Having Kids In A Small Home
A lot of people didn’t know what to say when we told them we were going to move into a house less than half our current house’s size. 2000sqft to 880sqft to be exact. An upgrade to us in terms of simplification and reduced finances, to ‘everyone else’ looked instead like a downgrade of size and quality of life (especially if they knew we have 2 young kids). We understood this both then and now so we never get upset when people’s first response, even if just by the look on their face, is “WHY?!” So we go through our whole spiel about our Decision to Downsize and clarify that it’s still a 3 bedroom 2 bath and they seem more at ease.
Then came the pregnancy announcement of our third kid and among every few “Congratulations!” there was also concern about the size of our house: were we going to move? where would the kid sleep? Were we going to be OK?
In 2015 the average American new home size was 2,687sqft, a roughly 1,000sqft increase from 1973’s average home size (source). With decreasing family sizes, it’s calculated that the average space that each person in the house has all to their self is about 1,000sqft! (source)
So we get it, we’re not exactly mainstream in our desire to live in a smaller house. Even with the media currently popularizing the ideas of minimalists and tiny homes (100-400sqft), there’s really only about 10,000 true tiny home owners in the U.S (Source). Yet I want to point out that our homesize isn’t so radical compared to some other places in the world. While Australia and Canada hold home sizes similar to America’s, countries like Italy, United Kingdom, and Sweden are similar to our 880sqft. Then Hong Kong, Russia, and urban China are even less, averaging 484-646sqft (source).
Never the less, we live in America, so a frequent inquiry is how we live in such a “small” space with kids? What’s it REALLY like?
Here’s the truth:
Our kids actually had a lot to do with our move
One of our largest deciding factor (and at the same time the least important factor) in downsizing our home-size was our young children. Anyone who has their own or has been around young kids, will notice that a child’s favorite place is in the same room as you. Better yet, literally under your feet or climbing on you; no matter if you’re cooking dinner or watching TV. They could have every conceivable toy in the coolest bedroom in existence, and they don’t care. They’ll drag a toy to the kitchen and sit right there in the middle of floor while you trip around them. I told the story in my original Decision to Downsize post about our laundry room in our larger house, where one day I sorted clothes, my two kids played, and my husband just arriving home from work, stopped in for a chat. A family of four in a standing in a closet sized space of only 2.5X5ft. We realized right then, how under-used most of the space in our 2000sqft house really was. Sure every room had a label and a “purpose” and was filled with furniture and our things, but really only one, maybe two, rooms were ever really in use at the same time. The more we paid attention to this fact, the larger our house felt, and before long a house that we had once worried wasn’t big enough, now felt as silly as over-sized clown shoes.
The kids don’t notice
My oldest, age 4, still remembers our other house. She claims she wants to move back there again someday. Does she miss her larger (and bright orange) room? Or maybe the open floor plan that allowed her to run (literally) in circles? Or the community playground that could be seen from our back door? No. None of those. She misses the stairs. Going from 3 levels to 1 level, I no longer have to will my arms to stay in their sockets as a lug groceries and babies up those darn stairs. But Oh No, my little 4 year old apparently has fond memories “When I grow up I’m going to live in a house with stairs”….uhhh, ok…
At the same time that they don’t remember our old house as the “bigger house” they also have never commented that our new house is small. As a member of a mom’s group, we regularly attend playdates at other homes. My house would probably fit in the basement of the other homes we go to, yet not once have my kids pointed out the obvious size difference.
Plus their preferred place to be in the small home, is exactly the same as the bigger home: “right next to mom”.
Heavy use and wear
When you have a smaller home, a cool thing happens, every part of your home becomes used on a DAILY basis. There’s no separate dining room only for holidays, no man-cave just for the football games, no second work office, etc. Our craftroom is our kitchen table, exercise room is the local gym, and the playroom is also the kids bedroom. It’s a beautiful thing to have everyone’s hobbies so intertwined, enjoying each others company even if we’re not all doing the same thing. It’s a satisfying feeling for a home to get such steady use. In a way it feels like we really got our money’s worth with the home purchase. Yes this does mean the house gets constant wear and tear and messes seem to unravel and appear at alarming rates. To me however, that just means our home has all those same endearing memory marks that other homes have: the wall art from that time one kid got a hold of a Sharpie, flecks of glitter that are still multiplying from last years art project, and scuff marks on floors from the in and out of chairs and meal times. Sure, we have to clean frequently, often sweeping several times a day, but thankfully in a smaller home this isn’t such a daunting task and doesn’t take that long. (For more information on how our specific Clayton mobile home is holding up, read my review post on that HERE).
Kids share a room and they love it
Despite the 3 bedrooms, when we moved in we intentionally bunked our two girls together in one room. In fact I’ll go as far as to say I think separate, isolated bedrooms for kids to be an incredibly sad “trend” these days. I firmly believe that no one likes to sleep alone, no matter what their age. My newborn sleeps best next to me and I never sleep well when my husband is away on business. If one kid is sick and gets the “royal treatment” of sleeping bag on the parent’s floor, the other kid is beside themselves upset to be alone in their room. In talking with other moms it’s common to hear them confess that most nights the kids find their way into either the parents room, or another siblings room. I think it’s a great comfort to my girls for them to have each other. When their baby brother is big enough, I could easily see us adding another bed to the room. (Then when they’re older they can all fight over who gets the 3rd bedroom all to their self 😛 )
There have been some noise complaints
From the parents…not the neighbors. I have loud, ever-moving, high-intensity kids. They lack all concept of “inside-voices” and all thoughts are expressed instantaneously and externally through verbal outbursts and flailing limbs. This can make them a tad overwhelming
all most days. I’m not sure how different this would really be in a larger home considering their “under-foot” habits as previously mentioned. There are times where it feels challenging to hold a conversation without bouts of agitation as their bodies, voices, and pounding foot steps swarm around. This doesn’t seem to bother the newborn at all, in fact I think he was born already being well adjusted to the clamor as he seems to sleep best when there’s a sufficient amount of “back-ground noise”. Thankfully, kids seems immune to high and low temperature extremes with a love of rain puddles, so there’s really no time that I can’t boot them outside.
But can you stay sane?
You can. Even with the noise complaint mentioned, sharing a smaller space with kids is do-able. I am proof of that and I’m not the most patient, or a consistently positive person, (and may also have a short temper if I’m being honest here). As long as you have rooms with doors, to grant yourself the occasional separation break, (and coffee and chocolate), you’ll be OK. I also find it helpful to maintain daily “quiet time” (even when no one takes naps anymore). To me everything else is the same, we do all the things other parents do; have bad days and good days, days out of the house, and days where we just stay in. It may be a house packed full of kids, where you can’t as effectively dodge those sticky lollipop hugs, and you may feel the floor shake “across the house” during a temper tantrum, but’s it’s also house packed full of memories….some funny now, some funny later 🙂