Our homes are our private space and one of the most significant places we inhabit.
Yet the concept of how we use space, particularly as the planet struggles under the weight of an ever increasing population, is being put under scrutiny. The way we use space and the ways we think about space need to change.
The most influential conversation I have ever had about space was with my dad when I was 27, and just about to leave for a job in South Korea. And when I mean space, I don’t mean outer space. I’m talking about inner space. I have always liked my personal space and up until I journeyed to Korea, I had managed to maintain a very reasonable 5m x 5m zone around my person. Not hard to do in a country like Aotearoa-NZ where we value our individual patch of Godzone. However, I was aware that in moving to a country of close to 50 million people living on a peninsular half the size of Aotearoa-NZ, there could be some space issues ahead.
I met my dad. We were probably having a chat over a coffee, talking all deep like we have a tendency to do. In this typical scenario, I would have almost certainly been talking more than listening and letting my coffee get luke-warm. Now up until this point in time I thought, quite understandably, my own space was all about my physical person. I didn’t like people in close to me, and this had always corresponded with the idea of people being too physically close to me. However, as my dad has a knack of doing, he completely changed my perception with a very simple suggestion – one that has forced me to reconsider my perception of space ever since. He said, simply, “You are more than just your body”. Huh! How about that! My next thought being, what exactly is he getting at here? And it might sound obvious, but my dad wasn’t talking about physical space anymore. He had launched a thinking exploration into inner space. And while I like to be right about things (who doesn’t?) and thought I had the superior angry response method for dealing with people in my space, I have to be honest with you, this dad-idea sounded pretty interesting.
His comment forced me to consider the huge scope of inner space. And once I began that journey, I realised he was right. I was much more than just my physical body. I was my mind, emotions, feelings, choices, intuition and so much more…you get the idea. While we all have our physical body – and of course it’s good to be aware of our physical boundaries – there is also much more to each of us. And the great news is, we may not always have control over how things happen in outer space, but we do have a lot of control over how we work with inner space. A similar thought might be applied to our homes.
When we are at home, we feel pretty strongly about OUR home and the physical boundaries that determine the space we not only inhabit, but space we feel real ownership over. But we also know that there is usually a lot more to our homes than the physical walls, roof, fences and gates. We often have deeper, emotional connections to our houses. There’s a reason why moving house is up there in one of the most stressful things we ever do. We feel stuff about our houses. And this is where it might be helpful to consider our houses are more than just a physical “body”. We have been brought up in a country where there is an expectation of space between your home and the next one. We expect to have a garden, a lawn or a place for the kids to play. We like to have a hedge between our home and our neighbours place and a fence keeping the street out of our private lives. For many of us we are deeply invested in the physical border we create around our homes that keep others at a distance. So, just as I had been encouraged to think about moving beyond the limited space I had created for myself to explore inner space, we can all find freedom when we are no longer trapped by maintaining those physical force fields. All that time I thought my space was being invaded, when all that needed to happen was for me to move the parameters. Imagine if we were able to be a bit more flexible about our home space. Do we really need such huge physical boundaries between our home and the next one in the street? Would we in fact find there are some benefits if we had to live a little closer? We are already considering some of these questions, in society and through our laws and policies as we explore more sustainable and community focused ways of living.
Perhaps we might all benefit a little more if we give some space to think about space.