people feel, and what we feel is based on who we are, the society we live in and what we’re doing.
Research, mainly with children and young people, has concluded that the space we live in feels crowded when certain things happen:
You can’t get privacy
People need to be able to avoid unwanted social interactions. Children and young people want a place to be alone. Being able to control who we interact with and when is a massive part of staying sane. I’m sure we’ve all worked with an arsehole and know how it causes suffering, dealing with pricks on a daily basis. Imagine if that person is your mum or dad. And if a child has no place to do homework, they perform worse at school. It makes sense. My son is only two, but he already runs into a corner and refuses to socialise if he’s stressed out (i.e. he’s done a poo in his nappy).
It’s too noisy
Similar to privacy, noisy spaces will do your head in. And for children, it will disrupt school-work. This is a major consideration if you have more than 1 child- because you will have to balance a younger child’s ability to play freely, and noisily, with an older child’s desire that their sibling shuts the fuck up while they try to work or brood.
Also, noise affects the quality of sleep. Sharing a room with a sibling who needs to stay awake longer, or being next to the living room, can keep people awake, as you probably know.
No one knows what the room is for
People in a house need to know what a space is for. If the living room is also someone’s workspace, that will cause tension. You can’t be a freelance writer (i.e. watch Judge Rinder and drink coffee) if a child wants to sit on the sofa and play xbox. Well, maybe you can, but it’s not ideal. The youth of today are into phone calls, multimedia and legal highs. That’s not going to help with work, unless you’re in media.
I guess lots of children’s entertainment can fit in a small room (flatscreen, smartphones), which makes it easier to share the living room, but it might be worth thinking about other options – going to a library, designating a room’s hours of use.
Everyone else has a bigger house
Children are affected by their peers. If they wear worse clothes, they know about it, and if they can’t invite their friends round because their house is too crowded, they will be left out of some opportunities. You need to think about whether your child is missing out, and how they can make up for it. You might need to go out of your way to help them access social situations- like if they ask to go somewhere, let them know you understand the fact they feel like they miss out, but you don’t want them to. Or make a plan for how they can have friends round, allocate a room they can go to without brothers, sisters and parents annoying them, even if it’s usually not one they can play in. I don’t know, like you know, my son’s very young. But think about it.
Following on from the findings, a lot of definitions for overcrowding share minimum criteria – no more than 2 children per bedroom, children should only share with the same-sex after 7-10 years old, and they should not be sharing with people ten years older.
Some criteria say adults should not sleep in the living room, but in Japan, it’s perfectly normal for parents to sleep in the living room and tidy their bed away every morning.
Because we only have 2 bedrooms, if we have a girl and stay put for 7 years, we will have a choice between:
A – Giving the children separate rooms while we (the parents) sleep in the living room. Our privacy will suffer.
B – Not giving the children separate rooms. Their privacy will suffer.
C – Finding some way to divide their rooms.
D – Moving
E – Sell a child.
It’s most likely we’d go for Option A, because a dual-purpose living room would be fine, if everything else is OK. For many parents, once the children reach that age, they become obsessed with schooling. I have no idea what happens then, and thanks to austerity politics, there’ll probably be nothing but shit schools anyway, unless you can afford to live among the oligarchs, so that’ll make decisions easier.
Thanks for all the info, but that doesn’t actually help!
I appreciate that these could be academic concerns if you can’t actually afford to change your living situation. If you can’t meet the space standards, you should go on the Shelter website and consider your options.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford some choices, then think about how you can live in a way to that protects against lack of privacy, noise, social factors, and purpose of space.
If you have a complex situation – like you work from home, your child has special needs, or sleeping in a through room seems terrifying – it may be wise to complete a ‘Decisional Balance Sheet’, bearing in mind all the information above. (I have no experience of these situations, so feel free to leave comments about solutions you may have found, for those who stumble on our site). You complete it by listing the benefits of making a change, and the negatives. Then also complete the positives and negatives of not making a change
Things to bear in mind, while making a balance-sheet, following on from the list above are:
· Will a through-room actually provide for privacy when arguments happen? Could a child do better homework in a separate kitchen in the evening?
· Can grown-ups sleep in the living room, and tidy the beds away each morning?
· How could you make sure your child feels comfortable to have friends round? Could they use a computer in the parent’s room?
We have a separate kitchen and living room because the only place we could afford locally had these rooms divided. Having looked at this research, I’m glad for that, because although through-rooms look nicer, I have somewhere to go when I’ve had an argument with the wife and she needs to cook my fucking dinner.
If you’ve read this post, and your house meets all the criteria above, but still feels too small. Read this post: this one
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