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Home as a teacher.

Simply by their design, build and spatial arrangements, our homes have the potential to be a teacher. And a home with fewer amenities and automation is typically a far better teacher than one with more. Let me explain.

Our homes have changed dramatically over the last fifty years. The modest three-bedroom, one-bathroom home my parents purchased when they were starting their family in 1972 is far from the typical home we anticipate today.

They still live in that same home, although with a modest rumpus room extension following the arrival of their fourth kiddo (Moi!). Now their twelve grandchildren can’t quite wrap their heads around how we all six could live there with just one bathroom and one toilet! But we did, and for the most part, it was perfectly fine- Except for some minor squabbles and under-breath mumbling.

Our home’s unintentional minimalism compared to today’s norm catered to all our needs—the adequate spatial arrangement, rather than excessive, encouraged the learning and developing of essential life skills. Simply by its size and layout, it became a teacher, with our learnings including;

Communication You can only enable the showering and primping of six individuals with great organisation. Communicating was a necessity to ensure appropriate scheduling.

Negotiation. Just as often happens in life, there were times when scheduling or needs clashed. We needed to negotiate based on urgency- Learning when to push and when to acquiesce.

Respect Our bathroom and toilet were never fitted with a lock; we would knock and await a response, respectfully ensuring one another’s privacy and the need to share the amenities.

Empathy It’s impossible to share a modest house with six people and not pass one another. This casual passing facilitated easy ‘checking in’. When one of us was down, someone quickly knew and intervened with a ruffle on the head or a friendly ear.

The desire for greater levels of convenience, amenities, and privacy is driving the super-sizing and mass automation of our homes- And it’s robbing our families of powerful lessons and opportunities for both easy and meaningful connection.

We have long known the cost and sustainability benefits of building smaller, but doing so could also facilitate life-skill learning and encourage closeness and connection. That’s a lot of good reasons to consider what you include and exclude from your new custom home or renovation.

I’m not suggesting that we all live in one open space like in ‘Little House on the Prairie‘, but I encourage you to consider if the spaces you seek are predominantly for need or convenience’s sake. When pondering whether a space, amenity or automation warrants inclusion on your wishlist, ask yourself the following two questions-

  1. Will it facilitate or hinder life-skill learning?
  2. Will it encourage or discourage connection?

On reflection, you may veto some indulgences or extravagances in commitment to creating learning and connection opportunities with and for your family. And as an added bonus, you might just save yourself a bucketload of cash.

Will you be brave enough to choose learning and connection over convenience in your new home?