Editing this post because, as several people have pointed out, I totally messed up the numbers. I should never attempt to deal with numbers when writing late at night. :o) My apologies.
Lately, things have been kind of crazy here. We are facing the prospect of moving soon, and I feel my blood pressure rise just with the thought of packing and how the house will be turned upside down. In addition, we have taken on a building project of a wooden cabin/vacation house. In short, we haven't had such a busy summer for years. I'm kind of beginning to wish we could all take off on a leisurely trip for a few weeks and come back and see everything ready (one can dream, right?).
While browsing ideas for more effective storage, I came across a couple of articles about people who have chosen to buy, rent or build smaller homes, in order to live in a more affordable manner and/or to spend less time cleaning and taking care of their possessions.
Here is an article about the average size of the American houses. It says that in the 1950's, the average size of a house was 983 square feet (91 square meters). In the 2000's, the average was 2300 square feet (213 square meters). Wow! I can just imagine having to clean all that. And the average family isn't all that large either. Now, though, it seems that the trend is to have smaller homes (the statistics are probably bolstered by the people who chose to radically downsize and live in a really tiny house).
Obviously things are a little different in Israel because land is very expensive here. I haven't actually done any research, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that here, much more people live in apartment buildings. There's not much of a "suburbs" concept with private lots and houses.
I grew up in an apartment of 56 square meters, which equals 603 feet. Granted, there were only three people living in that apartment, but still. When I got married, the first home we bought was a little house of 70 square meters, with a blanket-sized back yard. We lived there first as a couple, then with one child, then with two, and I didn't feel we're running out of space. Almost all the houses on the street - except those with various additions - were of a similar size, and most families had at least 3 children. One even had 5 children, and they lived in a house no larger than ours.
We later moved to a bigger house, not because we felt we needed the extra space, but because it was the only available house in the area we wanted. We actually felt it's a little wasteful to have so much space, when it means extra bills. In Israel, you pay "house tax" per square meter, and of course a bigger house means wasting more energy to heat/cool. How many square meters do we have now? Around 110. That's 1184 square feet. This house was previously home to a family of eight - our landlord, his wife and their six daughters. And do you know what people said to us when we moved here? "Oh my, this house is huge. It is just enormous. You only have two children. How are you EVER going to use all that space?"
It just so happens that my husband has a tendency to accumulate possessions (tools, books, clothes, computer-related stuff that might be used "some day"). So, our extra space was just gradually and slowly taken up for storage. It's like fighting a losing battle - as soon as I donate some old clothes and free a shelf, it's taken up by some more computer parts. Now that we are moving soon, I find the prospect daunting.
Many families in our neighborhood live in caravans - a kind of mobile home. They usually amount to 46 square meters - 495 square feet - of space divided into two tiny bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen/dining area. No doubt this is very crowded, especially if you consider that families with four and even five children live there.
So how do families in those tiny homes manage? Almost all of them become very skilled at efficient space management. When I visit, I see no space unused for storage - under the beds, along the walls, in every nook and corner. Vacuum packaging is used a lot, as are folding beds and two-story beds. And almost all build a small storage shed attached to the outside of their home.
Many also build a large covered front porch - sometimes as large as the whole house - that is used for sitting outside in the shade or relaxing in hammocks, eating meals with company when there is no room inside, hanging out the washing, as a playing space for the children, etc. We have a newly married couple here living in a caravan divided by half; they have 23 square meters - 247 square feet - that make a tiny bedroom, tiny bathroom, tiny kitchen and very, very tiny sitting/dining space. They made an original move of placing their refrigerator and washing machine outside. True, it's hotter outside and so it means a little more waste of electricity by the refrigerator, but they simply have no room in their home so they manage with what they can have.
Obviously there is an advantage to a tiny house over a tiny apartment. If you live in an apartment, you can't build a front porch or a storage shed, and you can't send your children to play outside as easily. Having said that, my husband and his siblings grew up in a very small apartment that consisted of a bedroom, living room, and a little closed-off balcony that was like half a bedroom. The parents slept in the bedroom, the boys in the living room, and the girls in the half-bedroom balcony. The curious thing is that, though the family members had so little physical privacy, they were and are all very respectful of each other's private emotional and mental space. There is a healthy distance thanks to which nobody forcefully pries into anyone's affairs.
Someone asked me about toys in little homes. I know a family here who has five children, they live in a caravan, and they homeschool. They opt for toys and games that take as little space as possible, stored as efficiently as possible. Also, whatever the children don't play with is packed away and donated. I tried doing this too - without telling my girls - and they never noticed anything was missing, which just shows they didn't really need it. My personal choice is less toys and more craft supplies - paper and crayons, markers or paint take far less space than a bunch of board games, and children never tire of them.
Image from buildipedia.com.
I just love this little house. Don't you? To me, it spells cozy, peaceful... and easy to clean.