Why our big houses are making us sick

I went looking at open homes on the weekend and I noticed something: houses are getting bigger.

It’s not too surprising, is it? Times have changed. Households often bring home two incomes these days. We want media rooms and sprawling decks to show for all that trouble!

More than once, I saw a floorplan that included a “kids playroom” or “kids retreat”. These are now becoming fairly standard – as a parent of three, I can understand why, but it did get me thinking about my own childhood, where my playroom was my bedroom…


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Butler’s pantries are also becoming more popular. A friend of mine works with people building their new homes and she has noticed a huge trend towards including a butler’s pantry (basically a second, smaller kitchen where you can prep food). Interestingly, when she asks who does the cooking, they often say they don’t cook…!

So bigger is better, it seems. Or is it?

I think this trend for bigger and ‘better’ houses is becoming an issue. I also think we’re being conned into thinking we need more rooms, more space, more of everything, in order to be happy at home.

With technology allowing us to order pretty much anything we could possibly want to our doorstep, we could be in danger of creating a society that pushes us further away from ‘community’, as we have everything we could ever want or need at home.

And that’s not even addressing the health aspects. Now, scientists are suggesting that there could be a link between smaller backyards and childhood illness.

Simplistically, it goes: smaller backyards = kids spend less time outdoors = cleaner children who are exposed to less dirt and animal bacteria = more allergies. (Here’s the more complicated explanation).

Planning expert Linley Lutton spoke to ABC Radio Perth about biophilia, the relationship between plants and people and nature, which he described as “really mind-blowing”.

“There is a lot of research now beginning to show that urbanites are very stressed and this is having a direct impact on their mental and physical health,” he says.

“A number of studies confirm that people do a lot better mentally when they are able to look at trees, plants and recreate in open space.”

So there you have it; the next time your kids beg you to take them to the park, you should probably go for it – for your health as much as theirs!

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