Home Free

By Alice Inoue Posted in: Go Ask AliceImprove

Even in today’s fast-paced society, you can take steps toward building a cohesive family structure at home

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Things at home have changed so much from when I grew up. Life was slower before; families had more time together, and each night we sat around the dinner table and talked about our day. Now, I see my children and grandchildren running separate ways, and I feel like there is a “disconnect.” I wonder how this lifestyle ties into feng shui (if it does at all). In addition, in my day, we just bought what we needed and saved for what we wanted and truly needed, but I look around our home today and see so many senseless purchases, clutter and waste, and it saddens me. I would love to hear what you have to say. An old-fashioned grandma

Ifelt a bit sad as I read your letter. I understand where you are coming from. In many ways, I too feel nostalgic for the days of old, and what you mention does tie into feng shui. Feng shui is not just about the position and placement of things. At its core, it is also about the foundation and structure of a home.

New homes match current lifestyle

Over the years, I have noticed that the structure of homes has changed. New homes are being built to match the lifestyles that you mention you see in your children’s family, providing minimal or no space for family gatherings. This often encourages the family to live the life that the structure of the home dictates.

Older homes (and even larger condominiums) have dining rooms, a place for the family to gather around a table and eat dinner together. Newer homes have done away with an actual dining room, substituting a small area of the family room for dining, an indication of how little families eat together these days, or a kitchen island for “eat-and go” convenience. The extra space once dedicated to a dining room is now used as a “home office” or a “storage area,” taking the essence of “family” out of the equation of the home.

Children are physically distant

Some of the newer and larger homes also create a “disconnect” between parents and children in that the children’s rooms are on the opposite side of the home or on different levels. These homes are promoted as an advantage for greater privacy for the parents, but they also symbolically move the children away from the parents, creating the “disconnect” that you mention.

In older homes, the smaller bedrooms are near the parents’ room, helping to keep them and their children energetically close.

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A study of the 21st century family

Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, the first book by researchers affiliated with UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF), is the result of the findings of a team of professional archaeologists, anthropologists and other social scientists and their systematic study of home life in 32 middle-class, dual income families in Los Angeles. Here are some of their findings:

Refrigerator magnets indicate clutter

The sheer volume of objects clinging to the refrigerator door consistently indicated how much clutter could be found throughout the home and was a strong clue to how much stress a working mother felt when she came home at the end of the day.

The modern portrait of a home

The study painted this picture of the modern-day home: stacks and stacks of clutter, virtually unused master suites (the parents are so busy they only sleep in the bedroom), entire walls devoted to displays of Barbie dolls, Beanie Babies or other fads, and garages so packed with household overflow that cars have to be parked on the streets.

More from the study:

• Managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it actually elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers.

• Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars, because they were so packed with stuff.

• The rise of big-box stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club has increased the tendency to stockpile food and cleaning supplies, making clutter that much harder to contain.

• Costly master suites proved to be the most common renovation in the homes that were studied, yet the spaces were hardly used.

• Many of the homes had consistent and troublesome bottlenecks, yet families rarely devoted renovation dollars to remedying these obvious problems.

• Family members often ate sequentially or in different rooms, threatening to undermine what used to be a sacrosanct American tradition: the family dinner.

Here in Hawaii

While this study was done on homes in Los Angeles and may not seem to accurately describe what we see in homes in Hawaii, I have seen correlations first-hand. Becoming conscious of these patterns will help you examine your house, your possessions and the way you use your time. Awareness is the first step toward building a more cohesive family structure. The next step is to consistently implement some traditional values into the family, even amid the fast-paced society of today.

Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, an educational establishment offering dozens of classes such as Feng Shui 101, Clutter Clearing 101, Positive Mindset 101, Happiness 101, Life Purpose 101, How to say No 101 and more. Opening in September of 2013 at the Gentry Pacific Center on Nimitz Highway, Happiness U is where one can learn things about how to be happy in life. Visit www.YourHappinessU.com for more information.