Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More From Charlie on Big House Addiction

Too big, too expensive, too isolating, too pretentious,
too much.
Great tile from Italy
won’t fix that – neither will brushed nickel sconces.
- Charlie, Resident North Shore of Chicago

Charlie is back! Just yesterday he sent an update on his struggle with big house addiction.

But first, to hear my nervous radio debut, click on Inspirista - Girls Night Out. I talked too much, interrupted the radio hostess - who was delightful - and according to my husband, shared too much personal information. But I have always been open and trusting, and since I'm 50-years-old, those character flaws are here to stay.

And now for the main attraction, here is Charlie:

I’ve progressed on my journey – and recently completed a level-headed inventory of my addiction.

I only told half the story last time – the saucy part about addiction and excess. A fair inventory would include some items from the positive side of the ledger – so here’s an example of how the big house is a force for good….or is it?

August is the best month of the year. Camps are done, people get back from wherever they go in the summer, and everyone pushes to finish the summer with a bang.

Our phone rings off the hook, our driveway is full of bikes and kids run wild all over the place.

My wonderful wife treats our little guests with fruit, crackers and juice, and the big house is covered with empty bowls, cups, wrappers and leftover clothes from kids too excited to take them home. The big house is the late summer destination of choice for the elementary and middle school set.

Across our street is a pond often lined with fathers and children fishing. There are trails and woods too. We see lots of friends walking, fishing, on bikes and in cars – and we often stop to chat. Great community interaction happens on our front sidewalk.

At night, when we go to bed, we’ve got a routine where my wife and I visit each kiddo, tuck them in, and tell them how much we love them.

After that, as the day ends, it always hits me: the big house is excessive – it’s dark and empty – like addiction. It takes 33 steps from tucking my boy in to the threshold of my bathroom – too big. My wife goes to one room, I go to another – too big. Too big, too expensive, too isolating, too pretentious, too much. Great tile from Italy won’t fix that – neither will brushed nickel sconces.

This leaves questions about the source of happiness: Is it the big house, or is it our lives, friendships and involvement in community that really makes us happy?

The answer is clear.

The next step is to develop a treatment plan for the addiction. If you haven’t suffered addiction in your family you should know that the only thing an addict hates more than change is the way things are – so the next step will be interesting…

…and I’m working on that.



Until next time!



  1. Charlie's story is so inspiring, especially as we have considered buying a bigger house in this down market. Thank you, Genevieve, and thank you, Charlie, for sharing.

  2. Hi Genevieve

    I stopped in to see what you are up to between painting kitchen cabinets and was happy to see another post about Charlie.

    I understand that size house and it's one of the main reasons we have kept downsizing until we finally found the perfect fit. I wish him well during this big change in his life.


  3. I am enjoying Charlie honesty and openness about his 'addiction'. I am pulling for him to make the decision that focuses on family, not position. Thanks to both of you for sharing!

  4. I thought your radio debut went really well and enjoyed listening to it. I did SO NOT think you talked too much, sounded nervous or interrupted the host of the show. Nice job, keep up the good work.

  5. In this region -- northern New Jersey -- a "big" house is usually at least 5,000 s.f and can be 10,000 s.f. or more. There are houses around here that I mistook for hotels when they were being built.

    It seems to me that the definition of "small house" keeps changing. We raised our two daughters in a 1700 s.f. brick Craftsman. Yeah, it could have been larger, but it was big enough, and we hosted dozens of people for parties without being squashed. My husband and I grew up in smaller houses than that... and survived to live productive lives. :-)

    We are Empty Nesters and moved last year to an old house with 3000 s.f. and it seems BIG to me, but I have seen 3000 s.f. described as a "small house" in magazines. I don't understand that at all.

    I believe the right size for people is what works for them, and their budgets. But the really outsize houses seem to promote less family familiarity. We knew people who sound proofed their sons' suites of rooms so that they wouldn't be bothered by the loud music the boys played. They became a family of strangers.

    Propinquity breeds familiarity and a level of comfort. Heck, I even think the advent of the King sized bed caused the divorce rate to skyrocket. Not enough bumping into one another and cooperating!
    Ok .. sorry for the long comment. Good luck to Charlie. He's got some decisions ahead.