Not long a go the UK government introduced a measure that has come to be referred to as the ‘bedroom tax’. The housing charity Shelter explain the rules as follows:
New housing benefit rules introduced on 1 April 2013 mean you won’t be able to get housing benefit to pay for all of your rent if your home has ‘spare bedrooms’… If you are a council or housing association tenant of working age receiving housing benefit and renting a home that has more bedrooms than you need, your housing benefit will probably be reduced. Pensioners claiming housing benefit will not be affected… Under the new rules, the limit on the number of rooms you can claim for is based on the number of people living in your home. If you have more bedrooms than the rules say you need, you will be treated as ‘under-occupying’ your home. You will get less of your rent paid for by housing benefit.
All sorts of issues have arisen because of the introduction of this new rule, including it highlighting the lack of rented accommodation suitable (in this context) for a single person, i.e. with only one bedroom, and the expectation that all couples need just one bedroom, irrespective of physical problems or health.
However, the purpose of this post is not to discuss the relative merits of this policy (you can read lots more about it elsewhere on the web), it was just the starting point that got me thinking about how much space we actually need…
I have a friend who is a great advocate of ‘tiny homes’ – he and Beauty, his German Shepherd dog, live in a very small space – a single room houses his, bed/sitting space, kitchen and work area. For some years he lived in a van (mobile home) so in comparison the ‘house’ is palatial, but in addition he has lots of land and is able to spend a great deal of time outdoors if he chooses. In addition he doesn’t have a partner.
I think Mr Snail and I would drive each other mad if we didn’t have separate spaces to occupy. In theory, our house has three bedrooms (not that we are affected by the bedroom tax as our house is bought and paid for and we don’t get or need any state support to be able to have a roof over our heads), but in practice it has just one. The other two rooms described in the details when we bought the house as ‘bedrooms’ are now office/work space – his and hers, so to speak. There is no room in our house this is not used on a daily basis. I do sometimes hanker for a spare bedroom in which seamlessly to install guests without having to resort to the (comfortable) bed-settee in the living room, but on balance, we make good use of all the space we have with our current arrangement.
The thing that concerns me, however, is that I expand to fill my space… or rather my belongings expand to fill the space available (my personal size is fairly constant, although slightly larger than I would like). Because we live in a bungalow with a relatively large footprint, we also have lots of loft space, which is occupied by more of our belongings. As a result of all this space, I don’t really need to worry about accumulation, but it does concern me as it allows me to gradually collect more and more ‘stuff’. I have got better at not buying things, but it’s still all too easy to accumulate. So, I’ve been inspired by revdarkwater and his blog What I shed today in which he records the things he’s getting rid of – from plants to furniture, from clothes to bits of car – trying to shed something each day. I don’t think I’m up to his achievements (I’m just not ruthless enough), but I am trying to shed something every week. Last week, three pairs of shoes went to the Salvation Army, the week before some books went to the British Heart Foundation shop and this week… well, I haven’t decided yet, but I will find something to shed. My aim is not to send things to landfill, but to find them good homes or alternative uses… what could you shed today?