Think you need a 2000 sqft house to be comfortable? Think again!

Published September 16, 2015   Posted in How to Think

Taking a look at the increase in average home sizes in the United States over the last 40 years should seriously test even the most intestinally-formidable person’s gag reflex.  The average home is larger than ever – 2,679 square feet, and the living space per person has doubled in that time.


Think you need a big house to feel comfort? Think again!The median size new home is now 2,491 square feet, an increase of nearly 1,000 square feet in the last four decades. Perhaps more interesting is the average household size – meaning, the number of people living within the home – has actually decreased from 3.01 persons per household 40 years ago to 2.54 today.

What this means: we are experiencing a phenomenon in this country where our homes are getting larger while households are getting smaller.

More space for less people.

But, what if I told you that we don’t actually use all this additional space that’s draining our pocketbooks every month, and there’s a study that backs that claim up?

Where we spend the most time in our homes

With the average American home’s dramatic increase in space, one might assume that we Americans now have the luxury of putting more space to good use, allowing us to enjoy more of our home’s features and bask in the glory of large dining rooms, fancy living and “sitting areas”, separate studies (read: “libraries”) and yet another room for our televisions and time-grabbing entertainment devices.

But, according to a study published in the Wall Street Journal several years ago, that assumption would be flat wrong.

Where we spend our time at home

The Center on Everyday Lives of Families at the University of California put together an amazing look at how we typically use all that space (and stuff) in our homes.  The study examined 32 middle-class families over the course of four years.  A part of this study monitored and collected data on where in the home people spend the majority of their time.

The graphic above, published by the University, depicts one such family and where they spend time within their home.  The house appears to be large and spaced out with a place for a separate living and formal dining room, as well as space for a piano, a laundry room and a huge front porch.

While this represents only a single family, its findings may represent the common pattern in many American households.  Are your habits substantially different?

The study found that 68% of the family’s time was largely spent in the kitchen/nook as well as the family room, typically near the television.  Clearly, the formal dining room got almost no use, and the living room saw very little activity, like the porch.

Like typical living and breathing human beings capable of emotion, we crave social interaction with other humans.  The large majority of the time, this family spends their waking hours congregating around areas of food preparation and consumption.  The rest, they are plopped down on the couch watching the boob tube or on the computer.  We don’t need 2000 square foot homes for that.

And so in truth, this particular family is not all that spread out.  While the house is quite large, they do not appear to be basking in the glory of space.  Instead, they use the common areas the most, typical of most families around the world, and the extra space sits unused.  It’s dead space.

What this means is this family uses very little of the space that they pay for through their mortgage every month, and they are definitely not alone.

Why we buy big houses

Many of us buy homes that are way too big for our needs, my wife and I included.  In fact, we have a 1600 square foot home with a huge backyard and pool – and we rarely use HALF of the space that we pay for.  Instead, we close off a couple of extra rooms, tighten the ceiling vents as to not waste A/C and heat in those areas, and mainly spend time in the common areas – just like everybody else.

What is the draw to big homes?  Why do we make the choice to drop additional coinage for useless space?  As far as I can tell, there are five main reasons why we buy homes so damn big.

First, we live in a MORE IS MORE society.  We feel like a big house imparts upon us a status symbol of success.  The bigger our home, the more successful we appear to our friends and family. As shallow as this sounds, it’s also pretty darn common.

Second, we convince ourselves that we “like to entertain”.  Some of us may genuinely enjoy having people over to treat our homes like a hotel room, but are people flocking over to your casa for the SPACE that your home has, or for the people that they get to socialize with?  Or the food and alcohol?  Do you NEED space that will sit unused the large majority of the time for the sake of entertaining others?

Third, we want a dining room for Thanksgiving.  There is something more official and “formal” with a separate dining room, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to whip out the white table cloth and pretend to be fancy, isn’t it?

Fourth, we want a spare bedroom.  After all, the three or four times that your in-laws come to visit demands additional sleeping quarters in a hardly-used room dedicated just for them.

Fifth, we want “room to grow”. This is especially true with soon-to-be parents.  We assume that once we have a child, we immediately need a castle for that mini human to run around in.

There is a big problem with all of this: like the study found, we are buying additional space in our homes that we pay for 100% of the time, but we only use 5% of the time (5% is MY statistic, not the study’s).

Take those two extra rooms that we have in our 1600 square foot home.  Sure, we close off the vents so we aren’t heating and cooling those rooms, but we are still paying for those rooms in our mortgage.  Our huge backyard, our fire pit, our pool – it all needs to be paid for whether we use it or not.  And cleaned, too.  All that space demands maintenance.

The family in this study pays for a separate living and dining room that rarely gets used. Apparently, the porch NEVER gets any use.  In that huge house, this family spends 2/3rds of their time in the same areas of the house while paying for the remainder of the dead space.

Take a moment and think about your home and where your family spends the majority of its time.  Are there rooms that rarely get used?  More importantly, could you do without those rooms and live in a much smaller, less expensive home?

We lived in a pretty large home when I was younger – three stories if you include the basement, along with a separate living and dining room.  I was the youngest in a family of four.  My brother and I had our own rooms in the upstairs, as did my parents, of course, in the master bedroom (also upstairs).

Even with a family of four, we had huge amounts of unused space.  The guest room in the upstairs almost NEVER got used.  The dining room only saw activity during Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas.  The living room, again, almost NEVER got used.

The basement had our office and a huge open room, along with THREE other rooms that we used for a designated shop, storage and laundry room.

Truthfully, we only designated separate rooms for those things because we could.  There was so much space that we literally didn’t know what to do with it all.  Nevertheless, it all had to get paid for – every last square foot, used or unused.  Money down the drain.

We needed a house maybe half of that size – perhaps only a quarter if we were feeling like a close-knit family.  A kitchen / nook, a couple bedrooms and a family room would have provided more than enough space for us to live in perfect luxury.

Who truly NEEDS a 2000 square foot house?  Probably not many.

How big is your home?  Do you truly need all that space, or could you downsize to a home that was more typical of families back in the ’70s?

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Comments

56 responses to “Think you need a 2000 sqft house to be comfortable? Think again!”

  1. Maggie says:

    You mean the “visitor only living room” isn’t a necessity? We used to be stuck in this mindset: “There are five of us! We need more room!” But we’ve changed our thinking. And my kids always talk about how if we had a bigger house, they would have more chores! So they’re on board. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Hey Maggie – you have some smart kids! It’s true, the bigger the house, the more chores that we ALL ultimately have. More stuff, more maintenance. More cleaning. More costly.

      Screw that. I want something small that takes me 10 minutes to clean from top to bottom, dang it! 🙂

  2. This is a topic near and dear to our hearts. Seeing all the mcmansions getting built in sprawling suburban landscapes all across this country make us want to barf. 🙂 That said, the biggest challenge for us is HOW the space is allocated in most homes. We definitely do not need the 1800 square feet we have, but we DO need space for a big dining table (not as separate dining room — what a waste) and for a big, loungy couch. So our ideal house would be a tiny master bedroom — bed and closet is all we need — maybe 100 square feet, a small guest room that doubles as a home office — maybe another 100 square feet, and then a big great room with decent kitchen, room for a big dining table and room for a nice lounging area and TV — maybe 500-600 square feet. Add a few modest bathrooms, space for laundry, and maybe a hallway, and you’re talking 800ish square feet. The problem is, if there’s an 800 square foot house, the builders feel like they have to divide up all the rooms equally, so you’ll get overly large bedrooms and a tiny living room, which is just dumb. Our old city condo was 1000 square feet, which sounds plenty big, but the master bedroom was bigger than the tiny living room. To get the “common areas” that we wanted and would use in our home now, we had to get a three-bedroom house. So yeah, our guest rooms sit empty a lot of the time. And I think I’m guilty of the tweet about needing space to host Thanksgiving — but I didn’t mean in a dining room or with a white linen tablecloth. 🙂 We purposely sought a house with no formal anything — no separate living room that would just collect dust, no separate dining room where we’d never eat. Instead, we have room for a nice, long table right outside of our kitchen (and no separate “breakfast nook” either), and we actually host people for meals all the time, so it gets plenty of use. We knew the guest rooms wouldn’t get a ton of use when we bought the place, but we purposely made sure we bought a home where we would really use all the other spaces, and we do. If folks would just think that way, instead of wanting the “status house” (or, worse, the house with a number of “retreats,” signalling that the family actually hate each other), I’m sure most people would end up in smaller homes.

    • Steve says:

      Hey ONL – that is an important distinction to make, and it’s a critical one to make sure that we as people only buy what we will use. I like your choice not to buy into formalities with your home. Personally, I’d want a whole lot more outdoor space, in the form of a deck or something similar, rather than indoor. Outdoor space is the best of both worlds – you get a bunch of extra space to use, but the cost to maintain is almost nothing.

  3. We live in an 1,850 square foot home and I know that we use maybe 65% of the house regularly. It is on 1/3 of an acre that only 10% of the yard is used by us, mostly we just look at the trees.

    Taking this example forward with living in your Airstream, it will be an adjustment down in size, but something you are preparing for with downsizing. I often wonder if it would be better to have a trailer with a Murphy bed instead? It would give more overall space to the living, dining, and kitchen areas that are use the most.

    BTW – we wrote an article recently that reviewed 4 significant changes over the last 40 years. Housing was our first item, pointing out that we have larger homes with less people. Your research is showing that we actually use very little of this increased space.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Bryan,

      Yup, I remember reading your article about this topic. It is amazing what lifestyle inflation has done to what we, as Americans, believe a “proper” standard of living to be in this country.

  4. i’m not exactly sure how big the apartment is I share with 2 roommates. A rough mental calculation is about 700 square feet. It’s a little on the small side for 3 adults, but it fits its purpose. My previous living situation was in New England in an old pretty big three bedroom two story house. That shit cost all sorts of money to heat. Never making that mistake again.

    • Steve says:

      Nice, Fervent! Yeah, for 3 adults I would imagine that 700 sqft is a little on the small side, but then again, you guys also don’t have much to clean then, and half of your income isn’t automatically blown each month via rent.

      But yeah, a huge home in a cold (or hot) climate? No thanks.

  5. I hear you on the un-used space. I know we talked before, my wife and I were trying to get away from the big house, we had two rooms that the doors remained shut for months at a time to avoid the AC cooling the rooms. We love our little beach shack.

    If there was a schematic of me in my house it would probably be 98% red dots in front of the refrigerator.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Love it, Chimp – and your beach shack does sound absolutely lovely. I bet you use space pretty efficiently in that place…after all, who wants to be inside in some big house when you have beach front property, after all? 🙂

  6. Jason Fieber says:

    Steve,

    Who wouldn’t want a house far bigger than they need that they never spend any time at because they’re too busy at work paying for said big house???

    Our two-bedroom apartment is about 900 or so square feet, which is really too large. We only have two bedrooms because Claudia has a son. Otherwise, I think we’d be rocking a one-bedroom closer to maybe 500 square feet. I personally feel quite uncomfortable in large houses. Maybe a little bit of agoraphobia there.

    Another interesting correlation would be how happiness and quality of life has declined as housing has become larger. Seems people will never believe that the more stuff = more happiness equation is broken.

    Best regards!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jason – Exactly, big home, big status – who wouldn’t want that?!?

      I like the size of your apartment – just enough space for what you truly need. Good point regarding our level of happiness, and how it tends to have a negative correlation with the size of our homes. That sounds like another article idea! 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by, Jason. Always appreciated.

  7. Erin says:

    Growing up, our home had a living room and a den that were equal sizes. Our family always would hang out in the den and never in the living room. I once asked my Mom why we don’t sit in the living room and she said that room was for when company came over. We lived in that house for 14 years, and never once did we invite company to sit in the living room. Talk about a waste of space.

    Right now I live in a 720sf house that seems like the right amount of space. I cannot fathom living in anything over 1,200. More house just means more cleaning to me. No thank you.

    • Steve says:

      I’m right there with you, Erin – more house, more stuff to clean and maintain. We live in a 1600 sqft house now, and this will probably be the biggest house that we’ll ever buy.

  8. FIbrarian says:

    Hi TSR

    It’s certainly not just a US phenomenon as although houses tend to be smaller over here in the UK people still tend to think bigger is better. I really noticed this when I went back to visit my parents the other month. They live in a decent sized 4 bedroom house however now that my siblings and I have moved out I really noticed just how empty the whole place felt. Much like the diagram its a case of them using their bedroom, kitchen and living room which leaves over 50% of the house pretty much unused most of the time. Compare that to my girlfriend and I who just bought our own place, a small 3 bedroom semi detached. It feels far more “homely” because we use every single room, every single day bar the small spare bedroom at the back.

    Even in the future if and when we have kids I think I want to keep the same dynamic. You shouldn’t be falling over each other constantly but neither do you want each family member sequestered away in their own corner of the house. Not only is it saving you money by having a smaller place you almost “force”, if I can use that word, yourself and your family to spend more time together in the communal spaces which I think can only be a good thing.

    • Steve says:

      Hey FIbrarian – thanks for reading! Yeah, I have known a lot of parents who quickly downsize after their kids move out because they just don’t need all that additional space that REALLY never gets used and is probably tough to justify any longer. My parents upped the ante and moved into an RV and traveled for a living. 🙂

      Best regards – appreciate your thoughts.

  9. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic as well, so much so that I wrote this post earlier this month:

    http://insideraccountant.com/2015/09/05/were-renovatingextending-a-house-but-is-it-too-big-2/

    We already have plans for our renovation/extension, which will leave the house at 222m2 or 2396 square feet. The more I researched it, the more guilty I felt, not because it was ridiculous compared to others (it’s smaller than the Australian average, and smaller than most new homes), and not because our family of four won’t use the space, but because it’s bigger than what we actually need and is delaying our early retirement. This “delay” isn’t really a delay since it’s what we have budgeted for, but we know that we could retire earlier if we didn’t make the house as big.

    The “delay” in early retirement sort of seems hypocritical given that I try to promote smart use of money, but I tell myself that it’s much smarter than it could have been. Our renovated home will be quite a bit smaller than the homes of all of my fellow partners at work, so that makes me feel a bit better about it at least!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Insider – there is a fine line between too much stuff and truly making you, and your family, happy. I say do what truly makes you happy, and at the very least, the renovations that you’re doing on your home will hopefully increase its value, making it more of an “investment”.

      All the best.

  10. Jenna says:

    This post resonates with me. My husband and I purchased our first home last year, and it is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo with a little over 800 square feet. We wanted a small home in an amazing suburb of Chicago, and, to be honest, the $65K sale price was perfect for our goals. Most condos go for $160K minimum, and a house in our neighborhood goes for anywhere from $400K to $1 million and more. Our move-in-ready home was a foreclosure and a remnant of the recession, and we were able to negotiate down quite low.

    We use all our rooms on a daily basis, and it doesn’t feel small for two people. Right now, we also have three family members staying with us. There are five people total sharing 800 square feet, and it all seems to work. I wish we had a little more space to accommodate all the luggage one relative brought with him–three large suitcases for a ten-day trip!–but everyone seems to have enough space. And sharing the bathroom has not been an issue either, which is interesting, because when we purchased the home, family and acquaintances would shake their heads and say that a one-bathroom home was impossible to live in in this day and age.

    And I love that the average for our utility bills, added up together, total around $40-50 per month. That, along with a low mortgage payment, has enabled us to put our money other places–such as paying off half our mortgage in six months, fully funding an emergency fund, saving for retirement, and other goals. My husband and I were able to go on a long vacation to Brazil this summer largely because we are not overextending our income for a large home.

    Do I dream of having a pool? Would it be nice to have a lawn, a fire pit, a garden, or even a porch, for that matter? Is it hard sometimes to live in a humble condo when I am surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful multi-million dollar homes? Sure, but we live in a great town in a home that is a few minutes’ walk to the beach, and there are parks within one or two blocks in every direction. And we live a three-minute walk away from public transportation that can get us to downtown Chicago in 40 minutes, with all the museums, entertainment, and restaurants we could ever need.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the great comment, Jenna! One thing about having a lot of space and a pool and fire pit is…you tend to get used to those things very, very quickly. Ultimately, this means that you no longer realize some of these extra things that you have, and we as people tend to take them for granted. They don’t necessarily stay as special as they may once have been. And in short order, you’re just paying more money for stuff that you may not even notice any more.

      Thanks for dropping by! Enjoy the warmer-than-usual fall-ish weather!

  11. Mr. SSC says:

    My apartment in Denver was a 1 BR maybe 600 sq ft, and it fit me perfectly. I had the closets packed with all my hiking/climbing/snowboard gear, but I didn’t need more space. When we moved, our house felt huge – it was 1900 sq ft. I remember us feeling like it was ginormous and took forever to walk from the master br to the kitchen. When we moved to Texas, it was difficult finding a house under 3000 sq ft that didn’t have aluminum wiring, or need everything upgraded and still cost $450k or more.
    Ultimately, we settled in a house that was $150k less than what we’d been looking for but way bigger than we wanted. Our formal dining room is my music/treadmill/office/beer brewing space, the office is Mrs. SSC’s office and hobby space and extra guest room. We have a guest room upstairs that gets used fairly frequently.
    However, we both agree it’s too big. If you took that same house and shrunk about 1400 sq ft off of it, it would still be perfectly functional, if not more functional. You wouldn’t have to change the layout even, just squish everything smaller. Our closet is as big as one of our old bedrooms! Ridiculous…
    Looking into our Lifestyle Change home, we’ve been really trying to find form and function over wasted sq footage. We will never have a fully outfitted formal dining room, such a waste of space.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Mr. SSC – agreed, the dining room space has always struck me as completely unnecessary for most of us. Like the show Tiny Home shows, it’s actually quite amazing how much you can do with fairly tight spaces. The storage options get downright insane. But it all seems so obvious – I mean, who wouldn’t use the space underneath their staircase for more storage?

      Thanks for reading!

  12. Beth says:

    My husband and I moved our family of three into our new home 2 years ago. It’s 1400 sq ft ranch with a partially finished basement adding to the square footage. It has 3 bedrooms with no formal anything. We have the guest bedroom set up and it gets used close to once a week by my brother when he has babysitting duty. Our basement has my husband’s office in it and he uses it almost daily. There is also a playroom and movie watching area in the basement. Those rooms don’t get quite as much usage right now, but I have a feeling once our son gets a bit older (he’s only 2), they will become more useful. We looked at larger homes, but decided on something that would fit our needs and not be overwhelming to try to take care of. In addition, we are hoping to expand our family in the next year or so…and I still think this house will be more than enough room for 4 of us.

    My In-laws purchased their new house about a year after us, and it is just the two of them. Their house is a ranch as well with a partially finished basement. The crazy thing is it is about a 1000 sq foot bigger on the main floor than ours! They do watch our little one 4 days a week, but I just don’t understand the need for that much space and maintenance…especially as you get older. Who wants to take care of all that?

    • Steve says:

      Hey Beth! Yeah, I understand completely – especially as we get older, I’d think that the last thing we’d want to do is have more space to take care of. I’m only 34, but I’m already looking to downsize. Imagine what I’ll be living in once I hit my 60s. 🙂

  13. Interesting Post. I would love to see what the traffic is like in our house. Who needs a 2,000 sqft home when you can have 3,300 (me being sarcastic, but really).

    We bought a big house for the following:

    1 – We do like to entertain and we have hosted holidays that are 90 people.Your right we probably don’t need that space all year round, but we love having the space to entertain. May not be the most economical.

    2 – We like to have friends and family visit and stay over often, so our guest rooms do get used. At least once a month we have someone crashing at our home in our guest bedroom.

    3 – We have two dogs and wanted to have a sizable backyard for them to run around during the day. We used to pay for them to go to doggy daycare, so that expenses was eliminated by getting a quarter acre lot. We also wanted room for a full outdoor kitchen, fire pit, and hot tub…all of which we use weekly (if not daily).

    4 – We also rent out two rooms in our house from time to time, our two room mates moved out recently, but one is coming back next month. When you have multiple people living in a house, it helps to have multiple living rooms (we all kind of have our space).

    5 – I wanted a separate office space. Eventually it will also be a library/reading room.

    6 – I hate driving to the gym, so I wanted a 3 car garage in order to convert one of the stalls into a home gym that I use daily.

    7 – We wanted a big kitchen, because as your graphic points out, that is where everyone centers anyways. And we love to cook.

    8 – We do eventually plan to have kids and will need the extra space (our opinion) and so we definitely do have room to grow into it.

    9 – The price was right and was less than half what we could afford (what the bank approved us for).

    10 – We recognized that we wanted a 3,300 sqft house and know for sure we don’t need it.

    But I totally get what you are saying. Most people don’t need big houses. And most people buy them at the sacrifice of not being able to invest and save.

    In my life I like to have my cake and eat it too.

    But to eaches own. I am really looking forward to hear about the transition into the air stream.

    Cheers!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Dominic! My feeling is if you’re going to have a huge house, you might as well use it. Seems like your plot distribution would be a lot more spread out than the typical family’s. And that’s good. If you pay for it, use it. 🙂

  14. […] Do you really need 2,000 sq feet? (Think Save Retire) […]

  15. Stockbeard says:

    Hey Steve, I can totally relate to this article. As you probably know by now I’ve been living for 9 years in Japan, specifically in Tokyo.
    At first when I was there, I couldn’t stand the lack of space: my first studio was 8 square meters, that’s 90 square feet. The shower/restrooms were – obviously? – shared with other people on the floor. We then moved in with my wife to several different condos throughout the years. 500 Square feet was luxury space for the two of us.
    Ultimately, our biggest condo was 700 Square feet. By the time we moved into that condo, we were a family of 3, and we then grew to a family of 4.

    Now that we moved to the US, we are in an insanely huge 900sq. feet condo, for the 4 of us. I wouldn’t pretend this will be enough when our kids are teenagers (they will need their own bedrooms by then. Right now we all sleep in the same room), but given our history this almost feels like a luxury. So, a 200sq. feet house for a family of 4? Sounds a bit over the top to me, but I can imagine that. But for a couple with one kid? Come on.

    It’s amazing how Japan is able to utilize space. Roll up your futons at the end of the night, and all of a sudden you have a huge playroom for the kids.

    I grew up in a 5000 sq. feet house, by the way. Family of 6, in the countryside of a small town in France. I am living proof that you can get used to live in a space that is 10 times smaller than what you think is “normal”.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Stockbeard – it is interesting how little people truly NEED once they start living well below their means, including the square footage that they call their home. That 5000 sqft home sounds absolutely gigantic – I couldn’t imaging cleaning that home. 🙂

  16. Marcelina says:

    Great article! We are a family of four living in 899 sq ft. We’ll be mortgage-free in 5 years when I’m 39. None of our space is dead space. This is the perfect size for us, though sometimes I get caught up in the narrative of “needing” more. Then I read stories like this one and I’m brought back to reality. Thanks!

    • Steve says:

      Awesome, Marcelina! Being mortgage-free will be an amazing feeling. The fact is the mortgage/rent and car payments drain more money out of the pocketbooks of Americans than virtually any other entity. Control those two expenses and you got it made in the shade! 🙂

  17. […] as much as I do.  Also, if you’re interested in reading more on this topic, check out this great article from Steve over at ThinkSaveRetire.com.  check out this great article on this same topic! It […]

  18. […] also love how the film examined a study that I wrote about last year about how little of our big homes we tend to use. I heard a couple of gasp-like reactions from the […]

  19. Xepshunall says:

    In an economy as unreliable as today’s, I think of home ownership and zero utility bills. I think big but when it comes to physical things, I need placeware, cookware, a computer and TV, a sofa, bed, and storage for my few clothes. I don’t need furniture that is built to fail so built-in drawers and shelves suit me fine. 10 x 10 is all I need for a king bed and two night stands. Life will be better when I have less clutter. I’m a truck driver who finds a kitchenette suite at a nice hotel to feel homey. A yard to mow would just be an expense whether for storage and machinery or lawn care. Some day, I’ll want to quit driving a truck and grow produce and ornamental and medicinal plants but for now, something small of my own on a tiny lot with rock landscaping would be best. The thought of home ownership gets me excited but the burden doesn’t. With a fridge to hold a few day’s worth of perishables and a couple of portable induction cooktops and countertop convection oven, I’d be set. I could easily get all of this into a 20 x 20 home. I have considered a 32 x 32 but decided that it would be indulgent and wasteful. As a logical person, I intend to build my home not a single storey, square design. I’ll design lighting using LEDs with high Lm/w rating. Midnight Solar has a charge controller that will let me use 20 250 watt panels and a good 48 volt pure sine wave inverter with the option for battery backup will allow me to choose whether to tie to the grid. For more freedom, I have been pondering getting a Bosch alternator that uses brushes. They are very efficient. I might couple it to a Briggs & Stratton Vanguard series motor to handle electrical needs when the sun is less effective. I know that some day the electric company employees will start losing jobs from downsizing. If they are wise, they’ll look into a more efficient way of life too.

  20. MelB says:

    Very interesting article. Makes so much sense! We have a family of seven (2 adults, 5 kids) and live in a 1500 sq ft house. Everyone automatically assumes we need to move because we need a bigger house. We are, in fact, moving, but only to be closer to my husbands work and it is nearly impossible to find “smaller” houses designed well. There are such simple design ideas such as slightly tall or vaulted (not ridiculously) ceilings, spaces that are open to each other and large windows and doors that open to outdoor spaces (as well as not owning so much stuff) that can make homes feel so much more spacious. I wish this was more common to find, because we are absolutely on board with less sq ft. Thanks for the read.

    • Steve says:

      Hi MelB! You do have a larger family, but it definitely sounds like you guys know how to maximize the space that you have. And the house is only the first step towards lifestyle inflation for most people, too. Bigger houses come with more space to fill, which means more purchasing of…stuff to fill that space. It’s an ugly cycle!

  21. Cottage Blog says:

    This Large Comfortable Three

    […] our neighborhood goes for anywhere from $400K to $1 million and more. Our move-i […]

  22. Morgan says:

    Great article. We are getting ready to build our “dream home”. I found your article when I googled a house size question. Anyway, I designed our home and it’s purposely 1600 sq feet. We are currently a family of five but hope for more littles and are building on our family farm. Couldn’t imagine a larger house to clean. We do entertain a lot and I made larger rooms to fit that need. No thank you to huge houses! I’ll stick to our little farmhouse so we can be close and a family.

    • Steve says:

      Sounds like a wonderful way to think about this, Morgan! A dream home need not be huge. It only needs to be exactly what works well for you. Congratulations on recognizing what works for your growing family! 🙂

  23. This Large Comfortable Three

    […] neighborhood goes for anywhere from $400K to $1 million and more. Our move-in-r […]

  24. Maggie says:

    So, what square footage is the perfect size if we got rid of those little used spaces?

    • Steve says:

      Honestly, I can’t answer that question because it’s different for everyone of us. The larger point that I was trying to make was that most of us don’t need as much as we *think* we do, but there isn’t necessarily a formula or set number based on the size of your family, pets, furniture or whatever. That is something that only we can come up with for ourselves.

      • AMY says:

        My husband and I have 5 kids (ages 1-13) and are considering adopting more children in the future. We currently have 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, aprox. 1680 sqft. I homeschool our kids, so that takes additional designated space. In a year and a half my husband will finish his fellowship and we can purchase a home that is a bit more fit to our family size. We want to make a wise decision in this, but would love to hear thoughts on how to calculate what would be appropriate. Not too big, not this small.

        • Steve says:

          Honestly, I don’t think there is a formula for this. That’s gotta come based on feel and whatever is in the best interest of you and your family. If you think that you need a larger house, understand what areas you’d like more space. For example, your bedrooms might be okay, but you’d like an additional room for homeschooling. Another couple hundred square feet might be more than enough rather than, for example, tacking on a thousand or more feet, which will definitely increase the costs of purchase, maintenance and time it takes to keep everything clean.

  25. Casandra says:

    I agree with you. I am the youngest in a family of six children and we had bunk beds. We had very basic rooms like bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom,dining room and porch. As I got older, we added more bedrooms to our home but no one moved into those bedrooms. Finally we renovated once more to only 2 bedrooms, two porches, kitchen/dining room, utility room and one bathroom. We are a close knit family and I think it’s because we stayed close as children.

    • Steve says:

      Cool story, thanks for sharing. You’re right, a lot probably has to do with how you lived as children. It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? 🙂

  26. Gingerlee190 says:

    I’m curious to know what you would consider a good living space for a family of 4. In our family we have myself, my husband, and two children (we want a large family, 4-5 kids). I like the idea of living a minimalist life, but am unsure what is realistic with such a large family.

    • Steve says:

      That is a very tough question for me to answer because everybody is different. The needs of your family is unique to your situation, so I can’t tell you what a good living space is for a family of 4. I do believe that *MOST* of us probably don’t need quite the space that we do have, but putting a number on it in a one-size-fits-all fashion isn’t something that I can do. 🙂

  27. Ur mom says:

    There’s a home that’s approx. 1500 sq ft. It cost 299,000! The size doesn’t necessarily mean more money because that’s not very big yet I’d have the pay the same as someone who has 1,800 sq ft house.

  28. […] Choosing a home is a complicated decision. No two properties are truly alike. Even when considering two houses next door to one another there are subtle differences. The slope of the driveway, the angle at which the sun hits the windows, the volume of sound from nearby railroad tracks. Forming lasting relationships with my clients as a real estate consultant is my goal. I encourage my clients to consider every side of a purchase. How far is the commute? Is their a grocer nearby? Those minutes add up over the course of the weeks, the months, the years. How long will you live there? Do you need room to grow your family? Do you really need this much space? […]

  29. Brenna says:

    My husband and I are looking at building a house in the next two years. And (kinda feeling ashamed right now) it will probably be about 1900 square feet. We currently have six people and a puppy in a 900 square foot, 3 bedroom and 1 bathroom, house. It will be built with as much solar efficiency as possible, on as much acreage as I can afford. It won’t be our forever home because we would like to eventually move to a different state. But it will hopefully help. It will have a small mudroom/laundry room, a kitchen, a dining area, a living room, and a small computer room/library (we have literally over a thousand books, and that’s after consistently purging them). Along with five bedrooms (one for each kid plus a master bedroom) and three bathrooms. One for our daughters, one for our sons and a master bath (a luxury, but my husband owns a training studio and I have a huge garden and plan on having a micro farm so we take multiple showers a day.) I am trying to make it as small as possible, but I don’t feel like I should get rid of anything else. It’s frustrating and kinda sad. I don’t want people to see us as snobby people who live in a McMansion because our new house is “only” 600 sqft smaller than the average home being built now. It is a very well laid out home with very little wasted space, there is literally not a single hallway or room that won’t be used on a daily basis. 🙁 Crazily enough we have by far the largest family, and even after we build we will have the smallest house of all of our relatives.

  30. Brenna says:

    My husband and I are looking at building a house in the next two years. And (kinda feeling ashamed right now) it will probably be about 1900 square feet. We currently have six people and a puppy in a 900 square foot, 3 bedroom and 1 bathroom, house. It will be built with as much solar efficiency as possible, on as much acreage as I can afford. It won’t be our forever home because we would like to eventually move to a different state. But it will hopefully help. It will have a small mudroom/laundry room, a kitchen, a dining area, a living room, and a small computer room/library (we have literally over a thousand books, and that’s after consistently purging them). Along with five bedrooms (one for each kid plus a master bedroom) and three bathrooms. One for our daughters, one for our sons and a master bath (a luxury, but my husband owns a training studio and I have a huge garden and plan on having a micro farm so we take multiple showers a day.) I am trying to make it as small as possible, but I don’t feel like I should get rid of anything else. It’s frustrating and kinda sad. I don’t want people to see us as snobby people who live in a McMansion because our new house is “only” 600 sqft smaller than the average home being built now. It is a very well laid out home with very little wasted space, there is literally not a single hallway or any room that won’t be used on a daily basis. 🙁 Crazily enough we have by far the largest family, and even after we build we will have the smallest house of all of our relatives.

  31. rachel bunny says:

    i absolutely agree with this! i grew up living in apartments and my parents are pack rats. it’s a huge dream to own a house and all my life i thought i wanted a huge house. i was debating whether to go for a 3k sq ft or something less. i’m a mom who works full time and the last thing i want to dedicate my entire day/weekend is cleaning a huge house. Second, bigger house equals bigger electricity bill. in all, i don’t want to be tied to house and give my all to a house! all that extra expense for all that extra room that isn’t going to be used is a money pit and i can use that money to do other things like travel, do nice upgrades, etc! this ultimately helped me narrow down i definitely will stick to a one story home since a lot of the extras tend to come with 2 story homes here in Texas.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Rachel! You hit the nail squarely on the head with the downside of such a huge space. The cleaning. The maintenance. The electricity and/or heating bills. It all adds up, and the larger your house, the greater the bill. Congratulations on realizing what’s truly important to you guys.

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