Does Size Matter?

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The average size of a home has increased by 1,000 sq. ft. in the last 40 years but is more always better when it comes to the house you want to live in?

It’s not what you’re thinking! I’m talking about the size of your home…get your head out of the gutter! 😉

When I got back from my trip to Utah, I was sitting in my kitchen, adding up all my bills (and writing the big checks for my estimated taxes), when that wild hair popped up once again and made me think, “should I move to a cheaper place or get a roommate?”

That urge made me go onto Craigslist and do a search under some new financial perimeters for an apartment: $800-$950 (I currently pay $1,450, but I rent out my garage for $170) to make moving worthwhile.

An Eye-Opening Experience


But lo and behold a studio just two blocks from where I live popped up for $800!!! My gut instinct was that it was too good to be true, and it was. I went over there anyway, and was rather shocked at how tiny it was. The living room/bedroom was literally no bigger than some people’s walk in closet. There is no way you could even fit a full size bed in there, or even a couch big enough to sleep on. The “hallway” that led to the bathroom was the “kitchen,” i.e. it had a sink, a tiny dorm-sized fridge, and a hot plate. There was one tiny closet, and then the actually somewhat normal sized bathroom was tiny too.

Look, I can and have lived in a studio, but there is no way I could live AND work from home out of that place. But someone did manage to live there. I asked the guy showing me the place to tell me how long the person prior had lived there: almost two years! Wow!

I humbly walked back to my own apartment, which always seems small until I see places like that, and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude of having an OK-sized, no frills one-bedroom.

McMansion Size Expectations


Later I was watching my favorite lunchtime show, House Hunters on Hulu, and was ready to throw my tuna sandwich at the screen watching this family from Dallas. The couple had achieved a lot of career success, so they wanted to move to their dream home because they were “bursting at the seams” in their current place. They only had one kid, who looked to be about 12, who was also very overweight.

Their “tiny” house was HUGE in comparison to anything I ever lived in, including the very modest but spacious suburban Detroit 4-bedroom  home I grew up in. Ugh!

They started their search with homes that looked like cookie-cutter McMansions. I started choking on my meal when they walked into the giant master bedroom and described it as “a bit tight.” The bedroom was bigger than my whole apartment! They were also looking for a space for their son to have his friends over to play video games, and have some separation from the rest of the living area. My sarcastic voice kept saying, “yeah, it’s called playing outside, try it!”

Why such a big home? Why do you need all that extra space?


According to this article from the American Enterprise Institute, “in 2013, the average size of new houses built increased to an all-time high of 2,679 square feet, and the median size new home set a new record of 2,491 square feet. Over the last 40 years, the average home has increased in size by more than 1,000 square feet, from an average size of 1,660 square feet in 1973 (earliest year available from Census) to 2,679 square feet last year.” All this while the average number of persons per household is decreasing. And even more shocking is that even though homes are bigger, people are still in need of off-site storage facilities to pile up their extra stuff!

Of course size is relative in relation to what you are used to (as proven by the tiny studio apartment that was OK for someone, just not me). Because I’ve never lived in a huge place, my one bedroom feels spacious enough…but maybe if another person, like my future husband, were to be added to the equation, then it would seem cramped.

The average size of a home has increased by 1,000 sq. ft. in the last 40 years but is more always better when it comes to the house you want to live in?

On the opposite spectrum is both the minimalist movement and the tiny house movement, which seem to go hand in hand. While I love the idea of tiny homes (and seeing all the cool, innovative designs on the internet), I’m not sure it will ever be right for me. That being said, I do love being as much of a minimalist as possible by de-cluttering, and not filling my apartment with unnecessary stuff. I’ve found that with a little creativity and thought, you can make your house beautiful without spending a ton of money.

All in all it comes down to personal choice, however, if you are buried in stuff in your current place, which is maybe prompting you to move to a bigger place, I encourage you to first consider downsizing your stuff. Create more breathing room and find a way to maximize what you already have. And if you still need more space, go outside and play. At least back in the 70’s that’s what my parents used to tell us kids!


What is your current living situation like? Do you need more space? Less? What would make you want to either move to a smaller or bigger place?

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Tonya Stumphauzer

Tonya is a video editor/producer and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball, playing ukulele, and running. Visit her blog Budget & the Beach!


  • Oh those House Hunters people drive me nuts too! We have a lot of space in our current home (by city standards), which made us realize we don’t ever want a larger house. We do like having the space to spread out (and keep rooms uncluttered), but we don’t need more.

    Our first apartment together was a tiny one-bedroom in a basement and we toughed it out down there for almost 3 years, which was a great way to save money. But, we realized that for our sanity (and our marriage) we needed to be above ground and in something a bit bigger. There’s definitely a happy medium to strike, which it sounds like you’ve achieved in your current place. And while I admire the tiny house movement, I know it’s not for me (and Frugal Hound wouldn’t fit ;)! ). For me, it was all about finding what works for us and not constantly thinking we need to upgrade.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Yeah I would feel cramped in a tiny house too or even my current place is someone else lived with me. But I don’t think I would need to upgrade by much. I think if a place is driving a couple insane, that’s an argument for getting some more space!

  • I’ve lived in big houses and small houses. I think the main reason why houses have gotten bigger is to keep up with people’s desire to one up their relatives and friends. If you’ve got the biggest house then people perceive you differently. They think you’ve “made it”. It’s a vicious cycle to try and keep up with the Jones’ but I do think that ‘s why houses keep getting bigger.

    Be content with what you have and remember that just because someone has a big house doesn’t mean they’re not drowning in debt.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Yeah I’m not really sure the exact reason. My grandparents home in Michigan had a master bedroom with no master bath, which wasn’t uncommon then, and it really never bothered them. I think as our expectations rise and are met, we want more.

  • Our current house is a little less than 2,000 square feet and perfect for the 4 of us. I almost wish that the extra room is our guest room was spread throughout the house, but it’s too late for that now. I am a clean freak so a huge house would only mean more work for me!

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      I know I really wouldn’t want to clean a huge house either, but I guess many hire a cleaning person…which of course is an added expense.

  • Kathy says:

    Oh that House Hunter show. I sincerely believe it is the reason for the housing meltdown a few years back. Young people with hardly any down payment looking to buy a house like the one it took their parents 30 years to afford. I personally don’t mind that they want a larger place but it get enraged when they talk about something being a gut job just because it has brass fixtures or formica counters. And they need a place good for entertaining. I get the image of them standing on their granite counters doing a song and dance to entertain their guests. It just shows how shallow they are. Everything is to impress other people rather than to satisfy a NEED. So having sad that, I have to confess that my husband and are building a new home which will be much larger than we need for just the two of us. However, a good part of the size is due to a walkout basement that will be partially finished with his office, which is where he spends hours on our investment portfolio each day. And while it is more than we need, we are looking down the road for when we eventually need to sell it. Plus, we can afford it. My problem is never with the size of a home people have, whether large or small, but can they afford it. And on that TV show, it is obvious most of them can’t.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Yes many of them have no downpayment, which is crazy. Since I watch on Hulu many of the episodes are before 2008 so maybe they should do a follow up to see how many were able to keep their homes after the economy crashed. And I think for many, people want what is shiny and new, but you really can get used to a lot of things. After awhile the novelty wears off an no one even notices the granite anymore.

  • Sarah says:

    We are a family of four and our first home was 1650 square feet – totally perfect! It was three bedrooms and a loft that we never used. The kitchen was large and the backyard was great! I would live in that house again for sure.

    We sold it and moved across the country into a 1400 sq ft apt. Because of the layout, we felt very cramped (trust me…it was cramped). I’ve lived in 700 sq ft apts before this one that felt MUCH bigger.

    Now we live in a 3000 sq ft house (rent is almost the same as our apt was). There are features that I really like – a large, open kitchen with an island, a playroom for my kids and a large master bathroom, but honestly, this house is too big for us. I’m so happy we’re renting it, though, because it allowed me to “test” living in a large home before buying one!

    This is a great post! I think what it comes down to is buying a home you can afford (including higher utilities that come with a larger home) and being happy with it!!

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      It’s cool you’re able to test so many places to see what the best fit is. There are many things I’d change about living here. Currently my kitchen table is my “office” and I’d really like to have a bonafide dinner party someday but it’s a pain in the butt to clear all of it off. And I’d LOVE more counter space. But for now…I’ll deal. 🙂

  • Our home in under 2k square feet for 5 of us. I’m fine with that. A bigger home just means more room for more stuff, more house to clean, more clutter, etc. When I was younger I wanted the big house, now I just want to keep it simple.

  • Mrs. 1500 says:

    We lived in 4,000+ and then moved to 5,000+. After we moved into that 5,000+ house, we discovered FI/RE blogs and decided that was way too much house for us. We bought a 1,300 sq ft house, added about 500 sq ft, and are now happier than we have ever been. Size most definitely does not matter.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Wow 5k feet!! I can’t even imagine! You can fit like 10 of my apartment in that. lol! Glad you found something that works for you!

  • I share a true 2 bedroom apartment (converted into 3 bedroom) with two roommates. The apartment is actually decent sized for Manhattan standards, but I’m from rural New England so it does feel tight at times. I would like to have a bike in the city, but currently my apartment does not have anywhere to store it. I by no means need a McMansion, but a little more space would be nice I think.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Yeah when you start to feel cramped or can’t find space for things that do matter to you in can be tough. I use my kitchen table as my office since I only have one bedroom, and sometimes that does annoy me, as does lack of counter space if I do feel the urge to cook.

  • I would love to downsize. Our house is too big for 3 people. Yeah, it’s really nice when Jim’s family comes to visit or when we have other kids over, but that’s not reason enough to have such a big place. When we built it, we made the mistake of telling our contractor what we wanted to spend. In LA, we’d be in a studio, but this is what you get in SW Colorado and we certainly weren’t in the frugal mindset at that time. We’ll stay until our daughter is done with school, but I think we’ll someday move into our rental house, which is about 1500 sq feet. I think that size would be perfect. I do want to maybe take an RV and travel around for a few months. We’ll see if that ever happens, but I think we could manage the cramped space as long as we were outside most of the day.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      I love your place by the way, but it is very spacious! It makes sense to stay there while she is growing up.

  • Kalie says:

    I’m not sure how big our house is as I think the listing is wrong, but it’s somewhere around 1200-1400 ft. We have two children, host a lot, and have more room than we need. We have a dream of buying a large house with another family we’re very close to. We think it would be a more efficient use of space, time, money, and each family’s talents. Not to mention fun (and sometimes crazy).

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Wow that’s so interesting. I can’t even imagine living with a roommate again let alone a whole family! That’s a blog post for ya!

  • We definitely have way more home than we need and I feel it every time we get a utility bill. Unfortunately I see us staying in this home until my son graduates from high school at which point I want to sell this home and downgrade into something WAY smaller.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Kim said kind of the same thing. As a kid it was nice to have that home stability (well, cough, at least the location), and I can see downgrading once will leaves the nest.

  • Great post Tanya! I like watching those shows too, but when I do I also get a bit annoyed and even angry at times. People on them are so picky and entitled. Ugh! My house is quite large for just me, it’s about 900 sq ft on each floor and I know I could do with a lot less space. The only reason I have the extra space is because it was the only decent house on the market in my town when I was looking to buy.

  • Jason B says:

    My living situation is decent. I have a one bedroom apartment. I need at least another bedroom to use for an office & storage for my eBay items.

  • Cat says:

    The house hunter people are ridiculous. That said our apartment is 850 sq ft and totally does feel tight for obvious reasons. Can’t wait to get a bit more space but it feels a lot bigger since the Grenada apt was 270!

  • Mrs. Maroon says:

    I used to dream of upgrading to a forever house that checked all of those boxes for size, extra rooms, extravagant finishes, etc. Let’s just say that my dreams have changed just a bit…

    This past weekend was so nice that we kept the back door open all day. The problem was that we couldn’t pull a breeze through the house and had no way to keep the bugs out. So now, I dream of a forever house with doors/windows to create a cross-breeze complete with screen doors. Quite the change in must-haves!!

  • We usually eventually fill up all the extra space we have. Solution? Less space!

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