When we all lived in the hut all things were, apparently, simpler. Rooms were multi-functional, less to clean, less to maintain. There was no need to show off since everyone had a hut and nobody was either on the streets, nor in a palace. Leaders that presumably had bigger huts were not questioned, nor envied since leadership succession was extremely structured and often hereditary.
Fast forward some thousand years later, we now have proud democracy and an equality peppered with envy and ambition while homelessness and opulence have been shamelessly added to the repertoire of human habitation.
What we had to give up though is the fluid lifestyle with interpersonal close links and permanent ties to nature that now we struggle so much to rekindle through wellness, self-help books and structured socializing.
Along our evolutionary path, slowly, over the centuries, people adapted and converted needs into pleasures. All that was at one point the normalcy of living: eating, sleeping, playing, talking, has been elevated to a point where it’s portrayed more as an indulgence than something to take for granted. Industries that turned them into elaborate constructs have developed. Hospitality and tourism are evocative of a must-have collection of pleasant experiences, seemingly necessary to our newly adapted self.
We cannot live, nor do we want to, without some level of these experiences.
We even bring them into our homes through careful staging and event planning. We sometimes forget that all these pleasures are still derived from the very simple acts that defined us as species from the get-go. The good thing is that we now have both, the choice of experiencing them at a more basic level or, in the higher, pampered, and exclusive stratosphere. But with that should not come the pressure to always excel.
Primitive societies offer a good lesson in how to want less but have more. They were heavily built around concepts of age, kinship, and family. Other than the shaman, there were no other forms of coercive social control. Lifestyle was a recurring rhythm of simple tasks, centred around the necessities of living. The home offered a connection to service, and it simply satisfied these needs. It was almost a physiological extension of its occupants.
By contrast, now we have a divided earth with many inequalities and as a result our homes have all morphed to a certain extent either into the palace, or, the want of the palace. We all aspire. There is now a pressure of having to show, expose, enjoy and maintain a whole extended self that socially bears our resemblance and yet it is not always quite what we want. The social burden that homes must hold and the fact that there is a diluted connection between many homes and their occupants create a tension that can affect us in a negative way.
We need too closely look at what we had before. How did we live in a small multifunctional space that changed morning to night and did not take neither so much of our finances to buy, nor so much of our time to take care of?
The new non-conformists figured it out. They are those that let the norms go, those sales-driven lists of 2+den’s and myriads of specialized spaces that sprung from the idealized benefit of a palace with too many rooms to occupy and too many bathrooms to ever use. An opulence unnecessary for a better life, a construct that in our evolution we devised for ourselves that now, when we started seeing its disadvantages, we have trouble letting go.
This article first appeared in My 2 cents on design
how to curate a better lifestyle through design
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