Can Your Family Survive With 1 Bathroom?

Can Your Family Survive With 1 Bathroom_350Last week, I made my case for why FIRE isn’t deprivation. Basically, we live a modest lifestyle so we can achieve financial independence. Our modest lifestyle is pretty comfortable and I don’t feel deprived at all. Well, there is one thing… We only have 1 bathroom in our home. That’s for 2 adults and 1 kid. To me, this isn’t a huge problem because I lived in many places with 1 bathroom when I was younger. However, sharing 1 bathroom seems like a huge problem for some readers. Today, I want to share my experience when I was young. My family survived with 1 bathroom for many years. IMO, 1 bathroom is plenty for a small family.

My formative years

This is how I measure deprivation. If my son’s lifestyle is lower than my lifestyle at the same age, then that’s deprivation. I think that’s a fair way to measure it. Of course, it was a different time back then, but I never felt the bathroom was a problem. Also, I think it’s good to keep expectations somewhat low. If our son lives in luxury now, he’ll use that as a measuring stick when he’s an adult.

Anyway, I have 2 brothers so we had a bigger family. Five of us shared 1 bathroom for many years. Let’s see if I can remember when I was young.

  • 7 to 9 years old – My dad had a small pig farm in a rural area near Chiang Mai, Thailand. We lived in a small cabin. It didn’t have an indoor bathroom as there was no sewer hookup. We had to use an outhouse! I remember it was very scary to go to the bathroom at night. Hah! My son is already living in luxury compared to me at this age.

pig farm

  • 10 to 12 – My dad started a small electronics store and we moved to town. The building was a live/work building. The store was on the ground floor and there was a small room upstairs. This place had 1 bathroom inside.
  • 12 to 13 – We immigrated to the US and lived in my aunt’s house for about a year. It was a 4 bed/3 bath home. My family of 5 shared one bedroom. It was a big house, but it got very crowded when we moved in. There were 5 adults and 6 kids in that house. We stayed there until my parents had enough income to get their own place.
  • 14 to 16 – We moved from one cheap apartment to another. This was in San Fernando Valley, a little north of LA. Most of those cheap apartments had just 1 bathroom.
  • 17 to 18 – My parents purchased a small Thai restaurant and were able to start making more money. They got a 3 bed/2 bath home soon after. They rented one room out so we usually had 3 adults and 3 kids sharing 2 bathrooms.
  • College years – Various living situations, but we usually had about 2 people sharing a bathroom.

As you can see, my bar is pretty low. We had 5 people per bathroom for many years. My son’s lifestyle is luxurious in comparison. This is why sharing 1 bathroom is not a big hardship for me. When I was young, many cheap 2 bedroom apartments had only 1 bathroom. I wonder if it is different now. Real estate companies have been renovating old apartments and raising the rent over the last 10 years. Those crappy apartments I lived in are probably all gone now.

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Is 1 bathroom is enough for a family?

The bathroom is the most important, yet least used room in a home. You really need it, but you don’t spend a lot of time there. Each person spends about 30-40 minutes per day in the bathroom so it is empty most of the day. Yes, there are occasional conflicts when 2 people need to use the bathroom at the same time. However, that’s pretty rare. Usually, we just knock and the other person speeds it along. When I was young, we made it work with even more people.

For now, sharing just one bathroom works okay for us. We might need another bathroom when our son gets older so we plan to remodel the basement and add more living space down there. I want to add a bedroom and a bathroom. That’s a few years off, though. There are quite a few things to fix in our duplex before we can do that. Also, the city will jack up our property tax when we remodel the basement so I’m not in a huge hurry to do it.

Can your family survive with just 1 bathroom? How many bathrooms do you need per person? I think 2 people per bathroom is ideal, but 3 is okay too. Just be thankful you don’t need to go to an outhouse.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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42 thoughts on “Can Your Family Survive With 1 Bathroom?”

  1. At schools, you can have hundreds of children in one building and maybe a couple dozen toilets. That would be over 10 children per toilet. If having too few bathrooms in a house is “torture” for the residents why hasn’t someone said that school is a violation of the 8th amendment already? Unless it is not torture. Guess society should decide.

  2. For a stay over 1 week, 1 bathroom is a deal breaker for me with my family of 5. I never rent anything from Airbnb or VRBO with less than 1.5 bathrooms.

    If we are talking about a long term living situation, 2 bathrooms is the minimum.

    Anything less would just be cruel :).

  3. Like Mr. Tako suggested, I think it’s a matter of what you’re used to and also a function of the type of housing you live in.

    Urban places are probably more likely to have less bathrooms (and less space) while suburbia, at least these days, is going to be filled with unnecessary extra bathrooms.

    We’ve got 1.5 baths between the two of us even in our 1250 sq foot place right now. The one full bath is plenty for just two of course. 🙂

  4. To answer to your question “Can your family survive with just 1 bathroom?”
    Yes we can, we are a family of 3 too.

    But we like to “live”, not just “survive”!
    That’s why we have 2 bathrooms in the new house we are moving to in a few months. 😉

    • You’re right. Our place is so small. We couldn’t accommodate guests anyway. Well, we had kids come by for sleepover and it worked okay for 1 day. Any longer than that and it probably would have been a problem.

  5. Funny you asked this. When we were looking for a house, my wife thought 1 bathroom is totally enough since that’s how it was like for her growing up. My thought is that we need at least 2 to be more flexible.

    Can you survive with 1 bathroom? Sure you can, especially if there’s a door for the toilet so someone can still use the rest of the bathroom when the toilet is occupied.

  6. Do you still recommend Personal Capital now that they were sold?
    I already started receiving annoying calls from them trying to get me into their paid base. Thoughts?

  7. Hmm, that’s a tough one. Growing up we had one working bathroom (long story) for our family. But now it would be a lot tougher. It’s not really a spoiled or entitlement kind of thing but rather that I’ve developed stomach issues over the past decade. I think sharing a bathroom wouldn’t be something the rest of the family would be keen on doing in our family! 😉

  8. I grew up with 2 bathrooms for 4 people, quickly growing to 5. The second bathroom was kinda gross and in the basement though.

    We then moved and had 2.5 bathrooms which was much more luxurious especially when company visited, but we still had arguments about showering and hot water.

    I lived with family for about a year where two houses were connected one house had 3 people living in it with one bathroom the other had 6 with one bathroom. It was cramped at times, but not too bad. I moved into my gf’s house for a while and that was two houses connected I think there were 2 bathrooms for like 13 of us or something, but the majority of us shared one bathroom most of the time, so it was often crowded.

    I then lived in dorm style housing where there was a big bathroom shared separated by gender for a few years, had a studio shared with one other person, moved into my uncle’s 1-bedroom with him for a while before getting a 2 bed/bath with 4 people – those were both super comfortable.

    I had a 3 bed 1 bath split with 6 people and that was kinda crammed but we made it work.

    Now I live with my partner and it’s usually fine to share the bathroom, occasionally she’ll pee in the shower or use the neighbor’s bathroom. It does feel crowded sometimes when we have company sleeping over especially if we all need to leave around the same time in the morning. I’m looking forward to adding in at least a half bath in the next few years, it’s not needed, but it’ll be nice especially when we have guests.

  9. Here are a couple things.

    1) You can survive with one bathroom, it is not hard. Just make rules.
    * No books, phones, tablets, etc. in the bathroom while on the John.
    * You are in the bathroom for three things (Sh!t, Shower, Shave). Do makeup, hair, etc. in another room.
    * You don’t get dressed in the bathroom. Have robes or long towels.
    2) People want a place to be alone, in private. If they have their own bedroom, this works as a substitute to the bathroom.
    3) Be considerate. We used to have a sign that said “Be Considerate, the definition of a minute depends on which side of the door you are.”

    My grandparents had a cabin in rural Michigan, and had 1 bathroom. They would have 8 grandkids (plus them) for several weeks. We had no problems, based on the rules above. Plus the simple rules that boys could “pee on a tree” which cut down the amount bathroom usage 🙂

  10. Growing up we had 2 bathrooms but it was more like 1.5 since the bath in the 2nd was rarely used. We all shared 1 shower. Since then I’ve always had 1+ bathrooms in the homes I’ve lived in. I would say I could certainly live with just 1 bathroom, but its a very nice convenience to have more.

    My uncles lake cabin has an outhouse. fun! /sarcasm

  11. I grew up in a 900 sq ft house with 1.5 bathrooms and 6 people. Worked okay, but far from ideal. The half bath (sink and toilet) was a life saver although it didn’t help with showers. Luckily no one had, ah…digestive issues.

    Now there are two of us and two bathrooms. Second bathroom rarely gets used except for guests.

  12. Our family of five shares one full bathroom. However, my husband’s workroom has a toilet that we haven’t had the time to convert to a full bathroom. Although it is rarely used (as we have to go upstairs to wash), I have been thankful for the extra toilet during these early potty training years.

  13. Growing up we had one bathroom. Now, we live in a house built in the 70s with 4 kids. Originally the house had one bathroom, but before we bought it in 2014 there was a very small 1/2 bath added. Works well for our day of 6!

  14. i grew up in a family of 4 in a small one bath house. it was fine. now we have this massive old house with 1.5 baths. we were able to “rig” a shower with a garden hose over a basement drain when we finally fixed our shower room a few years ago. i might go ahead and turn that little area into a more formal space if we ever sell as people seem to want it.

  15. We had a one and a half bathrooms growing up. For a family of 5, it worked out okay. I think the biggest issue was everyone trying to take showers in the morning. We had to set up a whole schedule. I don’t remember it much, because my brother and sister were much older than me.

    We have 2.5 baths now. It wasn’t something that we specifically wanted, but that’s what the house we liked had.

  16. There’s a huge increase in happiness for us (family of 4) going from one bathroom to two. I don’t think the third bathroom adds much, but having a second bathroom when there’s an emergency is great.

    At our house the master bathroom gets a lot of use because the adults hide out there.

    • That’s great! I can understand that. Our son is starting to hog the bathroom more. He brings the tablet in there when he goes to the toilet. We might need that 2nd bathroom sooner than later…

  17. When I was very young, we lived in a small house my parents had built in the ’70s with only one bathroom. Then my brother came along; they signed the contract on another new-construction house, and we moved there when he was three months old and I was about to turn four. Two bathrooms — luxury!

    Now my wife and I own a 99-year-old bungalow that used to have 1.5 baths, but was renovated before we moved in to wipe out the half bath in favor of a larger kitchen. It was a good call. We spend much more time in the there, and a large kitchen is rare in houses this old — it’s why we bought the place.

    In January of this year we had our only bathroom redone. Now it’s got heated floors, a heated anti-fog mirror, built-in storage, plenty of space, tile and grout that don’t leak into the living room below, and colors and fixtures we like. We’re very happy and expect to live here until they roll us out on our backs. It would likely be different if we had kids, but that’s the choice we made.

      • The remodel, all-in, was around $13k. Heated floors were maybe $1k of that. The materials aren’t terribly expensive; if you’re willing to DIY it before laying down the tile and can run your own electrical to the thermostat, a Suntouch kit on Amazon starts around $350 depending on how much floor you intend to heat.

        We wouldn’t have remodeled if our old bathroom wasn’t leaking. But since it was necessary, we had no qualms about making it as comfortable as possible.

  18. We have one bathroom for two adults. Like you said it works fine 99.9% of the time, but it would be so nice to have two or even an extra half-bath. But, in thinking back, I’ve never lived someplace that had more than one bath. Growing up we only had one and I always lived in 2-bed, 1-bath apartments. So maybe that’s why it’s workable to me, even if it’s not ideal.

  19. Growing up, I shared one bathroom with the family and didn’t bother me a bit. Now I live in a LCOL area, with large houses everywhere. We have too many bathrooms. You’d rake me over the coals if I shared the total. With little kids, there is no privacy anyway, so I don’t think it matters right now.

  20. Growing up my family only had one bathroom and to me it was just normal, I thought everyone else did too. We survived.

    And somehow we also survived not having granite counter tops and air conditioning. Scientists should study us to see how we did it, it does seem impossible!

  21. Like most things, I think it’s something you just get used to. Growing up, I had a mix of 1 bathroom and 2 bathroom places, but I can definitely see your point — Americans are pretty spoiled in the bathroom department.

    In other first-world countries, one bathroom per home is not uncommon. For some reason more than one bathroom has become common in the States, and now people kind of expect it.

    I think you guys are doing your son a service by living modestly (with one bathroom). If he grew up in a home with 3 bathrooms, he’d come to expect that out of life. It’s good to keep the bar low!


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