How I Live in a 400 Sq. Ft. House – My Minimalist Home

How I Live in a 400 Sq. Ft. House - My Minimalist HomeToday’s post – How I Live in a 400 Sq. Ft. House – is by my wonderful staff writer Jordann. Enjoy! Also, if you are a new reader, please don’t forget to read my posts on my awesome extra income series.

Last week’s post about how I’m not always a minimalist got a lot of responses to the fact that I live with my fiance, my dog and my cat, in a 400 square foot house. Really, it’s more of a cottage. The story of how I came to live in this house is one of luck and a good relationship with relatives.

You can check out the whole story here about why I live in this minimalist house. The bottom line is: By living in this small space, I’ve been able to reduce my rent to $100 per month plus utilities, which has enabled me to pay off $27,000 of debt in 17 months.

That said, living in such a small space with so many other creatures isn’t easy, even for a minimalist like me. Sure, the sacrifice is worth it for the monetary gain, but it can get stressful at times living in a minimalist house.

There are a lot of problems that come along with small space living, so if you’re thinking about down sizing in order to save a little money or live somewhere more desirable, here are a few of my tips so that you can successfully live in a minimalist house.


Adopt Space Saving Hobbies for a Minimalist House.

As much as I love things like having a home gym, painting, and having an expansive indoor plant collection, I had to give up these hobbies when I moved into a smaller space that couldn’t accommodate all of that stuff.

I didn’t intentionally stop these hobbies because I didn’t have enough space, instead, the hassle of lugging everything out and then putting it away became too much, and I started to gradually drift towards my more space-saving hobbies, like reading and blogging.


Have Boundaries For My Minimalist Living.

I love my dog and cat, but in such a small space, they can get on my nerves a bit. That’s why I have a strict “No pets in the bed” rule. Being able to stretch out while sleeping has makes me feel so much less claustrophobic and crowded, that this little space suddenly seems a lot bigger.

Plus, I love seeing their faces in the morning after spending the night apart. Since we never break this rule, the pets don’t whine or fuss about it, they just accept it.


Take the Time to Clean In A Minimalist House.

Since 400 sq. ft. is so small, it doesn’t take a lot of time to clean every inch of space. That said, it can also get cluttered so quickly! With no place to hide stuff away and no rooms that I can just shut the door on and think “Out of sight, out of mind”, if I don’t keep up with the cleaning and organizing, this little house can become a disaster zone very, very quickly.


Take it Outside If You Live A Minimalist Lifestyle.

Luckily, my tiny little 400 sq. ft. house is situated on a good-sized lot that allows us space in the backyard for a fire pit and room enough for the dog to play a solid game of fetch.

Because of this, I try to spend a lot of time outside moving around. This keeps me from feeling too cooped up in our little house and getting cabin fever. If you decide to move into a small space, make sure you have either access to your own outdoor green space or plenty of amenities within walking distance to get you out and about.


Remember That Minimalist Living Is Not For Everyone.

I live in a tiny house because it affords me the opportunity to drastically reduce my rent and funnel more cash towards getting out of debt.

Before living here, I lived in a 700 sq. ft. apartment, and before that, an 850 sq. ft. space. I don’t plan on living here forever, in fact, I can’t wait to move somewhere a little more suited to my family’s needs. Not everyone is cut out for minimalist home living, and it’s definitely not easy. It’s not something everyone should aspire to.

That said, if you’re thinking about downgrading your current living situation and you are interested in minimalist living, living in a 400 sq. ft. space with two adults and two pets is totally doable. Heck, we could probably even throw a baby into the mix and still manage to get by (no plans to!). Living in a tiny space is a great way to save money in order to achieve other goals in life.

Have you ever lived in a small space (such as 400 sq. feet) to save money? Would you? Is a minimalist house something that interests you?



  1. myfijourney says

    I lived in tiny apartments in college. It was great because I didn't live with my parents any more and in college it's okay to live on the cheap. But it's not something that I want to do again. By the time I finished grad school, I was sick of it. I lived up North where the winters were harsh, so there was probably a good four months where I was cooped up inside all day. Too small, too claustrophobic, not enough room for a single guy and a couple of cats.
    My recent post A Brief Primer on REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) Part 2: The basics of evaluating a REIT

    • says

      Downgrading is definitely tougher than upgrading. Although it's surprising that when you upgrade, you find ways to fill the space quickly.

  2. Jenny@FrugalGuru says

    I shared a 350sqft apartment with two roommates in college. It wasn't actually bad.
    My recent post What Happens To My Body If I Die In Debt?

  3. plantingourpennies says

    My first apartment was 400 sqft, and I loved it because it was steps from the beach! It felt like plenty of space for 1 person and a plant, though when I tried to add fish they kept dying. When Mr. PoP was over for the weekends, we ended up spending a lot of time outdoors, on the patio, at the beach, wherever. It wasn't too bad.
    Sometimes I miss the days when I only had 400 sqft to clean. 1100 is so much more floor to clean, and Kitty PoP doesn't help!

    My recent post He Said She Said: One Year Of Blogging

  4. says

    I lived in a 400 square foot apartment for the first two years after college. The amount of space wasn't bad since it was just me. And the price was right. However, my apartment didn't have ANY closets. It was incredibly difficult to keep things organized and contain the clutter without closets. You're absolutely right that it's essential to keep a small space as clean as possible.

    Now, my husband and I have a two-bedroom place with 600 square feet. Some days, it feel HUGE to me!
    My recent post Why Is Raising Children So Expensive? What Did My Parents Do Differently?

  5. says

    We often overestimate the things we "need" to survive. I'm trying to adopt a mindset where I think about something and wonder what life would be like if I didn't have it. Would everything be ok? In almost all cases the answer is yes, so the next question is why do I have it? There usually isn't a really good answer. I'm glad you guys have been able to use that mentality to really improve your situation.
    My recent post The Simple, Effective Approach to Investing (Part 3): Determine Your Asset Allocation

  6. says

    Wow, I thought I'd be in the "small space" set until I read some of the comments here…it appears that my 1,123 sq ft home is a massive castle!!! That said, I've lived in it for 20 years. The good thing is that it has kept my "stuff" limited to that space and when I've shared the space with someone else, I've had to pair down. I'm pretty good at that but still feel rich with clothes, furniture and lovely things to look at. I made a "do not rent extra storage" rule early on so I've never kept more than could fit in my home/garage.

    In my younger years I've lived in some very tiny places (not sure of dimensions) and never minded that as long as I could get outside. I think small is the new big, especially here in California where people went crazy with McMansions.

    Great Post!
    My recent post Is It Possible To Be Too Generous?

  7. says

    Not sure I could get the wifey to move to a 400sq ft anything. It was hard enough convincing we should move closer to the inter coastal vs getting a bigger home more inland. You need a home, or as my mom would say a roof over your head and clean clothes and food to eat. We spend too much on the wants and miss out on the great things we can do and have without spending the bank. Im not sure about the animals though in such a small space.
    My recent post Make Sure You Pay Your Credit Cards On Time

  8. says

    I suppose it's nothing like your experience, but I did rent a room in a relatively small house with three other roommates. I should say I shared one of the two bedrooms with a roommate, the two others took the other room. We had a small bathroom and a modest first floor. Rent was relatively low and we made the space work.
    My recent post No Excuses for Not Entering Giveaways

  9. Budget & the Beach says

    I think I could do 400 square feet if it was just me, but probably would have a hard time with pets and living with someone else. My apt is not big by any means right now…I think around 6 or 700ish, but when two people are here I notice it starts to get a little cramped. That being said I hate clutter so regardless of my space I'd keep it clutter free. Personally I'd love a bigger kitchen and bedroom.
    My recent post My Perspective on Freelancing

  10. Keren says

    Before my husband and I got married, we lived in a 600 sq foot efficiency apartment. The only room that had a door was the bathroom and it was quite tiny. Otherwise, it was one decent sized open room. At that time, it was $350/month including all utilities except cable and phone. Not too shabby in my opinion! There were, however, tradeoffs. First of all, my husband is, and always has been, a night owl. Me? Not so much. So while he was watching TV at all hours of the night, I tossed and turned. If you burned something in the kitchen, even your sheets smelled like it. Not that I ever did that. *cough*

  11. mycanuckbuck says

    Ooh – not sure I could do it. I don't even know if that's enough room for my husband's CD collection! :) If it was just me and my cat, maybe..

  12. says

    It sounds like the small space is working out just fine for you. You'll feel so much better when that debt is gone that it'll have made the sacrifice of living in a small home worth it. I'm sure I could do it if I had to, but it wouldn't be my first choice of a living arrangement.
    My recent post 5 Fun and Frugal Summer Activities

  13. says

    It's certainly isn't for everyone!! I did it for five years and never want to do it again. It started out okay for the first two years and then it started to drive me nuts. When your home is making you kinda miserable it's not worth the savings in rent.
    My recent post Magazine Musings

  14. says

    I'm not completely sure how big our space is, it's probably somewhere between 250 and 400 square feet. Leslie and I live in a tiny studio apartment behind another house. We first moved in because it was a super cheap place we could live without having roommates. Three years later we're still there and have a little dog! We'll probably stay here at least another year or so while we pay down debts.
    My recent post Working With Our Strengths and Being on the Same Page

  15. krantcents says

    I lived in a smaller space to find out if we could. I found it too confining. I think it would work if home is just a place to sleep vs. if you do many things there.

  16. says

    First off all, the image you choose for a representation of the small house is just beautiful! What a dream!

    Second, where in the world are you renting for $100 a month? If you don't mind, that is awesome and I'd love to be there even if it is small! I spend so little of my time indoors. Between working, sleeping and all of my hobbies and time spent with family we are rarely indoors, usually outside. That's the only kicker, we'd like a bigger property for farming on.

    Any tips on where to find this kind of a place? I've always had the best of luck renting rooms from people I went to church with. They were always fair as far as money was concerned.
    My recent post 5 Great Books to Learn Asset Allocation

  17. iheartbudgets says

    I can't do a SUPER small space. We have a 1,500 sq. ft. house and it's already feeling small for our family of 3, LOL. Things will get smaller as our family grows, so I guess I'll have to get used to it, because we're not moving for at least a decade! Your house would have me breathing into a brown paper bag! Good for you, and $100 a month is BALLER! Keep doing your thing!
    My recent post Ultimate Budget Series: Part 1 – Income

  18. Catherine says

    I lived in a 850sq ft apartment and it felt small!! I would love to see a layout of your place! Kudos to you guys for doing it! And to answer your question, yes I would live in a tiny place if needed!
    My recent post My Cell Phone Negotiations

  19. Canadianbudgetbinder says

    Yes the second house I bought was around 600 sq feet. It wasn't huge but it was home. You are right it didn't take too much time to clean up and I didn't have more stuff in the house that I needed. I also did not have a basement like I do in Canada. Our basement now is bigger than my home in the UK but my house in the UK was worth more than this home. That just goes to show you how expensive houses are in the UK although I bought it for cheap when I was around 24. Owning a home was more important to me than spending my money on "stuff" I didn't need. You make do with the space and come up with creative ways to store items and enjoy the space.
    My recent post I Can Buy It, But Can I Afford It

  20. says

    That's great that the place in which you're living is working out well for you, especially financially!

    While a 400 sq foot place would not be workable for me, I do think that the average family tends to overestimate their needs in terms of living space. I grew up in a home that wasn't massive by any stretch, but it was bigger than the one in which I'm living in now. And I'm not worse off for it!
    My recent post The Selective Real Estate Rebound

  21. says

    Great post. And while not everyone could live in such a small space, most of us could do with much less.

    I'm planning to move aboard a sailboat in a couple of years. Part of the appeal is being limited to only what I need. It's already made me think differently about the items I do have.

  22. chrisholdheide says

    I like the idea of sticking with something small but 400 sq ft. would be impossible for me. However, when I built my new house one thing I did was made sure our house didn't get to big. Often times I heard from others when I was in the planning process to build that you need to build your house bigger. However with a bigger house that means more upkeep, more debt, and more taxes, which are three things I'm not a big fan of at all. I feel it comes down to what you actually need and will use and if you can get by in 400 sq ft, awesome, but don't go bigger just because you have the money.
    My recent post 4 Debt Tips for Young Adults

  23. says

    BF and I lived in a 400sq.Ft apartment for a year, and it worked just fine! Though it did require some planning and mad organization skills, but all in all it helps to keep things on minimum. no more books and dvds than one bookcase can hold, no more clothes than a dresser can hold etc. We now live in a bigger apartment that´s about 538 sq.Ft, which is lovely because we have more storage space AND I have room for my desk, which is really lovely. I hated using he kitchen table. but now that we´ve gotten used to a bit more space, we probably won´t reduce the size anytime soon. it´s weird how quickly you get accustomed to certain "standards".
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  24. says

    That's awesome! I write a lot about little houses, but I'm not so sure I could actually live in a 400 sq ft house. However, I think it's a great strategy for paying off debt. Under 100 bucks per month? Way to go! Just think, if you live there a little longer, you could save a ton of money, too.
    My recent post How to Live Rent Free

  25. says

    I lived in a 400 sq. ft. apartment in NYC for a while and LOVED it! My now wife… not so much. But I love the idea of living in a small space for a while to save money and get a good perspective on things. The way I looked at it, too, was we were 8 blocks from Central Park, in the middle of NYC. We had plenty of "space" outside of our apartment and a HUGE "yard." If you see it with the right eyes, the actual "space" you live in isn't that important…
    My recent post That time I got my butt kicked….

  26. says

    I've never lived in a small space before. We've always lived in our gigantic 5,000 sq ft home, but it is not as nice as it sounds. Since it is so large, it is impossible to clean and there is a crazy amount of yard work! I would much rather live in a way smaller house, but I won't have that chance until I am on my own. I wouldn't be able to live in a 400 sq ft house ever, that's just too small for me!
    My recent post When Are Taxes Due Again?

  27. says

    That is pretty cool! I think I could live in a well laid out 400 sf house. Once I get these three kids of ours out of the house. I might even get Mrs. RootofGood to join me in the 400 sf house!

    It’s a shame you will likely never see a mass market (=affordable) neighborhood of ~400 sf houses in the US.

  28. kathi says

    I am looking to downsize from 1500 Sq ft to 400 Sq ft. From the city to the beach, I’m going to try the theory of have I used it do I need it maybe put a great deal of stuff in storage for 6 months to see if I really do need it and if not bye bye. Thanks for all the ideas.

  29. Megan says

    We are almost to the building of our tiny house! I am so excited it’s going to be a little over 400 square feet! We are 2 adults and 3 kids! We currently live in an 1100 square foot house and are just tired of cleaning all the time and so much stuff! I hope I’m as organized and positive as you and can write a blog!

  30. says

    Color me impressed – 400sf! I remember back in the day with my 550sf studio and how I couldn’t wait to get out of there after a year of minimalist living. And now that I’ve spread out into a larger space, it’s really really hard to imagine getting back to such a cozy lifestyle.
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  31. Lacey says

    My cabin is 450sq ft. In it is myself, husband, and two little girls under 3yrs. Plus a dog and a cat. I love having a small place. The main thing is shelving. Utilize floor to ceiling with shelving or cabinets. We live on a farm and so outside is a big seal to us. Also we are outside a lot because we live in Alaska and here is lots of outdoor things to do regardless of season. The only thing I would change is having a bath house and atrium unattached to the house.

  32. Alice says

    To me, 400 square feet is not tiny… a little bit small but surely not tiny. We live, my husband and I in a 400 square foot house with 2 dogs (mostly they stay inside as they don’t want to walk alone!!) and 3 cats… and we have more than enough space! Americans are used to live in huge houses, that’s why to them living in a 400 square foot house seems to be challenging… they should have a look on other countries where people live at more than 10 in this kind of space!

  33. Elena W says

    We live in a static caravan, 36ft x 12ft, so roughly 400 sq ft. I TOTALLY agree about the cleaning and clutter problem! We also share the space with a dog, often some hatching eggs or chicks and as of this week two baby rabbits that we rescued!

  34. Angela Marie says

    I have lived in tiny cottages on and off for the last twenty years, and recently moved into a tiny 280 sq ft cottage with my two dogs to live a simpler life. It was tough parting with the small amount of stuff I had from my last 480 sq ft cottage, but it’s turned out to be a great experience. I now have my boyfriend living with me as well and that was a little stressful in the beginning until we got the tiny house dance down. We are fortunate to live where the weather is always nice and have a small garden area and creek outside to give us more space. We are currently saving to buy our own home and I am hoping it’s a tiny one. Tiny living is the way to go! Happy trails!

  35. Jennifer Jones says

    I am absolutely in love with the idea of living in a tiny house. I hate clutter and have moved so many times in my life that my personal belongings don’t take up very much space at all (I have 4 pairs of shoes – and 2 of those are for work!). However, my husband is about 3 steps shy of being a life-long hoarder (i.e. still has TAPES {VHS and audio} even though we don’t have a tape player and have no plans to obtain one!). I love the idea of cutting down on the clutter, but I also love the idea of being able to live off a simpler budget as well.

  36. Kathy says

    For the first 6 years we were married we lived in an 8′ x 34′ trailer from the 1950’s. We were hardly ever home. So it worked out well for us. Next we lived in a 400 sq foot cottage for really cheap rent. We shared it with some mice and a lot of ants, but it was just temporary. We were trying to save money for a down payment on our first real house. That wasn’t very big either, less than 800 sq feet. But we had everything we needed, an adequate kitchen, living room, small bathroom and 2 small bedrooms. We lived there 8 years and then bought our present house of 1400 sq feet. We’ve been in that 30 years. Now i’m ready for a smaller place again. 600-800 sq feet would be ideal. I really like small living. Our expenses are lower. It doesn’t cost as much to heat and cool a small house. Redecorating is a lot cheaper; you can find carpet and flooring remnants. You can’t buy much, which is okay with me. It means having less to keep track of. You have to be organized. You’re right about hobbies. You have to do things that don’t require a lot of storage. It helps to create storage in ingenious ways. And we spent a lot of time outside on our deck. If you like camping, you probably won’t mind living in a small space. It’s more affordable and leaves room for things like traveling more. If I lived alone, I’d consider an even smaller place.


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