What’s Your Ideal?

I have been thinking a lot about my ideal living situation. It’s really something I have been exploring for years. My thinking is not confined to my own ideal, I also think about what is ideal for people generally (a pretty gray area) and about why situations that are not ideal for me are ideal for other people (which is total guesswork without some outside input).

I am considering factors such as the size of city to live in ranging from millions to tens, the proximity to amenities and services, which amenities or services are most important, the distance between houses, the culture of the neighbors (assuming you’re in a place large enough to have neighbors), the size of the house, and the size of the property.

For myself, I prefer a small community where people know each other and are tightly knit but not close-minded. The house does not need to be very large, but it must be configured in a way that is conducive to the family life that we are trying to create (it would take a whole series of posts to describe the family life we are trying to achieve). I could live on as little as a quarter acre in the right circumstances, but would be able to tolerate much more various conditions around me if I had at least 2 acres to work with. It is imperative that any living situation leave me with the opportunity to garden. I absolutely cannot live with neighbors so close that it takes less than 5 people to span the distance between separate houses.

I can easily live 2 miles from the nearest store, but I believe that 10 miles would be fine (I’ve never done that before so that’s not guaranteed). The only utilities that I must have are access to water (I don’t think I would mind a well), electricity, and an internet connection – although I would prefer a sewer system over a septic tank.

So what’s your ideal? Over the next few weeks I hope to write up the advantages and disadvantages I see in different sizes of cities as well as generic thoughts on the advantages of rural, suburban, and urban settings. Please chime in with any insights or experience you have on the benefits or drawbacks of various living situations.

Similar Posts | Big Cities | Stability |

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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6 Responses to What’s Your Ideal?

  1. “Ideal living situation” for people generally is not just a difficult thing to nail down — it’s quite literally impossible. It depends on too many variables, and there are too many different ways to accomplish the same goal.

    For example, I need a garden, too, but that need could be filled by a communal garden rather than something actually on my property. That would reduce my land needs. I could basically do without a front yard, but a back yard is a necessity — have to have enough room for the kids to run around. But again, if I had a communal green space, I don’t need quite so much land as mine, personally.

    In fact, our townhouse in Maryland had a communal green space, several walking-distance parks, a friendly neighborhood, and enough space in the backyard for a personal garden. We would have been just fine there until we had our fourth kid. Even then, we probably could have converted part of our basement into a bedroom and survived for awhile longer.

    It also depends on what stage of life you’re in. I’m in “growing family mode,” so having extra space is a good thing. If I were retired with kids living out of state, Kim and I could probably live quite happily in a condo — less to clean.

    And it depends on personal desires. Some people love cities and the amenities they provide. Some people love wilderness and the freedom to wander wherever they want. Personal preference is a powerful force.

  2. David says:

    When I spoke of an ideal living situation for people generally I was not thinking of something that was ideal for every person, but rather a situation that was most conducive to producing a functional society.

    What I had in mind was the idea of Brigham Young (or it might have been Joseph Smith with the idea and Brigham Young trying to implement it later) who had a plan for building a Zion society that included cities of a certain size, spaced at relatively even intervals and with each city having basically the same mixture of agriculture and commerce driving their economy. Essentially each city would be capable of sustaining itself when necessary, and capable of assisting nearby cities when the need arose.

    I recognize that technological and social changes render parts of their plan obsolete – such as depending on truly local production for the bulk of their food – but I am curious to explore the possibility that even today there is an ideal that we should strive for in building a good and sustainable society. That could be a series of cities with populations hovering around 150,000 people (I pulled that number out of the air) with local economies that are sufficient to sustain their population. Or it might be a network of urban centers ringed by suburban and rural regions which together form a vibrant society.

  3. Reach Upward says:

    I agree with Jared. I do not believe it is possible to quantify in any meaningful way what is best for people. That is why you cannot find many examples of planned self sustaining communities. People’s needs and desires vary so much that no amount of central planning can address them as well as the freedom of individual choice.

    I know some people that completed the ‘dream home’ a few years ago. It was the third home they had built. They insisted that it really took three times building a home to get it right. They envisioned their new home as being suitable for them for decades to come.

    Personally, I think their idea is untenable. We’re living in our second home; the one we built a year and a half after getting married. If I have my way, I’ll never go through the building experience again. I’d rather buy existing and modify (if necessary). I have also come to realize that what is needed varies throughout one’s life. We added onto our home a few years ago to make it work better for a family of seven. But someday we’ll be empty nesters. Will we really want this home then?

    There are some communities in Israel that were founded on somewhat similar principles to those espoused by J.S. & B.Y. They are round, with land in narrow pie-slice pieces, so that everyone has equal access to everything. Some of these have been quite successful. But the specified land limits have resulted in limited offspring and limited inheritance. Thus, these communities are literally dying.

    Instead of trying to plan people’s living space for them, let’s realize that people respond to incentives, including what is going on in their lives at any given time.

  4. David says:

    I agree that needs change with different stages of life – not to mention the variance of personal preferences.

    My interest in what is generally good is not about master planning (as was the case with J.S. and B.Y.) so much as it is about discovering some functional patterns.

    I think it is interesting that some of those plans were put into practice in Israel but I can’t say that I’m surprised that they are dying. I would expect that to happen in any culture where the next generation expects to receive an inheritance from their parents. They only way that these communities could hope to be successful would be if many in each new generation expected to find new land to settle following the working pattern rather than living in the same community where they grew up.

  5. Marie says:

    JP and I have been talking a lot about ideal as well, particularly because we are in a stage of life where we are trying to move towards it as much as possible, and don’t want to do things to limit it too much.
    The thing we keep coming back to over and over again is that our ideal is Rexburg. We love the overall LDS atmosphere, a good majority of the people in that community need a temple recommend to keep there job. Our ward had 4 “non-member” families, and no “less-actives.” We love that it’s a small enough community that stores are within 5 miles of almost anywhere. That it’s small enough to know your neighbors (our street had a fantastic weekly neighbor gathering) and kids that play outside and know each other. We loved how many home-schoolers there were, since a lot of parents were professors they felt confident in teaching their children. We loved the culturally rich environment the college brought (in terms of music, art, and culturally minded people) to such a small/rural area; since those are the things we thought we would most miss in a usual rural area.
    And although we don’t want a whole farm, the larger yards of subdivided farm land works better for us than apartment or city dwelling. Especially since JP loves gardening, and I want growing things to be a part of our homeschool.
    This reply is quite long, and since I could go on should probably be used as a starter for a post of my own. But that’s just a few thoughts.

  6. David says:

    Thanks for sharing Marie. It sounds like your reason for determining your ideal is similar to what started my thinking on the subject.

    I’ve driven through Rexburg but I have never spent enough time to get a feel for the town. Your description sounds quite pleasant.

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