We greet the news of June’s uptick in new housing starts in the US like thirsty desert wanderers seeing the first shimmer of water on the horizon. Could this be the long-awaited turning point in a year’s worth of economic bad news? Have we finally found a midsummer’s moment of relief after the unremitting fiscal nightmares of the past months? If only it could be so easy. Hard as we might try to turn a blind eye to the continued avalanche of foreclosures and empty malls, and to point to the historical record showing that it’s always burgeoning housing construction that leads us out of recessions, to do so now is to forfeit what might turn out to be our last and best chance to cut into the diseased marrow of the ailing beast and apply the soothing salve of common sense. We cannot be healed by turning back to the unsustainable lifestyles and practices that have brought us to this precipice. We need to think differently about everything, and the fresh thoughts need to start close to home. In fact, let’s think about our homes themselves. When we cling to those encouraging signs of tiny green shoots in the housing numbers, let’s be quite explicit that what we’re really talking about here is not just a big pile of lumber, drywall, and human labor that converts to cash. We’re talking about our homes. We are talking about our most intimate personal possessions—the walls that we use to enclose our families, the canvas on which we paint the stories of our lives, our places of comfort, succor, refuge and happiness. How sad that at some point along the line we’ve lost sight of the real importance of all of this and have been taught to treat our domestic spaces as nothing more than a form of hard currency. In so many American cities we retreat to bloated suburban houses where we cut ourselves off from our neighbors, our workplaces, our public spaces and our services all in the crazed desire to encase ourselves in the protective armor of financial security. We treat our homes less as domiciles and more as debentures. We leave our children with no choices other than to sit and stare at screens while waiting for someone to drive them to the mall, and then we wonder to ourselves why they just don’t seem at all interested in the greater world. In these, the most important spaces of our lives, we need to get beyond square foot equations in which we make brute declarations of our success in life by demonstrating how much of a one-acre lot we can fill with unnecessary and expensive interior spaces. We need to make a mental migration to a place where we can think very carefully about where we are, what kinds of beings we are, and what we need to move forward into a happy and sustainable way of life. Is that gigantic mine shaft foyer going to do it? The two-storey great room? The manicured lawn? As a psychologist interested in how people use spaces, I find it remarkable how little of the conversation I hear about home spaces has to do with anything other than size – how to get more space, how to make things look even bigger than they are, how to add on, how to move up the scale. Much rarer are the conversations we really need to have about how our home spaces ought to work—how the organization of a home, a neighborhood, or a city might be re-thought to be something other than a conspicuous display of wealth and instead to be something that nurtures our spirits, helps us to forge community, and encourages our children to be the curious and autonomous explorers of spaces and places that some of us can remember being when we were children. At this point in our history, we have a better understanding of how the design of spaces influences human behavior than at any previous point. We can try to fix a sick animal by applying an ever larger number of loosely-fitting band-aids, or we can take the time to understand the disease and engage in the research, the soul-searching and the dialogue that might eventually effect a radical cure. As with so many things, the important work begins at home.