Sunday, January 23, 2011

the house as mirror of self

We're on the house search wagon again... Although it's easy to conjure up a list of pros and cons for a house - price, location, size, age etc - the most powerful factor is self-image. Who will I be in this house? Who will my family be in this house? How will we be perceived by outsiders? by friends? What life path will this house take us down? These are questions that only the rich get to answer. The poor only get practical questions.

Advertisers know it.

Detergent A takes out stains better than Detergent B.

Compact A gets better fuel economy than Compact B.

These aren't image-maker, story-teller bilines. They're get-through-the-day sellers.

For the rich like us, Advertisers know what to do. We get life-style sellers; extensions-of-personality sellers. Luxury items.

This is who you will be if you wear this watch.

This is how you will feel if you drive this SUV.

Our house search often descends to these depths. Its a sign that we're too rich. We can afford to make choices based on our desired life story, not simply safety, shelter, economy and possibly comfort.

These story-making mental rabbit trails have the ability to distort reality. I will actually be an athlete if I wear those shoes - even though I never work-out or play sports. I will become more Canadiana if I live in the country, chop wood and have a veggie garden. This acreage is a dream come true! How easily reality is ignored...

I hate long commutes. I hate spending big $ on a house. I have never had time for a veggie garden. I barely have time to mow the lawn (and that's my puny City lawn).

The romance is dead.


  1. hmmm, I am not sure what that says about me as I am all function when it comes to a house and generally speaking most spaces that I occupy. I go through phases where I feel shame about the appearance and that will spur me on to fix, repair or beautify something but aside from keeping it clean enough to be healthy and safe I worry little. Wanting things that are "cool" is a part of being human, no question about it. Choosing which indulgences to feed and which ones to starve is also part of our reality. I am no stranger to those desires, just not in relation to my homes.

    I get the perspective you are writing about and I know it is out there, I guess to me the appearance of a space beyond function is less about art and more about life. Real life is never as organized, rationale, just, sane or good as we would ideally like it to be. So why would we expect our houses to purport a delusion that life is somehow perfect and therefore homes should be. There is a saying about perfection that “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." (I know, I just quoted that, don't let that get around. It just came to mind)

    I have started to consider this when I am about to make a purchase: When it comes to that moment when you reflect on your life (on your death bed, with old friends, etc, etc) we don't often talk about our stuff but rather our experiences and our relationships. When I spend my money, is it feeding my experiences and relationships or is it feeding my ego and pride?

  2. having talked in person I think I now better understand the struggle. sadly I too think the romance is over, it is very difficult to have the idealistic daily space and I think that is why I so desperately seek to escape the city as much as I possibly can.