Small House + Big Family

curley6May 8, 2012

To make a long story short my husband, four kids an I are moving from well over 2,000 sq feet to 1,150!

Right now we have 2 baths, 4 bedrooms but use one as a play room. We have a basement family room, huge kitchen with dining area, big living room, 4 season room! Tons of space but we don't use a lot of it and my house is full of stuff.

I think we will need alternatives to dressers for cloths so the kids have room to play in their rooms at least sometimes and the ceilings area little low so bunk beds may not work.

We're moving to a new state and home prices are higher. This small house is the only one in the neighborhood we want to be in that will work or us. We came very close to having a deal on a 3,000 sf foot home and realized the cost was too much and really beyond our means and needs.

Now people look at me like I am nuts when I tell them we'll be moving into a charming, 3bed one bath home with a tiny kitchen, small porch type room that is heated and has ac, a living room that does have space for a dining room, a great big yard and some small out buildings.

We have two boys ages 8 and 4 and two girls ages 7 and 2. They share rooms right now so I know that's not a big deal. I guess I am wondering if other families on the forum have down this.

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Nearly everyone I grew up with had 1 bath in their house, and most houses were fairly small. The hardest part is waiting for the bathroom, so a schedule for that really works.

Right now I have a friend who had 6 kids and a 3 bed 2 bath house. They converted the garage into another bedroom and bath and then had another son.

It's doable, but I wouldn't want to go back to 1 bath.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Good for you for buying a house within your means. Going smaller often means being able to afford buying into a better neighborhood.
As marti stated, the biggest challenge would be having one bathroom for a family of six.
You might be able to be creative and add another bathroom at some point.
I am also seeing families that bought in to the very large homes are now moving when there kids graduate from college.
When we bought this small house 20 years ago I felt we could keep it if we wanted to when our daughters moved out.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:49PM
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It's going to be a little tight. We were a family of four and as the kids got older (morning showers instead of evening baths) the bathroom got a little crowded, before school.

That being husband grew up in a family of nine with only one bathroom. I don't know how they did it, but most of them have much bigger homes of their own.

I think you can easily live in a smaller home, if you have well-planned storage and plenty of room for everyone to be together in the living room and at the table. Sharing bedrooms is no big deal (I did it) and it's kind of fun to have the company. If you do have a chance to add another bath down the road...or even a master bedroom and bath...I think this home will work for you for many years! :)

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 4:26PM
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What is the climate like? Seriously, outdoor living can really alleviate the "small" internal space. If you can spend time outside, in a yard, on a deck, in a park, etc, it won't feel nearly as small. If it is gray and raining all the time, you are going to need to find outside the house activities to keep your sanity.

But, you do what you have to do to keep your financial lives in order too!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 6:01PM
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I, too, admire your choice to live within your means. You mentioned outbuildings...does that mean you get to raise your kids in the country? My main concern, like others', is the bathroom situation. Is there any chance of adding on at least a powder room, if not an actual full or 3/4 bath?

I grew up in a house with 4 people and 2.75 bathrooms; it was great! Now we have one small bathroom for 2 people, and though I've adjusted, I wouldn't want to share it with any more! Not only is getting ready in the morning an issue, but some of us can't hold it or go outdoors like others! (sorry if that was TMI)

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 2:32AM
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Not TMI jessicaml. I was going to mention when everyone in the family gets sick at the same time.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 10:17AM
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'I was going to mention when everyone in the family gets sick at the same time.'

back when the 4 kids were still home and even tho we had 2 full baths... the time came when most of us were sick at the same time. I sent the oldest boy up to the neighbors to use their bathroom. They loved me.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 11:29AM
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LOL steph. Did that family get sick too?

I remember one time when 1 yo dd & I were really sick. Dh had just started a new job and couldn't stay home with us, so my mom came. Then she got sick. Luckily dd#1 was in diapers and I was well by the time mom got sick. Wasn't fun.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 2:42PM
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no, I think I'd remember if they did... she'd have never let me live it down - lol! Our kids were up at their house all the time. their youngest was the same age as our youngest (and she spent a ton of time at our house). Their older kids babysat ours. The school would even call her if they needed me to pick up one of my sick kids (or whatever reason). No answer at our house = just call Mrs X, she'd know where 'mom' was or would handle whatever problem they had.

my 2 youngest still live in the area where Mrs X lives (hometown) and I'm very grateful they check on her and help out when needed since her own 4 kids all live out of state. She was their 2nd mom while growing up.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:43PM
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I grew up in a family of nine. Most of the time we lived in military housing, which was assigned based on rank, not the size of the family.

At one point, we lived in a 3 bedroom, one bathroom house, with a galley kitchen and a combination living/dining room, with a tiny pantry/utility room off the kitchen for the washer and dryer. No attic or basement. The age range of us kids was newborn to 12.

The master bedroom had two sets of bunk beds and the 4 oldest boys slept in there. Mom and Dad had the next biggest room, with the current baby. My sister and I had the smallest room, which was a bit cramped with a crib and a twin sized bed.

As for getting ready in the morning, we had a shower schedule, with some of us showering at night and others in the morning. (In part because no water heater was going to be able to provide enough hot water for 7-8 showers in a row.)

I know that there wasn't much extra room, but my memories of that house don't include any idea that it was too small for us (I estimate that it was about 1,750 sq. ft.).

Mostly, it was the 1960s and we just didn't have a lot of stuff. Otherwise, we'd have been hurting. My suggestion is to declutter stuff before the move. Then declutter again.

In a small space, it is difficult to hold on to stuff that you aren't using right now. So clothes you are saving for the next kid to grow into, toys that aren't being used right now, but a younger kid might want in 2 years--consider letting those go. You'll have to pay to move them and then you will have to find storage space for them, unless they can be stored in one of the outbuildings.

Be flexible in how you look at your new space. That porch room, since it is heated, could become a playroom. Or an office. The kids are getting to the age of homework--maybe you will need to fit desks into their rooms instead of the dressers. Could one of the outbuildings be set up as a play space, at least for the older kids, for at least some of the year?

If at all possible, I'd move there with your current furniture and live in the space for a few months before making any big changes. You need to see how you really use the space to know what furniture you will want to let go and what new furniture you will want to replace it with. My parents always ended up making a shopping trip after we'd been in a new house for three months, to buy the things that would make living there easier--a kitchen cart in one house, storage cabinets in another, a smaller coffee table or kitchen table.

(Just so you don't think the military kept us in inadequate quarters all the time, a few years and houses later, we moved into a 6 bedroom, 3 bath house with two pantries, a music room, a 3 season porch, parquet floors, window seats, french doors leading from the living and dining rooms onto a lovely front porch, basement and attic with tons of built-in closets and cabinets, a room for the maid (which they must have had in 1850 when the house was built) and a tunnel connecting the house to the garage, the former stable, so the occupants could get to their transportation without getting cold or wet. That was military housing on a tiny little base in Philadelphia. )

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 9:47AM
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I have found that bins that slide under the bed function as well as dressers for my kids. I have four kids and until we moved to this house (2200 sq.ft.) we lived in 1400 square feet that felt more usable. Bedrooms were smaller, kitchen was bigger in that house.

Anyway, closet organizers to maximize storage, bins under the beds and reduced visual clutter was my strategy during my kids' younger years (three are teens now, so toys strewn about is less of an issue).

Re: bathrooms, we've lived with one and it wasn't awful. DH showers at the gym before he comes home. I take baths after everyone else is in bed. The kids have to get theirs in where they can--some in the morning, some before bed, some before dinner, etc.

If there is a stomach bug, yeah, that's a problem. Rent a motel room! It will be cheaper than paying for a bigger house the other 360 days per year :)

I don't regret buying our current house b/c it was what we could afford in the neighborhood we wanted to be in, but I would like to get back into something smaller with larger windows when we get the $$ and the chance.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:00PM
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When I read this post, I immediately thought of this profile of a family in my neighborhood that appeared recently on a local blog - they are in the exact same situation (family of 6, 3 br., 1 ba., 1200 sq. ft.) and it is amazing how smartly organized and lovely their house is. Some of their tips and ideas may be useful to you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Small House + Big Family

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:38PM
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1200 feet plus a big basement playroom and laundry. But still, that bathroom looked pretty small to me, as did the master bathroom. I'd like to see the master closet and their closet system.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:46PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I would plan on adding another bathroom, it can't be that hard or expensive and it is certainly cheaper than a bigger house.
Carve out a space in the basement....

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 10:39PM
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My wife and I plus four children once went from a midwest four-square (8 rooms)to a one bedroom house out in the country. We survived, you will also. You might also look back later as a time where your family becomes the closest, and I don't mean space wise.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 2:44PM
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Growing up, our family of 5 spent most of the years in a 956 sq ft 3 bdrm 1 bath house with no basement.(The worst problem was only one bathroom, especially if we were sick.) My own family of 5 spent most of the years in a 1265 sq ft, plus 1265 sq ft finished basement (2530sq ft total) 4 bdrm, 3 bath on an acre.
Funny, now that there are only the 2 of us we have a 1640 sq ft rancher with an unfinished basement. I's a 3 bdrm 2 bath.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 5:44PM
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Growing up there was 4 kids and 3 adults in our house with one bathroom and for some reason I never remember it being a problem except on weekends when it was time to clean it.

I have always lived in small houses up to this day and I do not know the luxury of spreading out. When my 3 kids were home we lived in 1100 sf townhouse. It did feel cramped at times and I did wind up converting the garage into a bedroom. It was an unconventional conversion because I knew I was going to sell and the garage was a selling point. I had the attic of the garage insulated and I put up a false wall over the garage door which I also insulated and disconnected the opener. They all fought over that room because it was so big and the only one downstairs. Each one moved in it, stayed for a year then moved out so the bedrooms were like musical chairs. The reason they moved out was because the laundry area was also in there and they felt like their privacy was violated with people "tramping" in and out of their room whenever they wanted to. LOL.
With that said I now live alone in a smaller home with one bathroom and it drives me absolutely crazy not having a bathroom in my bedroom. I got used to the luxury of not having to walk all the way across the house to go potty. I also do not like the idea of anyone being in my bathroom.
I would settle on a half bath in my bedroom if it were possible BUT I weigh out other factors, cost of living being the major one and having one bathroom is small potatoes compared to other variables and in the end I can live with it.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 10:09PM
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