House Sizes Shrink Along With Consumer Priorities

After years of conspicuous consumption when it came to our homes and what we put in them, Americans are rethinking their priorities in the recession-induced Age of Austerity and paring down their possessions and what they spend.

We won't be living in cold-water yurts, of course, but some recent numbers suggest that shifting consumer priorities will have a profound impact not only on the real estate market and homeownership but all the industries associated with housing.

Today we're buying less furniture and washing machines and other durable home items. We're living in smaller houses with less overall square footage. Our remodeling projects are smaller and we like energy-efficient and sustainable products more than, say, a new AC unit that comes in multiple colors.

Are we just being practical (and cheap) in a scary economy, or are Americans finally coming around to the small-is-beautiful mentality?