… as in “Sierra Tucson is the best residential depression treatment center,” but UD has long used the phrase to name something she noticed – perhaps felt is better – years ago, on visiting the vast house of some relatives, a married couple. Like UD, they grew up in middle class Jewish Baltimore and every year when young attended messy noisy happy jam-packed seders in narrow city row houses where cheap wine freely flowed among children and adults.

Having made it, her relatives now floated in a house whose high-ceilinged dining room sat forty people who never materialized, and whose cellared wine lay stacked as in an above-ground cemetery. They knew their neighbors (acres away in a treeless field) only in the territorial way of worrying about whether these people’s extensive lawn projects impinged on their own extensive lawn projects (recall Rand Paul’s serious injuries when one of his neighbors attacked him in a roiling dispute over grass clippings).

Home is so sad, wrote Philip Larkin; but in this poem he’s describing the sadness of having tried but failed to create a comfortable and meaningful domestic space – which is to say, having tried to make a happy life. The house started as

A joyous shot at how things ought to be,

Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:

Look at the pictures and the cutlery.

The music in the piano stool. That vase.

The pathos of Larkin’s house lies in the joyous shot at beauty and depth it obviously tried to be, if you look at its carefully and lovingly chosen pictures and music and vases. The cold pastoral of my relatives’ house lay in it having been conceived and elaborated as pure status display.

UD thought back on that house when she read Robert Shiller on the bohemoth waste of the big house. Shiller understands that “[h]aving a big house is a symbol of success, and people want to look successful,” but, as another finance person, Ellen Weber, notes in the same article, megamcmansions are “ludicrous.” Both she and Shiller are appalled not only at the economic stupidity of this sort of investment (many houses in my local megamcmansion region, Potomac, Maryland, are going begging; and I guess it’s tough all over) but at all the dead air inside it. Weber:

[F]amilies are shrinking. … More and more of our stuff is stored electronically; we should need less storage for it. There’s also a tendency to buy houses with big yards that most people do not use but end up spending lots of money paying someone else to mow and maintain.

Shiller:

[W]e don’t need elaborate kitchens, because we have all kinds of delivery services for food. And maybe you don’t need a workshop in your basement, either. You used to have a filing cabinet for your tax information, but now it’s all electronic, so you don’t need that, either. And bookshelves, for people who read a lot. We have electronic books now, so we don’t need bookshelves anymore.

From another article on the subject:

[M]edian house size has increased by some 1,000 square feet over the past 50 years. At the same time, the average size of the household has fallen as people have fewer kids than in earlier generations, [Wharton real estate professor Benjamin Keys note[s]. “For the houses that don’t fit the families, the prices are going to have to fall.” Add[s] [Dowell Myers, a public policy professor]: “The millennials seem to have a taste for living more sparsely. They don’t want as much furniture. They don’t want as much space.”

Dead space, and depressed people. If you listen, you can hear them singing: Is that all there is?

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6 Responses to “The term “residential depression” refers to in-clinic treatment for the disorder…”

  1. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    “Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens?” from 2006

    https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/are-we-worthy-of-our-kitchens

  2. Rita Says:

    The extra space is for the people who will live in your house to take care of your kids when you and your spouse both work the kind of jobs that allow you to afford a big house in the first place. This assumes you have kids though. If not, then you should give your big house to me, so I can move my kids and my childcare arrangement into it.

  3. David Foster Says:

    “We have electronic books now, so we don’t need bookshelves anymore.”

    I think this is nonsense. There are a *lot* of books, including many of considerable importance, which are not available for Kindle or on-line. (And who knows what Jeff B and his crew may at some point decide to throw into the memory hole?)

    Also: “You used to have a filing cabinet for your tax information, but now it’s all electronic, so you don’t need that, either.”

    I’d advise caution on that, also. Attempting to locate the basis information for a stock that was purchased 10 or so years ago…through a respectable brokerage, where it was held…proved impossible to do on-line.

    Finally:

    “We don’t need elaborate kitchens, because we have all kinds of delivery services for food.”

    A lot of people enjoy cooking, including many millenials…they may use the delivery services or go out most of the time, but sometimes they *do* want to cook at home.

    There is a rather cookie-cutter attitude toward human desires in this linked article.

  4. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    The article is slanted to the pool of people that can afford all the on-demand/keep it in the cloud lifestyle. Any losses they may incur in housing will be offset elsewhere, their financial advisors will see to that. Since when do Yale econ profs advise the plebs?

  5. UD Says:

    David, Ravi: The particular group of buyers these commentators are talking about are wealthy and reasonably young. No one is advising the plebs because by definition plebs (no matter how low the price goes) will be unable to purchase houses like these.

    However handily one can offset losses, I don’t see many of these practical people intentionally buying a house that will almost certainly be a significant loss.

    Similarly, the group of plausible buyers for these houses will indeed be people who don’t do much of their own cooking, do almost all of their reading online, and have accountants/digital applications to handle virtually all of their money matters.

  6. theprofessor Says:

    People may like the idea of “tiny houses,” but around here, it’s difficult to find anyone buying new under 1800-2000 sq. feet, 3 bedrooms, and 2 full baths. There are some new patio homes aimed at the geezers, but that’s about it. Anyone who wants small has their pick of 2 bedroom, 1 bath starter homes that were tossed up in the years after WW II. The millennials are not standing in line for those.

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