There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about refocusing on priorities and reassessing what is valuable in our lives. Into this equation falls one’s home and the manner in which we live. The real estate boom of the early 2000s was all about bigger, better, more, about keeping up with the Joneses. Homes were bigger, cars were bigger; everywhere you looked there was an overwhelming focus on getting the next BIG thing.
With the economy in dire straits, the last several years have been a wake up call; millions of Americans have to face the facts: all that BIG stuff doesn’t matter. It is the quality of life that matters.
Today’s buzz words have changed from McMansions, SUVs, bling and grande lattes to more realistic terms, terms like sensible houses, green appliances, family game night, sack lunches and yes, homemade coffee. This “reversion to simplicity” has caused many companies to change the way they market their products, including home builders.
The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) reported at the end of 2009 that the median square footage of new homes dropped 9% between the third quarter of 2006 and the third quarter of last year.
KB Home, a large builder here in California, reported to USA Today at the end of last year that building smaller models helped it achieve a 62% increase in year-over-year net orders in the third quarter.
Many new construction developments are displaying smaller floorplans, complete with energy efficient appliances, solar power and drought resistant landscapes. They are also building closer to urban areas, with many new communities including multi-zoned housing tracts which incorporate businesses, eateries, shopping and parks within walking distance to homes.
Other companies have taken advantage of consumer trends. One of the best examples is the synthetic lawn industry, which really has a dual advantage: you get a zero-maintenance, great looking lawn year round AND you are saving lots of change on your water bill. Good for the environment and maintenance free….this is the new mantra for consumers.
Duane Ruth, owner of SYNLawn, a Southern California company that installs synthetic lawns for residential, business and golf courses, says that “We’ve seen year to year 50% growth in our installations with over 7,500 residential installs in So Cal so far.” Ruth says that according to studies hundreds of millions of gallons of water are saved a year by the lawns they have replaced, and “that’s millions of square feet of grass that are not being cut 32 times a year and dumped into landfills where they produce harmful methane.” For more information on synthetic lawns and their benefits please visit http://www.synlawn.com.
This new movement is not only sensible but is good for the planet. Most importantly though, it is good for our souls. It is the beginning of creating a new focus on priorities that we can pass down to our children. No matter what you do for a living, no matter where you live, you can make a big difference by embracing the reversion to simplicity. If you have more ideas on how you have or plan to simplify your life and your home, please post a comment below.