Updated on 02.02.09

Bigger Dreams, Smaller Houses

Trent Hamm

A few years ago, there was a very widely circulated statistic from the National Association of Home Builders about the increase in home sizes over the last sixty years. According to their numbers, the average American home grew from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,434 square feet in 2005.

I grew up in a home that measured about 850 feet of floor space. It was a three bedroom house, though one of the bedrooms was extremely small. Growing up, I shared a bedroom with both of my older brothers for several years, then eventually inherited that room as my own as the older ones moved out.

We currently live in a home that’s very close to 2,000 square feet. It’s far larger than the home I grew up in – it has four bedrooms, for one. Our two children share a bedroom together – there’s also the master bedroom, an office, and a guest room.

Both houses have a kitchen, a living area, a dining area. Both houses have plenty of room for two adults and two kids to live.

What’s really the difference between the two situations? What makes up the added value in that extra 1,200 square feet?

In the end, it’s mostly used for storage.

I think I realized this most clearly over the past weekend, when it seemed that time and time again, all four of us wound up congregated in the same room. We spent a lot of the day in our living room, playing with toys, reading books, and enjoying the relative freedom that a family weekend brings.

On an average day together, we spend most of our time congregated in either the family room or the living room (which could easily be one room). At nap time, both kids fall asleep in a single bedroom, and we sleep in a second bedroom. We use the kitchen and the dining room for meals. As for the rest? The guest bedroom is often unoccupied. I could do most of my writing at a small corner desk in the family room instead of using an office. The laundry room could basically just take part of the space used for the entryway. We could eliminate all but one of the bathrooms without a real crisis.

And suddenly we’re living in a 1,000 square foot home.

Does this mean I regret this house purchase, and that I’m now looking to downgrade to a smaller place? Not at all. I like the area in which we live, where there are children the same age as my son (or within a year or two) in virtually every direction. Last summer, my kids spent almost every evening and good chunks of every day running around in the yard with other children their age – well-mannered children who are also being raised to be intellectually curious. We have a nice big yard that borders on a field and also on other yards, creating a huge green space for our children (and other children) to play together on.

What I did learn is quite simple, though: the square footage shouldn’t be the primary factor when choosing a house. Although there are times when it feels good to have room to spread out, most of the space is completely unused most of the time (except for storage of things we probably don’t really need to keep). Even more important, choosing a lower square footage usually means much less expense over the long haul – you don’t really lose living space, but you do lose storage space, which means that you can’t accumulate as much stuff, which thus means you’ve got less money invested in material items that are just tossed into storage.

One thing’s for sure – as my wife and I consider these factors and re-work the plans for our retirement home, the plans are slowly growing smaller and smaller.

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  1. Travis @ CMM says:

    My wife and I bought a 1600 square foot house upon getting married. Right now the 2 spare bedrooms are only being used for storage, and the guest bathroom gets used maybe once a day.

    The thing is, its still not big enough in our minds. We’d like more storage space as the attic isn’t really accessible, and we’d love to have a bigger master bath. We figure once we start having kids we’ll be begging for more space.

  2. Rob says:

    I agree… I’ve never really understood the fascination with big houses. We picked a relatively medium-sized, 1,600 square foot house in the suburbs. Back in 2006, these were considered “starter homes”, but with the housing market crash and no sign of recovery, it’s looking more like a “forever home” to me.

    A lot of our 20-something friends have huge homes, but I certainly don’t think they’re necessary to raise anything more than two kids. We have a vegetable garden, when it’s not underwater, and an herb garden, so I consider our smaller house and 1/3rd of an acre a step towards sustainability on our part.

  3. plonkee says:

    Interestingly, over the same time frame in the UK, the size of newly built homes has shrunk. My own house is old and about 650 sq ft but it is not usefully laid out – good design reduces the amount of space you need.

  4. K says:

    I love living in a smaller home. We have just under 1800 sq. feet of space that we USE. There are no empty rooms. Cleaning takes no time at all, and our utility bills are low.

    I would strongly encourage anyone to look at how they will utilize the space in a house, and not pay much attention to the total square footage alone.

  5. Frugal CPA says:

    With a move in the near future, my wife and I are uber happy we didn’t buy a bigger house than our 1100 sq. foot current home. With no kids, it would have just been an investment with hopes of appreciation, which would have turned out terribly for us.

    I hope we can keep the perspective you described when we have kids and crave extra space.

  6. I agree with Plonkee on the floor layout/design. It is more critical than the square footage in many cases. My own house (built in the early 50s) is about 900 sf, and I ended up removing an interior wall to get more out of the floor plan. There is almost no storage in the form of closets, as Trent notes.

  7. Elisa@Thrive says:

    I am a fan of maximum yard, minimum house.

    Though, the folks at Tiny House Design seem to take this concept to the extremes.

    I really like the spherical tree house.

    Even if you don’t want a house as small as these, it’s inspiring to see how much you can do with a negligible amount of space.

  8. JB says:

    We are discussing how long we can stay in our 1200 sq ft home- we bought it over a year ago mostly for the 1 acre of land it’s sitting on rather than the size of the house. We’ve got 2 small bathrooms & 3 bedrooms, one of which is as you described in your childhood home- tiny & not usable as a bedroom, maybe only a nursery. Kids will probably start being added to our family in the next 2 years, so that will start filling the house with people- but then, if the kids share a room and spend lots of time outside, we’ve got plenty of room for years to come.

    It’s all in perspective and priorities.

  9. Michael says:

    Nice post, Trent. Good stuff.

    We recently went from a 2000sf to 900sf and haven’t really noticed the difference as much as we expected.

    You hit the highlights–room for storage, guests, etc.

    We’ve definitely learned that big houses aren’t necessary.

    Smaller houses can be easier to maintain, and cheaper to run (heat/cool/etc.).

  10. liv says:

    Please tell me you’re going to give your kids their own rooms when they’re older…

  11. Curt says:

    Excellent article. But the additional space for storage and a home office is hard to live without these days.

  12. Chelsea says:

    My husband and I live in a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment in graduate student housing at a major university. Even though the apartments have been renovated since then, they were built after right WWII, and the size reflects that. I have no idea how many square feet it is, but it’s small. I have to walk sideways to get out of bed without hitting the dresser small. There are three major perks to this, though.

    1.It takes absolutely no time to give it a thorough cleaning.

    2.It’s super cheap.

    3.It keeps us from accumulating too much stuff. My very generous mother in law would like to gift us with everything we could possibly ever hope to need one day, and the size of the apartment is the perfect excuse to say no, there’s no room for anything else. And there isn’t.

  13. cv says:

    I’d be interested to see whether your perspective changes at all as your kids get older. They’ll eventually want separate bedrooms since they’re opposite genders. Teenagers bringing friends over to hang out might make the house feel somewhat less oversized, and when they start playing soccer you might be glad of the extra entryway space.

    That said, I agree that many people have way more space than they need, and I love living in a smaller space – I’m in a maybe 650 sq. ft. 1-bedroom apartment right now. I’ll move into something a bit larger when I have kids, but I hope to stay on the small side.

  14. Rob says:

    I would like to note that I think my utility bills are quite high, but it more has to do with the age of the house than anything else – ours was built in 1969. Heating last month was $270. Electric, $90 (but I think that was the fault of the electric company for completely blowing their estimate.)

    I’m continuing to do as much as I can to cut down our consumption, but there are inexplicable giant holes in the house thanks to previous remodeling. In addition, the paper holding the fiberglass together is just starting to fall apart after 40 years.

    Any attempts to add/replace insulation would have a payback period of well over 10 years, so it’s almost not worth it to do the full overhaul the house needs.

  15. Lynnae says:

    We just moved from a 1000 square foot duplex to an 1800 square foot home, and we love the additional space! But I wouldn’t want to go any bigger.

    I think small places seem more cramped as the kids get older. When we moved into the duplex, our youngest was a year old, and our oldest was 5. Now they’re 6 and 11, and 1000 square feet seemed really small, though I’ll admit the layout of the place wasn’t the greatest.

    Our new house seems really huge. We use every square inch, though. I’d hate to clean anything bigger than this. I think this is probably our forever home.

  16. !wanda says:

    Yeah, your kids are going to want separate bedrooms as they grow older. I always had my own bedroom as a child, and it was really, really nice to be able to have my own belongings (stuff in common space is never really yours) and shut everything out (even if those feelings are just illusions). That psychological space could have been achieved with a much smaller physical space, though.
    It makes sense to have a small retirement home. As people become physically frail, taking care of a large home and eventually just moving around becomes more taxing. (Although I guess you’ll want a big bathroom, wide hallways, and a guest bedroom, though.) Most people in the US want to stay in their homes as possible, it seems, and having a manageable home can help with that.

  17. Camille says:

    All good points — but you may find that the kids will want more of their own space by the time they hit their teens. (This may be part of Nature’s Plan. If the house isn’t too big, it motivates the teens to move out.)

  18. Maha says:

    I love living in a larger home and I agree, layout is key. We have 5 bedrooms: one for each child, our bedroom and each with an office. We turned the formal living room/dining room into the play room. I love that the kids can run around in the house and have races when the weather is too hot or too cold to go outside. I don’t believe in wasting space, even for storage, unless it’s a closet. Every room in our house is lived in every day. One thing I appreciate about having a bigger home is that if I can’t go outside to be with the kids, they always have somewhere to play indoors or the back yard, where I can see them. This isn’t an issue our parents or grandparents had to worry about as much as we do today, I think. As for separate rooms for kids, our kids (both boys) love it: They have “sleepovers” every now and then.

  19. Trina says:

    The age and number of children makes a difference, as does how the house space is used. We have a large house (3800 sf – gasp) and we’ve used most of the space daily for years. We have four children, we homeschool, and my husband works from his office (included in the square footage) over our garage. So, we’re all home A LOT.

    We’re also thrifty, so I save outgrown clothing, sports equipment, toys, etc. for the youngest child. We also store large quantities of food in the basement. I don’t consider this storage over-the-top, although I wouldn’t buy a large home just for storage space. I declutter often.

    While the space has been wonderful as our kids have grown larger, we will someday downsize to a much smaller home. However, we’ll always need a space for adult children and their families to visit, as this is more important to us than expensive vacations in retirement.

    It’s a bit odd that I’m by far the most frugal person in my social circle and also have the largest house and family. But we love our priorities!

  20. 444 says:

    We live in a 1,250 or 1,300 s.f. apartment, and there are six of us, and really, we do not use all of the space efficiently and we are not too cramped. Granted, as the kids get older they will protest bunking three to one bedroom (by contrast the oldest gets his own room) and dividing up two small bedrooms between four kids will not work anymore, so we will move on eventually. But for young and school-age children, this is enough space. A garage, basement, or attic for storage would really help, though. Originally we paid extra for off-site storage till we realized what an unnecessary money-drain that was and brought all or stuff in here, and we’re still working on paring it down.

  21. Torrilin says:

    In a house that has more than two adult sized humans, you want two toilets and two sinks available. It is difficult to keep things sanitary in case of illness otherwise. It can be done, but it’s pretty tough to maintain good quarantine.

    In a house that contains more than two adult sized humans, and one of the adults is diabetic, celiac, Crohn’s, or is over about 70, it goes past want for sanitary and gets into need. Older adults often have difficulty with incontinence, and digestive system disorders can cause similar trouble. It is very stressful for other members of the household if one member lays claim to the only bathroom for several hours out of the day… and they have no physical option to do otherwise.

    It’s also critical to have at least one bathroom be handicapped accessible. You never *want* someone to break a leg or hurt a knee, but they’re common injuries, so it is wise to be prepared.

  22. Brad says:

    I grew up with my parents and sister in a 1400 sqft house which had more than enough room for us from the age of 5 to 18. We had no issues. We had a large back yard which helped.

  23. aa says:

    In most cases, the official number of footage doesn’t mean much. For ex: A 1500-ft ranch can have a furnished basement with additional rooms and bathrooms that can expand the living space from 1500-ft to 3000-ft!

  24. Anastasia says:

    I am not sure why it matters that you are now planning for a smaller house at retirement. Does that mean you are lowering the amount of money you are contributing to your retirement account? It seems to me that it makes more sense to plan for a generous retirement, at least within reason. Then if you want a smaller house, you’ll just have money to spare.

  25. Scotty says:

    I can’t help to comment about the standards of size as it relates to ones country.

    Although I’ve never lived in Europe for an extended period of time, the US standard of a ‘large home’ is definitely different that most of the rest of the world. In Europe, it seems that my friends’ who live in “large” places are typically <1000 sqft condos or apartments, often shared. The idea of a relatively average middle class person living in a 2000+ sqft home definitely seems like a different concept outside N. America. I’dof like to hear what some TSD’s European readers think about this.

    Personally, I’m from Canada, which is relatively close to the U.S., but still a different way of living and slightly different mentality. With the big downturn in the US housing market, and even before to an extent, you can easily throw around the idea of buying a 2000 sqft home without batting an eye-lash. Trent has interesting viewpoints because he lives in a relatively rural part of the country where you can find an abundance of very reasonably priced, huge houses. Even here in Canada, a 1700 sqft home is considered a ‘starter home’ (albeit in every major urban area even a fairly small 2 bedroom condo is very expensive.

    I just thought this post was interesting, due to the extremely cheap housing market in the U.S. And of course, most things in N. America (particularly the US) are “big” our idea of a ‘small’ car is laughable compared to many parts of the world. I also find it interesting that a big part of the Economic crash is due to housing foreclosures – people buying houses that they ultimately can’t afford. I know tons of people from the states and there definitely seems to be a mentality that leans towards bigger houses. The very concept of owning a 2000+ sqft home on an average, middle class income is unthinkable in many parts of the world.

  26. Diane says:

    TEENAGERS! Amen to those who mentioned that things change as the kids get older. 5 teenagers hanging out take up LOTS of room. And they don’t want to hang out in the LR with mom & dad all the time.

    We live with 2 adults & 2 boys 17 & 22 in a house thats 1800sf under roof (includes back porch & 1 car garage). 3 Bedrooms – 2 small & l master, greatroom that flows into the kitchen & 2 baths.

    No way could we park a car in the garage, because the workout/sports equipment has taken over that space.

    The 2 adults both work at home, so we DO need a home office room, which we don’t have. Our work equipment takes up too much space for the current house.

    Bottom line – plan for more space with teenagers living at home. The 2 adults would be fine in this space once the kids are gone – maybe even in something a bit smaller.

  27. guinness416 says:

    I just spent a couple of weeks at my parents’ place (in Ireland). They now have quite a large house, but as you said spend ALL their time in one room … but it’s a large room, very well insulated and energy efficient, with plenty of space for a big dining table, a couple of very comfy sofas, a great sound system, large window leading into the kitchen, large glass doors leading on to the garden, etc etc. They relax in this room, they entertain family & friends there, do any work taken home at the dining table, the whole lot. This extension cost them a lot of money but was well worth it.

    I on the other hand have a very small house but with pretty tiny rooms. I like my house and the small rooms are fine for our lifestyle – there are only two of us and we work long hours and travel a lot. But if I ever ease back or move closer to family again I would be looking for a place with a huge space similar to my folks’ house and small ancillary rooms.

  28. The main concern, no matter the square footage of the house, is whether the layout and design fits your needs.

    I live in a 1,000 square foot ranch. My home is far more functional for everyday family use than the 1,000 square foot townhouse that one of my friends lives in.

  29. Jessica says:

    I live with my husband and two small children in a house that is barely 1000 sq ft. When we bought we traded square fottage for yard and thus have a lovely half acre on the end of a dead end street with preserved land behind us. I love living in a small house.

    We are now in the planning process of adding on. We currently have only one very small bathroom – not pleasant considering I have two daughters – and practically no privacy or door for the master bedroom. But the addition will pretty much fix just those two problems without adding too much space. When I tell people that we are going to add on but only about 250 sq ft, they think we’re crazy.

    I think a large part of our collective debt and overconsumption stems from the fact we think bigger is better. Small homes provide comfort and happiness without sacrificing our wallets or the environment. I would never “trade-up” in the sense of a bigger house!

  30. I’m a realtor. I couldn’t agree with you more. Especially your comment about the guest room. I’m in Austin, TX. In Texas we have very high property taxes instead of income tax. Taxes are figured by square footage. And most people have a guest for just a week or so all year. For what someone pays to get that extra space and then keep up with the taxes on it they’d be able to put their guests in a great hotel. Unless you have lots of guests or long-term visitors (relatives from far away that stay for months), it just doesn’t make sense to keep a room vacant.

  31. I think a similar trend we’ve seen much of over the recent years, but is now in decline is the “exurbs” movement whereby people are buying monster homes 50 miles from the workplace since they can afford more home there, but sacrifice time, energy/decpreciation costs and more for the bigger home. Now that energy’s come down, perhaps not as big a deterrent, but I think it’s still something people overlook when taking the plunge on the 3000 square footer in the country.

  32. Lise says:

    the average American home grew from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,434 square feet in 2005.

    I believe this statistic is specific to new constructions, and does not accurately reflect all houses.

    Other statistics paint a clearer picture: 60% of families today own a home that is more than 25 years old, and nearly a quarter own one that is more than 50 years old. Also the median family house size has increased by only a half a room between 1975 and 1999 – usually a bathroom or a bedroom.

    I understand what you’re trying to say, Trent, but I think you’re feeding the “only thing wrong with the U.S. is affluenza!” flames, when the truth of the matter is that while housing is much more expensive, for most middle-class folks, we’re not getting much more.

    This is something that Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia cover in detail in The Two-Income Trap – if you haven’t read that, I really encourage you to do so. I review the first part of it here:

  33. Aryn says:

    I think this is an interesting phenomenon. I grew up in a 2500 sf house, and it was a fine size for us – most of the rooms did actually get used fairly often. It was also in a suburb built in the early 70s.

    Now I’m looking for a home in the LA area, where most of the central portions were built in the 1920s-1950s. You’re lucky if you break 1200 sf for a three-bedroom.

    Because that’s the norm, that’s what we base our expectations on when we look for a house that will suit our needs. I’m sure if we were looking somewhere where larger houses were the norm, we’d expect to buy a bigger house.

  34. I think you are overlooking a few key points. Size of children as other people pointed out.

    As a few others have mentioned also outside space matters. We live in a 950 sqft condo with our two toddler boys and it is cramped. My tiny 2 foot desk in the great room doesn’t cut it for the time I need to be on the computer and I have no room for files.

    Especially in the winter, spending all day everyday in the same 12 x 15 room is a recipe for child disaster. Can we say cabin fever?

    We don’t have any outside space so to speak, and a nice back yard would help a lot. The inside space would feel much bigger. I think if you upped the space to about 1500-1600sqft I might be able to agree with you.

    Right now we really desire more space.

  35. Jan Dillaha says:

    I agree with the space issue.

    Consider that in addition to the extra space that we know use to keep stuff our parents didn’t have, we also have an industry that didn’t exist 40 years ago. Storage units where we store stuff we cannot part with but we use so infrequently that we are willing to pay to store it and to drive and visit/retrieve/rearrange it when necessary.

    As for kids sharing rooms, I think that it goes a long way toward teaching them to be considerate of others. While that lesson can be painful for the parents to teach, it is an essential lesson.

  36. CPA Kevin says:

    We’re around 800 sq ft now, but that doesn’t include a partially finished basement – so probably really 1,000. But we only have 2 bedrooms and a tiny kitchen.

    We’re shooting for 3 bedrooms and an open kitchen/family room floorplan in our next home. I’m not concerned that much with sq footage (2,000 would seem like a mansion to me), just that it’s a good design and functional. I like to cook, so I’d like a larger kitchen. The size of bedrooms really doesn’t bother me since all we do is sleep there for the most part. We would like a large yard since we have 2 big dogs and one kid w/more hopefully on the way.

    Our biggest problem is finding a nice-looking, well built house that isn’t in cookie-cutter subdivisions of the last 20+ years. Hopefully when more homes go up for sale in spring we’ll have better luck.

  37. Michael says:

    1. America is a more spacious country. It’s natural for us to build bigger houses. Listen to our folk songs about open spaces. Those were written by immigrants from Europe. Why should the descendants of the ones who stayed home feel superior now?
    2. Brits fell for the housing bubble worse than we did. Ever seen the awful McMansions in Spain for expats?
    3. Bigger houses should be better houses, but as size has increased quality has decreased. That’s the main problem.

  38. CPA Kevin says:

    I forgot to add that I recently heard on the radio that the average sq ft of new homes decreased for the first time in 2008. So maybe the McMansion trend is reversing?

  39. Andy says:

    Worth noting that average home sizes dropped from 1900 to 1950.

  40. tambo says:

    We recently moved from a semi-rural 1560sq ft house on an acre to a 1600sqft Victorian in a teeny town. Although the square footage is similar, and both houses had three bedrooms, in some ways the new house seems bigger, in others it’s smaller. Layout seems to be the big issue – we had an open floor plan but currently have several smallish rooms. Fwiw, we’re already talking remodeling, to streamline and shrink the kitchen, if nothing else. It’s a HUGE room (about 22×22 in an L-shape), but the working area is all broken up with the only decent counter space around the corner away from the stove/fridge/sink. We’re going to block off that L-end and make a streamlined galley kitchen with a large pantry off one side.

    I really think a smallish but well laid-out space is much more functional than a large chopped up one.

  41. EngineerMom says:

    Reading through the comments, I’ve noticed a strong theme – people making comments on space utilization as opposed to space quantity.

    My husband and I live in a 700-sqft 1-BR apartment with our 7-month-old son. We were fine with the space when it was just the two of us, but with a child, it has become very difficult. We live on the top floor of our building (3 flights of stairs to climb while carrying a 25-lb child is NOT fun!), have to walk about 3 blocks to get to some green space (not a big deal in the summer, a VERY big deal when it’s below 0F!), and no land of our own.

    My parents managed to live with two children (3 for the last 9 months, as my brother was born before we moved), one dog, one cat, and the two of them, in a 600-sqft 2-BR apartment for 5 years while my dad was in grad school. The second bedroom made a huge amount of difference, as did the general layout of the apartment plus the fact that it was a ground-floor with a front door AND a back door that both opened onto yard space that we could plant.

    I think my husband and I could much better tolerate 750 sqft if it had a second bedroom, was ground-level, and we had our own little patch of green.

    We plan to move into a 2-BR this summer and buy a house within 5 years, hopefully a small (1000-1800) 3-BR with 1.5 baths (a bathroom with a tub, and another with just a toilet and sink). We’d like it to have a basement that we can refinish to make a sort of rec room / play room for our kids (we plan to have a total of 4).

    The size isn’t as much of an issue, though, as the location and the house’s storage capabilities. I love the fact that in our apartment we have 4 closets – a front closet, a linen closet, a bedroom closet, and then another hall closet (same size as the linen closet, but with a rod and single shelf). I would much rather have small-ish bedrooms and good-sized closets.

  42. dennis says:

    for more on this subject, check out the books written by sarah susanka, e.g. The Not So Big House, or her website: http://www.notsobighouse.com/

  43. Melissa says:

    We’ve recently moved from a 1800ish SF house to a 900sf apt. There are only 3 of us and the youngest is 3. It takes me 20 minutes to clean the apartment (SO NICE) But the one thing that I miss more than I ever thought I would is a laundry room. I told my husband yesterday that I’d be willing to give up a couple of feet in the living room so we could have a stackable washer and dryer. And I think we could have one, but the furnace/water heater closet is so poorly laid out that it wastes a big chunk of space.
    We’re looking at houses to buy once our other house sells, and 3 bedrooms and a laundry room are really my only wants. I don’t need/want 1800 SF.

  44. Sweet Em says:

    Yeah – I, the owner of a 850 sf condo agree with this article. We are about to have our second child though, and the one bedroom is what is going to convince us to move. But we’ve set the bar low in terms of square footage and 2-3 bedrooms is all we need for now. Its such a relief not to have to worry about how BIG a house we’ll need.

    To be honest I could fit baby #2 in this house if it weren’t for the two flights of stairs to climb. I’m a wuss.

  45. Meri says:

    I have a 1350 sq. ft. home right now and I really miss my 1050 sq. ft. one I used to have. Someday I’ll go back to that sized home, it was perfect for me.

  46. Courtney says:

    AKA The Not So Big House movement. See also: Susan Susanka.

    I will tell you that my husband and I and his teenage niece whom we adopted and our infant daughter in 600 sq feet with one bathroom (esp. since DBH has IBS) is NOT ENOUGH SPACE. I have a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a livingroom, and a bathroom. Yes, we have a large outdoor lot. Even so. Both my husband and I work from home part time. He reviews video games and movies, and so requires a ginormous media center. So the media center and our computers _are_ the living room. The kitchen is also the entry way into the house, as well as the laundry room, and I will Never do that again – there’s nothing worse than an unexpected visitor and nasty dirty laundry on the floor. The teenager grew up and joined the Navy, and my mother is moving in with us, so we’re buying a manufactured home that is not quite 1800 square feet: 68 feet long by 26 feet wide. It’s cheap (~$67/ft, after “upgrades” like berber carpet throughout, separate entrances and exits for my mom and us, the unfinished attic, air conditioning, maple kitchen cabinets, extra windows…), and significantly better laid out. We’ll have an interior airlock/vestibule which leads to my mom’s part on one side of the hosue and our part on the other side. Her side has a large living room, bedroom, closet, and bathroom (that includes a handicapped accessible shower, her own washer-dryer space, and her own access to the back porch). Our side has a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom, plus access the back porch and the attic. It will be so nice to be able to eat without shouting over the washing machine spinning out, or seeing dirty dishes or dirty laundry.

  47. Kin says:

    Definitely interesting the difference in size between US & Europe.

    Being in Australia we tend on the larger size of homes also, but even so (and I’m converting from sqm here) our current home has 3 bedrooms, and is approx 1400sq feet, happily housing 3 adults and 3 children under 6 years.

    Our previous house was a little larger at 1800sq feet with 4 bedrooms for 2 adults and 2 kids, and two of the bedrooms were unused 90% of the time but we did use both the living areas fairly well.

    We’re currently moving to a new area where housing is much more affordable (on a similar size place to where we are now I could easily save $800 a month in rent without blinking) so we’ve decided to split the difference and get a slightly larger place that is still significantly less than what we’re paying now.

    When it comes time to buy, however, I will be looking down the barrel of 3 teenage girls and elderly parents to consider.4 bedrooms might be a starting point.

  48. NP says:

    I have more space than I actually need, but I do entertain a good bit. Plus my kids have a pretty active social life with friends in and out a lot. They aren’t teens yet, but a pretty big kids. I disdain McMansions or grandiose homes that I see folks moving toward. I agree that the price of air conditioning and heating as well as maintenance and taxes can be more reasonable in a more reasonably sized house. We have a garage that is 1800 SF. We definitely park inside! Plus our kids play out there and it is loaded with stuff that would otherwise go to a storage space (my teacher stuff). It seems that new homes tend to be built on the large size in my neck of the woods, but I predict a change in people’s preferences. I think with the recession coming along, people will elect to build smaller.

  49. STL Mom says:

    I don’t know the square footage of my current home but I know it is smaller than my last house: about 4500 square feet plus a three-car garage.
    That old house was way too big – lots of wasted space, although it was great for parties. The biggest problem is that the huge house allowed us to accumulate too much stuff, and we didn’t get rid of enough of it when we moved. We are still working on decluttering and organizing.
    In my experience, it is easy to go up but hard to go down in size.

  50. imelda says:

    What a great article! My roommate and I have a 2-bedroom with a strange layout that gives us 2 extra rooms. We almost never use those rooms. How often do we really have a guest overnight? Maybe once every couple of months. 95% of the time we are in our bedrooms or the kitchen.

    In response to what others have said, obviously Trent is going to appreciate the extra space–and *especially* the extra bathroom–as his kids get older. And of course his kids, being of different genders, will have separate rooms. But he makes a great point that most of our space is just used for STUFF. Most of which is junk!

  51. urbantux says:

    Great article but I guess I am part of the problem not the solution. We bought our house, all 3044 sqft of it, because it met our wish list of what we wanted. Now we hope to make this a very long relationship with this home. While I think it may be a little to big but it is perfect for us.

  52. tom says:

    Great article. You make a great point, I know a lot of people make it such a huge deal if the washroom is not big enough or the kitchen or one of the rooms. When in reality they should be asking, which rooms they will be using the most.

  53. Gwen says:

    I think your perspective is skewed towards having a small family. When you add a third child into the mix, with a wide range of ages, you’ll have children wanting their own space.

    Also, when I was growing up, we had a smaller house. It was annoying as crap. My parents were always telling us to be quiet and it just sucked.

  54. Kelly says:

    You should never own more house than you can afford to maintain.
    I told this to roofing estimator after our Hurricane last summer,
    when he was surprised that we could meet the deductible to replace our roof and fence after the hurricane , as a lot of potential customers could not !
    We have lived in our ” starter home ” for 25 years now
    Replacing flooring , counters , painting and windows all cost more for larger houses as do taxes and insurance .
    You should never own more house than you can afford to maintain

  55. oneofnine says:

    Great post! We have a 1500 square foot house for myself, hubby and 2 kids. Right now they share a room and I intend to keep them in the same room for several years. I think they will learn valuable lessons from sharing. I work from home, so we have office with a twin bed for guests. It’s full of comfy cushions so the kids can come in an read a book while I’m working, if they like. We knocked down a wall to combine the kitchen and living area, which is awesome. It’s the great big room where we all congregate.

    Our home is significantly smaller than many of the other families we know, but we absolutely love it. The only drawback is that it was built in 1957 and the closets are miniscule. However, I’m even glad for that because it really forces me to keep our posessions at a minimum. Same thing for the kids room; with two kids and all their toys in one room, we really have to stick with the stuff they love and get rid of the rest.

    I see people all the time who move into these gigantic homes and end up feeling weighed down by the extra responsibility. It’s huge to clean, so they hire a housekeeper. There is tons of storage room, so they buy things to fill up the space. Doesn’t make sense to me!

    We use every square inch of our home and don’t plan on moving any time soon. We may eventually close in the carport to create a playroom for the kids, but even that’s not certain. I wouldn’t trade my sweet little house for anything.

  56. oneofnine says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that my hubby is from Brazil and they certainly have different ideas about space there too. A very nice apartment in Rio de Janeiro may have 3 bedrooms, but they’re only about 10×10…not more than 1000 square feet. They raise at least 2-3 kids and are perfectly content with that kind of space. Interesting!

  57. Michelle says:

    We bought our “starter” home about 7 years ago before prices went sky high. We now owe only around $60,000 on it. It is 1230 sq. ft., a three bedroom with two full baths. we have a nice sized front and backyard. Three adults, my husband our 20 year old daughter and I, and our 13 year old son live in it. We do just fine with the space we have and have no intention of ever moving. The only complaint I have is cabinet space in the kitchen, but that’s been easily solved by creating more storage in our large garage. I think, as others point out, the layout of the home makes a big difference. That and, perhaps, the size of the family. Although, I’ve spoken to many elderly people who raised families with 4-6 children in homes comparable to our size.

  58. greg says:

    There is also a cultural element in home sizes. In Paris, where property prices are very high, it is perfectly nopmal for a middle-class family with two kids to live in a 70 square meter (750 sq ft) apartment, and singles on 200 sq ft. Many Parisians just leave their books on the metro (subway) when they are finished reading them, as it would cost a lot to store them at home. Taking into account property prices (5000 Euro/sq meter) in Paris, and the size and capacity of a bookshelf, the extra room needed to store a book costs around 20 Euro. So the total cost of book ownership in Paris is twice the purchase price of the book.

  59. Carmen says:

    I think a city:rural comparison is probably better than a US:Europe one.

    I live in the UK, in a 2500sq ft 4 bedroom home. We are 50 minutes outside London, where hubbie works. We have four reception rooms, an eat-in kitchen and a laundry room. And 2.5 bathrooms. Our lounge is 21 x 19ft. We use most rooms on a daily basis. To be honest, I don’t see the point of having a relaxing lounge cluttered with kids toys if there isn’t the need to do so! Ditto for computers. I could however easily live with less space. My minimal requirements would be a large kitchen/diner, a lounge, 2nd living room (kids & their friends), a laundry/storage room, 3 beds, 2 baths & wc. I would also have all my reception areas roughly the same size, ie a large laundry room where clothing can dry, wet boots, coats and school bags can be kept. So somewhere around the 1500 sq ft mark.

    My sister-in-law lives in a 750 sq ft house in San Francisco with her husband and son. They earn very high salaries and this is the norm amongst their social circle. They would rather live closer to the city than in suburbia, where space is cheaper.

  60. Strabo says:

    “I’dof like to hear what some TSD’s European readers think about this.”

    Well here in Central Europe, 100 sq m (about 1100 sq ft) is considered average for a family house. 150 sq m is really big and anything above is considered a mansion. Flats are usually smaller, 40 sq m (430 sq ft) is a decently sized single flat, 60-70 sq m (650 – 750 sq ft) is usually a “family flat”.

    Mostly these rather small sizes stem from the prices: A average piece of land in the suburbs of cities can cost you easily 100 000 € for about 600 sq m (6 500 sq ft), and 30 000+ € in rural areas. Even a small ready-made house costs you another 100 000 – 200 000 € on top of this, 50 000 – 100 000 € more if you build it with bricks from scratch (but this way you can reduce the costs by DIY).

    Buying a Condo isn’t much cheaper, usually you pay about the price of a house without the land, more for premium areas in cities of course.

  61. Anelly says:

    I like to have the space i need. Not more nor less. But if i wold have to live in a big house with many bedrooms and if i had to stay one night alone in the house i wouldn’t feel some comfortable. I have this feeling since i was only a kid. I guess that’s why i prefer a smaller house…it gives me a security feeling.

  62. SA says:

    Thanks for the articles you have been writing. I do not comment very often but I appreciate the work you put in for us-always thought provoking and forces me to rethink my lifestyle.
    Having to what i refer to as the big house of 2600sq ft in US, we downsized to 700 sq ft here in UK. We moved due to my hubby’s job and it has been a great experience to completely sell everything and start all over again without any help from his company. I may have not had an Expat package that involved big sums of money to move us but that was the exact reason what pushed us to sell it all and rent out our house and move. It was NOT a good experience at first as i did miss all my stuff…but that was what it was…stuff. I learned a lot about my own connections with stuff and realized that change was the best thing our family could have had to not only declutter but to really identify with what is the more important stuff. We packed our 2600sq ft house in 15 boxes and 4 bags and moved and we have not regretted it. Big house to small house and it has been a journey of 2 years of getting used to a new lifestyle. It doesn’t feel like downsizing. Ofcourse we may miss our space and storage but i do enjoy spending more time with my children and i see them more often in a small space as opposed to being divided up in their spaces. We spend more time as a family and honestly the limited space has brought about a newer priorities we didn’t expect. Returning to USA in a few months, we are planning to settle into a space that is not dictated with square footage but rather a space that can be used well. We have less and we are better off for it. I can never shop like we used to few years back. Admittedly, it is not a journey all need to take… but i highly recommend it–quite liberating when you are able to let things go. What you think you cannot live without, you might be surprised but you can.

  63. micki says:

    my son and i live in a one bedroom apt (400 sq ft) over an office that is attached to someone’s house. He has the bedroom and I have a loft bed in the living room. we manage ok except we have a hard time finding a place for all our stuff (which is books- we homeschool – and pantry mostly) I am working on getting it organized and if i ever do, we will have a nice cozy little place where we can even have some friends over (i even have a futon that they could sleep on if necessary). It’s not bad, I wouldn’t do it with more people, except maybe a spouse. It’s quick to clean (except for the disorganization :) and it’s nice. i don’t feel like i’m rattling around in it.

  64. Dave says:

    We had four adults and three kids 47,42,37,27,16,3,2 ) for most of last summer in our 1008sf house three bedroom house, that was a bit much. Teenagers take up a lot of space.

  65. plonkee says:

    @Carmen (#49):
    Wow that’s a huge house for the UK, but then most people don’t live in rural areas perhaps that is a fairer comparison.

    Not many people I know have laundry rooms, nor more than 1.5 bathrooms – but I can see how those things would be great, as would an eat in kitchen. It really all is in how the space is laid out. My own home would be far more functional with a kitchen that was larger than 36 sq ft.

  66. Kevin says:

    I love my house. My wife and I live in a 2600 sq. ft., 4 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom house on a corner lot. We have no children and never plan to have any. We just like having all the space.

    Truth be told, there are rooms in my house I haven’t gone into in months. When we do go into them, it’s just to change the sheets after guests stay over. Still, it’s nice to have the extra bedrooms if friends or family come from far away to visit.

    I love the big kitchen, the functional office, the generous storage space in the basement, the gleaming granite countertops and expanse of cherry hardwood floors, walk-in closet, Jacuzzi Roman tub, the double-garage, the whole thing. We spend a large portion of our lives in our homes, so why not make it as comfortable and enjoyable as we want? It feels so good to come home after a day of work, plop down on my couch in our family room, turn on the fireplace (gas), crank up the surround-sound and watch a Blu-Ray on our 46″ LCD Sharp Aquos. THAT’S living, folks. That’s why we work.

  67. Matt says:

    We have a 2500 sq ft home, with a 1500 sq ft walkout basement ready to finish when we are. It’s just my fiance’ and me for now, with the plan for 2 kids along the way. I wouldn’t trade our home for the world. We work 1/2 hour from home, but there’s no where inside that 1/2 hour that I’d want to live. 1/2 acre lot, hockey-sized pond behind the house, great layout. Sure, the entire upstairs is pretty much closed off right now, but we’re planning for our future :) I’ve lived in an 850 sq ft condo with another person, which was somewhat cramped but adequate… then a 1250 sq ft condo with another person (and also a dog and 2 cats)… and now our 2500 sq ft house. I don’t plan on downsizing (or moving, for that matter) until I’m retired, 30 years from now. Love it love it love it! :)

  68. Charlotte says:

    Interesting article, my husband and I started our married life with a small house around 1200 sq ft, nice mortgage payment and very low utility bills. After our 3rd child was born & I started having dreams that I would open the door in the cellar and there was another whole other section to the house. I obviously took this to mean I felt trapped in the small house. We soon bought a larger house 3300 sq ft but looking back I have some regrets. Our kids easily find a way to disappear into all corners of the house, so there is much less contact, it is impossible to keep clean (takes way more time than our old house) and the utility bills are CRAZY! Additionally one day I was hanging out with one of my teens (we have lived in the bigger house for 11 years) and he says “I really miss our old house” WHAT?!?! I asked why, he said “because it was so bright and cheery and we had awesome rooms” I couldn’t believe it – triple mortgage payments, triple utility and we have less sunshine and less time together – UGH Think twice before moving to a bigger house!

  69. KC says:

    I think your story is similar to many. Even those with bigger homes than yours live in about 1000-1500 sq. ft. My husband and I have a 3600 sq ft house (its complicated why we bought so much house – let’s just say prime location, beautiful home, and we could afford it). Anyway we spend time in our bedroom, living room and media room. Maybe 1000 sq ft. We have an entire floor I haven’t visited in the last few days…seriously – 3 upstairs bedrooms I haven’t set foot in in 3 days.

    I lived with my aunt and uncle when I was just out of college. They had a garage apartment that I lived in and they were in an 8000 sq ft house. They got the house out of bankruptcy and it was gorgeous. If you exclude the garage apartment, which I used every bit of, we mostly spent time in their kitchen and living room. We rarely used the other rooms unless they were entertaining or conducting business. They’ve since downsized – the sheer size of the home was a burden to them.

    I don’t regret having too much house. We do plan to start a family. And we do entertain enough that other rooms will get used. As long as you can easily afford it and you don’t mind having it then a large home is fine. But just be prepared to really “use” a small portion of it.

  70. Saver Queen says:

    I have lived in some tiny homes.
    Growing up, my family lived in a very small house and now, looking back, we wonder how we managed. Sure, we got on each other’s nerves occassionally, but it was a very happy place to live. I think people have gotten used to more. So much more that they think they deserve and NEED to have more space. It’s a requirement.

    Before the age where people become utterly accustomed to having everything they want right NOW, people just made do with less.

    I think that size is also a status symbol and unfortunately people often spend a lot of money going towards what they think other people will approve of, rather than what they really need – or even want!

  71. Nail Head says:

    My two teen daughters share a bedroom. I’ve offered them separate rooms but they stay together. They’re close, but also I think it’s because the bedroom is only used for sleeping and storing their clothes. Sleepovers are in the basement; homework is done in the living room or kitchen; computer access is not in the bedroom. I have asked them not to read in bed because it leads to sleeplessness. The separate rooms offer stands.

  72. Fastoosh says:

    Thirty years ago we moved as a family of six into a house with five bedrooms, giving each teenager a room of his/her own. Over the next few years I watched the teens go one-by-one to college, and not come back. Then the wife went on her way as well, leaving me alone with eleven rooms! Forgot: they also left behind a dog, three cats, and various sedentary spiders, so I was not entirely alone.

  73. Betsy Talbot says:

    When we moved almost 3 years ago we left behind a 3500 square foot house in the Boston suburbs and bought an 1100 square foot townhouse in Seattle. Yes, it took a lot of purging (thank you, Craigslist!), but the freedom of having less stuff and the more active lifestyle made it all worth it. We are now planning for a year-long trip around the world in 18 months (going from 1100 square feet to 1 suitcase each), something that would have never been conceivable when we had so much “stuff.” Less really is more for us.

  74. Marsha says:

    I just bought a house last year, and as a single woman, I ended up buying far more house (sq. footage) than I need. Though I could downsize considerably, there are other factors.

    Resale: tiny houses are tough to sell. Buying a more typical “family home” that’s larger will help me when it’s time to sell.

    Quality and safety: I looked at some smaller homes, but the quality was not good and the neighborhoods weren’t very safe. Of course, quality and safety figure into resale, too.

    I could have gotten a smaller house in a safe neighborhood if I had been willing to buy an older (50+ yrs) home, but I didn’t want to deal with constant repairs.

    My main point is that because a house is [generally?] an investment, there are many more factors than just what size you actually need. Maybe if you know you’re going to live in the same house for decades then resale isn’t a factor – but I don’t know anyone who can count on anything for decades into the future. JMO.

  75. J says:

    We live in a three bedroom, two-bath house with a family of four. It’s a split level and the basement is finished. It’s about 1700 square feet.

    I really wish we had a dedicated, partitioned area to use as an office. I commonly work from home and I can either choose to work in basement and smell the catbox all day while trying to ignore the kids, or try to work upstairs where the kids can pester me while I’m trying to keep a roof over their heads.

    I guess to some extent, the local coffee/pastry shop has become the “office”, with limitless coffee, free wifi and no interruptions.

  76. Karen says:

    My husband and I moved into our 1880s farm house 16 years ago. Fifteen years ago we added a daughter. We have remodeled most of our four bedroom house (and it is continuing!!) into a two bedroom and a storage room. Our two full baths went to a bath and a half. We’ve removed the entryway and moved the basement stairs. We’ve taken out four chimneys, too. Because of the odd shape, the house is not as efficient as most 1800 sf houses, but it’s getting better.

    Now, my husband (7 years older than myself) and I are starting to think about retirement and the maladies of growing older. We are planning to build a new one-level (plus basement) house on our acreage. Thus far, it is around 1400 sf. We plan a smaller spare bedroom, two bath, large pantry and kitchen, smaller living room. It will be handicap accessible. It will be energy efficient. I want less, he wants more – of course. We’ll compromise when it comes time to finance!!

    We will recycle everything we can from the old house into the new house. Then, his plan is to turn the old house’s basement into a fish pond. Hmm…

  77. Marcia says:

    I really enjoy our “retirement” home. It’s a 2BR, 1BA, 1100sf. I’m sure it will feel smaller when my son is a teen. But my family raised 9 kids in a house with one bathroom, that wasn’t a whole lot bigger than our (3 bedrooms). Usually there were only 6 or less kids in the house at a time. Nevermind getting your own room, you rarely even got your own bed.

    Rather than go with a starter, move up, and swap back down, we’re hoping to stay in this one for good.

    In Europe, my MIL shared a room with her brother until she was 12 and he was 17. There wasn’t any other option.

  78. princess_peas says:

    Not just additional stuff kept in storage, but one thing I’ve been thinking over is how much duplicate stuff we have.

    I don’t know the sqft-ages, but the house we used to live in had 2 bedrooms (although one was large and shared with me and my sis), a large bathroom, large sitting room with tv and hifi, and huge kitchen-diner that also housed the computer.

    Our current house has 4 bedrooms (one each now and one converted to a computer room), one of which is ensuite, a main bedroom, a slightly smaller lounge, with separate dining room (a lounge-diner with an archway), a smaller kitchen, small utilitary room, conservatory and integral garage.

    So, a good example of things that get duplicated are clocks. Before we had 5. One in each of the 2 downstairs rooms, one in each of the bedrooms, one on the stairs. (I used to sit at the top of the stairs when I was on the phone. Oddly it was the place with the most privacy.) Now, we have at LEAST 8. One in the lounge, another one in the dining room because you can’t see the lounge one from there, one in the conservatory, one in the kitchen (not counting the one on the cooker), one in each of the three bedrooms and one in the computer room. That’s the minimum. Some rooms have more than one out of choice. We also have one in the hallway, because we didn’t know where else to put it but we don’t need it here. This isn’t counting the garage or my stepdad’s workshop-shed. (I don’t know if there are clocks in either of those places.)

    … I could go on and on about other duplicates.

    Now, we moved coz my mum got married, going from 3 adults (or young adults) to 4, and my stepdad had a lot of duplicate stuff to us anyway so we haven’t shelled out for all of it.

    But the point still remains that somehow we end up needing so much more for bigger houses, that actually we don’t really need at all. And this is not counting all the stuff we have sitting around that we’re not using, something like clocks are used every day.

  79. Moneyblogga says:

    I love my space. With 6 adult people living in my house ~ 4 of them college students (my kids) ~ I need 3000 sq ft. Layout is key. The older 3000 sq ft house I’m moving to next month is the same size as the house I’m leaving BUT the house I’m leaving does not have as functional a layout as the one I’m going to. Even so, when the kids move off to do their own thing, they are still going to come home for the foreseeable future so they have rooms to come home to. The amount paid for the house is also a factor as is the mortgage payment. If you can buy a nice house in a good neighborhood at auction and save $$$, and if the house serves its purpose in being able to accommodate a growing extended family, you may find yourself living in the house forever regardless of its size.

  80. sharon says:

    Interesting post and comments. As so many have said, layout is Key.
    I grew up in in New York city apartment in a 2 bedroom apartment w/ my mom and 2 brothers and it sufficed.
    Husband & I started marriage in a 2 bedroom 700sqft condo that was TOO small (I moved in with only my clothes no furniture) so we moved to a 2400 sq ft townhouse that has wasted space because it’s on 3 levels and the kitchen’s closed off from the rest of the house. We can’t afford a single family house because we live in an expensive part of the country.

    Layout definitely will be the most important criteria in our next move.

  81. Kristen says:

    We live in a small house with our family of six. It’s around 1300 square feet. Our 3 older children share a room and the baby shares a room with us. Our 3rd “bedroom” is an office right now. In a couple of years our daughter (our oldest) will have her own room, when she gets to the point she’s too old to share a room with brothers.

    I am fine with the size of our home except I do like having an office. So we’ll look for a 4 bedroom house next – a bedroom for us, a girl’s room, and a boy’s room, and an office.

    The only really big problem though, is one bathroom. It’s livable – obviously we live here, but I would greatly prefer to have a master bathroom.

  82. JonatsGonats says:

    I’m not from USA.
    Here in my country, a home that has 200sqft is like a dream house already. The poor here have to live with less than 50sqft while having 5-10 people cramped in it.
    I myself live in a home that’s around 50sqft only condo studio type. So I cannot imagine why you guys are complaining about space. I only need a bed, kitchen and a bathroom to survive.

  83. This is a very important post. For those who are wondering what will happen as the kids grow older, here is our story: We moved 6 months ago from a 7,500 sq ft. home with pool, theater, work-out room, 5 bedrooms, 2 offices yada yada…to a 2,100 sq ft home. We have FIVE children, four of whom are teens. Our new home has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. All 5 children share one bathroom. How has it worked out? We are happier here than ever before. The oldest child has her own room, the other four share 2 bedrooms. We changed the formal living room into a study hall with four desks. The bathroom they share is ultra-organized, with each child having personal items and space. The kids now have less stressed parents, live on open greenspace and in a fantastic neighborhood, and say all of the time, “I love it here, mom.” We play cards, watch shows together, and find many wonderful opportunities now that we are closer together. The house has a great layout. The point is, big doesn’t mean better, and kids need some private space (Beds, desks) but a happy, harmonious home far outweighs anything else.

  84. MH says:

    I LOVE MY SMALL HOUSE. We live in a 1000 sq ft house with 2 adults and 2 children. About 2 years ago, we were looking to upsize. After much discussion, we decided to permanantly stay in our smaller house. We decided to DECIDE that we have enough space, and to only buy the things that fit in it. We would love another bathroom, a garage, a spare room. . . .but we also LOVE our small mortgage payment (especially as my husband was laid off this year), and the fact that we are not allowing our culture to tell us what we “need.” As we try to teach our kids that they don’t “need” every toy that they see, we are actually setting the example by not accumulating every “toy” WE want (which could easily include a bigger home). We recently were given a little sign that reads “love grows best in little houses.” We couldn’t agree more.

  85. debtheaven says:

    I’m from NY, DH is a Brit, we live in Europe (outside Paris). We have four children, and a 2000 sq ft house. Everything is so relative! When our Parisian friends come over, they think our house is huge! But it’s one of the smallest in the neighborhood. When my US friends come over, they all say, awww, your house is so CUTE! LOL

    It was originally the garage / gardener’s lodge of the huge house next door, and we extended it twice. (Once we extended it to add a bedroom and bathroom, then we raised the roof on the extension to add another bedroom and bathroom.)

    Europeans (apart from the Brits) don’t “trade up” often. Until about 10 years ago, closing costs here were 12% (now they’re 8%) so the common saying was that you had to stay at least 4-5 years to recoup your closing costs.

    Our house has six bedrooms, and three bathrooms. In 2000 sq ft, so you can imagine most Americans would scoff at the size of three of the bedrooms (one is technically a walk-in closet, 8.8 m2, a bedroom here is 9m2, and two of the bathrooms. It’s a doll’s house to most Americans!

    But we made do. When we had number 4, we only had 5 bedrooms, and we lost our guest room, which was precious to us, since we’re both foreign and we people come to visit they stay for a while. We considered “trading up” when N° 4 was born, but we couldn’t really afford it. When N° 1 went off to college, we redid a basement room for him and bumped the other three up, and got that walk-in closet back for a guest room. Yes it was tight for a few years but we made it work.

    Now the house is paid off, and it’s nice to have a house all our kids were born and raised in.

    Most European countries (not the UK) don’t go debt-crazy so you don’t have as many people who can’t afford their mortgages, people tend to “make do”.

  86. debtheaven says:


    About my son in the basement … Don’t call CPS, he has a window and a lightwell, lol. I would not have let a child live there “full time” but it perfect for a college kid (now grad school kid) who only comes home on school vacations.

    We do miss having a garage though. Since our house WAS the garage, we don’t have one. Happily we’re not into fancy cars, lol.

  87. debtheaven says:

    One more thing, sorry, I think this is a great topic.

    I agree, as your kids get older, they will want and need their own rooms. For many people, a home office could contain a convertible couch and double up as a guest room, but that probably wouldn’t work well for you since you work from home.

    We have promised our children to keep their rooms for them at least until they graduate college. But DH might be giving up his office and working from home much more, so we may need a home office sooner rather than later.

    So even 25 years later, the house is still in flux.

  88. As mentioned in some of the comments already, good design is important, but you can plan out usage too. One room is my office during the day, and a family gathering point at night. Instead of using the dining room and breakfast area, we use only the dining room for meals. The breakfast area is now a play spot for the younger kids, the dining room table has projects on the far end, while our end for dining is kept clear. Many rooms can serve a dual use, if we think about it.

  89. Diane Welsh says:

    My husband and I are retiring in about 5 years and have started looking at smaller homes. We are currently renting a 2100 4 bedroom home with a greatroom. Our previous home was 3,500 square feet. To reduce the shock of the change we downsized into a smaller rental to see how it worked and what changes were needed. The only problem I see is storage. I buy in bulk and storage is difficult. We are looking at under bed drawers to increase storage availability. As far as the unused guest room… we are looking at installing a Murphy bed desk combination to make it a dual purpose room when we buy the next home. I’m thinking we can eliminate another bedroom and the formal dining room reducing the house to 1600 sq feet if the storage is good. Are there any storage improvement ideas out there to make a small home more usable?

  90. Michelle says:

    What I find so funny is that my boyfriend’s parents live in a huge $10,000,000 home and whenever his family comes home they all sit in the kitchen together while the rest of the 8 bedrooms and 4 other living rooms stay empty.

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