I love our cozy little house. La casita. Small houses make me happy. They have always felt like just the right size to me.
Of course, my vision of small house living did not include three sons, who would go from babies to toddlers to kindergarteners and preschoolers, and who will keep on growing.
By the time they are teenagers, will our 884 square foot house, with our itty bitty living room, feel cozy? Or just cramped?
How much space we have now
The house is 26′ x 34′, total 884 square feet (sf), a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom space. Here’s the room-by-room breakdown:
Kitchen: Approximately 8′ x 11′. For a small house, this is not bad! It’s more open than a galley kitchen, and it’s big enough that a few people can stand around and have a conversation. There’s also a door to the backyard in this space.
Dining area: 12′ x 8′. In this area, we have a small round table, four chairs (we’ve been using a hook-on chair until just recently, and even now, the kiddos often like to sit with us for meals), and the dog couch along the back wall. (We sit on it too, but this one is the pup’s favorite.)
Entryway and living area: 11′ x 14′. This includes a 3′ entryway and 3′ hallway. If you take out the hallway and entryway (where we keep jackets, shoes, keys, outdoor stuff, and a small box for recycling), it leaves our living room at about 8 x 11′, which is still fine now, but is starting to feel smaller as our kids are growing, especially since it’s still an area we walk through.
Small bedroom: 8′ x 10′. This is the smallest bedroom, although it feels larger now because we moved around furniture recently to help open up the space! Currently occupied by our oldest, nearly 5 years old.
Medium bedroom: 10′ x 11′. We rented out this room for two years, and it has functioned as a guest bedroom at various times. Currently occupied by the twins, 2.5 years old.
Larger bedroom: 9′ x 13′. The slightly larger size of this room is offset by the tiny 2.5 foot wide closet. We have an extra Ikea wardrobe along with dressers to make up for it. This is the “master” bedroom. When we don’t fall asleep putting the kiddos to bed, we actually sleep here!
Full bathroom: 5′ x 7′. Small but functional. It has a tub and toilet and sink and a tiny bit of storage. And a nice big mirror!
1/2 bathroom: 4′ 4″ x 3′ 3″. It’s a glorified closet, but having this half bathroom makes a huge difference in our household happiness.*
The attic. Our previous roommate (from our pre-kid days) told us, “You guys use your attic more than anyone else I know.” And it’s true. Toys that are being rotated out, things that are handy only once or twice a year, winter or summer clothes, a small box of Christmas decorations, our tents and sleeping bags, hand-me-downs that don’t quite fit the kids yet, and other odds and ends are all up there. A “floor” of plywood boards installed on top of the blow-in insulation helps provide extra storage capacity for the mishmash of things we want close by, but not in our space.
Overall, previous owners did a nice job adding in extras here and there to optimize the space available – adding the half bathroom, the attic, the stacked washer/dryer in the hallway closet. They also did their best to insulate and seal the house as well as possible, which we appreciate from both a cost and sustainability perspective.
We do have a fantastic yard, which slopes down to a stream and backs up to a park. When I first saw the backyard, I gasped – it was beautiful, with big old trees. There were a lot of non-native invasive plants, so we’ve done a lot of work to remove and put in plants native to our area. We also have areas where the kids can run around and play.
But is it enough?
At less than 1000 square feet, this is definitely considered “starter home” territory. After nearly 10 years here, it’s still enough space for us for now, but doesn’t allow us to be as generous with our home as I’d like in the future. I’d love to have an extra bedroom for hosting family (or if one of our parents moves in with us as they get older?), a small office, a spacious living room area where we could have a playdate with a family with multiple kids without everyone stepping on top of each other – or even host a birthday party. We do have a great yard and deck and we spend a good amount of time there, but our small amount of indoor space has really felt constraining over the last weeks and months. Of course, it didn’t help that it was the dog days of summer, and thus hot and humid at all hours of the day and night, and also peak mosquito season.
After some discussion, and input from others*, I was able to turn around my perspective. I’ve been convinced to reframe my thinking – instead of small, our house and living room are an efficient use of space.* (Okay, they’re also small.) Plus fall is coming, and it’s already more fun to spend time outdoors compared to a few weeks ago.
We are committed to staying in our current space for at least 3-5 more years. At that point, our kids will be five and nearly eight (up to seven and nearly ten), and we can reevaluate our options and make decisions. In the meantime, we will keep doing what we’ve been doing when our space starts to feel constrained – move furniture around, get rid of things, or put stuff in the attic. 🙂
For excellent reading and historical analysis on this topic, see the Fioneers’ We Live in a 1,000-Square Foot Mansion
Also Accidental FIRE’s recent post The State of Housing in America: https://accidentalfire.com/2019/08/27/state-of-housing-america/
* I am grateful to the Facebook group The Money Middletons for excellent points and discussion in response to questions I posted there about house size and feel. I haven’t given specific credit to specific people for thoughts and ideas because it’s a private group, but this post was very much informed by that discussion. Thanks!