How Much Room Does One Person Really Need?

“Less house, more home.”  –Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

In 1950 the average size of a family home was 1,000 square feet.  That increased to 1,500 square feet by 1970 and to 2,200 square feet by the year 2000.  If I do a calculation based on the average family with 2 adults and 2 children, for some reason we each need 550 square feet of space and that’s on average. It’s almost as though family members no longer want to spend time together in the same room so the house needs to be big enough for everyone to have their own space separate from each other.  Is it that we really don’t like each other very much and instead of learning to get along and live together, we try to live separately under the same roof?  We tell ourselves we need our own “space”.

So how much room does one person really need?  According to the growing “tiny house” movement, two people can live in under 300 square feet and have everything they need.  As long as you have a place to cook food, a place to sit and watch television or use your computer, a place to sleep and a bathroom/laundry, what more do you really “need”?  

What about all your stuff? There is certainly not much room for stuff in under 300 square feet.  Let’s think about the minimum amount of stuff we really “need”.


Technically four people could survive with 4 plates, 4 sets of cutlery, 4 glasses, 4 mugs, a frying pan, 2 pots, 5 or 6 different utensils, 2 or 3 mixing bowls, a food processor, a coffee machine, a kettle, 2 casserole dishes, a cookie sheet (after all what is life without cookies), and a handy dandy George Forman electric grill.  That’s all a minimalist kitchen really needs.  If people come over you either rent more dishes or buy disposable ones. 

Could you live with enough groceries for 1 week? And keep on hand only 3 different spices, 1 type of cooking oil (instead of 20 like several of my clients have), a couple of boxes of pasta, 1 package of rice, etc.  You make the list depending on what you like to eat.  When you get tired of the one type of cooking oil, buy a different one when that one runs out, and so on. A healthy diet is mostly supposed to be fresh food, so having a small space and very little food, forces you to go out and buy fresh more often.

Unfortunately you do have to clean your home a bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda will clean almost anything in your house.  A sponge and dust cloth, a mop and bucket, a broom and dustpan and a small vacuum cleaner rounds out the list.  A dishcloth and one bottle of dish soap plus a small package of dishwasher tabs and you’re good to go.


1 small package of toilet paper with 6 rolls (that’s right folks, no Costco!), 1 set of shampoo and conditioner (not the last 6 you tried and didn’t like but kept anyway), 2 bars of soap (1 in use and 1 extra), 2 boxes of Kleenex (1 in use, 1 spare), 1 toothpaste, 2 sets of towels (1 in use, 1 clean) and so on. I think you get my drift. And one bottle of all purpose bathroom cleaner with 1 roll of paper towel.


The clothing is a tough one for some of us.  How much clothing does one person really “need”? I would say a week’s worth of clean clothes should do the trick. So 7 of everything except shoes which could be down to 4 (1 of each sneakers, shoes, sandals, boots).  And you really only need 2 sweaters and 3 coats/jackets (1 spring, 1 winter, 1 rain coat) and so on.

I find it quite fascinating that if you go through the house room by room, cupboard by cupboard and closet by closet and make a list of only what you use each week, you can truly live with very little.  The Minimalists have a rule that if you can replace what you don’t have within 20 minutes for less than $20 then don’t keep it in your home.  

You may be surprised what you can live without and maybe you will discover that you can live in a much smaller space and use your money to enjoy all the experiences life has to offer instead of buying stuff to fill your house.   And if you all embrace this new lifestyle, one day I will have downsized each and every one of you and I can retire knowing my mission is accomplished!

I would love to hear from anyone who wants to tell me how it goes for you should you decide to try it.

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