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How much space do you really need?

I was reading through my Lone Wolf & Cub manga the other day and I thought about a sentence in one of the books that goes along the lines of:

Poor man, half a mat, one bowl of rice a day.

Rich man, half a mat, one bowl of rice a day.

(By the way, Lone Wolf & Cub is one of the best samurai series I’ve ever read, if you’re into comic books.

It made such an impression on me as a kid of 10 reading them for the first time, that I credit them to having made me long to live up to those kinds of values: justice, equality, indifference to opinions, and staying true to what I believe in among other things)

It wasn’t until about the time that I eventually turned into becoming a selective minimalist, that it finally sunk in and made me realize what it meant and how I could use it for my own life.

Being richer just means you can afford to sleep in a fancy bed rather than on a cardboard mat on top of a warm grate on the streets.

Being richer, just means you eat higher quality food and can afford to buy organic.

Read: What happened to eating real food?

Rich or poor, we all basically use the same amount of space to sleep on, and basically eat the same amount of food (you can’t eat more than what your stomach will hold, I’ve tried..!)

But how much space do we REALLY need?

Photograph I took of crammed together apartments in Macau


I’ve always gravitated towards watching Home and Garden Television (loving HGTV for me, started at a very young age) and over the years, I have wondered what is going on in the heads of people who say things like:

“3000 square feet? That is WAY too small for us [2 people and a dog]. We need at least 3 bathrooms and 5 bedrooms.”

“I DEFINITELY need a game room, an office for each of us, and a wine cellar, his and her walk in closets, his and her sinks, with a playroom for the kids, and a full guest house…”

“OMG look at how tiny this bedroom is! You can barely fit a California King-sized bed and all my furniture in here!”

[Reality check: The bedroom was the size of my studio apartment where I lived with BF, which was around 600 square feet]

My face during all of this: O_o


To be clear, I don’t really care if you want to spend 90% of your paycheque on a house you can’t really afford without the interest rates staying so low, and without that 20% down payment that you should really save up for before buying a home.

It’s your money, not mine.

(It’s also to your financial ruin, not mine.)

Did you know that the average long-term mortgage rate is 8.69%?


If you can’t afford a home that has an interest rate higher than current rates around 3.88% – 4%+, then you can’t afford that home.


Just look at the historical rates (we humans have short memories!)!

~30 years ago in 1983: 11.45% – 12.71% as a mortgage interest rate


Today’s numbers are positively shocking, considering how low they are.

If you know all of the above, and you are STILL able to afford that huge house even at an 8.69% interest rate over a period of 30 years, and you’re still able to save 25% of your income into retirement, by all means, go ahead!


Another thing that made me snort in disbelief is when people say things like:

“This house has GOTTA fit my 60-inch wide screen TV!”


“This bedroom is NOT going to fit all of our furniture”

It makes me laugh because it seems like they’re buying a house to fit the furniture and their things, not the other way around.

It amuses me to no end.


In New York City, space is a premium — we rented a 500 square foot apartment for $5000 a month about a block away from Central Park.

That’s $10 per square foot in renting alone. Can you imagine BUYING it?

To put that into perspective, we stayed in a very nice area of Montreal in a 600 square foot apartment, paying $700 a month. That’s $1.17 per square foot, or about 9X less than in NYC.

Of course, true New Yorkers put up with either a long commute or a closet to call their home because they want to live in the “greatest city on Earth”.

(For the record, I didn’t enjoy living in NYC as much as I thought I would. It was exciting for the first few months but then became just like any other city, just with more places to spend your money (shops & restaurants), ill-maintained cabs with squealing brakes and trying to sidestep the constant rush of gawking tourists standing in your way when you’re trying to get to work.)

In addition, having traveled to Europe and Asia, and having stayed in what they called a “bedroom” because there was a tiny window in the 120-square foot hotel room, it makes you realize just how distorted our view of how large a home should be these days.

Note: These tiny hotel rooms were formerly APARTMENTS. Actual APARTMENTS of 120 square feet. They had a second level I think (loft), with a ladder.

Even a nice apartment in Paris with about 800 square feet of space came at a premium, not unlike NYC.

We may have all heard the statistics but it bears repeating again:

Homes have increased exponentially in the past, and in the 1950s, an average of 1100 square feet.

Today, an average home size is about 2349 square feet.


Can you imagine if you’re poor and living in the slums?

Whole families live in 400-square foot abodes, which includes a counter for the “kitchen” and a space in the corner for a “bathroom”.

Privacy? You can has none.


Beijing China: People in their dining room outside on the street.


Obviously my opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to how much space YOU think you need for yourself, but I reviewed my own needs and came up with this number as a guess from the way we’ve been living for the past while:

600 square feet for 2 people (quite a comfortable size in a studio apartment with a separate kitchen and bathroom).

Perhaps 800 square feet if we had 2 kids, which would include at least one separate bedroom for us (the kids can sleep in the living room and learn how to share).

Maximum: 1000 square feet if we want to get fancy and give 2 kids a room each.

(Right, like THAT is happening… Just kidding.)

This doesn’t sound like a lot of space to many, but it’s more than enough.

1000 square feet would do it.

I mean, it was certainly enough for folks in the 1950s!


I’ve stayed in plenty of homes and visited plenty of friends’ homes who have had about 1000 square feet for their entire family.

It felt rather spacious and “just enough space” rather than too much.

To further prove my point, my parents’ have a home that’s about 1500 square feet (er… perhaps more now that I think about it, closer to 2000 square feet, but let’s just say 1500 because I don’t know for certain other than the room sizes themselves), and they are definitely “normal”, with the emphasis on “normal” being that they’re certified border-line HOARDERS.

Note: This doesn’t include the garage, front yard or the backyard but no one lives there, because it’s part of the lot size.

From what I can see, at least half of it goes unused in terms of regular living purposes. The rest of the space is just storage for all their JUNK.

I’ve been casually observing their habits over the past few years, and came to this conclusion:

  • Kitchen/Dining Area: 375 square feet
  • Master Bedroom: 145 square feet
  • Bathroom: 120 square feet

TOTAL USED SPACE: 640 square feet

The Kitchen/Dining Area is the hub of the house. My parents have an office in there, and basically spend about 80% of their waking hours in that room, doing work, eating, watching TV, etc.

( I too, spend 80% of my waking hours in the kitchen, because it’s near all the food and cooking going on, but that’s neither here nor there 😉 )

But let’s say that my parents use another room just to escape from each other once in a while, or maybe that room is for guests or an office space.

  • Escape Bedroom / Office Space / Guest Room: 120 square feet


About 750 square feet should do it nicely for a family with 2 kids, or a couple like my parents who need a little extra space to avoid having to bite each other when they’re feeling snarly.

Not including the hallways which probably add another 240 square feet.


That means that they’re paying about double the amount of room that they need (1500 square feet) to house their junk, when they only use about half, or 760-1000 square feet to live.

If you consider the price of houses these days around the $500,000 mark reasonably close to downtown Toronto (e.g. a half hour away), that’s $250,000 for storing your junk, and $250,000 to live.

Interesting, don’t you think?

I came to about the same space needs as a minimalist, versus my parents the Hoarders, the only difference is that I could be flexible and live with less space than 750-800 square feet (if I needed to, not that I might choose to do so), whereas they have too much junk to do that.

I think this is a pretty interesting exercise to go through, to see which rooms in the house you use, and how much space that is (if you’re anything like me, you should measure it and not eyeball the space..)


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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  1. Donatella

    Those idiotic shows you’ve been watching are shills for consumerism – sometimes I wonder if those people are real, or if they’ve been scripted. No one can be that shallow, right? I honestly don’t know how the couples stand each other, or themselves.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I live in my head. I spend lots of time on the internet and reading, and thinking… interspersed with not nearly enough exercise or quality food preparation. The kids are all grown and gone, and it’s just me; I don’t need books anymore although I have a few that I don’t want to give away, I re-read them once in a while. I wear the same few clothes all the time except underwear because they fit and they’re comfortable. Ditto shoes; I could easily get along with less than 200 SF and my biggest luxury want/need is a relatively private swimming pool.

    Don’t buy into the consumerist lifestyle, travel and learn instead… even if it’s only on the internet. Yes, you can travel on the internet, go on Google maps, put that ‘little yellow google guy’ down and drive around in absentia. It’s not like really being there, but it’s simple and it’s helluva cheaper.

    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Scripted, for sure. IT MUST BE. It can’t be so ridiculous.

      Reading and the internet are my two major hobbies as well. That, and watching shows like Game of Thrones. 🙂

      I’m also not interested in traveling only on the internet. I travel for real which is easier when you have family in Europe to go visit!

  2. Ani

    I lay all the blame on your feet Mochi & Macarons for my increasing need to get rid of all the accumulated clutter from my parents home. You call your parents hoarders, mine are worst. They have filled up 9000 sq.ft of their home with 25 years of junk with the help of my grandparents.

    Coincidentally i started reading your blogs when i moved back home and now can’t stand too much clutter, made my mom and sister get rid of atleast half of the contents of the house. Still struggling to pare down more. Hoping to succeed eventually.

    For myself i thing 500 sq.ft would be perfect for me, specially a open planned studio apartment as i am not much of a cook myself.

    1. Mochi & Macarons


      I’m sorry? 🙂 Not really. I’m not sorry. As I glance around my parents’ home, I am itching to fill up garbage bags.

      500 square feet is not a lot of space, but it’s doable I think. You can’t accumulate too much in 500 square feet.

  3. The Asian Pear

    I think I’d be happy in about 650 sq feet. It’s already a bit much. I could even do 350 sq feet but I’d want a GOOD kitchen. That’s my thing though… I don’t care about living space but I want a HUGE kitchen because I LOVE to cook and eat. But small codos usually have small kitchens so I can’t compromise and do 650 with an average kitchen. But good space would be 350 with a good kitchen. 😀

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Yeah we’d want a bigger kitchen than the rest of the spaces. Bedroom is not a big deal to me, neither bathroom (hardly spend time there), but KITCHEN? Yes.

  4. Michelle

    I currently live in a 495 square foot condo. I love my place as it’s in one of the best areas in town. I should also mention that it’s a garden level unit. There were other places that were the same size but “above ground” a block away and double the price. I live comfortably, saved a ton on the mortgage, and my place has appreciated…a lot! When I first bought it people asked why I was buying a bomb shelter. Now they love it. I love it too because of the money it has made me and the money it has saved me. It’s the perfect size for me. I’ve never lived in really large homes so I think I would find it too much to deal with. I would rather save the money, invest, and travel.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      HAH! “Bomb shelter” 🙂 I always think that if I were to buy real estate, it would be for the GOOD location for resale value.

  5. Allison @InsomniacLabRat

    We have just under 1000 sq ft right now for 2 people, a big dog, and a chinchilla. I think it’s plenty of space for us, and I wouldn’t really want more… except I don’t know where we’d keep the chinchilla if/when we have a baby. Right now she has her own bedroom (I know that probably sounds ridiculous), so we can keep the dog away. I suppose a better layout would help, if we could just have a smaller office/den type thing for the chinchilla and a second bedroom for the theoretical baby. Until such a time as a baby is in the picture, though, I think we’ll stick to under 1000 🙂

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      It does kind of sound funny that a chinchilla has her own room 🙂 I’d have the baby in that room, and then the chinchilla in your office or den.

      I remember listening to stories about how families in Japan used to sleep all together in one room, separated by a privacy screen or not at all.

      1. Allison @InsomniacLabRat

        Oh yes, that’s what I meant, but right now we don’t have an office or den, so if we moved into a condo/apartment with the same square footage, but laid out with an extra small room (office/den), the chinchilla could go there. Right now she monopolizes a lot of space, because we just don’t have another area that is closed off from the dog.

        I remember hearing about families that all share a room too, and thinking how bad it would be that I wouldn’t be able to read by flash light after I was supposed to be sleeping 😉

  6. RevancheGS

    I agree with most of this since I’ve spent a good amount of time with family in Asia who lived in, basically, hovels or shacks. A well built home (ie: real wood, not cobbled together w/tin slabs leaning up against the structure to keep the elements out) was unusual. Most had dirt floors and maybe a room or two.
    But I cannot help wanting to have my own library. It’s just always been a dream.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      You, library. Me, office with huge, wooden desk.

  7. fabulously frugirl

    I think the perfect size for me is just a bit smaller than my current 750 sf apartment. When BF and I live together, we’ll just need one bedroom and maybe a small office/den. My bedroom is exactly 120sf (10 x 12) and it’s perfect. I also love the way my common area is laid out. very open concept and functional.

    I agree with having my future kids sharing a room. My sisters and I shared a room growing up, and I think it did more good than harm. Good lessons in compromising and negotiations skills right there. 🙂

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Plus you can’t be jealous if your sibling has the bigger room 😛

  8. Do or Debt

    I don’t need a lot of space. I think my partner and I share a very reasonable one bedroom apartment. I need much less space, he needs more because he is a musician and has so much equipment. When we moved in together, it was so hard to adjust because I had moved with two suitcases and I felt all of our crap was his. All of a sudden WE had to find a place for HIS stuff….I lived in NYC and lived in said closet too, with a rooomate. It was wonderful while it lasted, but it is the size of my walk in closet in PDX.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Ooo right! Musical instruments. I’d need a spot for my (future) digital piano.

  9. My Shiny Pennies

    I, the person, don’t need a lot of space. To live well, I need space for a bed, a shower and toilet, and cooking space. As indicated in your post, it is material possessions that get us into trouble. My fiance suggested the other day that we get a 4-bedroom house so we can have room for storage. In the calmest manner possible, I countered wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of unnecessarily stuff and buy the smallest house we need so we can pay off the mortgage as quickly as possible? He said yes, but I suspect that’s just to move me on to a different subject. The battle shall continue…

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Well a lot of people enjoy a lot of space. I personally enjoy space, but not too much of it — cleaning, and the empty feeling is not that sweet for me….but I also don’t like clutter. Guess it’ll have to be a balancing act.

  10. Pauline

    I need about 600sqft for two. That is the size of my current house and we have a guest room. I bought more than this in the UK in order to rent the rooms I was not living in. That is the only reason that justifies having more in my book. For a crazy high cost city I could do with 400sqft if there was a big price difference. PS I nearly choked at the price of a NY apartment, even by Paris standards that is so high.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Tell me about it!

  11. Sara

    Growing up, my family had a home of about 2500 sqft (basement included), but our lifestyle meant we used all of the space- our formal dining room was used at least twice a week and we had all of the family parties (there are a lot) because we had the biggest home and yard. We also almost always had someone living/staying with us- so even though there was a bedroom for each child, they were hardly “ours” as visitors usually stayed in them for weeks at a time.

    I want something similar in my future home. I loved the communal-like living, and the fact that more than my nuclear family considered our place “home”.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Hmm good point. I’d rather have a bigger backyard for being outside than a big inside…

      We also don’t really use formal dining room (never have actually), and for us, it’s pretty much wasted space unless it’s turned into an office.

  12. Sheryl Camm

    When I bought my condo, my daughter was still living with me, so I had to by a 2 bedroom. All the units in my building also have “sunrooms”, which can be used as a spare bedroom, but not a full time bedroom. (Condo bylaw states 2 people per bedroom is allowed). My unit is 1289 sq ft. Yes, I could live quite comfortably with 1/3 less space. I wouldn’t want to give up the 2nd bathroom though, lol.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      You know, that second bathroom is handy when someone is showering. Or at least a half bath.

  13. Tim

    I have to say after moving alot as a kid I came to a conclusion…layout is king, not sq feet. I would guess that a lot of this ‘big’ houses have crappy layouts that just waste space on thing no one cares about (read hallways).
    Our current place is just under 1600 sq feet for two adults, two kids, a dog …and a daycare. Without my wife’s business we could easily cut back to 1000 sq feet, but for now the business cash flow has more than justified the extra money to get the bigger house (but that was pre-boom in prices…I paid only $190K for my house).

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      Good point — layout would make a bigger difference than the space. A well laid-out space has a lot more value than square footage.

      I stayed in an apartment of 800 square feet once, but it felt like much more, and when I stayed in a 1200 square foot apartment, it was 2 levels but it felt rather tiny comparatively speaking (it was still very big to me..)

  14. Jose

    I have a 1900 Sg ft home and feel like a pauper compared to the people you see on TV with the 3000 Sq Ft + monstrosities they live in.We have four late teen kids that live with us on and off (long story) so the extra space helps. My wife has told me, with out any room for negotiation, that our next house will be half of what we live in now. She might allow a guest room (as long as it’s small and uncomfortable to encourage the gusts to not stay too long). Her motive is simple, we don’t need a lot of space for thetwo of us and she doesn’t want to worry about cleaning anything large!

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      I hate cleaning. It’s the worst to have to vacuum space and go around the legs of things in rooms we don’t even use.

      Ever watch Hoarders? After an episode of that, I want to clean.

  15. MelD

    Ah, the North America/European divide again! Personally, I wouldn’t want to clean a big house like that. Been there, done that (it was old and fully of nooks and crannies that never felt clean, either!).

    No idea how many square feet we have now. Small, even by Swiss standards (increasingly, unfortunately). The house footprint is approx. 9×7 metres (about 30x22ft). Part of the ground floor is a cellar and utilities space, there is one room there that we use as an office/living room (maybe 100sqft?). Our hallways are pretty spacious compared to the actual living space! Our bedroom is another approx. 100sqft – room for the bed, a double wardrobe and a small dresser and to just get round the bed. (For the English, if you can get a double bed in the room, it’s a double room – the Swiss think we’re crazy because we only have a 140cm/4’6″ wide bed so that it fits, a size that is normal for the English!).

    The main space (middle floor) we live in is maybe 300sqft – kitchen open to a living/dining area where we spend most of our time and is more than adequate.

    When we moved here we still had 2 daughters at home and they shared the big attic space – theoretically the whole area of the house but with sloping ceiling to the floor so not so much room and nowhere to put furniture – now we just have one daughter at home so that is plenty for her and for a separate crafting nook for me.
    Bathroom is small – perhaps 70sqft but what more do we want than a toilet, sink and bath?! There is also a toilet and shower downstairs where the washing machine is.

    Personally I don’t think our space is particularly small, I still have to clean it and we still have to go looking for each other on occasion! Of course I have a lot less stuff than I used to, so that helps. I would be quite happy in 500sqft but we have the luxury of a bit more than that, probably works out just under 1500sqft altogether incl. halls, cellar, utility spaces, more like 800sqft actual “used” living space.

    Also, I’m fascinated by the tiny homes movement…

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      I saw this great tiny home that was like an expandable trailer (une roulotte), and it was really cool inside.

      I’d rather have most of my space be in the kitchen. It’s the room everyone uses — my mom is down there right now, using the ENTIRE island for a sewing project.

  16. Cassie

    My place is 3brdm, 1.5bath, 1100sqft, and it is MORE than enough for a family with two kids…. so long as you can keep your stuff under control. Stuff will overwhelm a space SO fast. Actually, poor organization of “enough” stuff will do it just as fast. I’ve pared my stuff back enough that I could probably move into 600sqft if it was well laid out. The lay out really is what makes or breaks a space.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      I find the more space you give me, the more I fill it up.

      Perhaps that’s the same with most other folks.

  17. The Frugal Path

    I think that the way a house is set up has a lot to do with how much space you “need”. Our house is slightly bigger about 20 sq feet more than my brother in law’s. Yet, their house feels twice as large as ours because of the setup.
    A bigger house also means more cleaning. And I’d rather do just about anything than clean an extra bathroom.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      As Tim mentioned above, it’s layout that matters the most!

  18. alwayshungry4

    We currently live in about 1200 sq. feet place and it’s considered tiny, but I think it’s perfect for two people. I could maybe cram a kid in here, but not sure about two… they can be rambunctious! Plus it’s on the top floor, so I’d want something with a yard since we just have a little balcony.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      You’re right. Kids can be rowdy. I’d need a backyard to throw them out into 🙂

  19. Janine

    The bf and my home is 1100 sq feet and we definitely don’t use all of it. There is a ton of wasted space (some of that due to the design of the condo). When we move I’ll definitely be looking for a place that uses a more effective use of the space. It’s crazy that people think they need that much space. You just end up collecting clutter!

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      It sounds really luxurious until you realize you have to clean it.

      1. Janine

        Oh totally, it’s a pain in the ass when I clean it from top to bottom. We could definitely have a smaller place

  20. grumpyrumblings

    Our first apartment was 100sq ft (yes, that is a little over the length and width of one and a half people). It was small, even though there were only two of us at the time. Our current house is 3000 sq ft. It is big. Of the places we’ve lived, the 2200 sq ft place with fruit trees and a deck in the back felt about right. (Family of four and two cats.)

    1. grumpyrumblings

      Oh, and our master bath is the same size as our first apartment. It took many years before I could go in there without feeling guilty.

      1. Mochi & Macarons

        Wow. Your master bath being 100 square feet sounds luxurious, although if I am eyeballing the main bathroom, it’s about 100 square feet, and if we removed that HUGE soaker tub that we have (no one uses it), we could have some serious space.

        3000 square feet is a mansion to me. 🙂 Do you like the layout of the home? As Tim and The Frugal Path mentioned, layout was something I absolutely forgot about.

        I like a decent backyard to be able to cook and eat outside as well. I’d take that, and a larger kitchen over having a dining room or any other bonus rooms.

  21. Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies

    Our house is 1100 sqft and it’s definitely way more than 2 people and a cat need. One of our jokes is if we call across the house and can’t tell what the other person is saying, we walk over yelling, “I’M SORRY I COULDN’T HEAR YOU – OUR HOUSE IS TOO BIG!” Maybe the joke’s not funny in print. =)
    Sometimes we joke about adding a huge addition onto the house, but until we’ve got enough money in the bank to pay someone to clean all that extra space in perpetuity… well, let’s just say I don’t want to have to clean any more than 1100 sqft.

    1. Mochi & Macarons

      I am trying to now think if my parent’s place is 1500 square feet or larger.

      To be honest, it feels massive to me but I am well aware that I am not a ‘normal’ person and I am used to small spaces, so anything bigger than 600 square feet, feels enormous.

      I stayed in a 1200 square foot apartment with 2 levels once, and it was about the size of the upper floor and a half, so I think my parent’s place might actually be closer to 2000 – 2500 square feet, which would surprise me (maybe it’s because it’s 3 levels that it feels “smaller”..?)

      At any rate, it just seems like we do a lot of running around upstairs and downstairs, when it would just be easier to have everything on one level.


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