SoCal garages and yards

A UCLA anthropologist studied the use of garages and lawns by dual-income middle class southern California families and found that garages were so stuffed with clutter that cars couldn’t fit in them and the carefully maintained yards were practically never used for leisure.

Trapped in an energy-draining work-and-spend cycle, many young dual-earner families seem to fuel their stress and frustration by buying more possessions than their homes can absorb, adding to their debt and routinely conscripting crowded garage spaces to function as chaotic storage rooms.

Running faster and faster to stay in the same place with no time to enjoy it? How sad. The real driving force here is the steep SoCal real estate prices. Just keeping up with the mortgage generally requires that more than one person works. Then there’s the commutes. When Sue was doing her 90 minute drive each way to get to a client 17 miles away in LA, she didn’t have time or energy to do much of anything after she got home. No doubt millions of others in LA are the same.

So, not only does the garage get cluttered with toys, it’s cluttered because no one has time to clean it out or even to enjoy the yard (if they’re lucky enough to have one.) These are among the reasons Sue and I moved to Connecticut last week. I’m looking out the window at the wooded backyard from our house where the basement alone is bigger than many tract homes in LA and we bought it for what you can’t get a 1 bdr condo in the San Fernando Valley for. And we’ll have time to enjoy it all because the mortgage is tiny and the commutes mercifully uncrowded.

Interesting, isn’t it, how financial considerations can influence so many facets of one’s life? In LA, if you have a steep mortage or rent, you may be forced to drive long distances just to pay for it all, whereas in areas with saner housing prices, things are quite a lot more relaxed.

  • Joe Hartley

    What’s particularly ironic is that until the mid-1970’s, it was easy for the middle-class to buy a decent home in a safe neighborhood on a single income. Didn’t leave a lot of room for extras to fill the garage, but enough to raise a family. Then they stopped building freeways and other transportation without stopping building houses, and behold, thirty some-odd years later, a metropolitan region of several thousand square miles with gridlock.

    On Saturday I drove from Santa Monica to Riverside. No problems getting out of LA, since nobody gets up before 11, as far as I can tell. But as we got closer to Riverside, the traffic got worse and worse, until it simply stopped about 20 miles west of Riverside and stayed stopped for about 45 minutes. Then it was rush hour traffic all the rest of the way. Oh, did I add that this was at 7 am? On a Saturday?

    Coming back in late afternoon, which usually is an easy drive on the weekends, was just as bad to get to donwtown LA. Even on the weekends you can’t get around the traffic anymore.

  • Hope you will have many happy days in Conn. My mother is a New Englander, from Stratford, Conn (though she hasn’t lived there in over 40 yrs. I was raised in Florida).
    I like New Englanders. Hey, there are the original frugal, reduce/reuse greens, whether they called it that or not!

    If you had’t married Sue, though, you probably wouldn’t have moved, right? You have an Internet business so traffic doesn’t affect you as much as it did her.

    Traffic is getting insane on the Westside. My friend who attends LA Greens meetings in the Fairfax district lives in Santa Monica and it has been taking sometimes 2 hrs to get crosstown to attend our 7pm meetings at the Peace Center.

  • I’d thought about moving back for a while. But wanted someone to move back with. Then Sue and I got married the end of 2004!

    The move is easier for me than her because we now live near where I grew up, so I already know where everything is.

    We both brought clients with us and, as it turns out, we’ll be back in LA the 16-20th for Sue to work with one, which means I’ll be driving the lead truck in the LA protest one more time.

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