Personal Space in an RV

Limited personal space in a tiny house

Americans and personal space

In 1973, the average size of a new American home was 1,750 sq. ft. By 2016, that had jumped to 2,650 sq. ft. In contrast, during that same time the average number of people per household decreased from 3.01 to a record low of 2.53. (2016 Characteristics of New Housing PDF, U.S. Census Historical Household Tables)

These four data points tell an interesting story of personal space in America. In 1973, the average American had roughly 581 sq. ft. to call their own. By 2016, that same average American could claim 1,047 sq. ft., almost double what they had 40 years ago.

Personal space in an RV

A typical modern motorhome has around 225 sq. ft. of living space (a whopping 12% of the space an average new home had in 1973). Even a solo RV’er in a moderately-sized motorhome has less than half of the personal space of an average American in 1973. Add a spouse and some children and you’re easily under 100 sq. ft. per person. For context, 100 sq. ft. is roughly the size of a master bath in a typical suburban home. If it wasn’t already clear that that isn’t a lot of space, a 2007 report to the Department of Housing and Urban Development defined an overcrowded living space as anything less than 165 sq. ft. per person.

Personal space in an RV, in America

So why would anyone choose to trade 1,047 sq. ft. per person in exchange for a tenth of that space?  Well, for me, there were a few things that showed me the value of something I like to think of as living inside-out. (You can read about one of those things here. I’ll talk about others in other posts).

What is living inside out?

When we home shop, we hope to get as much ‘living space’ as we can for a given price. The implication here is that what is on the inside is the important part. Living inside-out flips this around. When you’re living inside out, your living space is not where you eat and sleep. Your living space is outside, in the world. And when you think of it that way, the size requirements for where you eat and sleep are much smaller. Or another way to think of it – there are 3,119,885 sq. mi. (or 87,000,000,000,000 sq. ft.) in the continental U.S. In an RV, that’s the size of your backyard.