Reasons You’ll Hate Living in the Suburbs: Because you don’t need all that extra space!

Space.  It’s why people move to the suburbs.  They need space. Space for their kids,. Space for their dogs.  Space for all their STUFF.  More space.  People like this guy love talking about all their extra bedrooms, and their closets, and all their square footage.

But why?  How much space do people really need? For about 10 years, I lived in about 600 square feet. Then, for a few years, about 2,000 square feet.  And now that I’m in the suburbs, about 4,500 square feet.  But even with all that space, I’m not sure that my everyday life is all that much different.  Whether I’m in 600, or 2,000, or 4,500 square feet, I spend about 90% of my time in only about 300 square feet in total: kitchen, couch, bed.  I eat, I lounge, I sleep.  That’s my life.

Indeed, I’ve been reading about this new “micro” apartment movement – the proposal to create affordable sub-300 square foot apartments in Manhattan.  Think about what 300 square feet is – about a 20’x15’ room, including space for closets and a kitchen.  As long as there’s a wall where I can put a flat screen, I think that would be fine.  For me, I mean.  I’m not sure what I’d do with the kid and the wife. Or the dog.  Then again, if I suggested to my wife that we go live in a 300 square foot space, I’m pretty sure she’d divorce me and take all my money, so a micro apartment would be all that I’d need or could afford.

So a micro apartment might be a little extreme.  But on the other hand, so is 4,500 square feet. For example, let’s examine all the basically useless space in my home:

  • Living room.  It’s the nicest room in my home: lovely couches, a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling views of the Hudson, just gorgeous. And I’m never in there.  No TV.  I don’t spend a lot of time in rooms without TVs in them.
  • Dining room.  Big table.  Seats 10 people.  But we’re not 10 people.  It’s me, my wife, and my kid, and my kid sits at his own chair.  That’s like two-and-a-half people.  (The dog isn’t allowed to sit at the table, but try telling him that.)  So the dining room has pretty much become an expensive place to put the mail, at least until my wife agrees to my proposal that we eat at opposite ends of the table, like fabulously rich people with servants do in the movies.
  • Study.  Beautiful wood-paneled library/study with bookshelves and two separate desk spots, where I keep the desktop computer that I never use because 99% of the time I open up a laptop sitting on the couch.
  • Guest Bedrooms.  Two of them for the guests that we never invite over.  Part of it is that we dramatically overestimated the number of people who would be eager to visit us in the suburbs.  The other part is that I hate guests.  (If you’re a friend who is reading this and has stayed over at our place, let me make clear that I’m not talking about YOU, I’m talking about those OTHER guests).

You see my point? I have a lot of places in my home where you could hide a dead body, and I wouldn’t discover it for weeks.  For all I know, there’s a dead body in my guest bedroom right now.  I really should check.

And you know what you need to do with all that space? You need to fill it with expensive furniture that you’ll never actually sit on.  And you know how you get that expensive furniture? You hire a decorator/designer, most of whom like to be paid for their work.  So much for all that money you save living in the suburbs.

So why do we do it?  Why do we feel compelled to get a big home with all that extra space?  I’ll tell you why.

It’s to make all you city people jealous.

We need all that extra space so on the rare occasion when we get you all to come out to the suburbs, we can see the look on your face when you see that our closet is bigger than your bedroom.  The suburban shock and awe.  That’s what makes everything worth it.  “Look, I have a room just for my computer! Suck on THAT!”

Suburban space is the ultimate extravagance, the real estate equivalent to dangling a $25,000 watch on your wrist.  You don’t need it, but you get it and flaunt it because you want everyone else to envy it.  Suburbanites will never admit that we never eat in the dining room, or that we use our pools about three times a year, because we need to justify our move to the burbs.  If we left the city to get a perfectly usable and unimpressive 2,500 square feet, we’d never have anything to hold over the heads of our city friends.  All that extra space is the solace we take for not having good bars.

All that said, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: if you live in the city, and come visit me, you absolutely need to marvel and gush over all the space I have or you’re not going to be invited back.  It’s only polite.