How Tiny Is Too Tiny?

P1000589When it comes to tiny houses when is small too small? 50 square feet? 100 square feet? 200 square feet? A lot of it has to do with individual circumstances, needs and number of people living in the space. After over a year in La Casita Cedric and I have come to the conclusion that as cozy as our home is, 98 square feet for two people and a stocky corgi is pushing some limits. We need more room in order to work on hobbies, store our bulk items and fulfill our need for independence. In the South it seemed a lot easier to fulfill these needs. We didn’t worry about freezing hoses, there was no need to store bulky winter clothes or gear and going outside was bliss in the winter months. Now that we live somewhere with a serious winter, we have more gear, more clothes and less and less space to put it in and as a tiny house fills, the more claustrophobic it feels. So how do you figure out how small is too small before you’re already living the tiny life? Here are few suggestion from our experience.

First, carefully consider needs. For example, we did not thoroughly considerstorage ideas the impact a tiny house would have on our social lives. We would host 30+ people a year in our apartment and threw lots of social events and fundraisers for different project we were a part of. While I’ve found lots of solutions to the issue of hosting events and entertaining, it’s difficult not having a place for family and friends to stay if they want to visit us up North. This has been one of the hardest parts for me and it wasn’t even something I considered as seriously as I should have. Also, my crafting time has diminished due to lack of space for supplies and the room to actually do projects. My advice is make a list of what is most important to your happiness in your space. Is it being able to cook delicious meals, soak in a tub, host potlucks or a space to do hobbies and crafts in? Number your list with 5 being most important and 1 being least. Make compromises from this list, tweak it as you build and use it throughout construction to remind yourself of your needs and how you plan to meet them.

Next, take a good look at your belongings and read this post by Ryan about getting rid of possessions. Then go in to the most cluttered room in your house and make three piles. One pile with items you use all the time, a second with items you use occasionally and a pile that you hardly use but definitely need. How many shelves, cubbies, baskets or hanging space do you need for the items in the first pile? From your second pile decide what is absolutely necessary to keep. Get rid of the excess. If this is difficult try this approach: vow to get rid of 5 items a week or set whatever limit you think do-able for you. It doesn’t have to be from a specific room. You can start with your junk drawer and work your way up.

Going back to the pile technique, take your third group of items and figure out how many Rubbermaids you can stuff it all in to. Do this with each room in your house or apartment. After three moves this year, Cedric and I are at the point where we have 3 Rubbermaids each with items we hardly use, or use seasonally, and we can’t seem to reduce it much more than that. When we started building I just thought, “Well we’ll just have to get rid of things until we fit in the tiny house,” but in the end this was not a realistic approach so I recommend carefully considering your downsizing methods. Figuring out what you need in term of belongings is a great way to determine how much footage you need to live comfortably in a tiny space. Also check out this advice from comments made by Tiny Life folks for more great solutions on tiny space storage!

As you can tell, usability and storage are two key issues for us in La Casita. I keep mentioning this, but I can’t stress enough how important storage planning is. We did not put enough planning in to this aspect of living the tiny life and it’s crucial to having a viable living space that is comfortable and un-cluttered. Plus, even in a tiny house, I end up losing things! I joke about it all the time but seriously? How does one lose something and never find it again in 98 square feet? I honestly don’t know how I do it but part of the problem is that our stuff is spread out. Doesn’t help my organization methods which is my other biggest piece of advice. Organize, organize, organize. The more organized you are the less cluttered and more spacious your tiny space will feel. Plan your attack for an organized tiny space before you ever start moving in! It will save you time and stress! I could definitely do better and have been researching lots of clever tricks to use in order to better accommodate the stuff we have. The via link below will guide you to some of those nifty ideas.

Although it can be challenging, living the tiny life allows for continued renewal on the daily and much happiness. I hope these tips help create a greater sense of space in your tiny life plans. Now I need to get back to La Casita and take some of my own advice!

Your Turn!

  • When do you think tiny is too tiny?
  • Have any good tricks for organization? Please share! (I could really use the advice.)





  1. Ryan, you took a huge leap of faith going from the huge home into 98sq’ to house the two of you. I couldn’t imagine doing that and if I recall, you have a couple of out buildings, you can cheat with while organizing, some don’t have that benefit. During my project here I sleep and can eat and shower in the approximate 48sq’ camper I have with me, however, I cheat and put a makeshift kitchen on wheels in the cabin presently using the full 500′ and have a gravity fed shower with a flush toilet bathroom in the cabin, sure I could do that in the camper but it would be very difficult and I would be cleaning everything all the time and replacing things to their original location. (Everything has to be moved to do one small thing in there).

    I have the upper hand in that I found this to be a problem with people moving into my area from out of town, you don’t have a good face to face prior to looking for a home for them so I developed a Q & A that some thought was stone stupid until I explained, I did not want to find someone a garage that does not have some sound proofing if the purchaser is a wood or steel worker, or a yard for someone who gardens that hasn’t any sun or black earth, what time do they get up in the morning and where is the sun rising? (And on and on and on) Once they understood my reasoning they were thankful and were able to get into a mindset of change or acceptance. These criteria change with age and health. I nailed down 250 sq’ for just me and that’s damn comfortable. I can accommodate guests to sleep over and socialize in the yard but everything has to have its place, I am bad for not putting things away immediately and seem to always clutter flat surfaces. I “O” so thank you for that Via link.

    I am not a solitary person, and not shy about saying it, I need companionship and someone other than myself to care about. I planned my space so someone else could join me and be relatively comfortable in probably what would be a temporary basis at first, but other people bring extracurricular activities, they want input on what now becomes their home also, so, I have the rear entrance situated so another space could be built on to house their interests if required. I can also build up (with an elevator) putting at least another 300′ housed in living space and generous deck extending into the foliage of fruit trees. I am not talking about building another 5,000 feet and use this for a me cave, no, anyone I attract or attracts me has to be in a similar mindset of living life for fun, laughter and recreation instead of possession and ridiculous opulence. Been there, done that and will not change that aspect of me. I like to drop everything, nothing like snuggling time in the afternoon, or go for walks, or whatever I or another suggests and live life.

    All this has to be taken into consideration way before the first nail is driven. I am still emptying out storage garages, floor to ceiling, wall to wall of things I haven’t touched in 5 years, 5 years of supporting garbage at a ridiculous storage rate. With the exception of a couple of heaters and chairs, it is all heading to the auction or city dump. That will be my way of clearing my head of more clutter and living life. And instead of saying, I can’t buy that, I have one or two in Calgary, I can go out and make the purchase for that thing, get the job done and be using it. (If that makes any scene)

    Anyway, good subject, at one time I thought if I could stand up straight, put my pants on, lay down flat and stretch then that was all the space I needed but not now. You also hit on a good point that utilizing the outdoors in warm climates is great but in Canada, there is no place like that for any length of time. So your living area has to utilize your life space as well. We are used to winter activities but you can’t play with a stamp collection on a patio past September, October for quite a few months.

    You are presently on an excursion if you really think about it and if you need something bigger, then plan it, and build it; your 98′ will make nice guest quarters. I initially had the now 8×8 bedroom 64′ planned with being enough for me, sure I could live in that, “right”, but I was fooling myself, I was stupidfying (my new word) not simplifying.

  2. Too small is when you can’t do the things that make your house a home. I’ve found from living in a truck bed camper thingie for the last several months that I require food prep space and a pantry. I don’t cook fancy foods, but do cook from scratch. That requires more room that I have now, and so I will be sure to give my kitchen a sizable counter and spice/cooking supplies storage.

    As for losing things, you are not alone! My solution has been to figure out a “home” for every item, and consistently put stuff back where it belongs. That’s made my teeny tiny space much more liveable, and now I don’t have my things disappearing forever into a black hole.

    There seems to be a mindset that to live in a Tiny Home one must live by the 100 Items Or Less rule. That is a narrow viewpoint which can be off-putting to folks considering a Tiny Home. Depending on one’s lifestyle and circumstances, a storage space of some kind might be necessary – in my case, I’ll be building a barn. I want an independent life, a small footprint, and a home built for and by me, but I also want to keep my horse and livestock. No way can I fit all the necessary things onto an arbitrarily numbered list. I agree it’s a great tool for helping people rethink how much stuff they really need. It shouldn’t be a goal in itself for everyone, however.

    For you and Cedric, a larger home, or a separate workspace might be in order. 98 square feet really is TINY! 🙂 I look forward to seeing how you guys solve this dilemma.


    • I can really relate to you Parker and your truck camper. I love mine to get away for two or three weeks even (by myself) and have my clothing in plastic bins that fit nicely on the overhead so if I want to head out in a moment’s notice I can haul them from the cabin to the truck but like you, I found cooking to be a struggle and began eating canned food warmed up. That’s a pathetic diet to say the least but don’t have your talent or patients to prepare healthy meals in the truck. I am good in there with hooks for keys and pouches for meds, wallet and watch so don’t lose too much anymore. I again have smaller plastic bins for miscellaneous items. I think the camper gives me more prospectuses into what I need for something a little bigger and helps plan for something smaller than I may have built. Like I said, I am at 250′, probably smaller than I would have imagined if I hadn’t had so much time in smaller.

      I lived with a 2nd person in a 32′ Class A RV approx 250′ for several weeks at a time and joyfully did most of the domestic chores, we shared cooking. The RV was totally organized and it was great. I would recommend before anyone actually built, to try living in something small, a small Trillium trailer or something. You need to live in something while you build so if you stay living in that you will be constantly reminded why you need something a little larger. It’s better to live in the photo than look at it. There is no shame in saying “this is just too small and then build a little bigger”, but if you invest everything you have into something which will create problems or a relationship breakdown, then that’s not the idea of living a life. Like you I believe in the extra place for other interests and that is why I am trying to keep my other 250′ for a hobby area. If that’s cheating then so be it but in past lives my shops were 3 to 4 times larger than my house. Good luck on your quest.

  3. I part time between a Gulf Island and the Lower Mainland in BC. After 6 years I’ve found a 13′ Boler trailer is OK for short stays but not good for long term living. My 250 sq ft granny studio plus extra sewing room is fine but the layout wastes space. The planned 8×20 tiny house that will replace the Boler is now more likely to be a 10×20 or 22 and with a good layout it will be possible to fit my life in there quite comfortably. I’ll still need a shed for storing tools and messy outdoor stuff.

    I’ve also found that organised containers are the best way to store things so that you move only a few larger pieces to get at other stuff tucked behind them rather than constantly having to shift a lot of individual bits and bobs. Luckily I live in a place that rarely freezes in winter so a lot of things can be kept or used outside. It does however rain a lot so covered outdoor spaces are handy, also provide extra rainwater collection surfaces. You can build a permanent outdoor pavilion or use temporary camping shelters to extend living or working space in the summer. When I build my new tiny house the old Boler will become a guest house and likely extra storage space.

    I like the modular approach some people are using, setting up another structure to house “extras”, with a nice deck between.

  4. We live in a converted schoolbus and the one thing I have observed in following the tiny house (on trailers) movement is the lack of storage space compared to our bus. Granted, at 280 sq ft our bus is quite a bit bigger, but because everything is custom built we have storage everywhere. Instead of a loft bed, our bed is built 3 feet off the floor so we have tons of storage for large rubbermaids (the extra tall ones) under our Queen size bed. As well, all of our seating is custom built benches with storage underneath (as opposed to using couches and chairs).
    I do very much miss being able to have big dinner parties and I agree that living in a colder climate (we’re in Canada) adds constraints that we wouldn’t have if we lived somewhere warmer (like you say, more bulky clothes to store, less ability to socialize or cook outside, etc.).
    I love your advice to really prioritize the types of activities that are important to you and plan space accordingly.

  5. I’m presently building an 8×24 on a trailer bed. I have health issues so planned my house to have a ground floor bedroom and a loft for guests. I spent a good two years thinking, planning and designing.
    I like to change up my house at least twice a year, the look and/or shifting furniture, to be able to do this I’m going with few if any built-in furniture, utilizing dressers for storage, for instance….I’m going to re-enforce the top of a dresser, drop my two burner stovetop into it and use the drawers for all my dishes, silver ware and pots and pans.
    I’m also going to put a hinged or drop leaf type setup on another dresser and use the top drawer for office and the rest for crafts. It will have locking wheels so I can move it when I want to change the look or put it in another room if I have company. I’m also doing the interior all white so I can accessorize with bits of color and change them cheaply from the dollar store or goodwill.
    I’m only waffling on putting a tub under my kitchen sink. The tub could be used for storage or not, the counter the sink is dropped into would hinge up and latch to reveal a nice soaking tub of some sort.
    Having a disability really makes you stop and not just think about the possible future needs but activly design for them.

  6. I have two suggestions.

    House guests – One set of grandparents used to keep a spare room for guests but then they decided that they would rather use it for hobbies and put up visitors in a hotel. When my parents visit, they like to stay in a hotel–and invite me over to use the pool or watch a movie! So, finding a hotel you like may help you with overnight guests.

    I think it might be like owning a car–it’s so much cheaper to not own a car that if you only need one for occasional shopping trips and road trips, it’s still better to just rent (or take a taxi). There may be similar solutions you can rent or borrow or share for space-intensive activities that you do only occasionally. I definitely have seen more than one person host parties at other people’s houses!

    Not losing your stuff – Oh, it’s so frustrating! I hate how sometimes I can’t find things when I’ve just cleaned everything!

    With so little stuff, you could make an inventory more easily than most (like insurance companies want you to) and as part of the inventory, maybe you could include where the item is stored.

  7. How big is big enough? How much space do we need?

    As a child I lived in a large (10,000 sq. Ft +) home with a large garage/barn on a dozen acres or so in a sparsely populated rural area with miles to roam. During 3+ years as a young sailor and then 20+ years as a US Marine I spent years aboard ships where ones personal world is a canvas ‘rack’ to sleep in and an 18′ X 18″ cube shaped locker and slightly larger in later years, several barracks where the same is true except for larger bunks and wall lockers; occasionally tents where I lived out of a back pack and once, even a type II Conex box for 6 months.

    Today I am retired, my wife and I have a comfortable 2000+ sq. Ft single story home with a small yard. After a lifetime of not only the two extremes but apartments, base housing which in retrospect is not all that different from our current home.. only older and less stylish with a carport instead of a three car garage; three homes from small to large and even a large permanent mobile home with a 1,200 sq. Ft addition for a couple of years we definitely have a preference for rural or suburban living over urban, and the space it affords in both home and the land around it. Influenced I’m sure by my early years and my wifes growing up in what might equate to a small US town but in a foreign country, we have developed an opinion that there is no such thing as a home that is too large, only homes we can’t afford to buy, upkeep and now that we both enjoy as well as suffer the advantages and restrictions of a life lasting two-thirds of a century… homes that are too physically challenging.

    We chose a single story home for our last as stairs are more challenging than we like now that ‘Arthur’ (arthritis) lives with us, a small yard as opposed to acres although we both are outdoor lovers as the maintenance is too difficult. Hiring help would leave less disposable income for the things we have more time for now, a reasonable trade off. My wife’s passion for gardening, she is a floral Picasso, has transitioned to more inside than out and mine for building, riding, hunting and shooting is confined mostly to the Yukon and the range. Want to see something funny, me trying to get on and off a horse with a bad back and stiff body parts.

    Decisions on lifestyle and housing is one that needs to be made with income, career choices, age, ability and finally retirement in mind. The worst thing I can imagine would be to reach retirement age and be trapped in a home or environment we hate due to earlier choices. Living for the moment is fine for a time when young but along the way we do what we must but thinking and planning for the freedom of choices you may not even recognize 20, 30 and more years away will determine that most important time when you no longer go to work every day and for most, have more time than money. It’s not necessarily cheaper to live when retired than before. If your home and most needs are paid for those monthly obligations are likely replaced by much higher insurance of all types and kinds, medical care and other expense that are hard to envision when young. We are grateful we can live comfortably and are not forced to live in a situation too restrictive, our first experience with an HOA is strange enough. The thought of private citizens forming a local government that can regulate our lives, homes and habits with the force of law, is antithetical to our basic nature.

    Thankfully a military career and lots of experience in foreign countries has given us the ability to adapt to and be happy in almost any environment and circumstance. Although we would prefer a very large home with many acres and neighbors a 5 minute walk or more away, at this point in our life we are fortunate and happy to have probably as close to perfect is reasonable to hope for.

    How big is big enough? How much space do we need? I think that question at least for us is best answered by saying that needs and wants must be balanced with an eye to the future which comes upon busy folks with busy lives too soon if not planned for at least to some extent along the way and with realistic expectations.

    What are you willing to work for equals what you can expect.

Leave a Reply