How small could you go? - MoneySense

How small could you go?

Imagine for a minute that you had to move into 800 square feet of living space.


There have been slew of reports of people moving into very small homes. Many of them come from the U.S. where people have watched property values drop like a rock. People just upped and walked away from their homes. But you have to live somewhere, right?

Would you buy a couple of defunct tractor-trailers, cut some windows and a door, insulate and live inside? People do it.  How about turning what most people would consider a walk in closet into an apartment? The New York Times published a piece called Think Small about a family of five living in 700 square feet. Yup, even here in the “Great White North.” BlueSkyMod bills itself as a low impact, high design living: Retreat without a footprint.

Okay, not everyone is prepared to go really, really small. In fact, some people don’t want to leave their big homes, eh-vah! The Ontario government thinks it’s a good idea to help people stay in their homes by offering money to retrofit. Hey, I figure if you don’t have the money to retrofit, you probably don’t have the wherewithal to maintain your home or pay someone to help you do so.

The upsides of a small home are obvious, aren’t they? Lower property taxes, cheaper to both heat and cool, less expensive to maintain. But there are some other benefits that fit with the simpler lifestyle you may want at retirement. Smaller homes mean less time cleaning! They’re cheaper to furnish and have less room for clutter, so you can’t be tempted to buy every tchotchke that pops up and catches your fancy.

Of course, you better be damn sure you really, really like your mate before you commit to moving into something so small you can never escape the sound of their voice. Having said that, if you’re on your own, what do you want with gobs and gobs of space?

The answer I most expect to hear when I ask this question is this (said in a whiney voice): But Ga-yal, where will I put all my stuff?

Which brings me to my main point. Imagine for a minute that you had to move into 800 square feet of living space. What would you take with you? What would you be willing to give up?

Now answer me this: of the stuff you’d be unwilling to give up, how often are you using that stuff now? So why are you keeping it? And why are you continuing to add more stuff?

People are always complaining that they just don’t have any “extra” money to save, as if saving is optional. If you lived in an 800-square-foot home, how much could you save?