Apr 25, 2012

Homes - How small can you go?

It seems that everyone wants a different amount of living space depending on many factors. The most important factor often depends on where you are in your life.

I'm in the process of helping my son purchase a condo in Austin where he is in law school. For a single student, he feels comfortable in about 500-700 square feet. Any less feels too small and any more is just more tend to. Personally, I couldn't be comfortable living in a space that small - at least right now.

Like a lot of parents looking at an empty nest, I've hit a point in my life where I seek to simplify, get rid of extra clutter and space I don't need, and be free of the responsibilities of a large home. Downsizing can be liberating. But like Goldilocks, finding just the right size can be a challenge.

Most of us accumulate too much stuff and could easily live in less space - we just don't usually want to. How much space we need isn't as important as how much space we want and feel comfortable in. Like the college student who starts off sharing a 140 square foot dorm room, we yearn for more space as we can afford it. But with more space comes higher bills, more to maintain and clean, more space to furnish and decorate, ...

I've found that most people can't comfortably cut more than about 30% to 40% of their living space. They can go from 6,000 to 4,000 square feet without much trouble. However, cutting more than half of the space you are accustomed to is difficult - no matter what size you start with. Some folks ( Hi Gary )seem to gladly do it with ease. But they are the exception. It's too hard to downsize in one giant step. It often takes a couple of moves.

If you are thinking of how much space you really want to own and maintain, consider:
  • Basically you need space to sleep, cook, eat, bathe, and live. Consider how much more you need for storage, utility, work and entertaining.
  • Do you need a designated work space in your home? Or could you do double duty with the living room, dining table or guest room? Think in terms of multi-function areas.
  • Speaking of the dining room - if you only use it a couple of times a year, make better use of the square footage.
  • Do you frequently host guests either for entertaining or overnight? The cost of buying, maintaining, air conditioning, paying taxes on, ... the space could pay for a hotel stay.
  • Don't store lots of stuff that you don't really need in closets (or the attic). Display the items you really love - including household items - in a beautiful way. If they are packed away, you may not use them or need them.
  • Lastly, how much private space you really need to relax and feel comfortable? Some people enjoy less indoor space if they have spacious views of the outdoors.
Remember there are starving children in China who would love to have that space. Or something like that. Consider where you are in your life and how much space you want in the next 10 or 20 years.

This may sound strange coming from someone who sells square footage, but when it comes to your living space, you should either "Use it or Loose it". [where: 75230]

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