How Big of a House Do You Really Need?

By Xin Lu on 6 May 2008 65 comments

For my entire life, I have never lived in a place bigger than 1400 square feet. The smallest dwelling I had was a studio less than 400 square feet which I shared with my parents. Because of my experience of living in small homes I think of anything over 2000 square feet as excessive for two to three residents. Today I want to highlight some of the reasons why I prefer smaller abodes.

A small house or apartment has several advantages over giant McMansions. First, it takes a lot less time to clean and maintain so you could have more time to do other things. Second, it uses a lot less energy to heat or cool so you could save money on utility bills and leave less of a carbon footprint. Third, it encourages you to declutter and get rid of your junk because you do not have enough space for it. Finally, the cost of a smaller home is usually less than a large McMansion so you will save money on taxes and insurance. The bottom line is that a smaller home saves you quite a bit of money over an extremely large living space and also wastes less energy.

The challenge of living in a small house is that you really need to simplify your lifestyle. You probably do not have room for a giant sectional, but you could make do with a beanbag. A sprawling gourmet kitchen probably would not fit, but a basic set of stove and oven should suffice for everyday cooking. Having a small abode encourages people to use space efficiently, and thus live more effectively. Myscha wrote a great article about how to do this on Wise Bread.

So how small of a house would you be comfortable with? Personally I feel that I have way more than enough space in a condo of a little over 1000 square feet which I share with my husband. Sometimes I feel that it is too big because there is space that we barely use. I am not sure if I would be fine with living in a 75 square feet house manufactured by a company in California called the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, but I think I would do fine in a place half the size of our current place.

I am curious, do you have too much space in your house? Could you unclutter and downgrade into a smaller living space?

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Guest's picture

I used to be a space snob, sadly. I lived in a big old apartment with a roommate but when I moved across the state, the only apartment/house I could find is a 350sq ft shed. Now, I love it! Cleaning is easy, and I've really got room to spare. I think 200sq ft would probably be fine for just me. 75ft is probably pushing it though.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Before I got married I also shared a 3 bedroom 1200 sqft condo with 2 roommates. What I found is that the living room and dining room were barely used because we mostly liked to hang out in our own rooms. We used the kitchen, but it was pretty small so each of us used probably 300 square feet of the place. A lot of extra space in big houses are just collecting dust and it really is a waste.

Guest's picture

I have to admit that I like my big house. It's just me and my dog in an 1800 square foot house. For most of my adult live I lived in less than 800 square feet, but I bought this place about three years ago. I enjoy having a really nice guest room with a king-size bed when family comes to stay. I enjoy having a nice dining room for dinner parties. And I really like having an office for all my books and papers. I like to close the door to my office at the end of the day and not have to look at my work or my bills when I'm relaxing in my living room.

Yes, it's more than I probably NEED, but I enjoy every inch of my house.

Guest's picture

thanks greenish! your comment made me feel not so bad. I am considering getting a big house for just me and my dog. its over 2000 square feet and now that i am able to get a place, i really want to. i have lived in laundry rooms, garages, on couches, in my car (i was a broke college student/homeless before) and now i am really excited on getting a place with SPACE! i feel guilty but yknow. i think i deserve it.

Guest's picture

My husband, two children, and I live in a 3 bedroom 1 bathroom, 1000 square foot duplex. I like that it forces us to simplify and that it takes little time to clean.

The only things I would change are I'd add a second bathroom, more kitchen counter space (we barely have any), and a garage or shed for outside storage.

If we are ever able to buy our own house, I'm not going to look at a huge house. I prefer small.

Guest's picture

This time last year, my husband and I were living in a new construction house that checked in at just over 2000 sq. ft. (not including the additional 930 sq. ft. in the unfinished basement). The "plan" was to stay there forever, have kids, grow old, etc. But, living in the 'burbs, we becaming increasingly frustrated with a lifestyle that chained us to our cars and kept us from ever meeting our neighbors, and there were whole rooms of our house that went unused. Six months ago we sold our house and moved into a 1450 sq. ft. townhome in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown Denver. We share a car, we fill up our gas tank once every two weeks, my husband bikes to work, we have lunch together in a nearby park at least once a week, and a night on the town involves little more than a short walk. We don't miss the extra space, and we could probably get by with something even smaller. But I work from home and needed a dedicated home office, and my husband - a classically trained pianist - needed space for his grand piano.

Guest's picture

hey, i'm a denverite too. i have a 1200 sqft house in old englewood and this is the farthest i've lived outside of denver -- 5 miles! i commute through those suburbs to the south and man, i don't think i could ever live out there.

now if only i can find a job downtown so i don't have to commute by car anymore ...!

Guest's picture

There is an old Japanses saying: "Full Mat, Half Mat, A Fist Full of Rice" which I keep going referring to when images of a grandiose house tempts me.

It translates to: No matter how highborn a King you are or how lowly a peasant, when you are sleeping you take up a full mat, when you are sitting you take up half a mat, and your stomach only holds a fistful of rice...

Guest's picture

We're a family of 5 and we're living in a 1,200 square foot house with a detached garage.

Our master bedroom was the rec-room for the former owners (a childless couple), our youngest kids (age 4 and 8) share a bedroom and the oldest has his own.

We have 2.5 bathrooms, a dining room, a sunroom, a playroom for the kids (which will eventually be a bedroom for the 4 year old - when he's a bit older), a living room, a home office, laundry room, furnace room (with storage space), a small fruit cellar, a small but efficient kitchen... in other words, we have everything we need and then some!

Given the power to change something, I'd make the kitchen slightly larger so we could have the whole family in there while cooking.

I rather like that our house is small enough to keep us somewhat close together but that we all have some space to spread out when we need it.

Guest's picture

I live in a place too big for just me. But I do like living on my own and the place where I live is very nice and I can stay here for as long as I want.

I have thought about moving out into a smaller place, but where I live - Brisbane, Australia - is going through a "housing crisis" and it is hard to find nice places within one's budget.

I am used to living in smaller places and I actually prefer it. It always feels more cozy. And like you said it is easier to heat and clean. Although I live in a townhouse at the moment with 5 half-levels and although I have all that space I tend to only use 3 -4 rooms regularly (kitchen and bathroom included), so heating and cleaning aren't huge issues for me. Most of my time is spent in one room: my bedroom/study.

Guest's picture

When we bought our house we thought we NEEDED a 3 bedroom, so we could have our bedroom and then each have a home office. Well, both of us usually end up working in the living room and hardly ever use our offices which are "catch all" rooms. I closed the vents and the door in mine over the winter so I wouldn't have to heat it. I think we'd be much happier in a small house (even though our house is only about 1200 sq ft). I feel overwhelmed cleaning it and we don't simplify because it's easier to just put clutter in the basement.

Our next house will be much smaller. Sometimes we day dream about living in a restored old Airstream. I can't imaging living in a McMansion. It just doesn't seem appealing to me.

Guest's picture

My fiance and I bought an 841 sqft house last fall and it's so heartening to hear of families with kids living in houses not much larger than ours, because we hope to stay here awhile, even with kids...maybe finish up the attic or something.

I feel silly sometimes telling people how small our house is, but we love it, and it's just the right amount of space! Luckily we have an attic and basement for storage as well.

Guest's picture

I moved from a 500ft apartment downtown to a 1700ft house I bought in a close by neighborhood that some of my friends lived in. I do miss my old apartment sometimes. Living so close to restaurants and bars made nightlife easy and fun. I do spend extra on utilities now.

There have been some great benefits moving out to a bigger space though. I now rent a room out to a friend, and now feel much less lonely. It also makes the mortgage payment the same as my old rent payment was. We also have another spare room that friends crash in when they come to visit. We've also rented this out to people we knew who were between places. That's brought in a little more cash too.

The biggest benefit has been throwing parties. That's helped make life a lot more fun.

If I were to move again through I might try to find a smaller place. I do want to live simply. But it's really nice to live with other people.

Guest's picture

My husband and I moved our two kids, two dogs, and two cats into a smaller house two years ago - the deed states that we have 1100 sq feet of living space. We have three small-ish bedrooms, a fourth bedroom that we're using as a weight room, 1 1/2 baths, and an open-floor plan for the kitchen, dining room, and living room. We also have a small laundry room and two crawlspaces, but no basement.

It's been difficult at times to find space for everything, but it is definitely teaching us to use what little available space we have wisely. I no longer feel the urge to stop at a yard sale for that awesome antique bureau, because I know I simply have no place to put it. I recently posted on my blog about this very topic.

I'm grateful for what we have, but I also like having some elbow room. I guess I'll just have to wait until the kids to go to college! :)

Guest's picture
Rob O.

We're in a very modest-sized home and find it very sufficient. It's older and smaller than many of our friends' homes, but the advantage we have is that our payments are very low so we have enough money leftover to do lots of fixups. As a result, our house is much nicer inside than you'd ever give it credit for on the outside. Now granted, we might not ever be able to quite recoup these renovation expenses if we sold the house, but then again, we didn't do the upgrades for the sake of resale value - and we have no plans to relocate.

Guest's picture

Well said! Many of the environmental and economical issues our country faces right now can find their way back to the demand for oversized living spaces.
The first home we owned was a boat; not one of those fancy floating homes you see, but a boat. A very old boat. I'd estimate our living space was no more than 60 sqft. Two burner propane stove, undercounter fridge, the head -well thank goodness we aren't tall! The shower was on the back deck enclosed in canvas. Three of us (2 adults & a baby) lived there. We now proudly own a 1000 sqft house that at its peak has been home to 4 humans, 3 dogs, 5 cats, and several goldfish. Two bedrooms, one bath. Plenty big for us, luxurious compared to the boat!

Guest's picture

It's not the square footage--it's the layout and storage space that really matters. I have lived in a trailer with a huge amount of storage, and big houses with much less. Life in the trailer was actually easier. I like my 1100 square foot house now because it has a bedroom and bath at one end of the house and my bedroom and bath at the other end. That way, when people come to stay, we don't trip over each other. I recently visited my daughter, who lives in a 3300 square foot home with her husband and child; it seemed to me that their space was less functional than mine.

Guest's picture


Great post - I've thought about this topic a lot recently. As a Professional Organizer I discovered that generally the more space people had the more disorganized they were. Our stuff expands to fill space, so if we have rooms we don't use much, they become dumping grounds for things. Having the space allows us to become lazy about sorting through it.

I used to live in a 1000 sq ft house and sometimes thought it was too small for me alone.

Now I live in a 200sq ft apartment with my boyfriend and the only downside is the poorly designed kitchen. I would like one more room for guests and books, but for all the money we save on the smaller space, it's worth the inconvenience.

Because our cost of living expenses are so low with this small space, I'm able to work only a few hours a week which allows me to focus on my writing. A larger house would me having to work more and follow my dreams less.


Guest's picture

360 sq feet, for several years I had a roommate (me in the living room, them in the bedroom, no common area other than the kitchen), which essentially meant I was living in a 9x12 room. In that room I had: Queen bed, floor lamp, end table, couch, 2 bookcases, 1 small entertainment center thing and a small standing armoire (sp?).

Now I live with my gf in the same apartment, having a living room again is glorious!

Guest's picture

We have had everything from 2500 sq ft homes to 700 sq ft (plus sort of finished basement). It really has more to do with how the space is used. Our current place is just under 2000 sq feet but it feels much larger because the space is used better.

I see so many McCastle houses where people have huge rooms with nothing in them or totally empty finished basements. They can barely afford the house and can't even afford to furnish it all.

Guest's picture

We are six in a 1200 sq foot home. Two daughters (ages 9 and 3) share a bedroom and our sons (ages 6 and 1) have their room. There is a small (main) bathroom between their rooms and our master bedroom has its own bathroom.

We finished an area of the basement but the space typically is not counted as "living space" because of the way deeds are written. One area is the kids playroom, the other is my crafting room. Our intention is to finish off a bathroom in the basement and have an emergency exit added so my eldest can have some privacy in her teen year. I have a 7 year difference between my sister and myself- I know my eldest-- she will need the privacy from a sister 6 years younger. She will have the room until college then the elder boy will move in thru his high school years. When eldest daughter comes hoem from college, she can bunk in the main playroom area (which will be a family room by then).

Having a small house means planning its evolutions and knowing your family's needs. And weeding out junk frequently.

Guest's picture

It's true ... I have a 6,400 sq. foot McMansion and we spend $130 a week having it cleaned (But, we did make $7 million in 7 years, so I guess it's all relative).

The KEY is to determine how much house you can AFFORD:

Hope this helps ...


Philip Brewer's picture


Although there are plenty of people out there with more house than they can afford (whole subprime crisis thing, really), there are also plenty of people out there with less house than they can afford, because they've realized that they don't need or want more.

I think a lot of people find themselves moving to bigger and bigger houses because they perceive limits in their current house--and then limits in the next house after that.  Faced with one of these, the easiest way to imagine fixing it is to add some space dedicated to whatever was missing.  I think a lot of those limits are more preceived than real, though. For every family that really needs a media room, there are families out there with big dining rooms who eat every meal in the living room or the kitchen.

Before figuring out how much house you can afford, I suggest you start by figuring out how much house you really need. The first step would be to look at where you live now and figure out what limits you're running into.  Then think about whether they'd be best solved with more space, or if some other kinds of changes would be better.

Guest's picture

I agree that you do not need a big house. But I would have to say I want to live in a big house. Big houses are just more appealing.

Guest's picture

I'd rather the buy the biggest house I can find in my price range, here's why. Two examples from what I've been looking at.

Small Condo (800 sq. feet) 180,000 = $225 per square foot.

1400 square foot house for $180,000 = $128 per square foot.

The larger house is going to appreciate faster and be easier to sell.

The biggest problem I have is that all the new houses near me have teeny tiny living rooms. I don't need 3 bedrooms, I'd much rather have a bigger living room but I guess "cozy" living rooms are in.

Philip Brewer's picture

I'm willing to go out on a limb and speculate that future patterns in home price appreciation will be different than those of the recent past.

I bet that the things that support house prices in the future will be things like the cost of heating (and cooling) and whether there are shops (and bus stations) within walking distance.

If you're buying a house that you might live in for years, it just makes sense to do a quick back-of-the-envelope sketch of what things might look like a few years from now.  Obviously nobody knows the future, but if energy price trends of the next five years look like those of the past 5 years, there might be a lot of people wishing that they'd bought smaller houses closer to town.

Guest's picture

I concur with your appreciation of small spaces. I've been thinking a lot about how much space I really need to be simultaneously comfortable and as green as possible.

In the high desert of Marathon, TX sits a delightfully artistic "experiment" that has outperformed even the designer's wildest dreams. It contains the main house, B&B, ponds and gardens, all made of papercrete blocks.

Papercrete = newspaper, Portland cement, pozzolan (sort of like styrofoam), sand and water. Sort of along the same lines as adobe blocks. Once you plaster over the blocks and paint it, you can't tell the difference.

These blocks are cheap to produce and easy to build with. I'm convinced this is the type of small, eminently affordable house I will build in the near future. I've already produced 100+ blocks in my spare time and they are amazingly strong, yet lightweight.

Check out Eve's Garden:

I'm not affiliated with them in any way; I'm just a huge fan.

Guest's picture
j l

When we got married in 2001, we bought a 1400 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house for the two of us. Six years later, while expecting our second child, we moved into a rented 1100 square foot 2 bedroom end-unit ranch-style town house, cut our utilities and housing payments by half, and simplified our lives more than we could have imagined. We're still in the process of getting rid of stuff to match the downsize, and we are planning on "up-sizing" again once our debts are paid off, but when we do buy another home, it will be as small or smaller and better organized than our previous residence, even though our family size has doubled (and may increase more still).

Looking at the tiny houses you linked to, they are definitely not designed for people with kids. But even with small children (mine are 3y and 3mo), you can get by with a lot less than most people think. One of the first things people asked when we said we were downsizing was, "where will the baby's crib go?" People thought we were nuts when we replied, "She won't have a crib; she'll sleep with us." When she's old enough to sleep through the night, she'll get her brother's old crib and a corner of his room. But until then, we're all happier and better rested without the extra clutter.

Guest's picture

I can't get enough space. We live in an 1800 sq foot single story ranch, which seems like a lot of space. But we have a 4 year old, 3 year old, 1 year old, and a baby on the way. On rainy days with all the kids playing inside it is never enough space.

I am happy that they have some room to run around in the house and I really can't imagine them cooped up in a space half the size of what we have now - which is the house we lived in until the 2nd child was born.

Guest's picture

Great topic! We retired about 2 years ago from the military. Being vagabonds for years, we wanted a HOME. We knew we wanted about 2000 sq ft, a workshop, place for a garden --- you know, more room than we had to have (if possible) but room to enjoy it and do all the things we generally could not.

We made a list of priorities. We scrutinized it for weeks before we started home shopping. We prayed about it. Then, it happened. We had a 4000 sq. ft. home put in our path in the city we wanted to move to and more or less the rest is history. The house was way larger than we needed or wanted. It was $59 a square foot!!! We asked ourselves "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS HOUSE?" We had it inspected by the best inspector we could find and literally, the things that needed attention were less than $100.

Our offer went through. Our loan went through and here we sit with a really nice home that we look at as our bonus retirement fund. The plan is to live here for about 10 years, do a few upgrades and then sell it to get our retirement fund in our hands. It is not our only retirement fund!

This place is 3 stories, 5 bdrms, 3.5 baths, in-ground swimming pool, 3 acres of land, a huge workshop, a storage building, a storm shelter, and more.

Additionally, we are in an area NOT touched by the mortgage problems, real estate problems and our equity is growing in a great home in a great location.

I dream of having a maid but I keep it up myself. It is our dream home,vacation home all rolled into one. We love it and we are happy to just sit on the back patio or lie in the pool and thank God for blessing us while we are young enough to enjoy it.

We are blessed beyond our wildest dreams. It is not a mansion to others but it is to us.

Guest's picture

For us, downsizing had nothing to do with what we could afford - and our smaller townhome with a better location cost $200K more (and will appreciate more rapidly) than the large homes in the suburbs. Just because you *can* buy a large house doesn't mean you *should* - we were cognizant not only of the amount of space we needed, but the impact our space would have on our community and environment. Many things people call "needs" are actually "wants."

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

I agree, the hubby and I could afford to rent a bigger house, but there is really no need for it.  It's also interesting that older homes built in the 40s to 60s are usually smaller than the ones built in the 80s.  It's sort of related to the trends of consumerism and anti-materialsm I talked about in my previous article about Yawns.

Guest's picture

We are planning on moving in a few years the things we want in a new home are vastly different than where we are. We want a more dense neighborhood so walking is easier. We want it near decent public transit, preferably light rail. We want work, school, shopping and entertainment close by or close by public transit.
We do want a yard but just enough to have outdoor space some usable garden space, room for one of those swim in place pools and some sort of deck or porch.
Big house, big yard and that kind of thing are just not on the list.
We are just hoping there are enough people still buying into the more-more-more mentality when we get ready to move to find a buyer for a house out in the burbs.

Guest's picture

We were fortunate enough to buy our small (1,200 sq.ft. with an additional 200 sq.ft.attached garage/laundry room/home office) last year.

We rented for three years before we bought it and love the neighborhood. We got a great deal because the previous owner didn't have to do any renovations aside from replacing the roof.

We have three bedrooms, ranging in size from medium to tiny, one and a half bathrooms, a small living room and small-ish kitchen/dining area.

I love our house, it was built in the 60's and I love that it doesn't take long to clean. It needs a lot of work in order to be "perfect" but it's more than livable and I feel lucky to have been able to buy it when we did.

Otherwise we'd be forced out of this neighborhood and perhaps out of Austin.

There are four of us, me, my husband and twin almost-three year olds. Sometimes it feels crowded, but that's because we spend most of our time in the dining/living room areas. We use our rooms mostly for sleeping, my husband has his own room and the boys have their room with all of their toys/clothes/beds, etc. in them but sleep with me in my room.

I've thought before that we "needed" more space but probably because it was an inadequacy thing: comparing myself to more "successful" people.

We have no debt aside from our mortgage and our house will definitely need to evolve as our boys grow into gigantic teenagers but we'll add on as needed.

I love our huge yard and one day we'll enclose the back patio maybe raise a few chickens and hopefully have a studio for my work.

We moved here from a huge rent-controlled house in Berkeley, CA so the transition was tough but I like having to pare down my belongings into just the things that I actually love and use. Before, when every inch was clogged with stuff I never could access it all anyway.

I know it's tempting to go bigger with everything when you make more money: cars, houses, etc. but we are trying really hard to live below our means slightly.

Guest's picture

Even the people who bought McMansions enjoy a cozy living space. One of the newer fads in my area has been (and I am not making this up) having a kitchenette in the master suite so as to keep the gourmet kitchen clean.

It's like having an efficiency apartment inside your McMansion!

Then again, pergo floors, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances (pergograniteel) are a real pain to keep clean....

Guest's picture

Wow, I had no idea there were so many others in smaller homes. We currently live in a 1500 sq ft house with two kids and a dog. It feels so tiny! We just bought a 3400 sq ft house and I'm already thinking we should have gone bigger. It's not a status thing - I really do get depressed in smaller, confined living spaces. Cozy is not a good thing for me.

Guest's picture

One thing that bother me about the "Sustainability" and "Green" push is the short-sightedness of the message. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of appliances using less energy, using less water, etc., but I don't care how high your LEED rating is or how many Energy Star appliances you have, if your house takes up more than 30% of the lot (garage included), the house is too big and/or the lot too small. For that matter, any impervious surface that takes up 30-35% of the lot is bad (that includes sidewalks, paved driveways, etc.)

I don't want a big house, but it is so hard to find a small house with a small footprint. Most small houses are one story, and I want a two-story house so I can have some room but not take up so much land I can't have trees around me.

Guest's picture
Cindy M

Where I'm living now is something I can manage myself, a 2-bedroom brick, 1-story with oversized attached garage, a "plat" home, maybe 1200 ft (?)decent neighborhood, right on the busline (great since I got rid of my car), price was right for me, paid $75,900 for it. I'm divorced, no kids. The layout of my house is open, and I love that. I like things uncluttered, the fewer knick-knacks to clean, the better. The smaller bedroom is my office; I work from home. The other bedroom is large. I definitely love my space. I'm on a busy street corner and have an oversized front lawn. I truly enjoy taking care of what's "mine" and would never be keen on living in a small space again unless I was physically unable to take care of it or pay to have it done.

Guest's picture

We're lucky in the US. Many of us have the opportunity to live in a roomy home if we choose. Not so lucky for people around the world. I'm amazed at how little of "their own" space people can live in.

I'm really grateful for the option.


Guest's picture

I have two friends: one with 8 children who live in a 1300 square foot house; one with 13 children who live in a 1000 square foot home. I have 2300 square feet and only six children. It's a challenge. My friends have huge yards where their children spend the majority of their time. I live in a suburbian subdivision with a small yard. If given a choice, I'd much prefer the small, uncluttered house full of love and a BIG yard.

We moved up to this house from a 900 square foot apartment that we had until child number six was born, though, so I am well aware of the small-living challenges!

Guest's picture

But I also dream about having children and LOTS of dogs, so I don't think it's going to happen. We live in a 900sqft apt now and it feels just right for 2 of us + 1 dog, even a tiny bit too big. But kids and more pets change everything. When we eventually buy a house we want it to be small, we believe in siblings sharing bedrooms! But I still have a little wish of having a Tumbleweed house in the backyard as a guest cottage. :) This is a great topic! I also agree with greener pastures - it's amazing to think that so many of the world's families all share one room/shelter together. I guess the kids learn the birds & the bees a lot sooner this way...

Guest's picture

All else being equal, smaller houses are cheaper to heat and cool.

All else is rarely equal. Newer homes tend to be bigger, but they're also able to be _much_ more energy efficient with modern HVAC systems, insulation and materials. A 2,500 sf LEED certified house is cheaper to heat than a 1,200 sf victorian. The most energy efficient way to go is to find a 1,000 SF home of modern construction or retrofit the heck out of an old home, but good luck...all the new houses in my city are hayoooooge and some things are PRICEY to do to an older home.

Factor in some money saving activities that require space, and it can skew things even more. I wouldn't have room for all my tools and spare materials if I didn't have a fair amount of storage space, but I certainly save a lot of money by doing my own car and home repairs. Not to mention the homebrewing equipment, room to store stuff bought in bulk, room for our own washer and dryer and other stuff that we didn't have room for in our 400sf apartment.

That said, having low intensity of use space is dumb and wasteful.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Heh, what does Hayoooooge mean?

Guest's picture

Looks like "huge" drawn out really long for emphasis--maybe with a cowboy drawl. (8

Guest's picture

We've always lived small (between 800-1100 sf) for $$ reasons, but it helped me to realize I'm happy living on top of my family. I don't like one bathroom when everyone needs to brush their teeth and the tiny kitchen stinks at Thanksgiving. Let's not even get into what it's like to have two grown people with multiple wardrobes (military, field, workout, office, casual - and that's just the man of the house) sharing a single old-school closet! I'd like to fit more people around my dining room table too. Luckily, we live in a mild climate and can eat outside much of the time.

I know (and like) my neighbors. It is easier to clean this tiny box, but it looks messy with less effort. ;-) I like knowing where my kids are and being able to hear every thing that happens. I hope our next house will be bigger (or at least have better storage and plumbed facilities). But I don't see it as a vast expanse.

Guest's picture
Northern Colorado Native

I bought my home 10 years ago because it has both an attached, oversized 2-car garage AND a detached, oversized 2-car garage. My then-husband used the detached garage as his art studio. As he was a non-contributing liability of a partner (my bad choice in men), the house remains mine. I have 4 bedrooms, 3 baths on 2 levels. The basement is like a home in itself, with its own bath, living room, office, bedroom, and kitchen. I have about 2500 square feet in living space, plus a total of four garage spaces and work space. I'm every man's dream! LOL!

It is way too much house and property for me (the lot is 16,500+ square feet and is mostly in therapy after life with a disfunctional, starving artist.

BUT! I have the world's most fabulous, wonderful neighbors! It is like living with a family of choice, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. And, now that I'm not supporting another adult, I can easily afford to own it and maintain it. As a matter of fact, I couldn't buy something smaller for what my monthly mortgage payment is on this place.

Guest's picture

I think it all depends on how you plan to use your space. We have 2400 sq. feet: 2 adults, 2 100-pound dogs, twin 1-year olds, and a toddler. We bought an 80 year old home and have renovated it--it is PERFECT for entertaining since the rooms are very large. We happen to be people who entertain a lot and tend to fill whatever space we're in. We wanted a house that had a dining room big enough for our big table (seats 12 easily; we regularly have 10 people for dinner). Our home is used for church gatherings and all sorts of things. Our big space has also been great fun for the kids--they run and cavort all over the place. We could get by with less, but big, open space definitely has its uses. And, we've helped recycle an older home! So, I say, get whatever space you can afford and will use.

Guest's picture

I currently own a 2700+ square foot house. It's me, my wife, our son, and 2 dogs. We have a huge gameroom for our son and his friends, a gym, an office for me, and a guest bedroom. Sure it's bigger than we "need". But at the same time it has everything we want, so that home is a great place to be. If we have friends / family over, we're not bumping shoulders the whole time - everyone has plenty of space.

So I don't regret having a fairly good sized house. That being said, if I lived alone ( no wife / kid / dogs ) I'd likely be one of those crazies with the 110 square foot homes.

Guest's picture

Within the last few decades, I've noticed a phenomenon that seems to affect empty nesters. I've seen these couples buy even more house than they had before because these mega-mansions have more amenities. The reason for this is they think that their children and grandchildren will come and VISIT LONGER if there's plenty of room & entertainment for them. This can include backyard in-ground swimming pools (with water slides,etc,) playrooms with plenty of video games and a big screen TV. They can also hold large family gatherings at the Holidays every year. Plenty of room for overnight company. And, yes, some people live there because they 'can' or because they want to 'show off'. Maybe people think that if they can't offer their kids and grandkids all these attractions, they'll never come over or maybe cut their visits very short. I personally know 3 different couples (with grown children) who live in McMansions for these very reasons.
I'd like to hear other opinions on this. Thanks

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu inlaws actually live in a house that's just..humongous.  Both of their children are grown and out of the house, but they do have a lot of family gatherings and church events that take place at their house.  They sort of want to downsize but then again they have had their house for 15+ years.  It is useful when all the cousins go over and the kids jump in the pool and have a lot of fun I guess.  It is a waste the rest of the times when it is just this one couple in a 5 bedroom house.  I guess since they can afford it with ease it is fine.  Though I do think people who upgrade into bigger McMansions might be just throwing money away if most of the space isn't used much.

Guest's picture

i live in a normal house but i would rather live in a small house. I could live in a bathroom! haha sleep in the tub.

Guest's picture

I have 2 homes one that is 2100 sf which is considered large in Hawaii and the other is 540sf which can be considered small in Hawaii. I let my youngest daughter and her family stay in the bigger house, 4 people and my wife and I stay in the smaller 540sf house. This might seem small but the house is a 2 bedroom, with kitchen and a bath. The lot size is 5000sf big enough for my grandkids to play ball and yet not too big. The house is old but it is across from the beach with the mountains behind. So when we are outside having a drink it feels oh so big.

Guest's picture

It would appear that small is relative in terms of expectations. 1200 sq ft is small?? my partner is 6ft 8 and i 5ft 10, we have 3 children and 2 large dogs. Our cottage is approx 750 sq ft and we are only just feeling like we need a bit more space. Some people are spoiled!!

Guest's picture

My wife and I share a 4500 sq. ft. house (not counting the basement and 3 car garage) and love every inch. Lots of space to roam and a kitchen to die for. Entertaining is a joy, and we especially like our pool table room with a tournament size table. My favorite is the home theater I installed in the basement with a 12' screen. Really makes movies come to life! I grew up in a 900 sq. ft. house with 1 bath and 6 people, I like large MUCH better!

Guest's picture

I was thinking about this very question when getting back from a friends place. I was glad to see the comments on this link.

Since I live in a large and expensive city McMansions are reserved for the uber rich. I think most middle income Londoners would share a 2 bedroom apartment of somewhere between 50sq meters and 70sq meters (500 sq ft to 800 sq ft).

Over the last 15 years, my wife and I have always lived in cities: US, Australia, UK and have been restricted by affordability. We have therefore lived in appartments between 500sq feet to 1,000sq ft.

We currently live in central London and now own two apartments one on top of the other (we loved the first so much we didn't want to move). The first (2 bedrooms) about 700 sq ft and the other about 550sq ft (single bed). This gave us maximum flexibility as a childless couple. Renting or putting friends/family up if needed. Now with our first child we will use the one bed apartment as a "granny flat". I appreciate our approach has been unconventional but it has made the whole process of acquiring our home a whole lot more affordable and with the least hassle with all the perks of having the amenities of a great city at our door step.

From reading all the other comments above and looking at my own usage, I think a family home of somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 sq feet would be needed for a family in a modern city environment. Otherwise our 700 sq ft is just great for the two of us as it has the outside space and accebility to shops/restaurants and transport.

Guest's picture

I like the idea of very small homes, and have looked into the Tumbleweed homes even, but in the end I know it wont work. Me and my fiance are looking to buy or build our first home together and I know that probably anything under 2,000 square feet won't work. We have pets; cats, dogs and parrots. Though it's really the bird cages that are bulky, if I just had cats I could probably survive in a couple hundred square feet. I also need bookshelf space for my ample library I have built over the years. An art/dance studio is a must and my fiance wants his own office. And since we plan on children we need at least a three bedroom house if not more. So in the end, even though I look at small abodes and dream of minimalism, it's just not meant to be, at least not in this lifetime. On the other hand, I don't plan on getting anything too large. I want to find the perfect space, perfectly functional, without feeling claustrophobic or cluttered, with room for our family to grow.

Guest's picture

If I lived alone, I would live in that teeny tiny house, it would be just perfect for me, as long as i had a place to sit, cook, sleep and a shower what more would I need.
The problems are two fold I dont live by myself and zoning bylaws here in canada wont permit you to live a tiny lifestyle, I believe the minumum is 800 sq feet, which in comparison to the tiny house is a mansion. Too bad they have such laws because I think for hubby and me anywhere from 400 to 650 would be far big enough.
I know a couple who wanting to avoid a building permit built a place 10 by 10 and love it, i think for two that would be too small for me but who knows
we are in the process of downsizing right now and we will be looking for something much smaller than our current 1500 sq foot home.
once you eliminate all the unneceassary clutter from your life it is amazing to realize just how little space you need to be comfortable.

Guest's picture
Anne H

When we first met I moved to a small studio in the same building as my boyfriend. It was 1/3 the space I had. I had also lived in a converted single car garage so I knew I could handle the smaller space. We then moved in to one space. Since then we've married and lived in spaces we felt were too big and not one yet we felt too small. We could easily afford a McMansion but have come to realize that one of the things that makes the little luxuries of the hotel so special is that they are at the hotel. I wouldn't want birthday cake every day.

In place of that we've used the money elsewhere which has brought us a whole other type of reward. Meanwhile the unMcMansion properties we own are easy to rent and have much lower utilities, although a couple are downtown and have higher taxes. We don't compare to our friends who are tied to McMansions and praying that they will be able to find a millionaire to buy it when they are ready to sell.

This works out well for our personalities and hopefully for the earth. It does take some personal convictions to ignore the peer pressure but we've found these lesser is better choices have also helped us in finding good friends. Those who are not so easily impressed by our material items.

Guest's picture

thanks very much for the info. I was struggling to make a decision to or not to build a big fancy house. I have three girls and a big house can be ok for now, but later when the girls have grown and are out of the house for which ever will come first - school or marriage , i will be left with a lot of space which i would have to maintain but do not need or use. I think this article gave me the answer. Thanks again.

Guest's picture

We have 3 adults, 1 child, 2 cats, and a Labrador living in a 920 sq. ft. home, and we're adding another adult! It's a bit tight at times, but we manage. (3 bedroom, living room, eat-in kitchen, 1 full bath, and a half basement) We really need more cabinet space in the kitchen, and more storage throughout. If we fix those simple problems we can live quite comfortably.

Guest's picture

I agree, but I did want to mention... I'm not sure exactly how much square footage I would be pleased with but I could make due with a smaller home with ONE living room, but a large kitchen! I believe a decent kitchen matters with my lifestyle. Storage beyond a couple of closets and a pantry is BAD! The more storage space given, the more I will want to just throw in there. I want enough space to keep myself clutter free and make it feel like a real, comfy home. =)

Guest's picture

I prefer smaller live quarters but I love having a large outdoor space. Larger lots usually tend to have a larger house. I have to comprise.

Guest's picture

It depends. If one dont have any guests (including family members) that is in the area or people sleeping over, then space is a luxury and many may be happy living in a closet sized space. Me personally even by myself, I probably need a little more space than some that can live in a one room space with three or four other people. One, I like my privacy, so apartments out of the question as it seems most do not have walls thick enough to prevent noise from tranfering back and forth. I dont want to disturb the neighbors and I dont want them to disturb me. Two, while a bean bag would suffice for me to chill, I can imagine when guest or other people live there and only enough space for a bean bag would not be sufficient. Not to mention I doubt grandma would appreciate getting stuck in a bean bag everytime she want to sit down. Three, my bathroom is my bathroom. Guest should be supplied with their own bathroom and for sleeping over their own bedroom. Thus, about 3 bedroom 2 bath is minimum or about 1000 at the absolute min. 2,000 being ideal space that I actually use personally and the occassional guest with no live in. Anything above that is extra gravy and for guest. And garage is a must. Sunlight and evironment is not too kind to paint jobs and the extra saving doing without is quickly done in by value lost in vehicle and paint jobs. Been in small spaces before and do not ever EVER plan on going back. Some people can deal with it just fine, but I'm not one of them. I beleive in living to be comfortable not to sacrifice comfort just to look down on those that actually enjoy comfort. And what is comfortable to me is a bit more space than a closet and privacy and space that I call my own. I did the room mate thing, another thing I will never do again especially in small places.

Guest's picture

Bigger isn't always better! I'm divorced, no kids, and it's just me and my little dog. Therefore, I don't need nor do I want a large home. My little 1200 sq. ft., 2 bedroom, 2 bath home in a quaint, picturesque, low crime waterside town in a very good school district, is perfect for me. I had the option of purchasing a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home for less money in the next town over, but the school district has been ranked very low, the crime rate is very high, and there are not enough police officers to protect its citizens due to budget cuts. As a result, if you call the police, it may take a while for them to show up...if they show up at all. In my town, if the police are needed, their response time is excellent. My home was a short sale, so I was able to purchase it in good condition for an excellent price a few years ago. Presently, my home, due to the location (as well as the homes in this town in general), is worth more than the larger homes in the the town next door with the high crime. Another plus side to buying a short sale is that my mortgage is now cheaper than rent.

Guest's picture

My family of 3 soon to be 4 lives in just over 700 square feet. Though not without its challenges, one of our favorite realities is that it takes us just an hour to give it a good thorough cleaning. One important thing is to prioritize which spaces you want larger. For us, a spacious kitchen and living room trump us having a large bedroom. Thankfully, we do have some basement space where we keep our bikes and camping gear.
When our kids are a bit older we think having enough space to create a little more privacy would be nice, but don't plan to ever reach over 1400.