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Living in 100 Square Feet

According to the 2012 Census, the average size of an American home is 2,598 square feet. 

Compare that to the size of an average American home in 1973, just over 1,500 square feet. How are we using that extra thousand square feet of living space, and do we need it?

According to Jay Shafer, who started the “tiny house” movement in Iowa City about two decades ago, we don’t. He has been living in homes between 100 to 300 square feet for the last 18 years, for a period of time with his wife and two sons, and says it’s been liberating.

When I first moved into my tiny house in 1997... I was living in a home that would fit into a parking space. - Jay Shafer

“When I first moved into my tiny house in 1997, I was really trying to pay attention to my energy consumption,” he explains. “I was living in a home that would fit into a parking space.”

During this Talk of Iowa interview, Shafer talks with host Charity Nebbe. Greg Johnson, who works for the University of Iowa’s IT service and serves as president of the Small House Society, and Don Otto, an Iowa City based builder, also joins the conversation.

Otto says that while living in 100 to 400 square feet isn’t feasible for everyone, thinking about how much space we need is a good thing. “Sometimes if you take even 100 square feet off of a home, you can save the homeowners a substantial amount of money. It’s also more sustainable to ask yourself: ‘How much space do I need, what do I use my extra space for?’” 

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Lindsey Moon served as IPR's Senior Digital Producer - Music and the Executive Producer of IPR Studio One's All Access program. Moon started as a talk show producer with Iowa Public Radio in May of 2014. She came to IPR by way of Illinois Public Media, an NPR/PBS dual licensee in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Wisconsin Public Radio, where she worked as a producer and a general assignment reporter.