Family Sized Tiny Houses

Barb contacted me the other day about some issues that have not been discussed here at the Tiny House Blog. Here is what Barb had to say plus some questions she had to ask…

We are a retired couple in the process of adopting a family of four or five children. We need more space than most of the one bedrooms we see here, but still prefer the objectives of simple and small living.

Tiny House in mid-town Sacramento 3

Barb has come up with a few questions and would enjoy your responses as to what you are doing or are considering doing when faced with this same challenge.

  1. What are other families doing to downsize?
  2. What is a realistic square footage need per person? If one person can live in 100 square feet, does that mean a family of four can live in 400 square feet?
  3. What things are necessary in a home? What things can we live without in order to simplify life?
  4. Where is the dividing line between reality living and unrealistic expectations?

Please use the comment section to respond to these questions, also feel free to add any question of your own pertaining to this problem. Thank you and I look forward to your responses.

Photo Credit: Tammy Strobel

by Kent Griswold (Tiny House Blog)

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P.Smith - October 8, 2009 Reply

I think families can get along in a much smaller space than what most families live in these days. Children do not always need separate bedrooms, especially if they are used only for sleeping and storing clothes. I would separate kids by gender as they hit puberty, for privacy, but small children are often feel safer with someone else in the room. I think a lot of families have communication problems because they don’t spend any time with each other; the kids lock themselves away in their rooms on a computer or a video game and there is no interaction. No wonder we have so many social problems! Our children are not learning how to interact with other people!

Everybody needs a little bit of space to call his/her own, even it it’s a drawer, cubbyhole, corner, or whatnot, but it doesn’t have to be huge. If we limit the number of things we have, we don’t need much extra space anyhow. If are ‘doing’ more than ‘having’, what do we need to store?

A family would definitely need enough room for everyone to sit at the same table for meals, but that doesn’t mean a large table has to be set up all the time. An open space where everyone could be together to talk, visit, play games, and so on would be good, too. Arrangement of furniture could be used to define different spaces as well, so there could be a reading corner, a games table, a space for Twister, and so on. Multi-use spaces are a must.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Thanks so much for your suggestions. I am afraid that sharing bedrooms is not an option for our kids, but the family space and family play is right on target.

Switcher - October 8, 2009 Reply

I have two kids, wife & myself, & live in 1,000 sft.

I think this is about as small as I would go, so that’s 250 sft per person.

If it was only my wife & I, I could cut that in half, no problem. So that would make our living space 500 sft.

If I had a family of 7, I wouldn’t go any less than 1600 – 1800 sft., kids need a little space, of their own.

At 1800 sft you could still get by on a very small lot (basement, lower level, upper level. That’s only 600 sft per level, it also makes things appear larger (If done right) with multi levels.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Since we are currently in a 3800 square foot home, most anything will be a reduction. When our youngest son was 16-19 we lived in less than 900 square feet. I agree that we were happier in the closer quarters.

    Thanks for your input.

    crazy mom - March 28, 2014 Reply

    As a family of 8,Dad, mom, and 4 boys,2 girls. We hav lived in much smaller places than most. 1st a 912 sq ft 2 bed room house, which if it had been layed out better would hav been able to be 3 bedrooms, and would have been a fine size for us. next we moved to a 12×40 prefab cabin, it had a 4 ft porch, so interior was 12×36, it had a loft at both ends that was 12×14. one for girls one for boys, and a smallish bed room in the back for parents. the rest was open kitchen and living room. It felt bigger than thehouse we had before it! we loved that cabin , but it didn’t work out as it was on inlaws land. right now we are staying in an off grid 12×24 cabin all one room!! it also has a porch thesame size as that help alot, but our children enjoy outdoors, and have plenty of it since we are on 50 ares!! the 12×24 is really to small for a family our size, but the others were not as long as we had plenty of room to run outside. i don’t know if i could live in a space that small in the city with minimal yard though. I know other families of simular size who live in a remodeled camper, looks likie a minihome inside now. and they travel all over in it! my kids think its cool!! it’s only been in the last 60 to 70 years that larger homes and seperate bedrooms for all the children have become the norm. we enjoy the closeness, ad hope that even when we have savedenough to buy our own land that we can find a place that doesn’t have a very large house. 1000-1200 is about as big as i would want to go.

      Onederlamb - April 21, 2014 Reply

      Hi crazy mom,
      It’s good to see that this can be done! I have the same size family however my ratio of girls to boys is the exact opposit. We have just started to look in to living in a tiny house and you are the first person I’ve come across who does it with as many as we have. So, the big question is how do you do it? Sleeping? Storage? Cooking? I have so many questions. We have started to downsize and as we look into building, all I’m finding are plans for a few people and we want ours to be moble. Any tips and pointers would be greatly appreciated.

        Michael Morgantini - April 23, 2015 Reply

        Watch the movie “Surfwise.” Unforgettable. 2 parents and 9 kids roaming the world in a 24′ Winnebago for years and years. The first 25 minutes have a few moments that are not family friendly, but otherwise an eye opening movie. (True story.)

      Heather - July 16, 2014 Reply

      HELLO!! I loved this comment.. my husband and I have 6 kids as well .. 4 boys 2 girls. My oldest is 17 and youngest is 3.. I have spent hours designing a layout of cabins and lofts and such for our family. Trying currently to see if we can place a rough loft 40 x 14 cabin on a mobile home park. I’m glad to see it can be done. I have been looking into furniture to that doubles up as other things to save some space.. but the point is to be closer, live free, spend less and down size!~

    wendy - August 30, 2014 Reply

    My family of 7 lives in 1500 Sq ft. 3 br – parents, boys, girl.

    We have a large yard and one floor is 100% open plan. 1 bath.

    We downsized from 7 br 5 bath to get much larger lot in a location with better schools. 2 years later and we love it.

Kootenay Mum 3 three - October 8, 2009 Reply

We are a family of five and live in about 1000 sq feet. I would say we could get by with less if it were well laid out (I would estimate that 200-300 sq ft of our house is wasted space). So, in the ideal world, with a compact layout and lots of built in storage, we could be fine in 600-700 sq feet for a family of five.

Esentials are that everyone have a sleeping space (we have our two boys in a small bedroom and my daughter in a closet size bedroom that is just big enough for a twin size bed and a dresser), room for a table we can all sit at, adequate space to prepare meals (I notice a lot of single people in tiny houses seem to eat out a lot – we prepare everythign at home from scratch. I bake our bread, at harvest time I can and freeze things, I stockpile non-perishables when they are on sale – maybe not very space efficient, but if you have a large family on one income sometimes these things are necessary, where we live a decent loaf of bread cost $4 whereas I can bake it for about $0.30 and at about a loaf a day – well I’m sure you can do the math), a space for us to sit down as a family and a full bathroom (showers are great for adults, but you need a bathtub when you have kids). We also need about 20-40 sq feet for my husband’s business. This is done from home and requires a computer desk and filing cabinet at a minimum, but does not need it’s own room as he works from home and needs to supervise the kids as well. We keep the kids toys in the living room in a baskets in a shelving unit and boxes that slide under the couch. We think it is much healthier for them to play together in a common area under our supervision than alone in their rooms. Big toys are relegated to outside and they tend to spend a great deal of their time out there in good weather.

It really depends on your lifestyle and what you conisder essential. Sleeping, a plcae to sit together and have family meals and bathroom facilites are essential to everyone I think though.

Best of luck in your adoption. One of our children is a kinship adoption. It was tough process, but definitely worth it!

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Storage would also be a big issue for me as I tend to be a neat-nik and want everything tidy at all times, and I’m too old to change my ideas on that now.

    We seem to share a lot of the same ideals in life. Your input is valuable to me. Thanks.

      Kootenay Mum 2 three - October 15, 2009 Reply

      We might live not to far from each other. I am near the US border in BC….

        Barb - October 22, 2009 Reply

        We live in the Okanogan Valley – south of Osoyoos.

    Jen - June 10, 2011 Reply

    We raised kids without a tub. We had a shower with a sprayer on a hose, and a Rubbermaid tub that we filled to bathe the little ones.

Angela S - October 8, 2009 Reply

How large of a house you need also depends greatly on your location. Will your children be able to play outside most of the year, or are winters too cold? Do you have a backyard or nearby park? Can a screened porch double as a playroom in warm weather? Map out the choreography of your future home — will kids sitting at the table doing homework be in your way as you make dinner? Are the kids all close enough in age to attend the same school, meaning multiple people fighting for the bathroom? Perhaps a second sink in the hallway would make sense, or placing the toilet and shower in separate rooms. An on-demand water heater could replace a traditional storage tank, saving space as well as preventing “who used all the hot water?” debates. Don’t discount attic and basement space, either. I spent many a happy hour as a child playing with dolls or reading in our basement and garden shed! You don’t have to re-create Chuck E. Cheese in your home in order to give your kids space to play.

I will respectfully disagree with the first commenter that children don’t need their own rooms because of the unique situation in the question: the children are adoptees. This means that they will be (at least at first) strangers to one another. If they have been in foster care, it’s unlikely that they have ever had a room of their own, or even many of their own belongings. The need for a private space where they feel safe is even more important if they have suffered physical or sexual abuse, as many foster kids sadly have.

However, I don’t think that kids having their own rooms is synonymous with them shutting themselves up in there to play video games, provided the parents don’t give them the means to do so. Kids, especially young ones, don’t need their own “media center”. There’s no real reason a kid needs more space than that required for a twin bed, a small desk, and a dresser. If a twin bed is approximately 3×6′, a 6×10′ room should be perfectly adequate — even less if the ceilings are high enough for a loft bed. (You could skip the desk, even, if there’s a spacious dining table for doing homework, but some kids need more quiet and fewer distractions than others.)

The important thing to keep in mind here is to really consider what is right for your family. This requires a lot of consideration and a willingness to rethink things many times. Don’t get so fixated on a number (“it must be under X square feet!”) that you lose sight of reality. The typical tiny house design is full of interesting ideas, but keep in mind that many of these aren’t suitable for people with limited mobility, for instance (loft areas, non-standard bathrooms), or those who will be preparing meals for 6 people (micro-kitchens with cube fridges). An 800 sq. foot house which is thoughtfully considered and laid out perfectly for your family’s needs will “live better” than one twice the size which is filled with wasted, unusable space.

Best of luck to you and your family, Barb.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    You obviosly have an understanding of foster care and adoption and the special needs of these kids. Thanks so much for your input.

    I am not really fixed on numbers (square footages) as much as not wanting to make an expensive mistake when considering all needs. We do live on the Canadian border and outside play is not always feasible during the coldest months. But since we do have 10 acres to play with, there is plenty of outside play space in good weather.

    christina blow - January 31, 2011 Reply

    i agree that adopted kids have different needs as far as space goes. our sons were adopted from the foster system (they are biological brothers) and we’re in the process of adopting again.

    IF we get boys this time around we plan on having a sleeping room for them all. we have 3 bedrooms, so the other bedroom will have their desks and toys. If we get a girl, that will have to change. we are doing it so that the kids BOND, but we’re also being careful as to what issues we’re open to. if you have safety issues, you need a bit more space.

    it is important to have enough space to separate the kids if need be, while they play.

    we have 1400 square feet with two children, adding one or 2 on and we’re fine now, but i’ll really have to look at space saving furniture/etc when we add kids! unfortunately, we can’t do it ahead because it depends on what gender we end up with!

Stephanie - October 8, 2009 Reply

I personally live in a 2000 sq ft home of six. It’s a little more space than is needed for us, but for us and our stuff, it suffices. As a kid growing up in a 3 bedroom home, I have to say that when kids become teens, sharing bedrooms becomes, if not awkward, then unpleasant for the teens. We had to convert our basement into a bedroom space to accommodate everyone comfortably. I’ve seen some small housers accomplish this; I could not have tolerated it with the design of our house.

A tip that has helped me is to search for the house you want, the exact house you think you’ll need, using search functions on housing plan websites. This will give you some ideas on how to save space. For example, I saw one house that saved space by eliminating hallways on the upper floor, instead opting for two small stairs to different sections. You wouldn’t think that saves space, but it allowed for three large upper bedrooms where ordinarily only two small and a hallway would fit. I’ve found that there are some odd designs out there, perfect for small house families, but they’re hard to find. If you would like to reply to this comment, I’d be willing to send you some small family house designs I’ve created (for free).

There are some good ones available, if you search hard. This plan, for example, is pure genius. Here’s what it has that you need:

-Lots of small personal space, padded by a good amount (2) of large shared spaces.

-3 bathrooms. If you have teenagers, they’re going to want to groom themselves daily, and that’s going to take a lot of bathroom time. 3 full baths is a lifesaver in a large family home (large family, not large home).

-A laundry room is a big deal in a family home, and this one has a sizable one.

-A den/office. Generally, you’re not going to want your kids hanging out in their bedrooms (the small size of them discourages you from pairing them in a bedroom, but it also encourages them to use shared space for their activities other than sleep), but you yourself might need a place other than your bedroom to have private time for work, relaxing, etc. And if worse comes to worse, you can convert the den into a bedroom also. And on the subject of conversion, bedrooms can be dens or guest rooms or libraries or whatever you need, if you have less than six occupants of your house.

Those are my thoughts. Good luck!

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    This home plan is astounding. I never dreamt that you could get so much into so small a space. I am extremely surprised.

    We were hoping to build underground, but your plans have really given me something to think about.

    I would love to see the plans that you’ve drawn up. How may we make such contact?

    Jenni Grant - October 7, 2010 Reply

    Do you still have house plans for small houses for families? I have 7 kids but want as small a house as would be reasonable. thanks.

      Jacqueline - December 8, 2010 Reply

      wow! this is great! we have a house that is laid out similarly (raised ranch, with lower den and 2 car garage, not split level) We have relocated to the Northwest to a home that is insanely too big (you live and you learn… this will be a fun experience)& rent our other smaller home, but I have always thought that now that we have another child, the 3 bedroom house that we left in the South will be too small for us. Crazy that we can really make 3 more bedrooms out of the two car garage. (Although I’m sure my husband would want to keep at least one garage, our lot is such that we could add a carport right beside the house)
      I have been secretly researching the tiny house trend and will have to pray a LOT for a change of heart in my sweetheart for him to jump on board with this… Not for the “green” bit of it (sorry tree lovers) ;P but for the spiritual side of it. It is so easy to get caught up in worldly things and be distracted by the more more more of the world! thanks so much for sharing these house plans… I love it!

Sarah - October 8, 2009 Reply

I can’t wait to read these replies.

I currently reside in a 345 sq ft apt and love the idea of downsizing from that. However, I have hobbies and interests that require “stuff” – including a love of cooking, gardening, sewing and knitting. I am in the process of creating a list of necessary things to anticipate how pared down my life can get without impacting its quality. So far I’ve gotten rid of about 30-40% of the things I own.

Although it’s easy to dismiss the storage of “stuff,” is it better to buy and use and give away after a one time use – or store things for use at a later date? Or should I just become a Borrower…?

I would like to sustain living small beyond an experimental year or two – but this is a conundrum I face as I think about moving forward with a Tiny House. Do I create a Tiny Studio, too? Does that negate the concept as I would then have a Tiny Compound (although I like the idea of a Tiny Caravan…).

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Sarah, Isn’t it awesome that so many have been bitten by the Tiny House (simple living) bug? Your thoughts are inspirational. A caravan??? Great idea!

    Stephen H - April 19, 2011 Reply

    I have also wondered if there was a square foot per person benchmark?? As far as keep, throw away, or borrow… My parents were pack rats AND gypsies. Two habits that do not go well together. I convinced my father that if a tool got used once a month = keeper… twice a year (or decade) = borrow/rent. I try to apply that formula to all my stuff now.

Kim - October 8, 2009 Reply


Hi! Thank you so much for using your retirement to provide a stable home and family for those children. It is an enormous gift– and sacrifice. My brother and sister-in-law adopted four kids from the same family, and it is no small feat.

I’m all about simple living, but I think it’s important to realize that your children may or may not have personalities and backgrounds that lend themselves to elbow-to-elbow togetherness. Giving each of them a place for privacy and ownership– even if it’s just a twin bed with curtains or a partition, and a place to put their own things– might be really important. (Also think about how many people need to use each bathroom before school/work each morning.)

As far as looking for a place to downsize, I’d recommend checking out older homes! Older homes don’t waste space on enormous rooms, long hallways, or cavernous kitchens. Plus, there are real environmental savings to living in an existing house rather than creating something new; and older houses aren’t built with today’s toxic materials. I’m surprised more people don’t head this direction within the tiny house movement.

Hope something in there helps!

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Kim, We consider ourselves blessed, and totally unworthy of the honor bestowed on us in this adoption. There are so many broken hurting children out there in need of loving homes. These kids don’t deserve the hand that has been dealt to them in life, and only we who have love to share can offer them something better.

    Your comment about an older home is funny to us because our home is fairly old, yet anything but little (3800 square feet as stated earlier). But it does make great space of built-ins. We love our home, but are looking for a simpler way of living that it cannot afford us.

    Thanks for our encouragement.

      Libby Aldridge - November 3, 2011 Reply

      I found this blog because I now live in a 1000 square foot house, downsized from a 2000+ house after adopting two sisters, we already had a biological son. It has been a few years, I was just wondering if you adoption was successful?

    Mindy - December 30, 2014 Reply

    Um.. Older homes are often built with asbestos insulation, lead paint, faulty wiring, among other things……. just saying.

Becky - October 8, 2009 Reply

I think it really depends on the make up of the family. I’m a single mom with a special needs (autistic) child. This requires more room than I would prefer although we really only need one bedroom since we co-sleep. I’d guess we’d be happy with around 400 square feet, however I won’t be downsizing again until he is older.

If you have very quiet children, you can get away with less room. If you have very active children but live in an area that they can be outside a good deal then again you can get away with less room.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Becky, Wow! You yourself have been given a great challenge. Thank you for sharing your inspiration with me.

      miriam cameron - December 4, 2012 Reply

      thank you so much for asking this question!!! i have 4 kids and we are looking to move into a tiny house until we have built our perm. home these are the questions i have been asking for a year! thank you! also thankyou for taking your retirment to help kids in foster care! and much less a sibling group!! in foster care the saying goes “everyone wants a puppy but and no one wants 4 dogs” meaning older children and sibling groups never leave the lot once you hit 3 you are likely to graduate high school in your 8th or 9th foster home- if your lucky

Kootenay Mum 2 three - October 8, 2009 Reply

Angela S. – I respectfully disagree on a couple of points. First of all, as a foster mother and now an adoptive mother, I believe this couple is looking at adopting a large sibling group. As such, these kids have probably only had each other up until now and will likely prefer to share a room or rooms, espcially at first. Secondly, although playing in their room is not synonomous with video games, even playing alone in a room is not neccessarily healthiest for a child. I had a large bedroom of my own as a child seperated by a couple of floors from the communal areas of the house. My parents had little contact with me or idea of what i was doing outside of family meals. I don’t personally think this fostered family closeness and I did not have a tv or video games in my room.

Jessica - October 8, 2009 Reply

I also live in 1000 sq ft with my husband and two daughters (2 and 4). It does help that my children are of the same gender (therefore can share a room until they move out!). There is also a small room on the first floor that used to be an office and is now a playroom- and a possible bedroom if necessary.

I agree with the previous poster that children prefer to be together. My daughters have actually started sharing the same bed. They love to cuddle like puppies on cooler nights.

And part of the reason we loved our small house was it came with a big yard and access to a lot of local hiking trails. We try to be outside as much as possible. So look for a small house with lots of outdoor room.

We have one bathroom and I wish we had another. Even a full bath and a powder room would be fine. I think it would be helpful to have two toilets with children.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Jessica, Congratulations, sounds like you have found the place of your dreams and are now fulfilling them.

Ryan - October 8, 2009 Reply

A tiny compound is not a bad idea. Being able to close down not needed space and not heat it or cool it would be a great advantage.

Looking at older homes is also a great idea.

As a child I really appreciated having our large basement family room that was open to many different forms of play and having friends over.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell - October 9, 2009 Reply

You’ve gotten some great responses here. As the youngest child of mid-life parents who was at first born into a small, close quartered 800 sq. ft. bungalow that housed my 2 parents, 3 teen siblings and an ailing grandmother, and ended my childhood in a huge house where I had the entire top floor to myself, I much preferred the closeness of the smaller home.
I think your children, who are obviously coming from an unstable environment, might enjoy the closeness and cozy feelings of a smaller home.
My husband and I had 2 teens in an 1,100 sq. ft. 3 brm. 1.5 bath home and it was plenty of space.
However, there’s no universal answer of each person needing xx amount of sq. footage. My husband and I live in 480 sq. ft. with 4 dogs now, but it wasn’t adequate as well for me to work from home so we built extra space for an office. I always advise people to ask themselve what of their stuff, they can live without. It’s all about what YOU need to live comfortably. What’s good for one family is not necessarily good for another. A place to gather for meals and room for everyone to sleep is a good starting point (and I don’t agree that every child needs their own room either). One piece of good advice that is universal, is to put in plenty of built ins. My mom had built ins put in every room of that bungalow and they were wonderful!

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Kerri, I agree that we’ve gotten some great responses, and all of them have shared great ideas. It is not about the square footage, it is about the people within the walls. I am enjoying the ideas presented and that will help the people within the walls live fulfilled contented lives. Thanks.

Anne B - October 9, 2009 Reply

When I ask myself what is “necessary” space for a family to live in, I think back to what I used to live in as a child. I do know it would have been nice to have an extra half bath in a house with 3 to 5 kids, but we grew up successfully with one bathroom! Most of my youth was spent in a 900sf house in N. Michigan. The people who commented about playing outside if you live where the climate permits it must not have grown up in a northern clime. Children need to run and use up energy for a few hours every day and we did that every day in every weather, with appropriate clothing. One of the things that I now consider comfort-adding (not a necessity) is a mudroom for the coats, boots, and mud that active children bring in with them. It could be a small space (6 by 5?) with a bench for changing/storing footwear and hooks for coats, etc. and would also serve to buffer the house from drafts and temperature extremes. My sister and I shared bunk-beds in a small bedroom with my grandmother in her own twin bed. We sometimes hung a bedspread from the top bunk to give my younger sister her own space in the bunk below and my space in the top bunk was above eye level, giving me some sense of privacy. We each had a drawer and boxes under the bed for our books and collections of strange kid things. My brother had his own room and our indoor play was spread out on the floor space of both rooms and the hall in between. Of necessity, we had to keep clutter under control because it was shared space. Homework was done on one end of the kitchen table while my grandma prepared dinner on the other end. Yes, I chafed as a teen over the “lack of privacy”, but with adult perspective I realize that it was my feeling of a lack of emotional support that actually made me unhappy.
More recently, my son (when he was in his 20s) and I lived in a series of progressively smaller homes. I thought I could not “live” in one because the countertop and cabinets consisted of a sink unit with integrated drainboards on each side and the underlying base cabinet. And I garden, can, freeze and bake all our own food! I found it quite doable by using the table as a countertop extension and adding a freestanding utility cupboard. Our final home together was 560sf, one bedroom. My son slept on the futon in the living/dining room and I had a twin bed in the tiny bedroom. Whenever I started to feel that the situation was inadequate, I reminded myself of how many extended families in places like Mexico and E. Europe would be happy to like in the warm, weather tight space that we occupied. I think living closely together is part of what helped my son develop into the exceptionally capable and caring person that he is.
One comfort that I remember as a child in a small space was knowing that if I got sick in the night, my grandmother would hear it immediately and come to my aid. If I had trouble with homework, my dad saw me struggling and stepped in immediately. If a boyfriend was pressuring me to “show him that I loved him”, my dad overheard my response on our only phone in the kitchen and stepped in with conversation about self esteem. What your children need is your time, in as large a dose as possible, not any defined amount of space to grow up happy. Kids have grown up to be secure and successful in many different configurations of space.

    Kootenay Mum 2 three - October 9, 2009 Reply

    This is a great story and exactly what my thoughts are (although not what my experience as a child was, i ope my kids will look back on their lives something like this). I do agree though, that although we have one bathroom and funciton that way, another half bath would be nice. We have a mud room and I think it’s a waste of space, although maybe again, if it were smaller and better laid out it might work.

      Anne B - October 10, 2009 Reply

      I suspect your kids will have warm and fantastic memories of their childhood…when they become adults! One thing I wish I had known as I was raising my son is that sometimes kids complain, even quite bitterly, about things that they remember as adults with fond nostalgia! Go figure! My son HATED one house we lived in that was on the edge of town because he had a long ride in on his bike, as an adult he once said, “We should have bought that house.” WHAT!? He also remembers very fondly our summers where I worked on an isolated island in Lake Michigan. He wants to give his own children that experience. All I remember is his frequent bitter complaints about the lack of TV, movies, phone etc. Now that is all part of his uniqueness and helped him learn to be resourceful. So keep up the good work!

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Anne, You’ve touched many with your comments here. Thanks for sharing your heart. That is just the closeness that we are all looking for for our families.

barenakedfamily - October 9, 2009 Reply

Hey Barb,
Best of luck and thanks for looking at adoption. Everyone’s needs are unique, but this has worked for us…
We are a family of five and acquired the ‘American Dream’ in the 90s through corporate bucks. In 2001 we sold everything and hit the road in a 37′ RV for what we thought would be about a year vacation to find a family biz & place to live (mom/dad, three kids, two dogs, and a cat). Turned into five years living in just over 200 square feet – kids were 5, 6, & 9yo when we started.
In 2007 we rented an urban 500 square foot duplex (2/1) and have been very content since. The teens (now 13, 14, & 17) share the bigger room. Our 17yo sons latest facebook status is a pic of our family titled ‘best friends’. We also have a very social and ‘in it’ life.
We work & ‘home’ school off the couch, in our room, or out there. We spend loads of time outside & enjoying life together. We don’t have to work too much to keep up with few bills & stuff.
I tried to answer your questions by the number, but each person’s needs are just too unique. This is our way, and we’ve yet to meet any family (or person) with the same exact needs to be content.
All the best to you in your journey. Let us know if you’d like to talk more.
Greg (a) barenakedfamily dot com

    barenakedfamily - October 9, 2009 Reply

    Here’s some pictures and blog Jenn did on our duplex:

      Kootenay Mum 2 three - October 9, 2009 Reply

      Very cool.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Hey, Bare Naked Family, I did enjoy your post. I checked out your site. What a great story you have there. I’ve even shared the link with my daughter (also a Sunnie) who has just this month moved into a travel trailer with her 5 children (under 5) in hopes of having a great winter adventure on the road while Daddy is layed off. What inspiration.

LeeAnn Balbirona - October 9, 2009 Reply

We’re a family of six in 1600 sq ft in in the Pacific Northwest. We could go smaller if we had to but it would be a strain mostly because of noise level not actual square footage.

Our kids are spread out in age: 3, 6, 9 and 12, so we have a noisy, active preschooler with lots of toys as well as a pre-teen who needs a quiet place to study. My middle two include one crafty creative girl (who saves every kind of thing because it might be usefuly for some project) and another active one who doesn’t like toys much but does like to read a lot and play dress-up. My husband has a lot of tools for home repair and hobbies and I have a fair amount of crafting stuff as well.

All those interests and needs require storage and sometimes separated spaces–for me at least!–I am a fairly introverted person and too much noise in the house has me climbing the walls.

We could do with smaller bedrooms easily but only if the communal areas were increased in size with adequate storage for individual hobbies and possessions.

Our dining room is in constant use for eating, homework, art projects, etc. so that’s one room I wouldn’t recommend eliminating or reducing too much. Your kitchen does not need to be too much larger but your storage space for food does. I also recommend a sizeable entry/mudroom space for all those shoes, backpacks and coats you will acquire.

I can’t remember the name of it but there is a blog (“Ten kids and a dog”?) about a family of 12 that lives in a 900 sq ft 3bed/1bath house with a sizeable yard very happily–they homeschool too. That much closeness might not work for everybody, but it can be done. Best of luck with the adoptions!

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    LeeAnn, I agree with you that after reading all of these posts, that I hope to increase the public spaces and decrease the personal spaces. I know each will need their personal space, but they don’t have to be as large as society may want us to believe. Thanks for your input.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    LeeAnn, I did look up this link by the way. Again – pure inspiration. I would need a little more storage and organization to pull that off though.

    And as many have commented in these posts, I did homeschool my 4 adult children when they were kids. Don’t expect to do so with the new family though. Then again, you never know, huh?

PJ - October 9, 2009 Reply

There’s new research (NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children)that shows that sibling rivalry is actually lessened by living in closer proximity to each other because they’re forced to work things out, not retreat and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. I think open floor plans are for great for communal living, that kids can double up in bedrooms but by all means, but have that extra bathroom – or two. And lots of built in storage. Finish up with all the outdoor living space you can manage and you’ve got a great plan. Your retirement years sound like they’re going to be fabulous.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    PJ, Your message seems to sum up what many of these posts are saying, small spaces create more bonding, less fighting. Hurray! Too bad I didn’t know all this when my first family was smaller.

Wayfarer scientista - October 9, 2009 Reply

I do think that the absolute best thing to have with a large family in a small space is to keep separate rooms for the toilet and for bathing. It is very common in Europe and I’ve never figured out why it isn’t here as it certainly helps keep the peace on rushed mornings.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Wayfarer, Your suggestion sums up what many have stated here also. Bathrooms need to be more user friendly with it’s different functions freed up into separate spaces. Great idea! My mind is spinning with ideas on how to do that. Thanks.

Ilana - October 9, 2009 Reply

As far as I know we humans are not “made” to sleep alone. We have evoloved as social creatures, living in villages and communities, and mostly with extended famillies. Ever wonder why a baby cries itself to sleep in a crib? That only happens in modern day homes, which are too big and cause distance and separation among family members.

I lived in a 450 sq ft home with my husband and daughter til she was 2. Then we moved to 800 sq ft and two bedrooms. My baby girl never cried herself to sleep. And I believe living in a small home helped create family cohesiveness.

Today I’m a divorced empty-nester living in 250sq ft and my friends envy me. I’ve discovered smaller really is bigger in so many ways and I’m glad I chose this lifestyle.

Finally, I agree that kids are happier and healthier sharing a room. My mom moved my little brother out of my room and into my big brother’s room when I was six. After that I felt lonely, and my brother’s never complained (A few years later, when my parents bought a 3000+ sq ft home in the suburbs we each had our own rooms, and in my experience that led to feelings of isolation and damaged our family relationships).

I can’t say for sure how much space a family of six might need, but sharing rooms and being close is definitely better for meeting human needs and keeping the family close.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Thanks, Ilana, for your input. Let’s bring our families closer and let the bonds of unity be strengthened.

Donna - October 11, 2009 Reply

#1. Subscribe to Tiny House Blog for IDEAS 😉

My husband and I share our less than 900 sq.ft home, with a 4 y/o grand daughter and our 30 y/o daughter, a shep/lab dog, a ferret (tiny female) 2 fish and a rat.
My suggestion, determine what is and what is NOT important to possess (possessions). Stuff is STUFF, what will it add to or take away from your quality of life? We subscribe to so many things these days that make us all feel like we are “unimportant, or nothing” if we don’t have all this stuff and what have we created? Sicknesses that were never heard of years ago, when the people had to SURVIVE not just exist.
Our children need our time and our “undivided” attention, NOT STUFF. They need US. When i was a single parent, and very poor, i was very creative in finding things to do with my daughter…that were cheap and we had good quality time together. It is called bonding, and teaching values etc?
What sort of legacy are we leaving behind for the next generation or for our childrens , children?
Rubble? We have selfishly consumed the earth in our desire for things that really did not bring us anything permanent, and now we are stuck with cleaning up the mess.
I am in the midst of downsizing and getting rid of years of “stuff” in order to find “myself” again.

    Barb - October 12, 2009 Reply

    Donna, I agree – let’s eliminate the stuff and get on with the living. I think that is one of the major objectives of the tiny house. Simplify. Of course it would be easier if somebody else would figure it all out for me – but I guess that’s what all these posts are for, huh? Great stuff, don’t you think? Thanks for sharing.

Ashley - October 25, 2009 Reply

You might look at some Habitat for Humanity plans and or their guidelines in your area – their focus is to build safe and affordable housing – so the houses are usually fairly modest and simple

Joe B - February 10, 2010 Reply

I am a petroleum engineering student at Texas Tech…my wife and I purposely bought an older mobile home and fixed it up so we could live with less debt as we do school. We have two small children and our house is a +-800 ft^2. Our goal is to continue to learn to do more with less, even though I will probably make a lot more than the average american when finishing school. “Our kids need the room” and “our kids cant share a room” is a load of crap. When God takes away what you have, your kids will learn to share. I suggest taking a trip to Mexico to serve your neighbors down there and see what most of them have to live with.

    Barb - May 7, 2011 Reply

    Joe, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, and sorry that this is an extremely late response. The reason for the concern of children not being able to share rooms is because when you adopt children from the world of foster care sometimes the abuses from their past make it unsafe for them to share rooms with other children. In a normal safe world, this would not be an issue. It is a safety that must be considered for special needs. There would be no way to give the necessary 24/7 supervision that would be required if certain children were to co-inhabit rooms. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Betty B - February 19, 2010 Reply

YOu know, you could try renting hotel room every now and again just to get a feel for what space is too small. Just an idea. YOu can find rooms pretty cheap on certain discount sited which I won’t promote by mentioning. BTW- much kuddos and appreciacation to you for adopting a sibling group!!! My kids are also adopted, not many people are up the challenge. Fost/adopt system can be tricky too, so make sure you plan your move well since it can be awhile for finalization and they aren’t always understanding of ‘alternative or radical’ living situations. Good luck to you!!

    Barb - May 18, 2010 Reply

    Thanks, Betty, for understanding the system. we are not making any immediate plans for moving. Just dreaming about it at the moment. Don’t think I’ll go too extreme anyway. I just keep watching all the ideas that appear here and planning little by little. Currently we are in a 3800 square foot, 5 bedroom home. Any downsizing would be a great improvement.

EM - April 2, 2010 Reply

I live in a small 1942 house in a large coastal northwest city, a city that has high real estate cost. We are a family of five and have a two bedroom house plus a finished attic that serves as a bedroom. We have one bathroom and a very small kitchen. I like being physically close to my kids – two share the attic room and the youngest sleeps in the room next to ours. However, I do feel myself frustrated by some things such as the small kitchen or lack of storage space. Our house only has three closests total and they are SMALL! Any ideas on how to contain kids clutter? Especially because the ATTIC bedroom does not allow for most bookshelves or taller furniture. I am used to a very tidy house – grew up in a large home with a space for everything. I am struggling with how to STORE the kids’ items in their room without regular size furiture AND with how to keep all the kitchen items since my kitchen is tiny. Moving is not an option unless prices drop dramatically.

    Barb - May 18, 2010 Reply

    EM, I can totally understand your frustration with clutter. I imagine that eliminating excess is the biggest key. Beyond that, I have loved some of the storage solutions I’ve seen in Tiny House Blog. Kitchen cabinets can line many walls as built in storage. Coffee and end tables can be of a type that contain stuff. Even built in bench seating in replacement of dining chairs or sofas could contain mass amounts of storage. There are lots of books at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or that would help with ideas.

    MarjorieElaine Peirce - April 11, 2013 Reply

    EM. I cruise small homes (in person), apts (for their layouts)and many sites that deal with living in ‘small’ places. In clicking from one site to another I found a site that develops multi use ‘furniture/storage’. One unit that caught my eye was a total of 18″ deep – as long as you wanted it. Folding doors open to shelving – 6″-8″ deep. It easily pulled out and then swiveled totally around, revealing another shelving w/6″-8″ on the back side. They also had units like this that took up ‘deep’ spaces but narrow – like along side a refrigerator. Open the door and pull out the shelving. It is amazing how many cans it held. There was units that were a complete kitchen when opened up, with a table that dropped down. Fold the table back up, push the unit doors closed and you had bookcase/display units facing out. Or a sectional couch when opened, bookcase/display when closed. The possibilities were endless. Oh yes and a unit that opened at night and revealed a Murphy bed, with the doors providing screening from the rest of the space. You might want to check out Murphy Beds. They also have some real cool ideas for storage. On one hand you might lose a few inches of floor space, but you could gain a lot more too… such as more floor space for play when the beds are closed up. Better configeration of your small kitchen or enlarging play space in your living room, etc. Also, consider building up (wall units). Put in a high and low bar in closets. I have a friend who did that and then made cupboards in that wasted space at the top of every closet. She stores extra blankets, pillows, etc. up there. Xmas items, or other off seasonal items. I am planning on doing this with my closets. When I get the chance to do my kitchen, I am planning on a better pantry area w/ shelves that are tipped (lay cans on sides and they roll down when first one is drawers for things like pasta, jello, etc.(small things or items in bags). It will only be the depth of a cupboard, but there won’t be any more bending over trying to see what is way in the back. And with the expection of maybe one or two, there won’t be any under counter cupboards… they will be different size drawers. Far easier to get at and keep organized and know what you have. Another idea I saw in a small home site (sorry I never wrote down the direct links), was a small dinning room. There appeared to be no table and the kids were using the area to play. When it was time for a meal, the toys were put away in a toy box. A great looking carved wood wall hanging, folded down off the wall, legs (that were incorporated into the ‘art work’, dropped down and poof.. a table. When done, the fold up chairs (nice wooden ones) and bench were returned to to various locations in the home and the table ‘hung’ back up. There are a lot of different possibilities of making even a small home functional. I wish I would have had a lot of these ideas when my children were little. Best of luck to you as you search ways to make your home more functionable for your family. A house is four walls and a roof. A home is where love, caring, forgiveness and acceptance live. It sounds like you are more than on your way to a ‘home’. God bless.

Raquel Lamarre - May 19, 2010 Reply

It is possible to live with a big family in a small House. It is just important that every child have his own little room. In Europe it is for a lot of people normal to living in very small places.

Jennifer - July 13, 2010 Reply

If you aren’t familiar with IKEA, then check them out. Visit a store if possible. They have “houses” set up from 65 sq ft up to 1500 sq ft. They have smaller furniture and excellent storage options for small spaces.

Dawn - August 2, 2010 Reply

Thank you for asking these questions. I have been searching and searching for the answer. I want to live in a house similar to the size of a Lusby (a la tumbleweed tiny houses) for my husband, myself, and our new baby girl scheduled to come out this weekend. The main reason I want this is because it is small and has all the benefits that the previous posts have mentioned. Plus we will barely be able to afford the building of our tiny home of wheels, let alone any land. If we were able to buy land then we would be putting up a 500 sp ft home with three bedrooms (in case we add another family member who ends up being a boy or as a “get away” place for my husband’s video games, etc combined with a guest room). The 500 sq ft is a size that my husband and I agree would be very comfortable and cozy for us. Thank you again for asking the question as it is very helpful to see not only other families living this way but to see how each family deals with their basic needs.

Polly - August 7, 2010 Reply

So many lovely thoughts and caring responses here! We are a family of four in 1300 square feet and I am drowning in this house! I have been eliminating things every day, and hope to get to where we could live in 200sq’ or thereabouts. My husband is a musician and has several instruments to store, but we hang them on the wall for easy access (that way he plays them more.) What I have been planning is a murphy bed for us, or a hideabed, and daybeds for the boys, with drawers under for clothes and such. They could have curtains to close for privacy, and there could be a shelf/desk above the foot of the bed. These “daybeds” would be used for seating in the daytime, or be the boys “rooms” and unshared by us. I’m also hoping to use a composting toilet that is possibly outside the house itself. The boys are still pretty little, 7 and almost 5, so our “needs” may change as they grow, but their dad is a builder and maybe they could build their own rooms later if they really want to! I am always remembering how much less space people live in around the world, and most of them have so much more peace than we do! Blessings on your simplification plans! And your second family! Thanks for posting, I’ve really been thinking about this and was so happy to read all the comments!

Clare - August 30, 2010 Reply

How great to discover this string! I am a huge fan of tiny living, but with four kids, have to be realistic about what we can live with. While I don’t have foster children, I do have two older kids who are each from my husband and my previous marriages (his daughter is 14, my son is 10). While the kids are really fond of each other and all four kids adore each other, it does lead to sensitivities about space. Currently we are a family of 6 living in 1200sf. If we did not have the issues I just mentioned (step-children who feel sensitive about where they fit in at times), then I would guess we could easily live in about 900-1000sf.

One of my secrets: multi-purpose furniture. I collect antique, folding/convertible furniture. For example, we have a console table that quickly unfolds into an xxl dining table. Storage boxes that are also stools. Etc. We use japanese futons to turn our living room into a master bedroom at night. I like homes that are like swiss army knives in their utility (and beauty).

I should also mention that we have a small attic where I store extra items needed for entertaining or holidays. Though I’m sure I could do without it, the attic helps me to keep our living space spare and open.

Wish someone would write a book about families and small space living. I believe that children grow up with more affection and attention in a smaller home. Because we are often physically close, we are also much closer emotionally.

Catherine - November 30, 2010 Reply

I haven’t read through all the responses yet so I may be repeating some things…

First, though, thanks for asking! I SO LOVE the tumbleweed houses, but with 5 kids, it just isn’t realistic for anything more than a vacation.

One thing we’ve found is that we really don’t need/like a dining table and use it more to hold clutter and as extra counter space. What we’ve done is purchased a really nice, large coffee table and we actually enjoy sitting around it in the living room eating as a family Japanese-style. Not only would that require one less room, but less furniture, since it can act in its usual “coffee table” role when not used for meals.

Another idea I really love are the murphy beds. There are so many different options and styles if you do a search. Then a relatively small bedroom (or even more of a family room space) can be used for either sleeping or the bed can be put away for more space during the day.

We NEED a washer/dryer (3 loads a day with our cloth diapers, non-disposable lifestyle and young kids) and a dishwasher (atleast 2 a day since I cook from scratch). We’re a homeschooling family in a VERY rainy area (think 2-3 x that of Seattle) so we also need sufficient area for indoor play.

We’ve found in our house we bought as a repo that the majority of wasted space is truly in rooms that were built too large and open. They’re so big I can fit far too much furniture in them than is needed and there is not enough storage space. It really is absurd! I never thought I’d say there was too much open space with 5 kids under the age of 8! The biggest waste of space (aside from living space) is in the bedrooms and bath. We honestly only sleep and change in them, so why the huge rooms? The only room in our house that actually could use biggering (to steal a Seuss word) is my kitchen since I cook from scratch and make 3 meals a day.

I’d suggest checking out the Susanka (if I spelled it right!) books about small house design. It’s mostly about interior design, but they really help you to look at not so much square footage as “spaces” that have different uses…and that’ll help you figure out what you need based on the different spaces you need put together. Found a website for her:

Best of luck!

jane - January 25, 2011 Reply

I’m thinking of downsizing myself. We have six children and four bedrooms. I like having the space, but it seems like we just fill it with junk. It’s easier having more bedrooms when the kids are little, because of naps, etc. They’re just getting to the age that they can be grouped together in a boy room and a girl room without too much fuss. Still some fuss, though, lol.

We’re considering a mobile home so we can live in a paid off home. The singlewides are the cheapest though. If we do it, we’ll have three bedrooms (two being very small). We’re thinking about building our own triple bunks, or building a triple bunk murphy beds, where the bunks fold up. Then they will have room to play. We’ll also create built-in types of shelves (check out for free plans) in each room, to organize everything. And we’re going to eliminate all the saved hand-me-downs that are really just a waste of space…so many items are stained and ripped. Getting rid of a lot of toys and books that aren’t used much either. We’re all packrats nowadays. Also, cooking from scratch eliminates a lot of wasted space via packaging. Large jars of dense food like rice, wheat and steel cut oats take up much less space than half-filled boxes of instant food, and it’s healthier too.

Hope that helps.

Becky - April 22, 2011 Reply

My family is a family of 6. We live in 1100 square feet. The two boys and two girls share a room, and that works out great. I try to ditch toys/clothes as soon as we are done.

The biggest issue is storage. One linen closet, one small pantry and 5(that’s right 5) kitchen cabinets is tricky. I would love to know how to create storage in this space that doesn’t mean I have to spend a fortune or gut my house and redo it.

We are trying to move but looking at maybe buying 1800-2000 square ft max. Small house means, quick to pick up, you actually see each other, and creates that warm home feel you can’t get from overly spacious (empty) homes.

    AnthonyRizzo - October 15, 2012 Reply

    My family has 6 people too and storage is also a problem for us but it is so primarily because we keep things we don’t really want or use. I’ve pointed out to my own that if we have something that doesn’t get used at the very least annually that chances are we don’t really need it but they refuse to part with their crates full of stuff. With regard to broken and mismatched toys, games and electronics we have enough to fill twenty, 10 gallon totes.

Marsha Cowan - September 13, 2011 Reply

My husband and I raised my our 4 children in a 420 square foot house and had plenty of room. Orgainzation of space is the key. We had a bathroom divided into 3 rooms; the main room housed a sink, then two other doors led into a small room with only a toilet, and another room with a tub/shower and washer/dryer. The girls shared a room (2 closets)and the sons shared a room (2 closets)on the second floor (where the only bath was located), and my husband and I had a small bedroom in the attic. The main floor was the very small but organized kitchen, a dining area right outside the kitchen door (with a window seat beside it), a small den flowing from the dining area with a wall of bookcases and storage. We had a small entry where the winding stairs led up (a closet under the stairs for coats and storage, and a small living room for a piano, sofa, and chair (and Christmas tree). THe house had a large wrap-around porch with a swing and rockers and a back deck. We lived outside a lot, so didn’t feel cramped. On any given weekend, there were as many as 4-6 of the children’s friends “camping out”. They loved our house! We were the “funnest” home of all. We lived there for 15 years, and all the children remenber it with love.

    AnthonyRizzo - October 15, 2012 Reply

    God bless you Marsha. That sounds like paradise.

bill - October 30, 2011 Reply

My wife and I have 4 kids. Based on this ,here is what i would concider min. square footage.
6 bedrooms 720 sq. ft min.
2 bathrooms 120 sq. ft. min.
kitchen 170 sq. ft.
2 family area’s 432 sq. ft.
closet( storage) 112 sq. ft.
TOTAL 1554 sq. ft. MIN….( our house is double this,and it seems like a hotel between our kids and thier friends. Average dinner is 7-9 people)
I assumed that you maybe required to have seperate bedroom.(child services requirements).
You do really need 2 family areas when the base family is 7 people. Now include maybe 3-5-7 kids friends or yours.
Good luck and God bless you.

HS - November 22, 2011 Reply

We are a family of 9 (some bio children, some adopted through fc), and live in 1400 sq. ft. The SPACE is more than enough, but the layout is awful. Our bedrooms eat up so much space that really could be used in common living if it’s going to be there at all. If I were looking at doing a smaller space overall, I’d cut the bedrooms down to the bare essentials, size-wise. You really just need a common gathering area–be that a kitchen with a cozy nook off of it for hanging out, or whatever. The bathroom, etc., are all negotiable. 🙂

Kate Down Under - December 27, 2011 Reply

Hi Kent,

It seems to me that there are a number of people on the net searching for tiny houses for families of more than 2 children. I would love to see you write about this.

Thanks for all the great articles I really love reading your work.

Kate Down Under

Bobi - January 14, 2012 Reply

I am a single mom with twin teen girls. I have 3 adult sons that under bad curcumstances have on occassion had to live with me. I own a small 3 bedroom trailer. When I had one of the boys living with us. I gave the girls the master bedroom, they used bunk beds to free up more floor space. I took their bedroom inserted a queen bed and dresser, there was only walking space. But, I only sleep and dress in there so it wasn’t a problem for me. Most of our wakeing moments are spent in the kitchen and living room which are nice open spaces. I think if you get a home with 3 bedrooms, and get a couple sets of bunkbeds it would work. Make sure you have a large living or kitchen where everyone can hang out comfortably. For now it’s just the girls and I. I have a fold out single cot, a queen air bed, and folding chairs for when we have guest over, always have room in my house for guest. Small space makes it a cozy home, ask anyone that has been in our home.When another son and his girlfriend were contemplating moving in, during the time I already had an adult son living with me, I was simply going to put a twin bed in my daughters room and sleep there while giving my other son and his girlfriend my room with the queen bed. Bedrooms only need to be big enough to sleep in.

CG - January 22, 2012 Reply

Hubby and I bought our 800 square foot rancher when we married 11+ years ago. Since then we’ve had 3 children. Two have special needs that can make the space seem really small at times. Since we only have two bedrooms, our #2 child slept on the couch for few years as a buffer their disorders. This amount of space with small children makes me crazy. I homeschool and our yard isn’t so great so that adds to the caged feeling I get. As far as actual space used, we could get by with just 500-600 square feet if you confine needs to food preparation, a common flex area, beds, clothing storage, and a bathroom. That’s only the inner circle of needs. The second ring of needs is how many ways I need our space to function. This is more for mental and emotional needs. We need a place to play with toys, a place for schoolwork, my sewing nook, outdoor activities, tools and storage, etc. Yes I could use one table or desk for my office, hobbies, games, school and dinner but it wouldn’t meet my mental needs.
100 square foot per person is tiny but possible with exterior storage and an outdoor living zone. 200 square feet per person is small and I think, perfect if planned well.
I grew up in a 3 story, 900 square foot home with my family of 7. We all shared one bathroom and it wasn’t an issue. 64 square feet was added to the basement when we were teens so that the oldest could have his own room. My dad moved the bathroom, making the dining room smaller, to create separate bedrooms for my sister and I. It was tight at times but we always seemed to find space within that footprint to fit our needs. So that 1000-ish house had 5 bedrooms and one bathroom. My parents moved to a 900sqft trailer that had 2bd 2 baths. The house seemed like a mansion in comparison because of the layout.
Space isn’t about square footage so much as it is about “spaces”. Nooks and cubbies and zones make a place seem much larger. For me, small rooms give a greater sense of overall space than just one big open space with the same floor area.

Laura - February 21, 2012 Reply

Our family of 4 (with very young children) is currently building a
1300 sq. ft house with a 32×36 footprint (I think). We felt it was a good idea to have 3 bedrooms, in case we have more kids/adopt/care for our parents one day. But otherwise, we have a combined bathroom/laundry, a combined living/dining/kitchen, small bedrooms and a loft space for a home office/studio/homeschool room. It feels big in some ways, but appropriate for meeting our needs for the rest of our lives.

Erin - February 29, 2012 Reply

We have 3 kids in 1300 sq ft. My biggest desires would be room for a larger dining table for family and gatherings. My dream kitchen is a one where the dining table serves as the island/middle work space and one wall holds the sink, washer, stove and fridge. Mud room is necessary for us. Bedrooms can be small but I know that my preteens all would like their own. I would never give up our intimacy for a large house but planning and good designs can create harmony and peace in a small space. We do plan on building a tiny home for our massage business on our land. Outside space is crucial!

Erica - March 18, 2012 Reply

Hope the journey of adoption goes well and is a blessing to your family. As an adult child whose parents adopted after I was out of the house, I would suggest that (if it pertains to your situation) you have enough space to host your adult children and grandchildren, a quiet room perhaps where they can sleep if they come for a visit. It has been easy to feel displaced.

Andrea - March 31, 2012 Reply

The hardest part is keeping it decluttered…and when the toilet gets plugged. We have 8 children under 15 in 1000 sq ft plus a bathroom! 🙂

Anna - April 7, 2012 Reply

Hello, here in Europe families are used to live in flats about 400 sq ft and less (that’s actual living space, not the size of the lot). It’s common to have a room about 30-40sq ft. as a bedroom for one. So a family of four can easily live in tiny house as you call it and even don’t call it “tiny”. And what about Japan, maybe their houses and flats are little bit small, but still they can manage!
We are actually with two small children in a flat 165sq ft – but looking for at least 2 bedroom and few meters more. There was no problem to live here with one, but now we can’t get good sleep in one room and daughter will need more space for school desk.

AnthonyRizzo - October 15, 2012 Reply

My wife and I live with our 4 children that range in age from 5 to 23. We currently live in a 4 bedroom town house and I can assure you, although my wife would disagree, that this is much too much space for us. The biggest waste of space is the bedrooms. Each room is approximately 120 square feet and none of them get used for anything more than storage and sleeping. Bednooks with built in wardrobes and nightstands, I believe, would be ideal and would reduce the space by a whopping 360 square feet. It would also save a bundle in heating. The other wasted space is the basement which is costly to build and sits mostly empty. I however love our large living room because it is the nerve center of our family we have it setup so that every member can enjoy separate activities yet still be in the same space. So yes I think we could comfortably live in a home 600 square feet for the 6 of us. Now I just have to convince her.

Janine - March 24, 2013 Reply

While our house was being remodeled (3 months), our family of 6 (kids ages 17 girl, 15 girl, 11 girl, 5 boy) lived in an 875 square foot apartment with 2 bedrooms and a balcony (40 square feet)that ran from the front room to the first bedroom.

We had a bench on the balcony that held all the kids’ toys and we had a storage closet in the covered parking where we kept the bikes and a few other things.

The apartment had pretty good built in storage (large hall closet and large coat closet). The sliding closet doors which ran all the way to the ceiling, so there was easy access to the top shelves. All the closet doors were mirrors so had a spacious feel.

My husband and I used one room which barely held our bed and two chest of drawers. The walk in closet had built in shelves and high shelves. There was also room for a small chest of drawers for the 5 year old boy.

The two oldest girls slept in the second bedroom with two twin beds and 3 chest of drawers, one for each girl. All the girls’ clothes fit in the large closet. The two youngest kids slept in a loft bed in the front room (one on top, one underneath). The loft had curtains to add a little privacy.

We also had 3 computers and a laptop. The computer stations consisted of two small desks, a card table, and a computer armoire.

Before we moved in, I measured the apartment, drew up a floor plan and planned out where everything was going to fit. It worked very well.

It was wonderful. I was so happy.

lady brett - May 11, 2013 Reply

another major obstacle for families adopting or fostering is that there are legal minimum space requirements. so, while we tiny house enthusiasts might agree that enough space for a bed and dresser is plenty, when we get licensed someone comes and measures every bedroom in our house (including your own) and if it doesn’t meet the standards, that’s it, you’re out, no kids.

i’ve been looking for small house plans, but i can’t find any with bedrooms that are large enough to meet the legal limits for a shared bedroom (it varies, but here it’s 70 sq ft for 1 person and 50 sq ft per person for shared rooms, and that looks fairly standard). 100 sq ft bedrooms are not the norm in the tiny house movement, which is fine (it’s not tiny), but it would be lovely to find something based off similar ideals but toeing the line of current societal norms.

Steve - August 28, 2014 Reply

I grew up in a family of 4 in a four hundred square foot house until I was 11. If the house had constructed better ( with insulation and an indoor bathroom) we would have been fine but growing up in northwest Ohio in the cold winters and no indoor plumbing sucked. a lot. Lol. I’d do it again.

Mindy - September 12, 2014 Reply

We have 5 children, and 4 of them have been raised or are being raised in a 1000 sq ft. 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. And my mother stays with us Often. Yes, everything is small. At this time, our two oldest daughters are married with their own children. So to deal with the bathroom issues, we set up small stands with a mirror, drawers, and a large basin with a pitcher on it. My two younger daughters each have one so all they need the bathroom for is to actually “go” and shower. They can dress and primp in their room. That way my son can have some bathroom time too.

Home Repair: Prefab Houses Seem To Cost More Than You Would Suspect. ~ - November 19, 2015 Reply

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