7 children in 1200 sqr feet, anyone done this?

krisncathyAugust 26, 2006


We are raising 7 children in a 1200 square foot house. We do have 2 outbuildings, one a 12x30 ted shed, and a 14x45 office trailer (for homeschool stuff) My wife is convinced no one in the country has successfully lived with that many kids in a 3 bed 2 bath house and has asked me to produce a family that has actually done it! Know of any?

Also, any ideas or suggestions to help with keeping all these kids without having to farm them out is greatly appreciated!

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Hi there Kris. I don't have any kids, so will obviously have the most advice. While the situation sounds cramped, I'm sure plenty of people in this country, especially in past generations, have raised these many children in one house.

Why not get the kids into public school or parochial school? That way you and your wife would have a break from 24/7, seven kids at home childrearing. And the kids would have a break from each other by being in separate classrooms, and a different environment during the school day.

Then use the trailer as a homework room, library, craft & hobby room, and t.v. room when the brood comes home. Maybe even partition the trailer up into three rooms with different functions to keep the kids on their respective tasks. This would allow you and your wife to not have 7 children running underfoot in the house.

Can the trailer be moved to as close as possible to the house, and a sidewalk or and covered walkway be added, to allow easy access. Obviously I'm viewing that trailer as a very necessary additional living space.

Good luck. You are blessed with young ones. Rachel

    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 12:18PM
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Well, I saw a TV show recently. They had WAY more than 7 kids, and were building this wacky huge dream house.
They didn't have out buildings because they always rented. They had 3 bedrooms and two baths.
When they moved into the large home, they still had...3 bedrooms! The kids all wanted to sleep dorm style!!


    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 6:10PM
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My parents raised 9 children and at one time or another there were six, seven or even eight living in the different houses together.( two of these houses had outhouses and my dad had to put indoor plumping in and a bathroom.) When the eighth child was two months old the first got married, and by the time the nineth was born the second had been killed in the Korean war. They bought their first home with only six children at home. The bathroom was in the basement next to the coal shoot. When the next child was exspected we moved to the country to a three bedroom capecod. With a large yard lots of fruit trees and plenty of room for a vegetable garden. Only one bathroom but Dad put in a shower in the basement. And my teenaged sister had a room of her own on the enclosed front porch. Three of us little girls had the attic bedroom and the two big brothers shared one while the baby brother was in his crib in my parents room. Cramped? Of course, but it worked and some of us actually turned out normal. "A miracle? yes!" Then after my older sister and one of the older brothers each got married we moved to a smaller two bedroom/one bath ranch house where now and again even all the married siblings and teir children came home for weeks at a time. We had a close knit family for many many years, and we all have lots & lots of memories.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 9:32AM
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We lived in an 1100 sq ft home with our five kids for many years. Three bed (with 7 ft ceilings), one bath. A stone cellar for the laundry with enough room for a small bit of storage. Detached one car garage. It was a 100-year-old little farmhouse on a typical-size (for our area) suburban lot (11,230 sq ft lot).

Two years ago we moved a mile away from our first home into a 1600 sq ft home. It's a 4 bed, 1-1/2 bath with a two-car attached garage (nice to have for our part of the country where it snows for four months of the year!). Our current lot is a little bit bigger, but not by much (12,150 sq ft).

My husband says we "submarine well" -- meaning, we are a cooperative lot and enjoy being together. We have four sons and a daughter - the older ones are in public school and I'm a SAHM.

Enjoy your beautiful family :-)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 10:41AM
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I agree with a lot that Rachel said. Especially the part about the schooling. While I have no opinion one way or the other about home schooling, I agree that your kids need interaction with outside social circles - especially the older ones.

While it'd be nice to grow up huge and happy like the Waltons family, the reality may be different and you could find that some of your kids don't suit the sardine lifestyle. Eventually, they may find it less quaint than you do. There were four of us kids in two bedrooms and I always felt deprived of privacy and space - it's a question of personality.

So having the extra trailer space would certainly come in handy to provide that "me" space some of them might need.
This is a different century and family values have changed, no matter how much we'd like to hang on to them. Your keyword is to SUCCESSFULLY live in a small space. I guess much depends on your definition of 'successful'.

What do you mean with "farm out"? I'm not sure why you'd acquire so many kids if you cannot provide for them. Are some of them foster kids? If so, can you get funding to build an addition?


    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 10:58AM
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I do agree that the definition of "successful" may vary somewhat depending on whom you ask, and whether it's "well, they're not killing each other" or "everyone involved is truly content with the situation". When I was in high school 20 years ago one of my friends was one of eight children in a 3br1ba Cape. (I think they eventually totalled 12 or 13 kids. Religious reasons.) The two oldest kids at home, one of which was my friend, shared the small attic, parents had the largest bedroom with the two littlest in cribs, and then the two other tiny bedrooms held two kids each. She disliked having no privacy, no quiet, people constantly underfoot, although if you had asked her parents they would have said everything was hunky-dory. Although I lived with my dad and stepmom in an C., I think the OP may have been joking, but in earlier generations when families were generally larger and living quarters often tended to be smaller, it was VERY common to "farm out" kids to relatives for a period of time. Sometimes it was because a grandparent, aunt/uncle, etc. could teach a trade or skill that was useful, sometimes it was because of overcrowding, sometimes it was because someone wasn't getting along with someone else or a kid was having problems, sometimes it was simply so they'd get to experience a different place or a different lifestyle. It wasn't really seen as a negative thing at all.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 3:33PM
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Given the tenor of your wife's question, it sounds like she's not very happy with the situation. You might want to consider upsizing, if not for the sake of your kids, for the sake of your wife's sanity (and your marriage).

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 6:39PM
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My parents raised 6 kids in the country in a house that was about 1400 square feet, not quite as tiny as the one you describe. We had four small bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a tiny living room and an eat in kitchen.

I dearly love my parents, intelligent, good, responsible, and loving people; and dearly love all my siblings, then and now. However, I HATED growing up in that tiny, cramped house with no privacy, buried alive in the country away from any social life. I could hardly to grow up and escape the isolation and the loneliness and the cramped conditions. To this day, thoughts of returning to such a living situation fill me with panic.

Perhaps I should mention that ALL of us six children moved out of state as adults. I think that says something about how we felt about it.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 12:11AM
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This is becoming an interesting thread. As I mentioned above, my husband and I have five kids in a 1600 sq ft house. I should have added that we also built two rooms in our basement - one a music studio for hubby and one a rec room for the kids - adding another 400 sq ft or so. We live in traditional suburbia and the older kids are enrolled in wonderful public schools and enjoy sports, music, friends, etc. We have a big yard and we all love being outdoors. My daughter has her own room and both pairs of brothers share nice-sized rooms (yes, they do have bunkbeds!). At their current ages (my eldest is almost 13, my youngest is almost 3), I feel confident that the children *are* happy, that they *do* like our lifestyle and our home environment, that they feel they have enough space to not only be on their own when they choose but to have one or more siblings to play with/hang out with/whatever when they want company (which, at their ages, is more often than not). I absolutely expect that as the kids mature, they'll desire more personal space and/or want more time away from home with their friends (movies, shopping, sports, dating (ack!), etc.) and in fact, we are planning on an addition to our house in the next few years to support our changing family dynamic of raising teenagers. But I don't find that desire for independence is necessarily a result of having several siblings but more a healthy shift from child/sibling to unique individual -- a shift all of us make as we grow into our adult roles.

Rosefolly, I'm very curious about your experience as a youngster. Was it was your home size you hated so desperately, living "buried alive in the country away from any social life" (which sounds so sad!) or the state you lived in (since all of you evidently moved out of state as adults), or a combination of all three? Do none of you live near your parents? Do any of your siblings live near one another as adults?

I think parents, as best they can, have an obligation to provide a well-rounded life experience for their children. Subjecting them to a restricted, isolated life experience in a home that disallows privacy or room to stretch one's figurative or literal legs is clearly less than ideal. It makes me sad that when you reflect upon the circumstances of your "growing up years" you are filled with panic. I wish it could have been different for you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 8:54AM
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Rosefolly's post is interesting to me.
I've often blamed the fact that none of us siblings are especially close, on our upbringing in close quarters. We had to compete for a lot of things: space, parental attention, toys, treats etc., so that it seemed that we couldn't wait to get as far away from each other as possible.
There is no animosity among us, just no real desire to stay in touch. We can easily pick up where we left off, but that just doesn't happen very often. None of us even lives in the same town as another. Interestingly, NONE of us has more than one child.

We are very close in age, which no doubt caused a lot of the need to compete, since we had the same needs and many of the same interests - I would think that greater age gaps would mitigate that a lot.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 12:15PM
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Fivemonkeys, it was a combination of the tiny, cramped house and the remoteness of all my friends. I can't tell you how I envied kids who lived in town, who could visit each other just by walking a few blocks, the casual back-and-forth of such a social life. I first experienced that when I went away to college, and I'm sure it was one of the reasons I loved those years so deeply. As for the crowding, I used to spend a lot of time drawing pictures of big, sprawling houses with lots of rooms, nooks and crannies where you could go away and be private, or join in a group as you choose. In fact today I live in just such a house. Now as my own children are preparing to leave the nest, I'm planning a move to a medium-sized house, where two people can be together or apart in equal comfort. The house that worked well for a family with children and all their friends running in and out of the house is starting to feel too big and echo-y.

Chris Ont, my brother and sisters and I have always had ties of affection, but in our twenties and early thrities, did not see much of each other. We scattered pretty much across the continent, and were busy with our families or careers. As was the case with your siblings, we too had much smaller families than our parents did. Two of us had three children, one had two, and the other three had no children at all. As we approached our later thirties and forties and had more time on our hands, we renewed our ties, and now are all very close indeed. In fact, several of us chat online once a week. We try very hard to see each other in person every other year, and sometimes more frequently if it can be managed. You may or may not have a similar experience.

Kris, I will say that living deep in the country was very much my father's idea, and that my mother went along with it for love of him, and that she has been lonely all her life because of it. He has never quite understood this. Sometimes when my husband and I have different ideas about where we should live, I make sure that neither of us is doing this to the other. I won't permit this to be done to me, and I won't allow myself to do it to him.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 7:31PM
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Take this from woman... if your wife is asking you then she is not happy with things. It doesn't matter if other people have done it because you guys are not other people.

Some people love small homes and the physical closeness they basically force. While others hate it. It's a personal preferance.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 6:51PM
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I would just like to commend you for homeschooling your children! While there are no doubt some good public schools available in some locations, they are few and far between. The public schools in my state have just declared that the words "America" and "American" will no longer be allowed in textbooks or classrooms. *That* is enough reason for me!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 6:36PM
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I am the mother of 3 grown children and think that in the scheme of things your experience of not being close to siblings is more the norm than not. We move, gain responsiblities, spread their wings to identify themselves. And our children are never as bound to each other as parents planned.

That said, we moved to the country when my children were 8 to 11 yrs. To this day they still mention how much they hated living there. Friends were limited, none close, they had to find kids "down the road" which were not always of choice. They also had to rely on each other far too much for activities...this created more problems than fun. I think this added to why they are not as close as a parent would hope they would be. My son will always remember his 2 mile bike rides just to get to the library or buy candy....we are talking the late 70s. We ate up a lot of time in driving the kids to activites and not unusual to have to cancel due to weather. They were really caught in a small world of country.

We thought the country was the best for our family at the time....the kids were never asked. This environment though may work well for many families, it just didn't for us whatever the reasons.

Yes, this is an interesting thread evolving. Memories of so many decisions made as a parent.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 8:20AM
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While I believe that a lot of modern homes are way too large for good family interaction, there's such a thing as going too far. Not because it's physically impossible -- in times past, 1200 sq. ft. of living space would have seemed like a palace to the average person, and families of this size were not unusual -- but because lifestyles are different today, as well as expectations.

In the past, the kind of people who made do with little space were also likely to work very long hours, mostly at heavy physical labor out of doors, and come home with little time or energy to do much more than eat and sleep. By modern standards, they also had very little "stuff." With clothing and leisure time equipment and materials comes the need for storage and room to use them. Most people also had relatively little education and very few things that made noise. In other words, they had less need of a quiet place to concentrate. They also had high rates of infant and child mortality, and living in close quarters almost certainly contributed to that. Parents also apprenticed their children out or sent them off to boarding school at an early age. And, where young people had the means, they also married young.

Then there's the issue for kids of being different in a world where the average person has a lot more space. It would be one thing if you lived in a community of families like yours, but judging from your wife's challenge, you don't. How long before your kids find out how differently the other half lives? How will they deal with that?

Of course, you and your wife have to decide just what you mean by successful. But personally I think it would be extremely hard to give seven children a quality modern life in such a small house.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 4:40PM
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I think like some of the other posters said, maybe take your wife's comment as food for thought, i.e. instead of this being about who's right, take it as a sign that she's feeling the squeeze. I can say this from experience, growing up as one of five kids in a 3-bed house with one bath: forget about the sharing bedrooms, complete lack of privacy, and constant pounding on the bathroom door (we got by and don't dwell on that stuff). If mama isn't happy (the mother in our household was not), no one is happy. That is what we remember vividly, unfortunately for her and for us.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 1:30PM
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I assume all the 7 are your biological children. No way should you consider farming out any of them. If you did, the farmed out children would feel like they were not wanted or loved by their parents. You should have thought about how you were going to provide for that many children before having them. You may have to work two jobs in order to provide for them and enlarge the living quarters.

What are the ages of your childen?

You had better listen to your wife, she is the one being squeezed in more ways than one, as well as your kids. Like someone said if mama is not happy, no one is happy, including papa!!

Since your wife is home schooling that means she is with 7 kids 24/7 with no break in a sardine can. You on the other hand work during the day and only with the kids a few hours in the evening and maybe on the weekends. You get a break from the kids even if you eat lunch at home.

Do you work on the farm or have a job some place else in order to support your family? If you work some place else, you get a change of scenery and your wife and kids are parked on the farm away from other people, most likely little or no social activity.

I was raised on the farm and know how lonely it can be even tho I went to public school. When I married and my husband suggested buying a place in the country, I blew my stack, no way did I want to go back to living in the country, half starving to death on a farm and no contact with other people. I had worked hard to remove myself from the farm and was not about to return, I wanted more than beans & fried potatoes for meals. Hubby said he would work off the farm to make a living, well, guess what, that would leave me alone on the farm out in the boonies, away from any social contact. You guessed it, we did not move to the country and I have never regretted it. If mama is not happy, no one will be happy!! I might add my DH was raised in town and he knew nothing about farm life.

Everyone needs a little space. As it is now your wife has no space and neither do your children.

We lived in an 1100 sq. ft. house with three little ones. We were packed in like sardines with little walking space around beds, bedrooms were small. Later on had 5 kids in a 2500 sq. ft. house in town and we all lived with some sanity plus kids were able to participate in outside activities and I could be around other people.

I strongly suggest you enlarge the house and free your family from the sardine can!!! Make sure your family is connected with the outside world so they do not live a very lonely life. I have been there, done that and do not want to relive that experience!

Don't take me wrong, the country is great, that is if you have reasonable living conditions, able to participate in outside activities and wife does not have her nose to the grind.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 10:32PM
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I would have to say that if you homeschool (I do), you could use more space. There is a lot of together time w/homeschooling and yes, every one needs their space and especially mommy!! Doesn't seem like there would be any place to take a break for anyone! My aunt and uncle had 6 kids in 1200 sq feet! But...they had a full basement in addition to the 1200 sq ft and they added 2 bedrooms down there. They also had a park across the street and grandma was 1/2 hour away.

Do you have a basement and a large yard? That would help alot. But if you only have 1200 sq feet, I would definitely go bigger if your budget will allow. Your wife is there 24/7. It would save her sanity.

How well does everyone sleep? Do others wake up others? Is there more fighting than normal? Do you have winter and you have to be inside the entire time? In 1200 w/that many kids, that would drive any mom to drink.

Try to get more space as money allows, even an extra bedroom would help or a home w/an attached garage that can be made into a huge living space. After all, she's the one that is there all the time.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 5:00PM
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We had 4 in 1350 sq ft and we were all over each other. The kids hated it although they do have some amusing stories now that they're older.

I have to say, if your wife isn't happy, I'd seriously consider an expansion project of some sort. Some folks get stressed in cramped spaces and others are okay. I was okay for years until it finally got to me and if she's there all day, she's the one with the major say-so.

We hs'ed for years and it *is* totally different to be inside cramped quarters with a bunch of cranky kids all day long. Most of our parents sent the kids off to school-- thus they could get away with a 3/2 1300 sq. ft. box with 12 kids...

It is absolutely NOT the same. Trust me :-)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 9:54PM
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Wow, looks like no one here thinks this is a good idea.
I'd really love to hear back from the original poster to see what he has to say about all these replies.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 5:29PM
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No, I haven't. But we live in a 1200 sqft home--just me, dh, three dogs and two cats. I think if I had to live in this small space with 7 children, I would go out of my mind.

Seriously. :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 2:43AM
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He's probably not able to check email as he is now working two jobs to buy a bigger house!! LOL!!!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 11:58PM
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YES, the vice president of our civic league, raised 8 kids, 3 biological and 5 foster kids in a very small 3 bedroom home, and the children love them for it. They all live around them and are all over at that same house with their families on Sundays. It's too heartwarming!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 11:50PM
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A friend of mine is the oldest of seventeen children. Her father bought a big house in the country, which her mother hated. (Even a big house wasn't that big with so many kids).
The mom felt way too isolated, she was a very social-minded woman, and the kids got tired of each other and wanted other people to play with. Somehow though, it all worked out and now as adults, the children all have college degrees; there are doctors, lawyers, a veterinarian,engineers, etc. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Most of us are about as happy as we make up our minds to be.."and I guess that applies to our childhoods as well.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 3:00PM
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Yes, I do know a family like this. They are very dear friends of mine. They lived in a two bedroom trailer for several years and homeschooled also. The first six were girls so they all slept in the same room. As to whether they liked it, I think they did. When they bought the land, it had this trailer on it. Mom and Dad asked them if they wanted to build a new house first and then a barn for animals later or do the barn and animals first. They all decided barn first. About 5 years and two more kids later, they have a new, larger house. The girls have the whole upstairs, divided into partitions and there is a room downstairs for the one son. All the kids are very close to each other. That is not to say that they want to do the same thing when they get married and have a family of their own but I have not seen or heard of any real regrets. These are my daughters best friends, they do not like being over an hour away from each other but they all get together several times a year and have a real hoot when they do.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 12:07AM
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I have a friend who raised a very large family in a small ranch w/ finished basement. Most were special needs adopted children, which may or may not have made a difference, and she did homeschool several of the children in their younger or immature years. As an outsider, I seen the kids (esp the girls) being very very close and even when they had more room from the children aging out of the home, they still wanted to all room together (5 to a small 12x12 or 14x14 room.) They do make triple double bunk beds which allowed the kids to have plenty of space to sleep plus she had some custom storage units made so each child had a fairly large area to store their personal treasures. I don't think anyone seemed unhappy or even thought their life was unusual...they were and are upbeat and happy people w/ a very organized household and lots of structure. The kids seem sincerely happy as do the parents.

As far as homeschooling, locally they have several very active groups that allow social interactions at least twice per week. And that is not to say you cannot arrange playdates, or a casual group outing to a museum or even McD's for a fun day. I guess just like anything, it all depends on what you want out of it and put into it.

Personally, I think it needs to be more of the wife's decision since she is doing the homeschooling (unless Dad works from home too) but over all a family decision. Lord knows, there will need to be alot of working together toward a common goal by ALL for this to work successfully.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 10:39PM
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My in-laws raised 8 children in a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, no basement, 1,000 sq. ft. house in the 50's-70's (8 kids in 15 years).

They converted the single-car garage into the 3rd bedroom, for the 4 boys. They built-in 2 bunk beds (two up/two down) on one wall, and each bed had 2 drawers at the foot of the bed, and a small set of shelves for books/collectables as a headboard. They also shared one dresser and a small closet. The 4 girls were in one bedroom with one double bed and a set of bunks, one dresser and they shared a small closet.

An interesting aside, they didn't have near the amount of "stuff" that people possess today. Children didn't have heaps of clothing and toys like they do now. The dining room doubled as a sewing room (MIL made all the girls clothing), and a place to study. "Play" was an outside activity, or quiet board or card games. Only 1 TV that got 1 station.

You never found toys in the living room, they were confined to the children's bedroom. There was NEVER any untidiness found in this house. They quickly learned that if you got something out to play with, you also put it away. My MIL didn't even have a clothes dryer until we gave her our old one, which came AFTER all the kids were gone from home.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 3:11PM
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We bought our old house from a couple that had 5 kids. The house was SMALL -- 2 bedrooms -- 1,000 sq. feet. I don't know where they put those kids (or their stuff ! )

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 5:00PM
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I'm one of seven children. We were raised in a 1300 square foot house (no outbuildings), along with a dog, a cat, fish, and gerbils. We had a boys' bedroom, a girls' bedroom, and my parents' room. The girls had the big room because there were four of us. My sisters are still my best friends. I think it's because we laid in bed at night talking. It made us closer.

We had a powder room downstairs and a full bath upstairs. Yup. Just one bath/shower. We had a 15 minute shower slot in the morning. If you overslept and missed your slot, you had to go to the back of the line. And NO ONE was allowed to disturb Dad when it was his turn in the bathroom!

We sat down to dinner every night at a picnic table and benches in the kitchen. My parents couldn't afford a big expensive table. My youngest sister always had to sit on a stool in the corner. (We STILL hear about that!!)

I never thought we lived in a small house. It was just what we were used to. Of course, this was before the days of McMansions, so we didn't really know any different.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 10:18PM
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I work with a woman who was one of eight children. There was so little room they had to eat at the table in "shifts" and could never sit together as one family. That's always sounded a little sad to me.

She has mentioned to me going outside a lot as a child, just so she could hear herself think.

I would think climate would make a big difference. I grew up in Massachusetts and long stretches of mucky weather were always a trial, for kids and adults.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 7:11PM
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Reading these stories makes me thankful for what I've got. I really admire families that "make it work" . Something tells me that families that go through this - are the strongest , most down to earth good people you can know.
Thanks for your stories :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 9:11PM
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Nine of use grew up in a 3 BR/1 bath house, but the house was 2 story and huge and the rooms were huge. I remember we had six double beds in one room and had plenty room to walk around. I think that room was most probably as big as my entire house is now. LOL I wish they hadn't torn it down I would love to go visit it now.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 11:35PM
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My parents raised 10 kids in a 4 bedroom 2 bath subdivision home, later we moved to the country and lived in another 4 bedroom 2 bath home that didn't have central A/C-in the deep south! Lots of bunk beds, and lots of clutter and laundry! We did the picnic table and benches too, with the odd chairs. Huuuge pots of oatmeal and pans of cheese or cinammon toast for breakfast! In the country, we loved to all "camp" either on the living room floor with the doors open and all the fans running in one room, or outside in the front yard, with the woods behind the house rustling from the breeze (if there was a breeze!) In the winter(admittedly pretty mild) it was space heaters and a huge old iron stove in the living room-we all gathered around it when we first woke up to "thaw out" before getting ready for school, LOL. Our kitchen was tiny-smaller than many master baths now.

We lived to be happy successful productive adults, with no major neuroses , though I-the oldest girl-am the neat freak from H***, and no other sibling is. I think it's because I was kind of "in charge" of things more than they were, plus it's just my personality.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 11:37AM
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