Thursday, February 17, 2011

Of Square Footage and Happiness

Toronto's Tiny House.
At 300 sq. ft. it is dwarfed by our condo!

I have recently started reading Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.  Although I’m not that far into the book, I’ve already found blog topics galore!
Today’s blog is inspired by this information from Organized Simplicity:
National Public Radio reports that from 1950 to 2004, the American home has doubled in size—what was once 983 square feet is now 2,349 square feet. That’s a 1,366-square foot addition—and entire second house.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average family in 1950 consisted of 3.67 members. In 2002, the average family size was 2.62 members. Today, smaller families “need” bigger homes […]
Do we really think we need 900 square feet per person in our homes today? That’s what the numbers indicate if we do simple math. Today we live in homes that provide almost the same amount of room per person that an average 1950s-size house would have provided for an entire family (when the family size was larger than it is today).  (20)
This got me thinking about our little condo. I’ve jokingly referred to it as the world’s largest walk-in closet and when giving people the "tour of my palacial manor" I often refer to the diminuitive spaces as things like the grand foyer, the east wing, the west wing and the like.  At just over 730 square feet, our condo is petite to say the least.
After reading this passage last night, I did a little math and realized that 730 square feet divided by 4 people (Diesel, Little Man, Maverick and me) came out to roughly 182.5 square feet per person. If our home was perfectly square, that would mean each of us would have approximately a 13.5 x 13.5 space.  All-in-all, that isn’t too shabby!  Factor in that we also have the ultimate condo-living luxury—a two car garage—and we’ve actually got a lot of living space! (Although the garage is essentially Diesel’s personal space, because that is home base for his woodworking business, so really and truly it is a non-space for the rest of the family, but at least we have it!)
Living in the land of McMansions, it is sometimes hard not to feel down-trodden about my small space. As I visit the houses of my friends, family and acquaintances, I see homes where kids have their own suites, complete with private bathroom and living space. Homes where women actually have entire rooms dedicated to their hobbies.  Homes with guest quarters that are larger than my own home.  It is tough to shake off my sense of house-size inadequacy. 
And truly, my small house DOES have some very real drawbacks.
1)      It is tough to have social functions at our house. Our tiny house is not conducive to gatherings of more than 2-3 people at a time. We just don’t have enough places for people to sit comfortably.
2)      We do NOT have a yard. It is very strange, but true, that I feel that if we had a larger patio or a small backyard, our space wouldn’t feel so small. Again, I realize we’re lucky to have the outside space that we do have, but I would like a little more.
3)      The small space came with a HUGE price tag because we bought at the peak of the real estate “bubble.” As that bubble has burst, we’re now living in a home that is worth less than half of what we OWE on it (not what we borrowed, but what we owe).  Sad, but true. I’ve come to terms with the fact that rather than being our “starter” home, this is going to be our home for quite a long time. By our estimation, the boys will likely be in Junior High before we’d be in a position to sell without losing everything we’ve put into the condo.
But this post isn’t about what is wrong with my little house. It is about what is right about it.
When people visit our home, the adjective most often used to describe it is “cozy.” And not in the sense that it is small, but in that it is warm and welcoming and comfortable.  I want a home where people feel at ease and feel taken care of, so this, to me, is the ultimate compliment.
With space being at a premium, we are forced to think about what we really need/want in our home.  We’re not always great at this, but we’re definitely getting better.  I realized this about 3 years ago when we went to do Little Man’s baby registry at Babies R Us.  Much of what “they” say you need for a baby to survive in the 21st century was either too large or unnecessary in our space. If it didn’t fold or didn’t come in a compact size, we didn’t get it!
I only have one bathroom to clean. In a house full of males, this is AWESOME!!
 If I really get “big picture” about it, everyone in my little family has a warm, safe, dry place to lay their heads at night. We have more than enough food. We have electricity and running water. We have countless “luxuries” that are not even on the radar for the majority of the world who live in abject poverty—it is doubtful that they’re wishing for spa bathtubs and memory foam mattresses when their basic needs aren’t met.
In the end, we don’t need 900 square feet per person. We may sometimes wish for it, but we don’t need it. For me, one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn is to be at peace with my little space and to learn how to make it work to the benefit of our family. In the end, is not just a little condo, it is our HOME.  No amount of square footage can replace the love and happiness that I have found within our little home.  With that, I am more than content.


  1. I think small homes are better for encouraging family time. Large homes in which everyone has their own living quarters often lead to separation during leisure hours, especially with older kids. Our house is big by comparison to yours, at 1,200 sqft, but small by today's norm, and aside from wishing the floorplan were a little more open, I feel like it is the perfect size because we are able to really live in the whole thing. Cozy and comfortable is better than big, in my opinion.

  2. I agree that it creates more family togetherness! I hadn't thought about how that will be a good thing as the boys get older. Sullen teens won't be able to hide from us! :)
    One of the things I wish we could do is to gut the condo & change the layout, because I think there is more that COULD be done, but alas, that isn't a possibility!

  3. My hubby is ALWAYS complaining that we need more space. We currently have 2,300 sq. feet for the four of us. I can't wait to have him read this post. Maybe we don't need more space, maybe we need less stuff.

  4. I highly recommend de-stuffing! I'll never be one of those "I own 1 chair, 1 pair of shoes & just enough clothing to get through a week" minimalist, but I'm really liking some of their approaches to getting rid of stuff! Even in a larger house it is easy to get cluttered & overrun with stuff you don't need or want.


Your comments make my day-- seriously. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my posts. I will do my best to respond!