Start by jotting down all essential functions—sleeping, eating, marshmallow making—whatever it is that you do while you’re home.1 Don’t list room names, just the functions themselves. In the same way you jettisoned stuff in step one, use this opportunity to eighty-six nonessential functions. Living an edited life has as much to do with proscribing your behavior as it does with reining in your junk.
With your list of functional needs in hand, get out your measuring tape and record the square footage of all the functional spaces in your current joint. Can you do with less? Expand your research beyond your walls to the Good Small Spaces that you’ve appreciated over the years: your friend’s kitchen in Tribeca, that Parisian coffee shop, the oddly correct hotel bathroom in Tokyo. Your goal is to record minimum-square-foot sizes for all of your functional needs. When you’re done, add up the numbers, tack on about 10 percent for circulation, and give yourself a high five, for now you know how small you can go.2
1. Maybe you can just buy marshmallows like the rest of us, for instance.
2. My wife and I did this exercise recently and wound up with a total square footage of about 900 for a compact two-bedroom, two-bathroom house. Of course, this is relative: A quick poll of friends revealed square-foot numbers between 750 and 1,200.
Dan Maginn is an AIA-member architect who lives and carpools to work with his wife, Keri, in Kansas City. Although he and his partners at El Dorado Inc. are extremely interested in promoting sustainable design on all scales, he does not consider himself to be an "eco-warrior." Instead he prefers the term "eco-tainment specialist"