Our homes have changed, becoming more complicated but also more significant in our lives. We spend more time at home even as our dwellings have become the latest battleground against the invasion of privacy.
And while more of us live alone, we welcome animals, family members and strangers to stay in our houses.
“Mi casa, su casa” if you bark or rent my house
We are spending more time in our homes, as everything comes to us. Cinema at home entertains us, food delivery feeds us and the shopping mall sits in the living room as we order clothes that are delivered to our home.
The number of people working at home has doubled since 2005. The number of companies that offer work-at-home options have grown 40 percent in the past five years. Add independent contractors to the mix and at-home workers will someday outnumber those stuck in an office, zapped by excruciating commutes.
Our homes still protect us from the outside world
Imagine you leave your journal on the train and it’s snatched by a stranger. Even if your personal scrawls damage your reputation, your privacy has not been violated. That requires a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” which would apply if the journal was not in a public place but at your home.
Once inside our homes, the legal concept “intrusion of solitude” protects us further. If a woman with binoculars climbs a ladder in her driveway and watches you strip naked in your bedroom? Not cool, and definitely illegal.
The police face a much harder time getting a warrant to search your home than accessing your cell phone records. Thanks to the search and seizure provision in the 4th Amendment of the Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons [and] houses … against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
An estimated 40 percent of American households keep at least one gun in the house. Twenty four states have special self-defense laws — “stand your ground” statutes — when one is threatened by a home intruder.
Property crimes in most places are at record lows. But statistically, the biggest threat to your safety may be your spouse killing you or harming you in your house. And most people commit suicide at home.
Big Brother is your Nest thermostat
Our homes are being invaded by bots, not humans.
Most households today own a slew of digital devices tracking their every move. Home security products, digital thermostats, Google Home, video cameras, Alexa, cell phones and digital TVs, to name a few.
They listen to us, record our actions, collect our data and send it to who knows whom.
Smart homes are the sneakiest snoops ever. And we open the door to these cunning house Invaders.
It’s a murky trend when you consider home ranks second only to our inner-most thoughts when it comes to the importance of privacy.
“Home alone” not a bad thing, unless you’re a homebody
Trends sometimes appear to collide. More people live alone — 110 million adults are single — but more older people are doubling up with friends. The average household size shrank 25 percent in the last 60 years, but extended families living together is trending with adult children staying home longer. And despite shrinking household size, the average new home today is 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973.
Economics explain where and how we live, but a shift in values is rattling old ways as well. Consider: fewer people getting married and a rise in “individualism.”
“Rather than devaluing family, people who live alone are redefining it in ways that are more expansive and more inclusive,” wrote Harvard Phd Bella DePaulo for Psychology Today. “Many are actually not physically isolated, even though they live alone. Most are not socially isolated, either.”
An article in the Observer dug up a study that concluded “single women living alone had lower BMIs, waist sizes, and risk associated with smoking and alcohol than their married counterparts.”
Owning a home is still the preferred way we live. Except for a modest uptick or slight decline during an economic boom or recession, the home ownership rate has hovered around 65 percent for 60 years.
So, is home where the heart is? Of course, that is where we freely cry, love full-on and face heartbreak. It is home sweet home, as well, much sweeter than most other places in our busy lives.