25 September 2012

How big is your house?

An article on CNN discusses the tiny home lifestyle, which has a few adherents in urban areas as well as out in the sticks, the usual setting for this kind of ultra-downsizing. A woman living in 204 square feet of house in Arizona comments:

When humans can do everything in the sheltered enclaves of our homes, we rarely venture out; we become isolated. Our small home encourages us to go outside and talk to the neighbors, go on hikes and meet people, go to coffee shops and restaurants, the library, the gym etc., etc. The list goes on. [...] I have been inspired to finally be tidy and clean; always putting everything away in its designed location. This creates a sense of spaciousness and sanity I've never had before in a home.

Tiny-house livin' intrigues me for financial reasons, and I'm fascinated at the discipline it must take to keep such a small place clutter-free and organized (see the Arizona couple's story). But it's a serious challenge to minimize your living space while maximizing your household's economic efficiency. When your home is the size of a fifth-wheel, where do you store food and housekeeping supplies? Do you go to the grocery store every day, spending more money on gas than you would if you had a pantry? Do you do laundry at home or at a laundromat? Where do you keep emergency supplies? (One family of four appears to have a very small fridge in their kitchen and not much food stored up.) Changes of bedding for different seasons? Changes of professional clothes if you're not in a work-at-home job? Gardening and other supplies for upkeep of your property?

I suspect that quite a few tiny-house dwellers also have a shed, root cellar, or barn on their land -- some kind of non-human shelter or storage structure. (And I imagine the urbanites simply shop frequently without stocking up.) In other words, I don't think "we live in just 204 square feet" is the full story for all of the tiny house dwellers. That said, clearly there's a happy medium between a tiny house and a McMansion in the exurbs. Here at Rowhouse Livin', we have it pegged at about 1,000 square feet. How about you?


Anonymous said...

That sounds about right: 500 sq. ft. per person. We have 5 people and while our house is more like 2600 sq. ft., we both also work from home/have home offices, as well as several pets large and small. Plus guests coming and going all the time. This is the biggest house I've ever lived in, and I would NEVER want to go larger.

I've lived 3 people/850 sq. feet, and it was certainly do-able, but the time spent constantly organizing things and putting things away in the one single place they fit so that no one would die tripping over them... a little frustrating.

When I was house-hunting here in VT, it drove me crazy. Listing after listing of 3-4000 sq. ft McMansions with one to three bedrooms and a bunch of grand foyers.


sheselectric said...

I feel like I could live in 204 feet everytime I go to Ikea. But, having lived in 800sq feet with a husband and a cat, I know in reality I just can't do it.
Between changes of linens, seasonal clothes, and my fancy dishes, it just isn't going to happen.
But we can aspire, right?

Jo Mathis said...

I feel like we could live in quite a few less than our current about-800-sq-ft-if-we're-lucky apartment, but the key would be organization. We'd have to have a lot less stuff, built-in storage for the necessaries, and have a specific place for everything. I'd LOVE do to that - but I have the feeling I'd need to build it.

It would take work to keep organized, but with so much less surface area to clean, I think I could do it.

I actually had a (day)dream about all the empty buildings in Center City being turned into these kind of super-efficient efficiency apartments, and maybe even some adaptations for multi-bedroom households like roomies or families. I wish I had the money and expertise to actually *do* it.