A little while ago I posted about circles of care, and how we can widen the concept of “home”. How do we meet the challenge of caring for ourselves, our communities, and beyond in the design and construction of our homes?
First, it’s important to remember to include oneself, ensuring that personal well-being is enhanced and protected – not to the exclusion of others, but in harmony with their needs. As Virginia Woolf famously wrote, it’s important to have a room of one’s own. Do you have a quiet place to read, write, play music or create art, do your yoga or meditation practice, or just have a few peaceful minutes to sit and recharge after your work day? Do you work at home, and if so, is your work space quiet enough and organized in a way that allows you to be productive? Is there enough separation between work and non-work space? Do you get enough light, or does your space feel claustrophobic? Is there enough room for your books, music or other valued possessions? What about pets?
The next circle of care is family, however you choose to define it. Is your home a place that allows healthful and harmonious living for everyone, with a good balance between private and shared space? Is the air quality good, especially for those who have allergies? Does your home express your central values — for example, a sitting room that encourages quality family time, a dining room that allows you to entertain frequently? Does the home let you integrate work/play/eating/visiting time comfortably? Is it a welcoming space for visitors? Does it allow for the possibility of multi-generational living, cohousing, or other shared living strategies?
Beyond this is the circle of community. What kind of neighbour and citizen does your home allow you to be? Is it a welcoming place for others to enter? Does your dwelling take up an appropriate share of resources, space, or even the view? Does it fit well with the rest of the neighbourhood, with the surrounding landscape? Do you live in a location that lets you leave your car at home and walk, bike, ride-share, or use public transport? Can you simplify by sharing tools, storage or other resources with your neighbours? Is there a way to grow food for sharing — a private or community garden with extra rows of edibles, or fruit trees that can be gleaned by local food-share groups? Is there an opportunity to generate a bit of income through a suite or coach house on your property, while providing an affordable housing option to someone who needs it?
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when building or renewing a home, and we’ll expand the discussion even further in future posts. Each of us might define these circles of care a little differently and express different values in how we live and build. This post is about asking questions, not proposing specific answers. But at every level, the question to start with is: What do you really care about?