Many factors go into answering the question: “How much space do I want to be happy and safe?” Location of property, floor plan, cultural norms, rent/mortgage, amenities, storage, air quality, and aesthetics are all considerations that weigh into an individual’s want response.Interestingly, she turns to the example of prisoners and their cells to examine how space relates to happiness (or at least, the "happiness" one can achieve in a prison, anyway). After all, amenities are stripped down to the bare essentials, and inmates spend most of their time in their allotted space. One would expect that they'd be a perfect case study as to how living space size affects its inhabitants:
Since safety and happiness are major concerns in U.S. prisons (“happiness” in the sense of keeping rioting, violence, and suicide rates at a minimum), I expected minimum square footage per inmate mandates to exist. Turns out, the federal government does not define how many square feet a prisoner is required to have for conditions to be considered something better than “cruel or unusual.” As a result, inmates are given anywhere between 35 square feet (common when two prisoners share a 70 square foot cell) to 100 square feet (quite uncommon, but more likely to be found in solitary-confinement situations where prisoners never leave their cells). And, research about the penal system shows that rates of riots, violence, and suicide don’t appear to be directly correlated to cell size (much like job satisfaction isn’t based on office size).In the comments, a reader named Rosa aptly pointed out that inmates don't have only their cell space; they also have common areas, such as kitchens, showers, and outdoor yards. Bringing it back to the non-convict population, she notes that:
People I know who live in very small spaces actually spend most of their time elsewhere; at work, at restaurants, outdoors in rural areas, at parks. More and more I think that’s healthier – less private space and more shared space. But it depends on other people valuing the shared space as well, to keep it accessible and usable.How much space do we need to live, to shelter us from the elements, store our food, and provide a safe place to sleep? How much space do we want for our comfort, to hold our books and our art and have a place to entertain guests? And how are these two questions affected by the availability of public spaces? If you're spending 8 hours a day at the office and 8 hours a night sleeping, and you're outside of the house in public spaces for a few more hours per day, you're really only spending a short amount of time in your private living space. Does that make smaller spaces more bearable? It also makes me wonder about the kinds of public spaces available to us and how we use them. I don't have a back yard, so I get my nature fix at my favorite Los Angeles parks. And I'm writing this right now from a Starbucks, which has become the de facto office for many a laptop carrier. Restaurants are convenient and social eating spaces. But would I be cool with a communal kitchen? If I could pay a lower rent and sell off my kitchen tools, would I be okay with a shared food prep room instead of my own private kitchen? (That'd be the end of getting bowls of cereal at midnight in my undies, that's for sure.) What about a shared bathroom? I know for many people, having to share a bathroom with just their significant other is a road too far. Still, people all over the world manage just fine with minuscule living spaces and shared amenities. And you probably did as well: you survived sharing a bedroom with your younger sister back at home, and you survived sharing a bathroom with the entire floor in the dorms, didn't you? Could you do that again? Would you? Of course, if you're sent to the slammer, you won't have much say in the matter. But let's hope it doesn't come to that... or at least that you're good at turning a toothbrush into a shiv. Via Unclutterer.