Living small. Sometimes its a case of making your home fit your bank account. Sometimes it’s making it fit the carbon footprint you want to leave on the planet. Other times, it’s about proving a point.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of reasons to give up the McMansion life and take up the life of John & Jane Small.
One of the first questions is about whether or not one household’s reduced carbon footprint really makes a difference. It’s a legitimate question, because one household uses such a small percentage of the energy consumed in the US alone. The real pay off occurs when the downsizing becomes a trend. One house makes little difference, 100 houses makes more difference, 1000 houses starts making an impression, and 10,000 starts making a real dent, but 1,000,000 downsized homes makes a real difference.
Downsized doesn’t have to mean cramped and micro-sized either. It’s amazing how large American homes got before the Big Crash. Most homes were in excess of 3,000 square feet. Here’s some rough figures you can use to estimate what you think is reasonable.
- Galley kitchen 7×12=84 square feet
- Country kitchen 16×20=320 square feet
- standard kitchen 10×12=120 square feet
- compact kitchen 8×10=80 square feet
- Dining area 8×12=96 square feet
- Dining nook 8×8=64 square feet
- Master bedroom 16×20=320
- Large bedroom 12×14=168 square feet
- Medium bedroom 10×12=120 square feet
- Small bedroom 8×10=80 square feet
- Small walk in closet 6×8=48 square feet
- Large walk in closet 8×10=80 square feet
- Large closet 4×8=32 square feet
- Small closet 4×4=16 square feet
- Large walk in pantry 8×10=80 square feet
- walk in pantry 6×8=36 square feet
- Small garage 12×20=240 square feet
- Medium garage 16×32=512 square feet
- Double garage 24×32=768 square feet
- Workshop 8×12=96
- Living room 12×16=192 square feet
- Home office 10×12=120 square feet
- Standard bathroom 6×8=48 square feet
- Utility/Laundry room 8×10=80 square feet
- Recreation room 12×14=168 square feet
- Hall laundry 4×8=32 square feet
- Water heater, furnace, or central air 3×3=9 square feet
- Airlock entry 4×4=16 square feet
- Entry foyer 8×10=80
- mudroom 8×10=80
- media room 8×10=80
By using these figures and calculating cost-per-square foot compared to your budget, you can quickly see whether you can afford that walk in pantry or that country kitchen. By knowing what size you can actually afford, you can pick and choose the rooms that suit your needs.
So, we’ll say I want a house with a living room, home office, galley kitchen, walk in pantry, dining area, laundry area, 2 bathrooms, master bedroom with large walk in closet, a guest room with a large closet, linen closet, coat closet, and a utility closet. That totals to a whopping 1297 square feet! That’s a long ways from the target of 800 square feet.
Shrinking the bedroom nearly by half, I’d downsize the master bedroom to a still-spacious 12×14 room, cutting 152 square feet. Another 32 square feet could be cut by downsizing the walk in closet to a smaller version at just 6×8′. By reducing the home office down to an efficient 8×10, we’ve cut 40 square feet, and cutting the living room down to an intimate 10×12, we cut another 72 square feet. Switching the pantry from a walk-in to a large closet used as a pantry saves another 4 square feet. Swapping the small dining room for the dining nook means another 32 square feet has been shaved off of the total. That keeps all of the features in a compact 965 square feet. Obviously, some things would have to be eliminated in order to meet the target 800 square feet. Using this method helps a person determine what is important, what needs to be kept, and which features are not important enough to consume some of that precious square foot footprint.
As a planetary society, it’s obvious we cannot continue on the path we are on. We are consuming more than our fair share of the global resources, and it takes far too long to replenish them for it to happen in a few generations even. It took a billion years to make our oil reserves. We’re using it in a matter of a century or two. Not much math is required there to see that we have a problem.
Japan has just given us all a horrible reminder of the problems with nuclear energy too. We can’t afford that kind of pollution either.
It’s obvious, we have to all start living smaller or give up our conveniences and gadgets. At the same time, that does not mean we all are living in cardboard boxes somewhere. There are reasonable compromises.
Living in under 300 square feet is a challenge. Living under 1000 square feet isn’t as much of one. We don’t need 3000 square feet homes to house a single couple or a couple with one or two children, that is sheer extravagant consumption. Once upon a time, entire families, often even the grandparents, lived in as little as 96 square foot homes without any running water or indoor plumbing, cooking over smoky, poorly vented fires. We don’t need to go back to that, but we certainly can start using our space more wisely, reducing our consumption of resources and living more symbiotic lives with our planet.
Think about it. It doesn’t even hurt.