Is small space liv­ing bad for your psy­che?

It de­pends ... a few things to con­sider

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - PATRICK LANGSTON

Small con­dos seem to keep get­ting smaller, from 350-square-foot units at Domi­cile’s Nuovo de­vel­op­ment in Ot­tawa’s Lit­tle Italy area to 226-square­foot­ers in Van­cou­ver’s Gas­town. In a so­ci­ety where big­ger has, for years, been equated with bet­ter, are these tiny liv­ing spa­ces good or bad for the psy­che?

That de­pends, ac­cord­ing to U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Sally Au­gustin.

Al­though too many people in a limited space can pro­duce ten­sion, she says, small dwellings also give people con­trol over their en­vi­ron­ment and a chance to own property, which “in our world sig­nals you’re an adult, and that’s im­por­tant.”

As well, liv­ing small may align with the de­sire to be per­ceived as eco- con­scious, fru­gal or even an ef­fec­tive prob­lem solver (how you solve the puzzle of pack­ing a full life into min­i­mal space). “You get a pos­i­tive charge if you can com­mu­ni­cate through your home cer­tain val­ues that are im­por­tant to you,” Au­gustin says.

Since fa­mil­iar­ity breeds con­tempt, isn’t there the dan­ger that a cou­ple liv­ing small may not be a cou­ple for long?

“People nor­mally take care of pri­vacy in nice ways when they’re liv­ing with some­one they love,” says Au­gustin. For ex­am­ple, they may give each other space by sim­ply avoid­ing eye con­tact.

A re­cent ar­ti­cle in The At­lantic mag­a­zine dis­cussed po­ten­tial prob­lems of liv­ing in small spa­ces. Some res­i­dents, for ex­am­ple, might feel trapped in a small apart­ment crowded with fur­ni­ture and other be­long­ings but equally un­easy in the build­ing’s bustling com­mon ar­eas.

New Jersey-based en­vi­ron­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Toby Is­rael says in­tro­verts who like be­ing by them­selves may adapt bet­ter to small spa­ces than extroverts who like to en­ter­tain.

To make small spa­ces more wel­com­ing, Is­rael sug­gests rock­ing chairs, soft light­ing and sooth­ing mu­sic.

Pho­tos: Richard Arless Jr./Postmedia News

Pro: This 550-square-foot bach­e­lor condo can help you get on the property lad­der and give you con­trol over your en­vi­ron­ment, which can be good for self es­teem.

Con: A 550-square-foot condo can make you feel trapped and crowded and tense, es­pe­cially if more than one per­son is in­volved.

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