Children in a small house

crystal386September 24, 2006

Hi, Everyone...

I live in a small Cape (1580 SQ feet) with my husband and two small boys, age 5 and 19 months. All of my older son's playmates live in large (new) homes with plenty of room to spread out. I, myself, grew up in a very large, old farmhouse. I loved that farmhouse, but as I have gotten older I have come to appreciate little houses. They just feel more comfortable and approachable to me.

My question is this: am I being selfish in choosing to remain in my small house just because I love it? Should I trade it in for a house with more room for my boys? Has anyone else in this forum made the decision to stay small with children and how has that worked out for them?


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I've posted this before, but I think it might bear repeating.

I grew up in about 900 square feet with an unfinished basement, just me and mom. Seemed like plenty of space to me, even when we rented out the upstairs three bedrooms and shared the bath with the tenants.

I spent most of my time outdoors with my friends if it wasn't raining, and we also had the basement as our playroom. It was unfinished, but the walls were painted, as was the floor. We had old area rugs in the play area.
My friends lived in the identical house 4 doors down, except their dad added a shower in the basement when the first kids (girls) hit their teens. They managed just fine, Mom, Dad, Grandma and 8 kids. I'd have a hard time finding a closer knit family, even today.

I guess I just don't get it when my best friend complains about not enough room in her 3000 square foot home (not including a 700 square foot finished, walkout basement) for her family (2 kids).

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 10:58AM
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I don't believe kids have to have their own bedroom, and a basement rec-room, and their own bath and walk-in closet. These are trappings of a consumer culture that this planet just can't support.

That said, boys will be boys and on rainy days there is energy to be burned off. Is there a space where they can do this (i.e. is their room large enough for a good wrestling match, or is there space in the basement, finished or not, to set up a race track)?
Their age gap probably means they won't share the same interests, but when things are boring, you play with what you have, even if it's little brother. Is there quiet space for the older one to do homework undisturbed when the time comes?

Although I don't know the design of your home, I have friends in a smiliar situation. When everyone is home, it's tough for them to entertain even one or two friends without the kids running through the living room or wanting to watch television. "Go play in your room" is not always a solution.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 11:11AM
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I grew up in a 1700 sq. foot house with 9 children, 2 parents, and multiple dogs, so my sense of how many people and kids can fit in a small house may be skewed. I imagine if my parents could have afforded a larger house, they would have, but we still managed to make do, and we all grew up to be normal people. Having said that, I think that if each kid has a room of their own, or even half of a room of their own, you're doing fine.

I live in a 1500 sq. foot house. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, with a patio room that we will probably convert to a family room at some point. We have no kids at this point, so we use the two extra bedrooms as an office and an exercise room. If and when we have kids, the office can easily be moved into the patio/family room, and the exercise equipment into the garage.

I'm a big fan of redefining garage space, when possible, as usable space in small houses. My car may get a little dirty sitting outside, but so what? I get a good 400 sq. feet of otherwise unusable space for what is basically car storage. Our garage right now isn't really usable space, but someday, we're going to finish it off (drywall, paint, storage containers), and if necessary, put nice interlocking rubber mats down as flooring, and it would be a great play space.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 1:03PM
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We have two adults (plus a dog and 2 cats) in a 1400 sq ft house, and will likely have kids (no more than two) in the near future.

Our neighbors have the exact same house that we do, and they have two young girls and a live-in MIL. The girls have bunkbeds and the MIL sleeps in their finished basement.

Those girls are outside playing all the time, they always have friends over to play, and they are very happy and well-adjusted.

If you have a yard, a basement play area, or even a nearby park where they can play, I don't think you should worry.

Your boys are so young, too. Maybe reevalute when they're reaching adolescence and need their own space more?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 2:12PM
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My house is a little over 1700 sq ft and I have 3 year old triplet girls, a husband and a dog. We would not move to a bigger house for anything. I love my small house. My girls share a room, it is the biggest room in the house 14x30, built just for them and they will continue to share a room until they move out.

For me living in a small house with a family keeps the family close. We have plenty of living space, and have done many upgrades to make our house modern and well appointed. We could live in a big house, but I like that we have to all eat together, there is no place else to eat. I like that we all have to snuggle up on the same couch, we only have one big one. I like that when I am in the living room I can hear my girls in their room.

Maybe I will want something bigger when the girls get older, but we will not move. This house has an ocean and bay view. We also live about 6 minutes from the beach, so that is really important to us.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 4:20PM
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Thank you all for the advice and floorplan is open so it can be difficult at times to get away from one another (when adults are visiting, for instance) and the boys will be sharing a bedroom, but there is a space in the basement I could convert into a nice play area. It has a door, so I suppose if I added a television when they get into their teenage years it could serve as a hang-out space, as well.

It's good to know there are other folks out there who have been content in similar situations!


    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 4:25PM
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Estimate the money you are saving by living in a "small" house . Set up a college account for your sons and invest the savings. When your boys need the money, it will be there, and this will do more for them than any number of great rooms, playrooms, rec rooms, and media rooms could.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 5:18PM
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I live in a fairly affluent area where the "affordable" homes are under 2000 square feet. Most of the families here are young professionals with at least 2 kids. The school system is one of the best in the state. There aren't many homes over 3000 sq ft and if there are, they go for over 2 million dollars. The kids my DD goes to school with either have homes like ours (1550 sq ft cape, 3BR, 2BA) or they have homes in the multi million dollar range. I don't think it affects the kids either way. The kids living in the big homes aren't much happier than the kids in the smaller areas. The size of a house isn't going to affect your kids. So long as a home is filled with love, the kids will be fine.

My DD (8 yo) and DS (19 months) have their own rooms (or will have shortly) and a basement to call their own. But to be honest, we like to hang out together in the LR and kitchen. DH and I even have our own space, mine is the MBR and his is the den/office.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houses in our area

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 10:27PM
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I have 3 children in a 1900 sq.ft home. We also have a basement. Crystal I do not think you are being selfish for wanting to stay in your home. People do alot of work to their homes to make them feel special and their own regardless of the size. I think society and commercialism try to make people feel that they have to have special rooms or bigger kitchens, etc. just so you will spend money and try to keep up with the "jones" as someone has mentioned on here already. I remember when we first built our house we had several people tell us how our kitchen was to small and it seemed to be the only thing they concentrated on, its like nothing else existed...what about anything else? Most people seem to care to much about how other people feel, and not worry about how they feel. I can honestly tell you that even if we lived in a gigantic home our kids who are aged 12,10, and 7 would still complain about something, but all in all they seem to get along just fine!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 8:28AM
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Kaleberg, I agree...we have had college funds for both boys since their birth, and I would rather see extra money go into those than towards a huge mortgage payment.

I think I fell (only briefly, thank goodness!) into the trap of thinking bigger must be better, since many people in my town live that way. The tree farm behind my house was bought up by a developer, who proceeded to build gigantic houses on miniscule lots. My home may be smaller, but my boys have an acre to play on.

And as iyyanks wrote: "So long as a home is filled with love, the kids will be fine."

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 9:21AM
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With 3 kids, just under 2000 square feet, 1.5 acres around us, and distinct seasons, we are far happier than we were in our 3000 square foot house with a tiny yard and unpleasant neighbor interactions. I think it is very important to have a place inside where the kids can leave their "projects" laid out between playtimes - bedrooms can work, but I think a playroom area helps to minimize conflict between adult and child standards for housecleaning.

I don't know how many of my friends have lamented the lack of storage for all of their kids' toys and how they need to move up to an even larger house -- my answer of 'quit buying so dang many toys, then' never seems to sink in with them!

In these days of parenting as a competitive sport it is really hard sometimes to determine what we want for our kids and what we want for ourselves (to show to all the neighborhood "super moms") -- hopefully a struggle we all (I say to myself like an everyday mantra) will master!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 10:06AM
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I agree...stop buying so many toys! I know someone whose children have so many toys that they keep buying those Rubbermaid containers to put them in...and there they sit!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 8:03AM
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I think that you have to remember what kids really want. At some point in time somebody decided that bigger is better, and that kids want "stuff" and lots of it. In my experience, that's not what kids want. Kids want to feel loved, secure, safe, and wanted. None of those things are dependent upon square footage. I live in a 1300 sq ft home with DH and one child. It's plenty big enough for us, and would be plenty big enough if we had another child. I have no plans to "move up" - I see nothing wrong with our house.

DH and I have extremely different childhoods. His is one of poverty. He grew up in his grandfather's 200 year old house with crooked floors, two bedrooms, one bathroom, one insanely small kitchen and living room. He remembers when they put the shower in that house. Seven people lived in that house - his grandfather slept in the dining room which doubled as the laundry room, his sister slept in the front walk-in closet (it was about 7x7 ft), his two brothers slept in one bedroom, and he slept in the other bedroom with his mother and father. And those were *realllly* small bedrooms. With no closets.

His was the house that everyone went to. His friends had big houses, but they wanted to go to his house. It was fun, it was always full, there was always laughter and food and love in that house. DH has grown into a wonderful man, successful in his career, has a fantastic wife if I do say so myself :O), an incredible child, and a beautiful home. His brothers and sister have all gone on to have very successful careers and lives. A couple of them have super-sized homes, a couple of them have more modest homes. All are very family oriented. All have very happy childhood memories. Did they feel crowded growing up? Sure. But they felt loved and safe and secure and wanted.

I grew up in what some of my friends nicknamed "the mansion". It really wasn't that huge, but it was bigger than most of my friends' houses. I had my own bedroom, as did my brother. We had two bathrooms, a family room, a living room, and a large eat-in kitchen. It was built in 1978 and had all of the modern bells and whistles. My mom died when I was 8, and my father was soon a single dad to me and my 4 year old brother. Dad worked hard, and sometimes late, so that my brother and I weren't denied the things that we wanted. The irony was that what we wanted was Dad. Both my brother and I describe our childhood as lonely. All we wanted was more time with Dad.

DH and I have very different pasts, and neither one has anything to do with the size house we grew up in. We could have swapped houses and our pasts would still be the same. Mine would still be lonely. I would still cry myself to sleep at night because I missed my mother *and* my father.

I am sure that your house is more than fine. If you love it, and you spend lots of quality time together in it as a family, then it's just perfect.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 2:20PM
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Your entry was poetic and inspiring! It made me realize how foolish I was to worry about something as material as the size of my house. After reading your entry I looked at my boys and realized how lucky we are that they are safe, healthy, and happy. Who cares if they share a room?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts...


    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 7:00PM
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I have 3 kids & live in a 1200 sq.ft house.
My youngest "surprise" who is now 3 years old sleeps in the "master bedroom" walk in closet (about 5'x5').

The "master bedroom" is really a really I have a 2 bedroom, 1 bath with 5 people in it !!!

We are moving out, but not really moving "up" in size.
We are moving to a 1300 sq. ft. house. It just seems to have more flow or usable is a 4BR, 1 BA.

It has virtually no yard & is still very tiny in the scheme of things....we looked at bigger houses & thought about mortgaging ourselves to our eyeballs, but realized all we would be doing is "keeping up with the Jones's". I would rather save the money I would spend on a huge house for the kids college & even have a little left over for just plain old Fun !!!

Our new home is directly across the street from our 2 older children's school, in a neighborhood full of good, decent people & even though it is only 1300 sq. ft. is as close to our dream house as possible.

My kids will have their privacy (they will each have a bedroom of their own), my husband & I will get our closet back & we didn't have to "SUPER SIZE" our house or mortgage to get it all.

Don't feel guilty or are doing what is right for you & your family.
Sometimes I think the selfish ones are the ones living in the huge houses, bills out the wahzoo, fancy cars, etc.. & having to work all day & night to keep up appearances.
They aren't doing all that for the kids, they are doing it for themselves & apparences.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 3:13AM
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What a great thread ! We have the smallest 3/2/1 house (just under 1200 sq ft.) in the best area with the best schools. (South Florida) Our particular development doesn't have the biggest homes (most are 2,000 sq ft) but ours is the smallest.
11 years ago, almost 12, we didn't even think we could get a single family home, so when we found this house, it was big to us :) Its still the best deal in town. No, its not our dream house and its not perfect, but, when the kids are out of the house (one day, mine are now 15 and 9) IT WILL BE THE PERFECT HOUSE (size). We do have room for an addition, but not the money, however, we did, finally after years of debating, put in an inground pool - a dream of ours here in FL.
The taxes are the most affordable of our neighbors in this area, the schools are excellent and we love the area. No, its nothing like the $500,000 + homes across the way but it works for my husband and I, our 2 children and our 2 dogs. We have a nice size yard too even with the pool.
We consider ourselves to be lucky and try not to think about what others have square footage wize etc. and we dont.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 12:00PM
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I have a small three bedroom ranch. My children are 3 1/2 and 18 months.

We had been planning to only live here until the older child was five. However, after the remodeling and decorating I've done I can't see leaving. It's my warm and cozy cottage now.

It makes me happy to live simply and I am proud to live in a manner that doesn't exploit the environment. Yes.. most of my peers live much larger than I do. I sometimes get a little depressed that I can't have ten children over for a playdate or host a large holiday party. However, those feelings are fleeting when the cold winter nights come and my little, young family is all happy at home.

The best moment I had recently is when my five year old neice that lives in a very large home said to me "I love your house and want to live here.". It's the perfect place for children. I know at that moment that this is the type of house children love and the one I've always wanted.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 5:26PM
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Great topic. Sometimes I feel like I'm running a boarding house out of my 1700+ sf home. The 2 teenage nephews move in for a year, then they move out (officially) but still spend much of the time here. My brother moves in for a year (after the nephews moved out) now he is back home. A friend is leaving her husband, can I watch her son for a few weeks and so on. I've been in this house for over 24 years now and it does get crowded, but see above about conspicuous consumption and bonding. Yes, I have the home all the kids hang out at and with all the boys, the air quality gets a little thick at times. The house is paid off and I'll be paying cash for college next year for 4 boys. Thats more important to me than a trophy house.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 8:43AM
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My husband bought our 1600 sqare foot home before I met him when he was a single dad with 5 children. We met and married about a year later. I had 4 children, but two were grown and gone. About two years later we got a surprise... our tenth child. The house we live in was a one and a half story, three bedroom, two bath home, but my husband eliminated the upstairs bath after several damaging overflows. We converted the side 'attic' rooms that run the length of the house into four small bedrooms with a platform on one end for a mattress, storage underneath and room for a small desk and dresser. Next, we partitioned one of the large upstairs bedrooms, building a loft in the smaller partition for a bed with space for a desk or dresser under it. Now everyone has some privacy. The house is now a 1600 square foot, eight bedroom, one bath bungalow that works incredibly well for the nine of us and we all get along very well... we have to... we can't get away from each other! Sometimes I think we all forget what is really important in life... it's not the home you live in... it's the love that lives in you.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 11:09PM
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