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4 November 2007

Old fashioned houses

As I was doing my work yesterday I realised that our home is very old fashioned. Our kitchen is the centre of our home, it's a place where we all sit and talk, when friends drop by they are entertained in the kitchen or outside on the verandah, when Hanno and I stop for tea every morning we usually sit outside on the verandah. We have a large area around the house for chooks, vegetable and flower gardens, and we have our aquaponics garden and fish, a bush house, garden shed and a large shed where we store hay and where Hanno keeps his tools and repairs broken furniture or appliances. We live on an acre of land but our house takes up a very small portion of that space.

New homes are different. Many new homes are on a small piece of land and the home is built right up to the boundry line, there is very little room for outside activities. There might be an "outdoor kitchen" and a small swimming pool but most of the living is done indoors. And when we're indoors I'm amazed that each person has their own private space. There is an advertisement on TV at the moment where each person is in their own room with their own computer, using the internet. "Princess" has her own pink bedroom and bathroom with her own computer and her own phone, while "Buddy" is down the hall in his blue bedroom, complete with basketball hoop on the back of the door, X Box-internet combo and phone so he can hang out with the boys. In these homes there is an adults lounge and a kids playroom. They are separate so the kids don't disturb their parents.

Am I the only one who thinks this is strange and unhealthy?

Our home has one computer connected to the internet that is in the living room, it has always been like that. We bought our first computer when our kids were 7 and 8. They had a couple of computer games, but they played outside most of the time. I would never have allowed them to isolate themselves with a computer in their rooms. We have a really good relationship with our, now grown, sons. We have that partly because we shared our lives, they grew up in the same space as Hanno and I. They saw how we conducted ourselves when we were in our private spaces and not just when we were out on our best behaviour. We encouraged them to bring their friends home and we'd all share an area where at any given time there would be a radio or music playing, games being played, newspapers read, people talking on the phone or to neighbours who dropped in. I would be cooking, a dog would run through, the kids would have a Lego town built taking up half the floor area, they could lay on the floor on big cushions reading, or make a fort with an old bedsheet over the kitchen table and play under there while I wrote. It was all in together, we all made allowances for each other, we all enjoyed the contact with each other and it helped build us into a solid family unit.

I hate to criticise how others live but I really do think they're got it wrong with these new houses. It seems to me that real estate agents are dictacting how people use their homes by giving everyone their own space, and thereby gain more from the sale of new houses. Bring back family rooms! Allow kids to share rooms with their sisters or brothers until they go to school. Separating everyone stops us building trust and loving bonds. Share one computer and let that be in the family room where everyone can see who is trying to talk to the children on the internet. I'd like to see children expand their horizens outside with cubby houses, swings, gardens, chooks and bikes. Is that too old fashioned? Maybe I'm past it but when I look around and see family life as it is lived now, I can't help but think we need more old fashioned houses.


  1. Rhonda of course I agree with everything you have said because you have just described my own home. We keep the computer in the playroom which is really the other end of the loungeroom, it also houses the piano, the stereo, the window seat, the cupboard with all the boardgames.

    My sons share a bedroom and at 15 and 18 haven't murdered each other or become social deviants.

    Entertaining, that is people dropping by, is done where ever the sunshine happens to be or if it is high summer where ever there is cool shade.

    As a family we enjoy each other's company and make allowances for each other's current project, lots of things are shared but we respect each other's need for privacy. This is a family home.

    We live on one third of an acre but our 1930s house is delightfully compact and so we have plenty of garden with vegie patch, chooks grassed areas and trees and flower gardens. It is truly an adventure playground with enough rough and isolated areas to satisfy any child's imagination.

    My cousin lives in a Mcmansion and by council rule they are not allowed any curtains on the ground floor so the street has a uniform look.So no closing curtains to help control the sun, use the a/c instead. His house goes to the boundary and what little garden there is, is low maintenance and no hope of giving any shade to the house. They have one child , the house has four bedrooms.
    It is madness.

  2. That kind of family life in an open home is what I have chosen too Rhonda. But there are some challenges; our 3/4 ac block is sometimes too large for me to keep up with on my own (I'm a single parent to 2) and there are times when I have to hide in the bathroom to have a phone conversation in order to escape the boys' playing noise! So there are moments where I can understand why people build McMansions with no outside space, but to me being a family is about sharing and tolerance... sometimes that isn't so fun and takes work, but I believe it's what our family needs to do to learn what love is.

    That is apart from the notion that in our affluent society we can just "have" whatever we want, without consideration for the resources it uses and the impact it has on the earth. As the boys grow older, we talk more about being conscious of the real cost of our choices.

  3. I think that old fashioned is great. When the kids were small, under 9, I had them all sleep in one bedroom. We built bunks 28 inches apart and they slept like they were on a ship!

    They loved it, and incorporated the bed into all kinds of play and memories.

    We also center in the kitchen and the back. I cherish this time, as it shows how to be together. And as to having everyone have their own rooms, and a bunch of game systems to run off to...I don't like the idea.

    I often wonder who my children will find to marry. As so many families in the United States revolve around the child. Perfect bedrooms, and a scheduled activity for 5 nights a week. The children learn that everything is all about them.

    Am I perfect? Well of course not, but I try not and live the lifestyle that the TV has tried to set as the tone in so many homes.

    Thank you for making me ponder my thoughts.

  4. We are lucky enough to have a big suburban block, and we homeschool, so spend most of our time together at home. When the kids are inside they are mostly in the open-plan kitchen/dining/playroom with me. My laptop is on the kitchen table and the kids' computer is on the other side of the playroom. My eldest's keyboard is in her bedroom, but that's about it - all the toys and books are centralised. When they are outside, they have cubby house, sandpit and swing set, chooks and a dog, lots of space for running around, a climbing tree, and now veges to help care for. I don't think it's old-fashioned at all (I'm only 33) - or if it is, then hooray for being old-fashioned! I also think it's the only way to build a strong, healthy family. And frankly, it's a lovely way to live.

    Liz (aka geneste at ALS)

  5. I totally agree with you Rhonda and tend to have to sometimes drag my son away form the TV. My house is very old fashioned (circa 1910)but unfortunately it has large bedrooms and small living areas. Having said that my children still tend to want to do homework at the dining table and read books curled up under a blanket in the lounge room. I would like a different house with a bigger combined living area (instead of a tiny kitchen, tiny dining room and medium sized lounge) and I don't see it as old fashioned. Funnily enough when my children spend time @ their father's house they do have TV's in their bedrooms, so they see both sides to living. My children still want to talk to me and share their lives so I am hoping they will grow up as good communicators and family orientated - even if they come from what is sometimes termed a "broken" family. We also entertain on the back ve3randah when we have ppl over as my dining room only really seats 4 -5 people.

  6. One reason that I fell in love with the house we live in is that in a surburb where more and more we see huge houses on tiny blocks, this is a tiny house on a medium block. We have one bedroom, a tiny dining room that opens into a kitchen, a small bathroom, a "utility area" with our fridge and laundry tubs and a lounge room where we keep the laptop, tv and xbox.

    It's just the right size for us. We may not have room for a washing machine anywhere but that's okay. We create so little washing we can easily do it once a week at my parents (they live two suburbs over) and bring it back to hang out on the line. We have a nice patio area with a lounge and a table and chairs. We eat dinner outside almost every night at the moment. We have a hammock in the yard (that we use) and a standalone garage that we have converted into a home gym and storage area. We have a huge back yard which is perfect for barbeques, tea parties, backyard cricket, my container vegie garden (it's a rented house) and enjoying the fruit off all the trees that previous occupants have planted.

    When we decide to have children we'll probably have to upgrade to a two-bedroom house but I hope we can find something similar to what we have now which is a little piece of heaven. :)

  7. Oh you should see the homes being built in my town...HUGE...and no yard. I just don't see the need for such large homes.

  8. Rhonda I agree so much with you. We do have separate rooms in our current home, but our three boys shared rooms until we moved here. Still to this day they beg us on weekends to have "sleep overs" in each others rooms so they can all sleep together. I posted the other day about my observations about halloween and the lack of parent participation I see nowdays, it's very much along the same lines. Great post.

  9. Rhonda, I saw that ad the other night and DH & I discussed how various family members aspire to this kind of separate life, where the children need never interrupt their adult pursuits. What on earth are they doing that requires so much separateness? How many times have you been to a home like this and noticed how little some of this extra space is actually utilised?

    When our third babe was born, I relinquished my little study so we could have a nursery. I don't miss it, and we won't be moving the desk & computer back there when he moves in with his older brother. It's great having it out here in the loungeroom where you can be on the internet and keep an eye on everything else....floating in a sea of Lego! xx

  10. p.s. Master 7 is sleeping on the top bunk of his little brother's room. He has his own bedroom but he prefers to have company at night time.

  11. Absolutely agree with everything you said!
    Not only have we isolated ourselves from our neighbours,now we're isolating ourselves from our own family.
    Sounds like a hideous lab experiment from the mind of a mad scientist instead of 21 century preferred lifestyles!
    Got the old fashioned home happening here and we have no intention of changing it.

  12. i agree. i think giving children tv and computers in their room is just not safe. They need to be supervised so that they can learn to make good choices.

  13. Our house is old fashioned too and I love it. It's a bungalow with a finished walk-out basement and the kids rooms are there. Our main floor is open with kitchen eating area and living area all one big room with a fireplace in the middle. We do have a "rec room" downstairs where the kids tend to go with friends but they are just as often on the main floor with us.
    We're all jumbled together and that's the way we like it.

  14. Rhonda, I agree. You have just described our apartment: the rooms are so far away from each other and there's such a big distance to walk for every small thing. The kitchen is very narrow, without a welcoming space to relax in, let alone a kitchen table for informal gatherings. And outside!.. Oh, there's so little outside space. Yes, we do tend to be isolated. And terribly lonely. I'm sure you're not the only one feeling this.

  15. Rhonda,
    You are definitely not the only one who thinks like this!!!
    we are always in each others face all the time... of course there is only my husband and myself now... but our computer is in the same room as all his music equipment.. so while he plays music I do my computer blogging, etc...
    my grand kids share the computer with their mom and dad.. so there is no opportunity to tie in to the wrong thing...
    and that is the way to prevent problems... not cause them!!!

  16. I read a book not long ago (wish I could remember what it was!) about modern housing. One of the quotes was along the lines of how houses are currently being designed specifically to keep families apart. We live in a typical American middle-upper-middle class suburb and I am astounded by the sizes of the houses. Many are over 5000 sf! My kids do have their own rooms. However, we have one TV and one computer both of which are in the family areas. My son is 8 and it amazes my to go to his friend's houses. Invariably they have a TV connected to Playstation in their rooms. Many also have TV's. The unfortunate result is that most of these kids have a hard time coming to our home as we do not have even one Playstation!! They are at loose ends without a screen to connect to.

  17. You are absolutely right!
    I live in a tiny cottage that was built in the early 1900's and have grown to love it...didn't at first, but I have grown to love it's coziness and it is very cozy space-wise but I love that everyone is so close at hand!
    Thank you for another wonderful post!

  18. Rhonda I am just going through some older blogs I missed and re-reading some as I lay in bed with my littlest man next to me. He is unwell with gastro so I'm staying near him while he sleeps to help him if he wakes unwell. (hes in my bed...) I completely agree with this post. The 5 of us are currently sharing a bedroom as we renovate the old cottage and you know what? Its really lovely. Little Henry pitter patters across the floor and flops in beside us most nights, Gus comes in for cuddles for early morning cuddles, the boys snuggle in together in our bed if someone is struggling to sleep while the adults watch a movie.

    We are living in two rooms and a little old caravan, and whilst its not all that convenient at times, the convenience has nothing to do with us together, that's the nice bit. Its to do with trying to be organized in such a small space.

    Our lap top sits at the kitchen table often, though I do have a little old wooden school desk I bought for it, which will sit in a corner somewhere in a living area eventually. To continue on in togetherness.

    A really great post Rhonda, one of my favourites, sometimes I think we are not the norm, its nice to read about others similar. :) Sometimes I feel like I'm in the wrong generation.



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