Recently my parents were visiting, and we got to talking about the condominium that friends of theirs had purchased about an hour away from the city we live in. Although it is nice, and new, my parents find it a little cramped – it is a 2 bedroom unit with about 1000 square feet of indoor living space. My parents purchased a new 1450 square foot 3 bedroom mobile home for their retirement home a couple of years ago, then built a 1.5 car garage beside it (which is mostly used for storage).
We live in an 1800 square foot 3 bedroom home with a fully finished basement (another 1100 square feet of living space, with an extra bedroom and bathroom). I mention all this because as we talked about this condominium, Bruce and I both agreed that 1000 square feet with 2 bedrooms sounded like an ideal size for our vision of retirement. It made us ask – how much of our house do we really use? When we really thought about it, there are a lot of areas in our house we rarely use, although there isn’t a lot of wasted space, per se.
Our bedroom & master bathroom. While we don’t live in this room, it is a well used room. It is huge, simply because we extended the garage and got an extended bedroom to go with it (the bedroom is over the garage). It occupies about 300+ square feet, and it includes a walk-in closet, a deluxe ensuite bathroom with jetted tub (that we do use, although not as often as I’d like), and the bedroom is big enough that I have a small office space set up at the end of it with a desk and filing cabinet. Could we live with a smaller bedroom? Sure, we could.
Kitchen/eating area. I cook, a ton. I love, love, love my kitchen, with a large centre island and overhead skylight (the absolute best upgrade we put in the house, hands down). I have a walk-in pantry, and loads of counter top space. And we use it every day. Right beside it is our dinette area, which doubles as our dining room (because we elected not to build a formal one, we’d never use it). This is about another 350 square feet.
Family room. This room is located off the dinette/kitchen area, and we use it all. the. time. I mean, this is the room we live in. It is where our computers are, the television is, we do the bulk of our socializing, etc. We love this room. It is about 270 square feet.
Laundry room. Our laundry room is in our basement, and aside from our furnace and hot water tank, it holds our deep freeze, second fridge, washer, dryer and a large pantry rack. It is only about 80 square feet, but we use every inch of it.
Exercise area. We set up an area downstairs as our fitness centre. It could be walled off to make another bedroom (it has a large window in it, making it super well lit), or it could be incorporated into our rec room downstairs, but we have set it up for what is important to us – our treadmill, our bike trainers, our free weights, etc. all go in that room. It takes up about 100-120 square feet.
That’s it. Out of almost 3000 square feet of usable space, Bruce and I regularly use about 1100 square feet. Sure, we use some storage space not included here, but truthfully, this is it. So how does the other 1900 square feet get used? Well, we have kids. In general, the basement is the kids domain. So other than the 200 square feet we use, the other 900 is used by them. There is another 250-300 square feet of “common area” hallways, entrances, etc. I suppose I should include that space in the space we use.
We have another two bedrooms and a main bathroom on the main floor (one is for our son, one is rented); those three rooms take up about 400 square feet total too. Finally, there is one room that I would consider wasted space – we have a front room that can either be a dining room or a sitting room; we have it set up as a sitting room but we rarely use it. When we selected a house design we knew that room would not be used much, so we purposely selected the smallest one available. It is about 300 square feet. Really, out of 3000 square feet, about 10% does not get used regularly – not too bad.
What’s my point? Well, two things – one, you probably don’t use all the space you have, and two, that wasted space is costing you money. Right now, we’re doing OK, and we’re happy here, but once the kids are gone, we’ll be looking for a nice little 2 bedroom condo, pronto! Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the opportunity costs of our housing decisions.