One of the biggest questions that comes up in the world of simple living, or voluntary simplicity, is this: how much house do you really need?
That’s a question that can be interpreted in several ways, so let me be more explicit: If you radically decluttered your home and quit buying “feel good” or “keep up with the Joneses” stuff, then based on the things you would have left, the number of people living in the house, and the activities you regularly engage in inside the house, how much house do you need?
Under 500 square feet?
The Tiny House movement is growing quietly but rapidly. If you have some land to park your tiny house on, need your house only for sleeping and eating, don’t plan to stock up and store for emergencies or future use, and don’t have to worry about tornadoes or hurricanes, a tiny house will save you tons of money in both a mortgage payment (which may be non-existent) and utility and maintenance bills.
Scratch that. You can have a “tiny dome” built out of concrete, so if you went that route you could safely have a tiny house even in the middle of the Kansas plains.
Between 500 and 1000 square feet
If you want to stay small for whatever reason – you hate housecleaning, you want lower bills, you’re aiming for quicker financial independence, you don’t do a lot more than eat and sleep at home – but are a bit claustrophobic, a small home will be just right. If you have one or two children, and you live in a climate that does not lend itself to year-round outdoor play, you can give the kids more indoor play space without compromising on your goal to save money by choosing a small house. If you are a prepper and want to be able to store a lot of items, including things you don’t want to leave in a storage shed or root cellar, a small house might fit you better than a tiny house.
1000-2000 square feet
This size is great for families of six to nine people (on the upper end), or for singles, couples or small families that will utilize this space on a daily basis. You are an artist, musician, or dancer and need an outfitted studio. You regularly entertain large crowds, or have overnight guests. You breed rodents for a local pet store. You hold group lifecoaching classes from your home several times a week.
Figuring out your number
Last year, I began a quest to find out exactly how much of our current 2149 square feet we use. Basically, we live in about half the space – four rooms – eighty percent of the time.
Then I decluttered – and made 40% of my kitchen cabinets, two bookcases, and three closets completely irrelevant. I could get rid of at least 30% of our furniture, too, except that it fills up the unused rooms nicely. So whatever we don’t want will go up for sale on craigslist early 2014 (we’ve already sold some).
We believe in storing up for emergencies, and will only be visiting a health food store about every three months. So we need space to store non-perishable food items as well as the usual extra bed linens, towels, empty glass jars (for the garden excess I plan to be producing within a couple of years!), and so on.
If it were just Jerry and I, 700 square feet would be just fine. Maybe even a little too much. But throw in a cat, a large rat cage, and a boy who never stops moving and like his mother must have at least three projects going on at once, and I start to have trouble breathing.
Even with loft beds and an additional storage shed, we are going for about 1000 square feet.
How about you? Do you really need to go deeper in debt to get a bigger house? Do you really want to pay more in utilities? Do you really need all that stuff – which is a huge reason that Americans continually find themselves in need of a bigger home? (Besides that terrible habit we’ve gotten into of giving children more room in the house and barely any room to turn around in the backyard.)
I’ll let you decide for yourself. As for my husband and I, we have decided that making a move toward simple living – which has brought us to the point of complete financial freedom – is far superior to chasing after the Standard American Dream.
Stay happy and healthy,
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