Lately, my husband and I have been having some pretty interesting conversations about homes and about the size of them. We both agree that the bigger home you have – the more likely you are to fill it with “stuff.” As we’ve come to realize, “stuff” isn’t all that important to us.
One of my hobbies is to watch real estate in the area. Rarely do I see a home that is under 1,000 sq. feet. The average around here is probably around 1,600 sq. ft. The newer the home, the higher the square feet, it seems.
It looks like it will be difficult to find the smaller home we desire so we may be looking into building our next home. I’ve checked out places like Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Their homes are tiny, but they are too small for our family of three. Then I had an idea – why not search cabins! Cabins are traditionally for recreation, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t live in one year round.
Then I found it. I think this is almost the perfect size and layout for us.
Betony Cabin (720 sq ft)
There are two layouts on the page, and I am leaning towards the one with the bath tub (Floor Plan A). I love that the layout is one floor and has a huge porch. One of our dreams has been to have a large porch with a hanging porch swing. I can see my husband and I relaxing on our swing on the porch while my son is playing in front of us catching as many insects as he can for close observation. In the distance, I see a few deer feeding along the tree line and I can hear a woodpecker foraging for food.
That does it. When I’m feeling down about our financial situation I need to recreate that scene in my head. It is something to keep shooting for.
It would cost way less to heat too!!
That’s pretty amazing. We’re just a couple, and that seems incredibly cramped to me. Good for you for making so much of your space and for wanting less. I think it’s a great goal.
There is a lot of houses under 1000 sq ft around here! (East of Cleveland). I wish we had a few hundred more, but I do think then I would just have more to clean! I guess I will live with our 1200 sq ft.
We have 1000 sq ft now and we’re also just a couple and our place seems a little small. But we do have a very large dog, and some cats that take up space too. I guess the size would be okay if we had two bathrooms. Do you currently have two bathrooms? Downsizing to one is no fun (at least for us), and you have another person!
Your instinct is right…research shows that American households/families are getting smaller, yet our homes are getting larger and larger. It’s ridiculous. Many people don’t regularly use entire portions of their homes, yet they pay to decorate them, heat them, etc. In our countries, entire families get by sharing 1 small bedroom. Even in America, just decades ago most of us seemed to do just fine with 1 bathroom for the household, sharing bedrooms between siblings, and overall smaller living quarters. Now that we’ve adjusted our expectations, people act like they are oppressed if they have anything less than a massive, suburban McMansion. I think you’re onto something…
dogatemyfinances – when you look at it, it could seem cramped. But, I envision ways to maximize what we have, like a pull down dining table and fold up chairs hanging on the wall. If we happen to need some breathing room, we’d go outside. I didn’t mention this above, but my little dream up there includes some acreage 🙂
Sherri – I grew up in a large family with one bathroom and our current home has one bathroom. To me, having more than one bathroom would be very weird! Something that is also weird to me is having a room devoted for a dining room. We’ve had eat-in kitchens.
Wow, I must be spoiled re: bathrooms. 😉
I really applaud your desire to downsize, but like other commenters, I find it hard to imagine three people in that little space. My house is just under 800 sq. ft. and I can’t imagine another person (or two!) living here with me. Also, don’t you and your husband work at home? Keep that in mind as well. Although if your property is big enough, you might build a separate office building.
Don’t want to rain on your parade though. If it’s what you want, go for it!
I think it really depends on the layout of the home regarding the square footage. Open floor plans really make a difference. That’s why I liked the floor plan of the Betony. Everything except for the bedrooms and the bathroom is open.
As for office space, that’s very true about needing a separate working area. But a bedroom can do double-duty for that. And for blogging and such, I do it on my laptop and that can go anywhere. Even out on a nice porch with a porch swing 😉
Last year when my husband and I were visiting family in Kansas City, KS, there was an event going on for Cabin home sales. We were able to view some of them and they were wonderful. My husband has always wanted a cabin, so eventually we will probably look into buying one to live in. 🙂
I think that’s great that you found something that you think you would like! Do you think it would still be a suitable size for when/if #2 comes along?
Be careful, because laws are changing, too. When we got married, we lived in a nice, 800 sq foot one bedroom apartment, and assumed that we could live there through having our first child (until the first child started walking), because a little baby usually just sleeps in a crib in the parents’ room anyway.
When I did get pregnant, we were extremely surprised to hear that we were not allowed to live in a one bedroom with a baby- even though our maximum occupancy did state three. The landlord would not renew our lease, and our family was appalled that we would get pregnant while still living in such a small space. They even tried to get CPS involved. Our lease was up a month after the baby was born, and it was really draining to try and move and have a baby at the same time. I was so scared that I would get in trouble.
I later found out that even if you are a homeowner, there are “zoning” laws that tell you how much space you need to live in if you have X amount of kids. Please check into this before making a move! I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble!
I’m amazed that so many commentors would try to talk you into be MORE consumerist and materialistic. Sad. It’s not like you’re proposing living in a box — you’ll have more space than 95% of families in the world.
I don’t see why you would want to live in such a small house. To the same extent I don’t understand why people buy 10 bedroom houses when they only use 4 of them. I would rather live in a comfortable sized home that meets my needs. At some point I would like to build my dream house I’ve designed in my head throughout the years. When it comes to these compact homes, to each their own.
I think that you will find that housing will go the way of cars – that is, they’re going to get smaller and more efficient. It will be a process. Sometimes it is hard for people to realize that more is not always better. It’s a mindset. I personally love the idea of living smaller, less cluttered and more free! I’m also excitedly thinking about decking my home out with solar, and any other new new energy reduction solutions that are surely just around the corner! 5 years ago on-demand water heaters were very expensive and kind of “out there.” Now they are really getting alot of attention not only for their unlimited capacity but for their energy efficiency and the small space they need! It’s kind of an exciting time to live in, actually.
A couple of years ago we sold our home, put some things in storage, and moved to a new apartment about the size of the cabin you are looking at now to be near my husband’s job. We thought it would only be for about six months but it ended up being for two years!
Nine hundred square feet gets to be very, very small, especially in inclement weather and with a small child living there who will be not so small at all in a very short time and who will need space to hang out with his friends.
Since you will have all your credit card debt retired soon, perhaps you could afford something like the Manzanita model which includes a laundry room and, most importantly, a small office off the living area with doors to shut it off when not in use. That model is not a great deal more but would allow some more space for your family. And, the Manzanita model still has a porch!
Oh, one other consideration, if you have another child and it is a girl, you will suddenly find yourself needing a three-bedroom house. At that point, you could convert the office to a nursery and fairly inexpensively enclose the already covered deck for an office. Then extend your porch across the back and/or side of the house when you are able to do so.
A few observations.
I travel with my husband and we often ‘live’ in smaller spaces (as small as 300 square feet) for weeks at a time and it can be done, even though we are working from that space, mainly because two laptops fit nicely on an eating table.
So we know we can live/work in much less than our current 3200 square feet!
On the other hand, we figure the perfect size for us and the business is around 1100 square feet and layout is all important. That is the size of my sister’s home and we can see ourselves living in that space. It is also the size of a friends’ home and when they wanted to sell, we wanted to buy (amazing property) but couldn’t make the layout of their house work for us. Even if we renovated.
My overseas travel is mostly how I realize I can live with much less space. Less can truly be more.
For example, if you don’t have 12 placesettings of dishes, you have to do dishes more often but you never get overwhelmed by having to wash everything at once. Staying tidy is a priority but if you don’t have a lot of surfaces, you don’t have a lot of kitsch out and dusting suddenly becomes super easy.
And one 28″ tv (or 22″ LCD tv) fills the room with its picture so you don’t need a big screen tv. You need only 1 of everything since it will always be right there (as opposed to me needing scissors, tape, hole-punch in the business office and also in the great room at my desk, with an extra set in the kitchen from when the kids did crafts in there.)
Since living small is common in Europe, when I’m invited to people’s homes, I see how families cope in smaller spaces. Different expectations is the key. If they need more room, the kids go outside to play. Or their withdraw into their imagination and play in their rooms. Toy libraries are more common there so space for new toys isn’t an issue.
But mainly, togetherness is encouraged and embraced, not seen as a hardship.
Hang onto the dream and continue to explore it. Go to as many open houses of small homes as you can so you can get a feel for size of rooms and see how others are living.
Our current plan for smaller living is to subdivide our home into two living spaces. At this point we’ve already given up three of four main rooms we’ll be losing and so we only have find places in our part of the house for 4 major pieces of furniture (roll top desk, antique wardrobe, filing cabinet and a piano).
At that point, we’ll be heading to IKEA to turn our great room into a living/dining/kitchen for the new 2 bedroom apartment we’ll be creating. Of course, getting planning approval is the major stumbling block right now. It is tempting to do an illegal conversion because the paperwork is so complicated.
To simplify is both honorable and difficult. You make a decision to live your life one way and then drive down the street to see someone with bigger and better and have to remind yourself once again.
I can’t believe some of these people are telling you to go bigger. It really illustrates to me how different areas of the country can have a different mentality. I live in Philadelphia, and nearly everyone lives in a tiny apartment or rowhome without any fuss. Dogs, kids, the whole kittencaboodle. Good for you. I once lived with three adults in a 900 sq ft. two story three bedroom row home, and I can testify that it is completely possible.
danielle – thanks for bringing up the point about zoning. I didn’t even think of that. And CPS? Your story got me riled up. So much so that I’m tempted to contact CPS to see if they have a minimum square footage.
Karen – we would love to go the solar/wind route. Our home right now is not very efficient in terms of layout or energy use. It’s not horrible – but I’d love a nice efficient home.
Canadian Kate – my husband and I have lived in a small apartment as well (probably around 400 sq. ft – but all our junk occupied the only bedroom). It didn’t seem so small because it was open. Thank you for adding some global perspective to the conversation.
I completely agree!
The differing viewpoints on the size of a home has been very interesting!
Wow that cabin is small! It’s cute but seems really tiny for everyday living. Remember your son as he gets older is going to be having friends over all the time.
My house is just under 3,000 sf. I have four kids and their friends are over all the time, my house doesn’t seem big enough!
I like your thinking though. The more space you have the more stuff you tend to fill it with. I’m guilty!
Tricia- CPS doesn’t have those rules. I found out myself when I went on my own to talk to a social worker in my 7th month.
But the landlords/zoning and other housing authorities do. Fair housing felt sorry for me, but there was nothing they could do.
I agree with the other posters that it’s unbelievable how other commenters are telling you to go bigger. Less *is* more. But, unfortunately, our society doesn’t see it that way. We have to adapt with the times.
After scanning the comments, I have to say, do whatever the heck you feel is right for your family. Gosh folks, why should it offend that Tricia wants to live simply and in a small house?
I personally don’t want to live in tiny quarters. I’m very claustrophobic, and with my hubby and two teens, we’re barely comfortable in 1400 sq ft. But, I completely respect your choice, Tricia. If I lived alone, I’d opt for a small place, but I simply despise bumping into people in my own house.
Instead of a smaller space, take the $ you’d spend on a cabin and update your existing space instead? I bet it is possible to make a slightly larger house more energy efficient. For example, I read something about buying a new car vs keeping your old one. Fix up the old one and make it something you want to keep. It sure beats the payments on a new car. I think if you are planning on moving anyway, then sure a smaller house, but if you are downsizing for that reason alone, would it make as much financial sense to do that? Just my .02. Cheers.
This is crazy. We are a couple and a cat and live in a 250 sq foot apartment, and it is MORE than enough space. We plan to move to a larger apartment – similar in size to the home you mentioned – when we have a child. It is certainly more than enough space, though if you are planning more children, you might want a third bedroom (an addition could be built to the house in that case). A second bathroom is not necessary!
I love that you are focused on getting outdoors! I’m the same way, but I’m a city girl – I love going to parks, museaums, libraries, outdoor concerts… saves me the money I would otherwise spend on cable!
There are laws that tell you how big your house has to be if you have kids? Absurd!
FWIW, I live in a 500 sq ft studio and two adults live in the studio next to me.
If you lived in Manhattan, 750 sq feet would be sheer luxury. I remember visiting my friends in Chinatown in a tiny studio. Two adults with a fold-up cutting table. (Wife is a fashion designer and needed it for work/fun.) Cramped, but cozy. Even so, they moved to a bigger one bedroom that was honestly only about another 100 sq ft larger.
I love tiny houses! You can live more energy efficiently in one. I say go for it!
When my dad had a stroke, I considered putting a tiny house on the back of their property so I could stay with them, but not ‘with them’.
Another good place to find good small home layouts are Katrina Cottages.
Thank you for showing this! I am in love with these tiny houses. DH and I currently live in 250 s.f. with a communal kitchen, bath, and laundry. I think it’s amazing what people can really live in, especially when they simplify. Interestingly, here in Vegas, if it’s under 200 s.f. it doesn’t need a permit. Hmmmm.
Isn’t it amazing what a well laid-out floor plan can do?
We’ve been looking at rebuilding our detached garage and adding a second floor apartment type thing to it.
Based on some of the plans we’ve come across, like the little cabins you’ve found, we could easily live above our garage instead of our house which is more than twice as large.
If we could only afford to actually build it… ;0)
I’ve been looking into this myself, not for the purpose of going tiny, but for the purpose of downsizing and becoming more energy efficient. I love our ~2200 sq.ft.-er, but I’m realizing more and more that simpler is better. Not to mention, while I would love to live in a loft, I’ve not seen any that would suit our needs. I am diggin’ the modern pre-fab homes though! I’ve been looking a the loft cube and the weehouse myself. It’s interesting that you can customize prefabricated homes more than you can traditional homes that cost hundred thousands…the irony.