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Old 03-28-2011, 12:03 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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How big does a house for one person, or two, need to be?

The thread Individualist trends and fads: kids just phoning it in these days? sprouted a tangential conversation based on monstro's interest in building a very small house for herself. To avert full-blown hijack there, and to bring the topic to readers who may not have been in that thread, I'm starting this dedicated one.

I'll recap, with a little editing for concision, all the relevant posts to date.

Quote:
Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I'm in the process of building a house--my very first house! I have a floor plan for a gorgous eco-friendly Craftsman's style house. It's just a little under 600 sq feet. My real estate agent has helped me in the quest for land in a wonderful intown neighborhood and we're meeting with the builder later this week to sign the contract. The agent knows what I want and why; we've talked about it a million times over. And yet she's STILL throwing her "shoulds" at me. How I "should" expand the house to 1000 sq feet, because otherwise it will be impossible to sell it
(as if that's her problem). How I "should" make it bigger because who knows? I might get married and have children!

I don't fuckin' care about selling it. I'm living in it until I die. And if my life changes such that I will be unable to live in it, I can rent it out (the neighborhood is a wrife with young artists...folks who would love to live in a "special" house). And though she knows more about real estate than I do, I call "bullshit" on her impossible remark. It would not be impossible to sell the house because I'm freakin' buying it and I can't be the only person out there, especially now, who sees the problem of having "too much house".
Quote:
Originally Posted by spark240 View Post
The fact is that American housing stock collectively has too many big houses (many now vacant) and not enough small ones, especially small ones that are well-designed and well-built. And it has actually been demonstrated that houses truly tailored to a particular individual or particular family are worth more on average than houses of equal square footage built to generic plans. I think what you're doing sounds great, and I encourage you to tweak the plans, before and during construction, as much as you like to suit yourself, but keep it small. (If you really need more space down the road, building an addition when you know how you plan to use the space is superior to building in an extra bedroom or "bonus room" now just to boost s.f.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I remember not that long ago bemoaning the fact that everyone IRL keeps telling me to go get a house RIGHT NOW. I realized that it wasn't the idea of owning a house that that was the problem or even having money, since they have programs for first-time homeowners. It was the fact that all the houses in my area are HUGE. Not necessarily McMansions, but two-story row house dealies that are fine to look at, fine to visit, but are simply not me. The idea of heating, cleaning, and maintaining a 1200 sq. ft house all by myself is not my idea of fun. Especially if it's a generic house that looks like all the other houses on the street.

I think if I were an entrepreneur (hey, unemployed yet resourceful people! Listen up!), I would become a developer of "small housing". I would buy tracts of land close to downtown or midtown areas--which at least in Richmond are populated with comfortably-classed, married or shacked-up renters who want to be in the urban "scene" but cannot afford or do not want the $400K houses that are being offered. If these people will plop down money for a condo with just 800 sq feet, with no yard for the dog or for gardening or even a private porch--then why wouldn't they plop down some money for a beautiful house with similar square footage? There is no reason, other than real estate agents and developers think "bigger is better" and advise clients to think the same. My hope for kids today? That they will see that this is a myth and will go in the opposite direction.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Attack from the 3rd dimension View Post
It sounds like you've read Susan Susanka's The Not So Big House. If not, you ought. It's your manifesto.
Quote:
Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
Interesting word choice. Because those tiny houses look like Unibomber shacks. 800 sq ft is like a typical Manhattan appartment. Even 1200 sq ft is a typical 2BR 2 BA suburban home. Hardly huge by any standard, but perhaps a bit much for just one person. Most people don't want to live in a shoebox, especially if they plan to raise a family.
Quote:
Originally Posted by zweisamkeit View Post
I'd say 1200 sqft for 2br/2ba is a bit on the high side. I grew up in a 1950s suburban ranch with 3br and 1.5ba and it was 1050 sqft.

And you realize you're just parroting exactly what the real-estate agent kept saying, right? Monstro is having the house built for her, not some other family 20 years down the road.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin_Bailey View Post
I wouldn't say that's high at all. I live in a house built in 1950 with 3BR/1BA and it's a little over 1400. For two people, it's really not that big considering the layout.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeriel View Post
I'm currently renting a 3BR/1BA at 1100sq ft., myself.
Not necessarily on purpose, but developers and real estate agents have effectively distorted the housing market to serve the profitability of their fields. America is undersupplied with very small, well-designed, well-built houses. I'm sure that monstro's house and others like it will someday delight buyers.

A shameful number of large houses are already standing unsold, vacant and falling into disrepair, in some parts of the country. Recall that the housing-market crash and the associated recession were partially caused by people who were encouraged and enabled to buy too much house.

Unabomber shacks? Please, it's all about the design. Here is a ~600 s.f. house. Here is another. This is the inside of a third.

My feeling is basically that lots of people have (and are paying for) more space than they're really using, either because the market has not supplied them with other options, or because poor designs have misled them into thinking that they need more space than they really do.
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  #2  
Old 03-28-2011, 12:21 PM
DeepLiquid DeepLiquid is offline
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My SO and I live in an 800 sq.ft. house. It was built in 1943 and as I understand it, building materials were scarce so they built a small house. It's a lovely home, window frames/floors all original wood. It has two smaller bedrooms, one bathroom, a cozy living room, a galley kitchen, and an unfinished basement. We adore it, it's warm and inviting and perfect for us.

My best friend from high school and her partner live in a 610 sq.ft. house, they sometimes wish it was a tiny bit bigger since they have two huskies, but all in all love their little home.
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:31 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
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Our house is about 2000 sq. ft. (finished basement w/MIL apartment) but we could live in half the space, easily. It has energy-efficient features so we don't feel too guilty.

I suspect a lot of people buy a bigger (or smaller) house than they want for the same reason we did -- location. A smaller house on the same lot would have been fine with us.
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:36 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Our place is a refurbished 1904 Craftsman, with about 1300 sf of usable space. Since the basement is used for storage at the moment, we're living comfortably in about 700-800 s.f. Since we had the small deck built on off the kitchen, it's plenty of room. Our last place was a 2100 sf condo and it was more house than we could easily take care of when we were both working.

Last edited by Chefguy; 03-28-2011 at 12:36 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:36 PM
steronz steronz is offline
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Or because they had families who moved out?

My house is also 2000 sq. ft., and I intentionally bought what I considered to be a "small house." Of course, there's 5 of us living here. In 20 years it'll seem huge I'm sure. Then it's off to a condo to die.
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:37 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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The postwar neighborhood where my wife bought her first house had 2-bedroom, single-family detached units as small as 850 square feet.

It's a perfectly usable size (after we married, I moved in and we had our first child while still living there.) It requires some compromises, for example, you have to be careful when choosing furniture, and the closet space is way too small by today's standards.

The real problem I see is that those kind of houses are best suited for singles or childless couples who want everything that comes with home ownership -- including maintenance and yard work, as well a mortgage. That's a small slice of the market, and those people often choose condos (no maintenace) or rental properties (no long-term mortgage.)
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  #7  
Old 03-28-2011, 01:04 PM
alice_in_wonderland alice_in_wonderland is offline
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Hubby and I live in a 900 Sq Ft condo (so no basement) with 2 bedrooms.

It was TONS of space when I was single - I would actually sleep in the spare bedroom sometimes just so it wouldn't seem like the space was wasted. It was quite good for the two of us.

Now that we have Junior its a bit cramped just because he has so much STUFF! It's just a living room/dining room - there's obviously no play room for him and he has his swing, and Jolly Jumper and bouncer, etc. out there which is too much.

However, 600 Sq Ft for a single person seems totally reasonable - particularly if there is a garage and basement to store extra stuff - we have neither and we do have some stuff stashed at my in-laws house (extra art, mostly).

When it's time for baby #2 we will be moving into a house right away. I expect around 1500 Sq Ft will do us nicely - a bit smaller would be fine too.
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  #8  
Old 03-28-2011, 01:32 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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We have 2200 square feet, which we got since our two kids were still at home and my wife works at home. Now the kids are gone, their rooms are mostly unused (except by the dog) and we have a living room we seldom use. In California you don't move unless you absolutely have to, since our taxes would go way up even if we got a smaller house in the neighborhood. We're clearly going to get a much smaller house when I retire and we get out of here.

Our first house, for just the two of us, was probably 1100 sq ft or so, one big bedroom, two tiny ones, and a small kitchen and living room. Plenty of space.
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:01 PM
Oredigger77 Oredigger77 is offline
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I'm currently living in a 1400 sqft town home of which I'm activly using 1000-1100 sqft. The extra room is great when I have guests. I just put an offer in on a 970 sqft loft over a 500 sqft garage. I think it'll be a nice space for me as long as I don't have any guests and all of my parties are outside.

I can't imagine living in less space then that as a single guy with a dog and I'm worried if I ever ask my girlfriend to move in with me how bad it's going to be.

I'm planning on building my dream home on the property and when running my initial numbers I think it's going to be some where in the 5000 sqft range at 4bd/4bth and I'll have the loft as guest quarters.
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:11 PM
perfectparanoia perfectparanoia is offline
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Four of us (me, hubby and two kids) live in a 1300 square foot home with a 200 sqaure foot basement. My husband and I could fairly easily live without the two extra bedrooms and half of the basement and with a smaller living area so I would say about 1000 square feet total. Anything less than that would be pretty cramped.

We moved here from a 800 square foot 1-br apartment. Going back to that even with just the two of us would be unpleasant.
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:12 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Well, hubby and I currently live in an 800 sf house, the bedrooms are microscopic and we are currently planning on bashing out the wall between the 2 bedrooms to make a single normal sized one. There is currently no closet, so it will also be getting closet space put in.

We figure this plus the kitchen renovation is what will be required to actually *sell* the fucking place. We have loved living here, but we need something more gimp friendly and I want to build custom for my accommodations. The jackass who took a cramped 20x20 cinder block tenant farmers shack and doubled the size had no clue about how to efficiently arrange the inside of the house so it is almost unlivable as it is now. On the plus side, it has a 1800 sq foot barn with a full bathroom and nice skylighted workspace on the top floor.

I think trying to squeeze a second bedroom into anything under 1200 sq feet is absurd.
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  #12  
Old 03-28-2011, 02:18 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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My GF and I currently live in a 600 sq ft 1BR 1BA we own in Hoboken, NJ, which for all intents and purposes is a 6th borough of NYC. That is to say it's all multi-unit appartment buildings and you don't need a car to live there.

It is just big enough. We tolerate it because it is in a trendy urban area with easy access to Manhattan.

If I were to start adding sq ft-age, I think I would want to create a larger kitchen / dining room.
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:24 PM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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This weekend, I had visitors; a guy who used to live in my current home when he was a kid. His family at the time were poor first generation immigrants. So this house, 1350 square feet, (3 bedroom, 1 bathroom) where today I live with my husband and toddler? Just thirty years ago, the same house had twelve people living in it. The floors were separated. Our upper floor had a separate entrance and housed one family with four sons. The bottom floor housed another family with four kids.

Puts my own whining about too little space in perpective, doesn't it?

Last edited by Maastricht; 03-28-2011 at 02:27 PM.. Reason: added square feet
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  #14  
Old 03-28-2011, 02:25 PM
pbbth pbbth is offline
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I'm currently in an 800 sq ft 2 bdr/1 bath apartment with my husband, 2 cats and a tiny dog. It is perfectly big for our needs, but that is generally because that second room is for storage and is the "animal room" where the food bowls, litter boxes, etc. go. If we had a child the space would be too small and we would need to get at least another 100 sq ft of space and we would have to get rid of a ton of stuff. For a single person or a married couple I think 650-850 sq ft is a perfectly acceptable size.
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:44 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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I live in a house that is "technically" 1040 sq. ft. but I have a full unfinished basement which does not count in the square footage. Neither does the garage I don't think. So really I have more like 1600-1800 sqft.

I let my friend live in the basement for free, and he takes up more than half of it. I let him do it because it's temporary and it's space I really really am not using.

Anyway...600 sq. ft. for one person? Totally. I rarely use my living room or dining room. My guest room stays closed all the time. If I didn't work from home I wouldn't need a 9x9 office. My bathroom is HUGE compared to the 1.5 baths at my parents' house. I have a full accessible attic that I've never been in.

If I lost 2 bedrooms (about 200 sq. ft) and my dining room (about 80 sq. ft.) I'd be rockin' 760 sq. ft. If I shaved a little bit off my bedroom and my living room (which has more couch than I need) I'd be down to 600 sq. ft. and would not feel cramped at all. Even with my 90# dog. I would just need a space for my laundry up in the kitchen or something.

I don't mind the size of my house tho, because I'm learning to love entertaining. Even so, I either need a big backyard (got it) or a nice basement (can't afford it yet) to do all that. If I didn't want to entertain - like I know Miss monstro doesn't - then I could do it all in 600 sq. ft. no problem!
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:46 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Based on earlier accomodations, I'd say the average person probably needs 750 to 1000, but need and want can be two separate things entirely. We're well over 5K and while I probably wouldn't have built that size, it was perfect for us in numerous other ways and frankly is really nice to have. A fair bit is for guest use, although we often find ourselves using it for other things as well. Of course this is more than the 3 of us actually need, although we were pushing the limit in a place half that size. But it's overbuilt with energy conserving features and beyond the initial cost it's not been an inconvenience to maintain.
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:46 PM
Chopper9760 Chopper9760 is offline
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I'm looking around my office which I share with five dudes, it's about 15' x 35' which means it's only 75sqft smaller than the house monstro wants to build, it seems a bit cramped for living, even with the vaulted ceiling.

I grew up in a single wide trailer, family of three and we were crammed in there tighter than sardines. The average single wide in these parts ranges from 13' - 15' wide on the outside and is 60' long. So at the most, 900sqft, half again as much as monstro is considering.

I find I don't need much space for living but I tend to accumulate STUFF. Not junk either, lots of equipment for various hobbies and cooking gadgetry, it all adds up space-wise.

The aforementioned makes me think you ought to expand at least a little monstro. OTOH, when we were lucky enough to move out of the trailer we built our own house. There were many fights with the contractor, every issue we caved on we are sorry about to this day. You know what you want and you're paying, I say do what you like and to hell with the lot of 'em.

Congratulations on your house!
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:54 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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There was a segment I believe on CBS Sunday Morning that showed some really small homes one builder was making, something on the order of 100 sq feet or so and not only were they efficient and stylish but also apparently in great demand. A hell of a lot less to worry about so if uncomplicating things works for some then go for it.

ETA: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/...n1789766.shtml

Last edited by lieu; 03-28-2011 at 02:57 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 02:54 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alice_in_wonderland View Post
<snip>

When it's time for baby #2 we will be moving into a house right away. I expect around 1500 Sq Ft will do us nicely - a bit smaller would be fine too.
Jim and I (and two cats) live in a 1020 sq. ft. bungalow with a full basement and two car garage - I can easily see two kids being able to fit into this house. For two of us, we have more room than we need (especially with the full basement and big garage) - we each have our own rooms/offices, there's a spare guest bedroom that one of the cats sleeps in, and we're planning a large spa room and media room for the basement. For right now, I think we're in exactly the right size house for us; when we get older and don't want to garden and look after a house and yard any longer, I can see us downsizing.

I think monstro's real estate agent is right on one count, that a 600 sq. ft. house will be harder to sell, but that's not always the biggest concern. If she builds it so she can live in the rest of her life and then does, who cares if it's hard to sell?

I also agree that us North Americans have wildly inflated ideas about how much space people need to live in. My city is terrible for that - everyone wants their own detached house and yard, and they want BIG houses, for just a few people and all their stuff. When we sold our house and moved two years ago, everyone asked us if we were moving to a bigger place. Our answer was always a bemused, "No, we don't need anything larger" (we traded almost straight across, and only moved because we couldn't put a garage on the other lot). I also think that if you live in a house that becomes too small for all your stuff, you need to look at downsizing your stuff, not upsizing your house.
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  #20  
Old 03-28-2011, 03:26 PM
Caffeine.addict Caffeine.addict is offline
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My wife, son and I live in a 1500 sq ft 3 bedroom row house. Some of the layout is a bit weird, so I think if it were on one level and properly designed, 1500 could be quite spacious. If we had a garage or a basement for storage it would be perfect. As it is now it works out but only if we make sure not to accumulate clutter, which is tricky when you have a toddler. When it was my wife and I bought it several years ago, it felt spacious especially compared to the 550 sq ft 1 bedroom we moved from. That place felt kind of small for us, but we had moved from a larger place, and knew it was going to be temporary, so we didn't go as good a job of downsizing as we should have.

I think that 800 square feet is a good size apartment for a couple. The apartment we lived in that was that size felt large and uncluttered since it had three very large closets and a small linen closet to boot.

For a house with an outdoor space, you will want something with a shed for all of the outdoor stuff that you will require to maintain it.

Getting back to the OP, I would probably want more square footage if I am building. For me it isn't the square footage that makes a place difficult to clean, it is the amount of clutter that you fill it with, and how well the space is designed. If the place doesn't have enough storage, it will feel crowded.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:34 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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Well, "need" is a funny word. I think it's basically irrelevant how much house anyone "needs." A person doesn't "need" to bathe once a day, or have more than one set of clothes, or have a car that's more than just basic transportation (i.e., air conditioning and a radio etc. are wants, not needs), or eat more than people kibble (i.e., a basic nutritious diet). But almost all of us want those things, so we do them, and there's nothing wrong with that. Having a small house is no badge of honor IMHO.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:36 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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My flat is under 650 square foot and is not considered small for a flat in central London. There are just the two of us here now (one parent and one child, plus a dog), but it's intended for two parents and two kids. In other parts of the country people might expect more space, but not for two people.

American standards are way different to those in the UK.

And for those who've visited before: it did seem way smaller when my ex was living here. She has TONS of stuff, including lots of big musical instruments, and is really messy.

Last edited by SciFiSam; 03-28-2011 at 04:38 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:42 PM
Infovore Infovore is offline
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The spouse and I and our 7 cats live in a 2-story, 4-bedroom house that's just shy of 1600ft. I'm kind of a clutterbug so it feels a bit close sometimes, but we barely use the living room (the TV is in the family room). Of the four bedrooms, one is the master, one is the spouse's "office" room, one is my work room (I telecommute most of the week) and one is my "office" room, but mine is really more of a storage nightmare right now since I moved my gaming rig downstairs and took over the dining area with it (I was feeling too shut in and antisocial gaming in my room).

I think if I got rid of about half my clutter and we downsized to a bit smaller furniture (we have a huge coffee table in the living room that I love but it's just too big for the room), the place would be plenty spacious. Right now it feels too small.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:43 PM
california jobcase california jobcase is offline
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I have a 1500 square foot 3 bedroom house, and I live alone. Two of the bedrooms and half of the living room simply don't get used. My first abode as a productive adult was a 10 x 30 foot mobile home. That was a bit small, but I've lived in 600 and 750 square feet arrangements quite well.
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Old 03-28-2011, 05:27 PM
TexasDriver TexasDriver is offline
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Are you talking small, or are you talking Tiny Houses? They are talking about 10' x 16' (160 square feet) to 12' x 28' (336 square feet.) Then there is this Micro House. "Because less is more sustainable."

Full disclosure: Spouse and I live in a 2000 square foot house. When I have insomnia, I can go to the other end of the house and I don't wake up the breadwinner. This, I believe, is one secret to a successful marriage.
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  #26  
Old 03-28-2011, 05:46 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
The real problem I see is that those kind of houses are best suited for singles or childless couples who want everything that comes with home ownership -- including maintenance and yard work, as well a mortgage. That's a small slice of the market, and those people often choose condos (no maintenace) or rental properties (no long-term mortgage.)
kunilou really nailed it here - chances are good that if you're an intentionally childless couple that you will want a condo (no yard/maintenance) or rental (no maintenance/mortgage). Also keep in mind that many empty nesters still want like 1500-2500 (ETA: zoned out for a moment, I meant 1200-2200) square feet all to themselves and to have a bedroom or two spare for their kids (especially since they expect their kids and their kids' spouses to stay and visit sometimes), so even that slice of the market isn't looking for ubersmall housing. I see the decline of McMansions inevitable, but people will always want as much space as they can reasonably afford.

ETA: TexasDriver: that and double sinks

Last edited by lindsaybluth; 03-28-2011 at 05:49 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 06:02 PM
TexasDriver TexasDriver is offline
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Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
<snip>ETA: TexasDriver: that and double sinks
You got that right. And his and her computers.
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  #28  
Old 03-28-2011, 06:12 PM
sideshowkar sideshowkar is offline
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I have a vacuum outlet theory to "comfortable" home size - 1 "plug-in" per person living in the house. 1 person = you can vacuum the whole house without unplugging the power cord / 2 people = you move the cord once (2 "plug-ins)... If it takes more, then the house is too big; if it takes less, then it's probably a bit cramped and cluttered.

I'm in a one story, 2 bed 2 bath townhome - about 900 square feet - with three indoor cats and we have more than enough space. I can get the whole house vacuumed in one plug-in. I have one room - the dining area, which is virtually empty, and one of the bedrooms was pretty much never used until I started working from home. I do have a garage, so that definitely helps keep the house clutter free (for the most part). I don't think I'd be very comfortable with another person here though. We'd certainly have enough room, but not enough space.
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Old 03-28-2011, 06:16 PM
Palo Verde Palo Verde is offline
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The size of houses people seem to think are necessary drive me crazy! My sister (married, 1 child) was always moaning about how small her house was (3 bed, 2 bath, 1600 sq ft). They have recently bought a 5 bedroom 3 bath house that is over 4000 sq ft and that just seems wasteful to me.

But of course people can buy whatever they can afford, and she feels more comfortable in her new house.

I am married and we have 4 kids, so 6 people. We live very comfortably in a 4 bedroom, 2000 sq ft home. It was actually a little bigger than we were looking for, but the location is great and the price was right so we bought it.
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Old 03-28-2011, 06:38 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by aruvqan View Post
Well, hubby and I currently live in an 800 sf house, the bedrooms are microscopic and we are currently planning on bashing out the wall between the 2 bedrooms to make a single normal sized one. There is currently no closet, so it will also be getting closet space put in.

We figure this plus the kitchen renovation is what will be required to actually *sell* the fucking place. We have loved living here, but we need something more gimp friendly and I want to build custom for my accommodations. The jackass who took a cramped 20x20 cinder block tenant farmers shack and doubled the size had no clue about how to efficiently arrange the inside of the house so it is almost unlivable as it is now. On the plus side, it has a 1800 sq foot barn with a full bathroom and nice skylighted workspace on the top floor.

I think trying to squeeze a second bedroom into anything under 1200 sq feet is absurd.
I was in a hurry when I posted this, so I will amend my last sentence =)

With the whinging idiots that need to own 300 pair of shoes, and enough clothing to clothe a small town in Wales, both the husband and wife apparently neeEeeeEeeEeed a walk in closet each [read the word need in the whingiest voice warble you can manage] and the bathroom hAaAaAs <whinge voice>to have both a separate shower stall and a huge "soaker tub with jets" [I know they cant use brand names on tv, but typically most people just say jacuzzi] and a vanity with 2 huge vessel sinks. The kitchens must have granite, stainless steel appliances [refrigerator, dish washer and range at a minimum. Now they are insisting on a wine fridge too lately] and space for a huge island, also granite topped. They must have a dining area for entertaining so they can put in a huge dining set [while they still eat sitting on the couch watching tv] and they also need a mayaaaaan cave<grunt> with a huge flatscreen suitable to a huge sports bar.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:00 PM
markdash markdash is online now
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Mrs. Dash, the two Dashlings and I live in a 3-bedroom, 2 bath house, 1240 square feet. It's more than enough room for what we need. When the tiny one gets to be about 2 years old we're going to move the kids into the same room and keep the third as an office/spare room; we have a large kitchen that is quite spacious, and our living room is good sized as well.

When I saw the thread title, I immediately though of this house in Berkeley, CA. It's a 420-square foot cottage built in the backyard of another house. It has a loft large enough for at least a queen-sized bed, full kitchen (if short on counter space), dining nook, and full bath. I would probably get claustrophobic in there after a while, but I'm 6'2" tall.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:14 PM
LouisB LouisB is offline
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My condo is a one bedroom with a bath and a half, plus a "bonus" room that has become my cave. I rarely use the living room and never use the dining room. I also have a screened in back porch that I sometimes use but wouldn't miss if it wasn't there. I think I'm actually using maybe 750-800 sf and I'm comfortable.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:24 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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I was in a hurry when I posted this, so I will amend my last sentence =)

With the whinging idiots that need to own 300 pair of shoes, and enough clothing to clothe a small town in Wales, both the husband and wife apparently neeEeeeEeeEeed a walk in closet each [read the word need in the whingiest voice warble you can manage] and the bathroom hAaAaAs <whinge voice>to have both a separate shower stall and a huge "soaker tub with jets" [I know they cant use brand names on tv, but typically most people just say jacuzzi] and a vanity with 2 huge vessel sinks. The kitchens must have granite, stainless steel appliances [refrigerator, dish washer and range at a minimum. Now they are insisting on a wine fridge too lately] and space for a huge island, also granite topped. They must have a dining area for entertaining so they can put in a huge dining set [while they still eat sitting on the couch watching tv] and they also need a mayaaaaan cave<grunt> with a huge flatscreen suitable to a huge sports bar.
Would you like to have this same analysis applied to your own life? I bet I could list 10 things that you use on a daily basis that are "wants" and not "needs."
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:34 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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Aruvqan, what do you mean? People are asking too much, but two bedrooms in a 1200 sq ft place is absurd? That seems contradictory.

It's natural that people will compare their home sizes to those in their own country, ergo people in the US expecting much larger homes than in the UK and people in the UK expecting larger homes than some other countries though I can't bring any to mind right now.

But 2 bedrooms plus living room, kitchen and bathroom (or two) would be easy to fit into 1200 sq ft with ample room in each bedroom for a wardrobe, chest of drawers, nightstand, bookcase or two, a washing basket, and a chair or sofa as well as a double bed and room to walk around. We're not talking sardines in a tin.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:42 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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When I saw the thread title, I immediately though of this house in Berkeley, CA. It's a 420-square foot cottage built in the backyard of another house. It has a loft large enough for at least a queen-sized bed, full kitchen (if short on counter space), dining nook, and full bath. I would probably get claustrophobic in there after a while, but I'm 6'2" tall.
See, that size to me seems fine for a one-bedroom place for two people, but gets cramped for two bedrooms. A bargain at 300,000 quid. (Check out the floorplan).

Last edited by SciFiSam; 03-28-2011 at 07:45 PM.. Reason: Linkage
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:48 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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<snip> I see the decline of McMansions inevitable, but people will always want as much space as they can reasonably afford.<snip>
Not everyone does (we could have bought a much bigger house, with all the lifestyle changes that would have entailed), and hopefully as a society we're starting to get an idea that it isn't the best way to run your life.
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Originally Posted by Rand Rover View Post
Would you like to have this same analysis applied to your own life? I bet I could list 10 things that you use on a daily basis that are "wants" and not "needs."
One of my current ideas that I like to pass along is the idea of examining your life and differentiating between wants and needs. It's fine to have wants and to indulge those wants, but I think it's important to not kid yourself about whether or not they're actually needs.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:05 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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This has been a very interesting thread, spark. Thanks for starting it.

I grew up in a four bdrm, 2.5 bathroom, two-story house. I'm guessing it was about 1500-1600 sq ft. For a family of six, it was fine. I figure we had at most (rounding) 270 sq ft per person to enjoy (though things were kinda staggered, with the spacing-between-siblings thing). But 270 sq ft per person sounds about right to me.

Currently my parents live out in the 'burbs, in the most stereotypical McMansion you can imagine. In a cul de sac even! Five bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, the obligatory great room and a separate living room, a huge dining area, a moderately-sized kitchen with an eating area, and a two-car garage. Plus a sprawling deck with a big screened-in gazebo. Not counting those two external features (and the swimming pool), I'm thinking my parents currently enjoy 3500 sq feet of house. More than twice what the entire family grew up in! Yeah, occassionally a grandchild or two will spend the night. Or I will when I come down to visit for the holidays. But why do they need that much room? My mother almost brags how she never goes upstairs (she hires people to clean). That makes no sense to me, having all that space and not ever seeing it. Whole families could be squatting up there and my parents wouldn't even know!

They have stuff that they need now, but apparently didn't need then...back when they had kids to support. Like a giant flat-screen TV and two sets of living room furniture (the great room's gotta be furnished too, remember). My father has two offices, one inside and one in the garage. I've never seen him working in either space, mind you. They just hold his "officey" things. My mother's closet is big enough to count as another room (complete with windows), and it's stacked to the rafters with clothes and shoes--stuff she probably never wears. "Her" vanity bathroom has both a shower and a delux bathtub, and a toilet that hides behind a door (a toliet room!) It's a gorgous area, with marble floors and countertops, and special lighting to boot. But...my mother never takes showers. The only time that shower has been in use is when I have used it...which was just once. So why in the hell does the thing not work anymore, I wonder? And why did they have to replace the house's heating/cooling system after just six years of use? I just don't understand.

I dread the day when their lifestyles will need paring down and we'll have to find homes for all that stuff. I guess it's great my parents get to live life so abundantly, as they like to call it--and they certainly worked hard enough for it. But goodness, 3500 sq feet for just the both of them? It makes it hard for me to take my self-proclaimed anti-capitalist, left-wing radical mother seriously. Sorry, Mommy! But it's true!

I don't know the current square footage of my apartment, but on an average day I only make full use of 30% of it. I pretty much live in my bedroom, where it's warm and the lighting is perfect to work in, and I make regular forays into kitchen and bathroom when the need arises. The spare bedroom is a storage room (too cold to work in during the winter, too hot to work in during the summer). The living room is useless now that my TV is off-line, the windows too drafty to make sitting in fun, but I do use its south-facing windows to keep my plants alive. The dining area is where I keep a table piled high with junk mail, with various shoes and coats and other craziness strewn on the floor. Even when the weather is nice, I rarely go out onto the backporch, which overlooks a lovely parking lot. So yeah, I'd say 600 sq feet is actually more than I need. I'm hoping it will force me to keep to the basics and not accumulate unused, unnecessary junk. This is important to me.

My house will grant me plenty of room for guests. When my parents visit me, they can have the queen-sized futon in the living room (which will be about the size of a typical master bedroom, minus the closet). I'll have a woodstove there, so they won't have frozen toes if they come up during the winter. If my sister tags along, she can sleep up in the loft (which will normally function as my studio), on the double-sized futon mattress that I currently keep furled up in a closet. Or she can spread out in the the small second bedroom downstairs that will normally function as my den. The house won't be able to contain a house party, but I don't do house parties anyway. And if we do have a party, I'll have plenty of yardspace for us to jam outside. I only host guests a couple of days out of the year anyway. If people don't like my accomodations, they can mosey on down to the Holiday Inn down the street.

People have bought houses to accomodate their stuff, it seems to me. So if you have a lot of stuff, of course you'll need a bigger house. But the fundamental question is do we need all that stuff in the first place? And why should our stuff be dictating how we live our lives anyway?

My house, if it is approved where I want it to be (red tape, man), will be right across the house from an assisted living place. This is important to me for personal reasons, but I think it's a potential selling point. If I were a recent divorcee with a teenage kid almost ready to go their own way and an elderly parent to care for, wouldn't it be great to strip down to the basics, dump the big-ass house out in suburbia, and move into a smaller dwelling right across from where Grandma lives, with people her own age and staff who get paid to do things that I don't have time or patience to attend to? I would be right across the street, so Grandma could come have dinner with us every night, or if something happens in the middle of the night, I can just put on my housecoat and run across the street to attend matters. And instead of burning money on heating costs (or repairing bathrooms I don't even use), I can save for my kid's college tuition. When she comes to visit during her college years, she can sleep in the living room. Because the loft, which used to be her bedroom, will be turned into my special place.

That's why I call "bullshit" on my agent's warning. The location practically begs for a smaller house. And I will tell her this the next time she tells me how I absolutely need to double the size of my house. Either that, or I'll wave good-bye and find someone who won't continue to nag me. I hope I can convey this in my face and voice the next time we see each other.

Last edited by monstro; 03-28-2011 at 08:10 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:12 PM
Unintentionally Blank Unintentionally Blank is offline
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Woof. So many times I find I'm severely at odds with the average membership of the dope. The wife and I bought a 2700 foot house (750 foot unfinished basement, 4 car garage)....honestly, it's got the amenities of a LARGER house, with fewer bedrooms and baths. We did this as we didn't really outgrow the 1800 sq ft house we left so much as we wanted a way to enforce some savings (interesting, with the current housing market, but at least we're right side up).

We did this before we had kids, we bought a house big enough that we could have a baby and still have a guest bedroom. Naturally, that meant we had twins.

Now, what on earth could we do to rationalize three times the average size of the houses in this thread? Well, our hobbies are pretty spacious. The wife likes Halloween and spends the year preparing for oct 31st. The stuff goes up, and comes down, that day.

I've been an avid car guy for the last 20 years or so, and am now an amateur machinist. We have 5 cars and a motorcycle. All run, all are used. We got to this point by not buying New cars, buying cars that maintained their value, and paying for them, not leasing them. Is it wise? Well there are plenty of Financial advisors that would condemn throwing so much money at appreciating items...but it hasn't BEEN a lot of money, when you consider the timeframe, and the fact I do all the work myself, rather than paying someone else to work on a leased vehicle. They're my hobbies, and they keep me sane.

We've got a gym in the basement...sure has been a lot cheaper than a membership.

I can see this house being a little too small soon, as the boys aren't going to want to share a bedroom forever, grandma will have to sleep on the hide a bed.

We have a lot of STUFF. And counter to the "popular" desire to live in a single room with one pair of shoes and underwear, we don't see much of a need to downsize. I also figure we'll be down one or two moves over the average family, when you consider people that move when they outgrow a smaller house, or move due to work. (knock on wood)

I kinda hate the big yard, but what the heck, I wouldn't trade it for the rest of the house. And that garage has actually saved us some money...we can't find houses with larger garages for another $150k....meaning: we couldn't afford to move into a larger house that would be worth it. We're also in about the largest house you can get before you have to double the heating and A/C equipment.

You know, just so you hear the "McMansion's" side of the argument.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:15 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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Monstro, why are you so interested in whether other people "need" the stuff they have?
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:21 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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If you want a McMansion, that's fine; just don't kid yourself about whether it's a need or a want. I want my own detached house with large yard; I don't need it.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:24 PM
Unintentionally Blank Unintentionally Blank is offline
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How about "I'm extremely fortunate that I can afford to indulge in my desire to continually learn"?

Because that's what it's let me do. Electronics, computers, cars, reading, exotic birds, metalwork. If it all burned down, I could take or leave it, but it sure has made me happy. My particular mental makeup would go stir crazy if my whole non-working life had to fit in 1000 sq. Ft. or less.

Last edited by Unintentionally Blank; 03-28-2011 at 08:26 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:39 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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I'm with Unintentionally Blank (look under the stairs, I'm typing from there!)

We were in a ~1,500 sq ft townhouse in NYC. Two of us, two cats, and two pooches. When it was time to move, we looked a bit out in the country, and for the same amount as a modest step up in Manhattan, we ended up with ~2,800 sq ft, plus a full unfinished basement and an attic you can play tennis in. There's a acre of perennial gardens out our front door and four more wooded ones keeping the neighbors at bay (eight, if you count the their parcels). It's shy of a McMansion, but allows us the space for the brood (and now the Dudeling) plus our frequent overnight guests have their own room when they stay.

A key factor in the above is that we work out of here, so having the space and pastorallity of the setting is imperative to our sanity. We don't shun the office during non-business hours, but it's great to work in the garden during the summer (in the dirt or on files) or even just downstairs if the feeling is there. I know that stay-at-home parents must laugh at this--after all they spend all day in the same place too, but there it is.

We often think about/daydream of moving back to the city and know full well that much of our nest's feathers are superfluous. There's a den with the theater in it and a parlour (where we spend most of our quiet time; now play time with the Dudeling). We've been the smaller route before, so know what to expect. It's not that it's uncomfortable or problematic in any way (the size of the apartment in DC was about 900 sq ft and we were happy there), it's that there's a comfort in the spaciousness.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:57 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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Monstro, why are you so interested in whether other people "need" the stuff they have?
I'm not interested in what other people need or what they want. If you want a 50000 sq ft house, go for it, dude. But just don't tell me that's what I HAVE to have too.

(And why do you care if people judge you for having stuff? I know people judge me for not having enough stuff. As long as they don't say crap to my face, I'm fine with their opinion. We all have them.)

As for my parents, their overconsumption isn't exactly none of my business. One day, it will be my job--and the job of my siblings--to do something with that mega-house and all the stuff they've accumulated. If I don't want to deal with my own clutter, why should I be thrilled to deal with someone else's? And why should I listen to my mother about anything financial when, from my perspective, she's not putting her money to good use.

She's not in the best of health, and my father isn't about to do any Iron Man's himself. Will I have the right to be just a little pissed off if we, their children, find out that they have no savings because they've put every penny into their lovely home--a cookie-cutter number in a subdivision filled with other vinyl-sided brick-facade houses that are underwater or foreclosed on? That instead of downgrading their lives in their golden age and living abundantly in a frugal way (the way their God would probably appreciate more), they went crazy on a cavernous house filled with Walmart furniture, nightly visits to the Golden Corral, and weekend casino trips? Will I get to be angry when they are unable to care for themselves and it will be up to me, my sisters, and/or my brother, to spend our own money to care for them, when they were quite capable of saving enough money during the "good times". Can I be a little bitter when I hear about other people receiving generous inheritances from their parents', but there will be nothing for me except for white elephants? Of course I will have the right to those feelings. I will not say any of these things to my parents, of course, because I love them and don't like getting into arguments with them. And I will shoulder their burdens as I know they would shoulder mine.

But if they want to live with me, they're going to have to live without a TV, without a walk-in closet, without their own private bathroom, or multiple offices. Or even a dining room table. And if they utter as much as a single complaint, I will do to them as they did to me when I was a little kid and would dare to express an opinion. I will whip out my belt and give them something to really cry about. Pay back is a bitch.
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Old 03-28-2011, 09:15 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Note to self: be nice to the Dudeling.
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Old 03-28-2011, 09:18 PM
Unintentionally Blank Unintentionally Blank is offline
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Don't see anybody pushing you to consume. What I DO see is a lot of passive aggressive judgement from the "less is more and nothing is zen perfection" crowd.

As far as taking care of your parents possessions, we could fall back on the "show a little repect for those that brought you into the world", heaven forbid they'd temporarily burden your precious lifestyle. (because it WILL be a temporary burden, and you are being less that respectful)

Heck, farm it out, there's companies that'll do the dirty work for you...for a cut. Or is the problem that they're selfishly spending your inheritance?
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Old 03-28-2011, 09:51 PM
jsgoddess jsgoddess is offline
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I'm the youngest of six and I think the house I grew up in until age 11 was about 1200 square feet.
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Old 03-28-2011, 10:20 PM
Sateryn76 Sateryn76 is offline
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I would say the house needs to be as big as the people living in it want and can afford it to be.

We are a family of four, and we have a 2700 sq. ft house (900 of which is the walk-out basement). It has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, along with a small office on the 2 main floors. Computers, music and gym in the basement.

Lest you think it is a McMansion, please note that it was built in 1879, and while structurally perfect, it needs major updating. Think wallpaper on top of paneling on top of the old plaster slats. It has loads of charm and character, and we're working on it one project at a time. Lest you think we're rich, we have budgeted $200 a month toward the updating at this time.

But - I am a house junky. I love big, unique spaces. Our eventual goal is to refinish the attics, knock down some walls, build a 2 story garage/master suite addition, turn the old, small garage into a solarium, and add a two tier outdoor deck.

By the time this is done, we will have a huge, wonderful, 4 story Victorian with 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, a sitting room/solarium, a library/game room, a wraparound porch, etc. We will also be empty-nesters, with all of this big, beautiful space.

I don't need this, but I want it. There is nothing wrong with that.
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Old 03-28-2011, 10:46 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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Originally Posted by Unintentionally Blank View Post
Don't see anybody pushing you to consume. What I DO see is a lot of passive aggressive judgement from the "less is more and nothing is zen perfection" crowd.
I don't even watch TV anymore, and I am still bombarded by advertisements pushing me to consume. Beyond that, I have a real estate agent who's still operating under a party-like-it's-1999 mentality and won't stop giving me advice I don't want. I have a mother who has her own advice about what "nice" things I "need" and a father who just won't shut up about my 17-year-old car (a car that has given me far less trouble than the series of cars he has shot through the years). So of course you don't see anyone pushing me. You aren't with me in real life!

As far as passive-aggressive judgment, I'm not being passive-aggressive. I'm being downright aggressive. I absolutely hate my parents' overconsumption. Not only is it disgusting to me, but it's hypocritical. These are people who talk a good game about how black people can't seem to catch a break in obtaining true "wealth", but what are they doing? I see them putting a lot on credit cards and refinancing mortages and whining about yet another house repair or car break-down. I don't see them realizing their "wealth". Hypocrites. Yes, I'm judgmental. That is not a crime. Judging them negatively on this one aspect of their lives doesn't mean I don't love them or that I won't care for them when things go down. But just as I would expect them to judge me if I were acting irresponsibly, I should be able to do likewise. I'm grown. I've got some sense. I can call out their mistakes and learn from them and vow to be better.

Quote:
As far as taking care of your parents possessions, we could fall back on the "show a little repect for those that brought you into the world", heaven forbid they'd temporarily burden your precious lifestyle. (because it WILL be a temporary burden, and you are being less that respectful)
Well, isn't that quaint.

Number one: I didn't ask to be born. They came knocking on MY door, not the other way around.

Number two: I am extremely respectful to my parents. Much more respectful to me than they were to me, when I was under their care. I would never beat them for expressing an opinion, or conveniently look the other way when it happened. That was a joke I said earlier. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my childhood. I am still bitter. I am working on it, but it's hard.

Number three: heaven forbid that I don't want to be saddled with responsibilities that are 100% avoidable. Yes, they would be temporary headaches...just like all headaches in life. But why should I be expected to look forward to them? That would be unnatural, to be looking forward to handling someone else's affairs. Thank goodness I have three good siblings who I know will work with me. I'd probably be stressed out if I were an only child.

Quote:
Heck, farm it out, there's companies that'll do the dirty work for you...for a cut. Or is the problem that they're selfishly spending your inheritance?
I'm all for burning up all their shit and their ugly-ass house too (except for the swimming pool. I like the swimming pool). I don't care about any inheritance, no matter how much my parents' talk about the wonders of inter-generational wealth. I've always been financially independent from them in my adult years, so I won't sweat it if my parents decide not to leave behind a largess. I just don't want my siblings and I to have to deal with the downside of their consumption. If we don't get the good, why should we be stuck with the bad? We will do it because we have to, but again, I don't know why I should pretend to be happy about it, like it's all a part of being a "good" daughter. It's not. Good parents should see to it that their affairs are all in order as much as possible. Maybe my parents have got everything in place and I'm just worrying all for nothing. I have a horrible feeling that they don't, though.

Perhaps I can take advantage of being the family cuckoo and feign cluelessness about everything. But that would be a crappy thing to do. No, I will hold up my end when the time comes. I'm going to cuss all the way, though.

Last edited by monstro; 03-28-2011 at 10:47 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 11:42 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Not everyone does (we could have bought a much bigger house, with all the lifestyle changes that would have entailed), and hopefully as a society we're starting to get an idea that it isn't the best way to run your life.
I don't literally mean "if we're not spending the average percentage people spend on housing per year we need to trade up", but I really don't think many people are going to start living in as little as they could get by with. Certainly there are many more people that could do with a smaller house and setting aside money for their kids college tuition; I had a friend whose parents owned a 3500sq foot home, belonged to the country club and wore Gucci but come college time didn't have a red cent to give their kid. But I don't think people should trade down from their double sinks or one bathroom a person setup if it makes them happy and they can actually afford it.

I actually feel I do need a detached house as soon as I can afford it; living in a building with shared walls that isn't explicitly nonsmoking means we share up to 60% of our air and I'm breathing in garbage. Obviously it's all in how we define our needs; I can and have subsisted in a few hundred square feet and shared a single bathroom with 5 people without a dishwasher with a ceiling that fell in from water damage next to a loud bar with trashy patrons who screamed outside my window. Maybe it built character in some small way, but I'd rather not live like that ever again. Paying money to provide for a low stress life in an environment that meets your "needs" is no great sin.

uh, monstro, you seem....angry, dude. And that's coming from a lady who has quite a bit of anger herself. You didn't ask to be born? C'mon now. We're sorry you're dealing with aging parents and an out of touch real estate agent but all of that doesn't equate with "everyone is overconsuming" and "why can't more people want a sub 1000 sq foot house?"
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Old 03-29-2011, 12:12 AM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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When I lived in Tokyo, I had a "nice" 6 mat room. 17.83 sm or about 190 square feet. I say nice because it was a nice one with it's own unit bath, hot plate and ultra mini fridge.

After all these years of living in cracker boxes, we're building a dream house of 4,000 sf. Which, I personally think is at least 1,000 sf too much for a family of 5 but if that's the price to pay for uprooting my family from China to the US, then it's a cheap at twice the price.
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