Welcome to my site on residential architecture, landscape, interior design, products and real estate in Canada. I'm Steven Fudge, a trained housing conceptualist and veteran realtor, who is fascinated with the multi-faceted dynamics of Canadian shelter.
Today's article was originally posted on my Toronto real estate sales and marketing site Urbaneer.com, but it's extremely topical and relevant to many urban or semi-urban locations across Canada. The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting Canadians to shift, reframe, or reinvent their definition and approach to domesticity; how we inhabit our home, utilize our property, and invest in sustainable approaches and practices is evolving. Even bigger, how we approach daily life - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually - is being tested, cultivated, embraced in different ways; one movement - 'hipsteading' - is all about the opportunity to create a different model of living in an era of health, wellness, and well-being. I want to thank you in advance for letting me bring this domestic trend to your attention.
So! We're six months into a global pandemic and, as we live and breathe with gratitude (I certainly do), the risk and trauma of COVID-19 have altered the way many of us live our lives. To minimize exposure to those we love and respect, we've scaled back our engagements and gatherings, we maintain social distance from one another, and we are committed to wearing masks whenever we are in public spaces.
More fundamentally, the pandemic has shifted many things surrounding the framework of our lives. For example, COVID-19 have caused us to collectively rethink how we operate our long term care homes and shift our attention to multi-generational living, prompted employees to reevaluate how and where they work, and even address the fundamentals of how we design our built environment, which I assess in Exploring COVID-19, Urban Planning And Toronto Real Estate.
Given my passion for all matters of shelter, I recently wrote in How COVID-19 Will Likely Change How We Design Our Homes about how our considerations of living vulnerable to on-going waves of the virus will shift to focus on domestic spaces which are both more comfortable, effective and protective in our altered lives. Certain changes could include the return of the air-locked foyer, a dedicated office space independently accessible from our living quarters, a self-contained suite for isolating and recuperating, and green space is increasingly coveted. As we recognized the need for distance and privacy due to health concerns, there's been a boost in the desire to have your own front door and outdoor space, and a decline in the attraction of shared spaces, including lobbies, common areas, and elevators.
As the ways in which we do business change (I'm anticipating more consultancies and contract work), I expect there will be increased demand for live/work properties (which is easier said than done in Toronto, thanks to restrictive bylaws). This shift may signal the need to adapt these to suit our next trend. Click here to read my post, The Need And Demand For Live/Work Properties In Toronto.
It’s not just where we are living that we are processing, however. In many cases - in light of our experiences during this pandemic - many people are changing their perspective on how we are living. And for a growing number of Canadians who have realized the rat race of always being five minutes late is unhealthy, there's been a movement towards seeking a simpler more honest life that can take root in the land and our immediate communities.
What Is Hipsteading?
"Hipsteading" is a modern take on the traditional concept of homesteading; it's about getting back to 'the land'. If you had been born into a rural community in the olden-time days (before technology), you would have probably led this lifestyle simply because of geography and circumstance. Farmers, for example, are in a position to play an active role in cultivating their lifestyle - quite literally! "Hipsteaders" on the other hand, belong to a movement largely followed by urban dwellers who choose to take a step back from their frenetic pre-COVID lifestyles to seek pleasure and peace in a more simple way of living. For many, this means embracing more at-home tasks - anything from gardening to baking to DIY projects. This group largely shares their accomplishments (i.e. home projects, culinary accomplishments, and victory gardens) with Instagram-style photos and posts, as they collectively celebrate what they consider a return to the essentials, and revel in the satisfaction that comes with hands-on activities. In a nutshell, this group is rejecting processed fast food, the implied status of $6 Starbucks coffee beverages, and designer threads and objects for Value Village items which can be upcycled.
Hipsteading isn’t just about baking or gardening, but rather encompasses a wide gamut of DIY activities, from canning to sewing to farming to knitting to home renovation projects. And this group is spending money that they might have directed towards dining out and other urban lifestyle activities pre-COVID. Whether they've been financially impacted by the pandemic is not always the situation, but in decompressing during lockdown they've funnelled their dollars into their domestic lives, with many committing to a life of voluntary simplicity.
This is also impacting consumer behaviour, as hipsteaders seek out products and services that support their lifestyle endeavours, like gardening equipment, small appliances, cooking implements, seeds and flowers and materials for their living environment.
Big box DIY giants Home Depot and Lowes are reaping in profits as home project interest has exploded. During the pandemic, you were hard-pressed to find a bread maker, mixer, pressure cooker or other similar supplies. While these are generally back in stock now, there is no denying the newfound popularity of small appliances. Craft stores, online craft marketplaces, and their goods - glitter, glue, yarn, etc. - have soared in popularity!
This Bloomberg article looks at some of the recent data, as well as a few at-home trends that have arisen during the pandemic and may last: crafting, baking, gardening and growing, home fitness, DIY hair treatments, victory food gardens, and more. Click here to read more: "Covid-19 Is Turning Us All Into Hipsteaders".
Similarly, this QZ article,"The 'Hipsteader' And Other New Consumer Species In The Age Of Coronavirus", looks at some of the new consumer profiles that have emerged in the wake of our pandemic. They examine changes in group behaviour as a result of quarantine, including the hipsteader movement.
Why is hipsteading so gratifying and why did this movement explode during quarantine? It’s the relationship between cause and effect and the satisfaction of having control over your movement. Think about it; when the world was upside down this spring, how gratifying would it have been to be able to get hands-on, digging in the dirt, swinging the hammer, or kneading that dough, knowing that your immediate actions will control the outcome of your process (i.e. you will yield a product)? It continues to be a way for us to feel a sense of control again.
Simple, but soothing; you can see why this caught on and why it is enduring as we adjust to living within COVID-19. Plus, with more people working at home, and less time spent commuting, there is generally more time to devote to these simple pleasures.
Hipsteading For Urbanites
It’s important to note that this is not really true “homesteading”; it might appear that on the surface that much of what constitutes urban living - and the qualities it perpetuates - are counterintuitive to the movement (i.e. high density, more pollution, commuting, self-serving attitudes, fewer interpersonal connections, etc.). But that isn’t always the case.
And although many hipsteaders are physically moving to less dense areas - even rural - areas to take part in farming or to live more closely with nature, hipsteading can easily be adopted in urban centres as well. It’s about a mindset.
This amusing article The Joy of Imaginary Homesteading in Los Angeles talks about one woman’s experience with baking and growing herbs in her garage as she reaps joy from these simple but rewarding tasks in her urban home.
So how does one fuse hipsteader ideals with urban living? It's simpler than you think!
To start, make a decision to scale back and reduce your consumerism. Embrace the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra, especially when it comes to your home (hello upcycling!); wherever you can, make things from scratch- like food, clothing, soap and more. Commit to supporting the local movement in every way that you can; buy food that is in season and get to know your local farmers. A lot of the hipsteading mentality is about environmental stewardship.
If your domestic space comprises a balcony, terrace, or a yard as opposed to a sprawling ranch in the country, you can still be sustainable! Set up a windowsill garden, or have a small garden on your balcony with as many veggies, fruits and herbs as you are able. Use a rainwater barrel. Hang clothes to dry. Compost as much waste as you can.
Many hipsteader activities happen within your own walls, so it doesn’t matter where you live, but how you live. If you are really embracing a hipsteader attitude, make sure that your home is well-suited to your activities (i.e. is your kitchen suitable for baking and cooking from scratch? Do you have room to store preserves etc.?).
If you have a yard and are interested in things like having a chicken coop or other animals to provide food, you should check with local bylaws before taking that on,
What Hipsteading Means For Toronto Real Estate & The Urbanite Lifestyle
Like how COVID-19 has changed our work and home environments, so will COVID-19 most likely change our attitudes towards consumerism, simpler lifestyle and even where we live. Realtors have certainly seen a huge uptick in interest from people seeking rural, suburban or off-grid properties. With telework becoming a norm now, people are moving further afield, without the need to commute. But make sure you've got sufficient internet bandwidth before you buy that dwelling!
Similarly, with international travel waning for the foreseeable future and increasing gravitation towards staycations, the secondary home market is growing. Semi-rural areas with smaller charming towns - like Prince Edward County and Niagara-on-the-Lake - are becoming increasingly sought-after.
Home gardening (and the space to do it in) will become more coveted. Additionally, being part of a community - where food sharing, potlucks, and 'know-your-neighbour'-type campaigns are becoming commonplace - and will be more desirable.
As people gravitate towards minimalism- things like bartering and pay-it-forward altruism will be more engrained in communities. There will likely be more multi-generational and co-ownership arrangements as people cluster together for support socially.
We will become more self-sufficient at home, which might extend to having in-house self-sufficient power (solar, wind, generators, and wood stoves). And for those with the cash to spend, safe rooms or panic rooms will provide extra security and peace of mind - as will having fully stocked emergency kits (Dear Urbaneer: How Can I Prepare My Home For Emergencies?).
I have a whole series on Urbaneer.com dedicated to living with Healthy Homes. Check it out!
~ Posted by Steven Fudge, the purveyor of houseporn.ca and proprietor of Urbaneer.com, a division of Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage.