Our first tiny house was just 240 sq.ft. for 3 people (2 adults and 1 infant). Do some quick math and you’ll find that we each had roughly 80 sq.ft. a piece. It is pretty safe to say that most of the United State is becoming grossly accustomed to about 662 sq.ft. per person (for a family of 4) with the average new home in 2014 topping out at 2,649 sq.ft. 1 It goes without saying that the desire to live in smaller and more affordable places has risen in the last 4-5 years as a number of people are learning to not be attached to “stuff” and trade in ownership for experience. So how much space does a person need? When is too little, well, too little? What is the human breaking point when a home becomes more like a jail cell and solitude starts to look like isolation and even insulation? How much space do you really need?
So was 80 sq.ft. enough? Let’s talk numbers first. According to the Engineering Toolbox, the average person needs between 100 and 400 sq.ft. of space in an apartment setting. That number allows the person to feel comfortable. Comfort, of course, is relative though. My mother needs more like 1,000 sq.ft. to feel sane, let alone comfortable. Together my wife and I are quite happy in just 200 sq.ft. We have always lived in a tiny or small space and so by nature we cling to each other and hang in each others’ space even when afforded the opportunity not to. Now let’s talk circumstance.
Dormitory rooms at colleges and universities usually average about 12 ft. x 19 ft. That means students entering their freshman year at universities across the country have, on average, 228 sq.ft. of living space, according to the Register-Mail in Galesburg, IL. This space typically comes with a twin bed, a desk, a closet, and a nightstand. it leave little room for walking, lounging, or just “hanging out.” According to Naked Apartments, studio apartments in Manhattan range widely in terms of size. The median size is 550 sq.ft. and usually shared by two people in some manner. That equates to about 275 sq.ft. per person. It seems logical then that as social stature and professional success increases so does ones personal living space. But does it need to?
Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh has about $840 million dollars in net worth after Zappos was acquired by Amazon.com in Q1 of this year. But instead of a large mansion or a penthouse apartment, Hsieh has settled into a small Airstream travel trailer in Las Vegas, NV. And why? In a recent Business Insider interview Erik Moore, an early Zappos investor, said “Money is just a way for Tony to get to his endgame. [It] just doesn’t matter to him. If he only had a million dollars left, he’d spend $999,999. He would be just as happy with a dollar in the bank and being around people he cares about and care about him.”
But the conversation doesn’t stop there. The conversation of how much space is enough is one that has become deeply passionate and baffling. Is living in a small space a sort of status symbol now? Has the question gone from how much space do you need to what is the smallest space you can live in without going nuts? Again. The answer is as diverse as the people asked. So what about you?
How low can you go?