Our family of 5 plus our 2 dogs, multiple fish and a crawdad all live (rather) harmoniously in a 1,100 sq. ft. home. Is it easy? Not always. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Why does our family choose to live in a small house when we could live in a much larger one? How do we deal with the challenges of being crammed into a small space for 12+ hours a day? Keep reading. I will share the pros and cons of living in a small house with a family. And, I’ll give you tips for staying sane while doing so.
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I’ll start off by listing all of the inhabitants of our home. As far as humans go, there’s myself (Cheryl), my husband (Mike), and our three children, Noah (18), Ollie (13) and Benji (9). We share our 1,100 sq. ft. home with our two dogs (one small, one medium), over a dozen fish (most of which are housed in a 6-foot long tank), and a crawdad who lives in a small tank on my kitchen counter. Because, where else would I put him?
Throughout the Spring and Summer, the population of our home usually grows in the form of furry/slithery critters. In the past, we’ve adopted snakes, pond fish, toads, birds, stray kittens and even a baby owl. Don’t worry, we never keep them. We simply observe them, rehabilitate them, re-home them or release them back into the wild.
We also manage to entertain fairly regularly and we host three members of my husband’s family for two weeks each December. Yes, we are that crazy. There’s a nearly constant stream of young people (my kids’ friends) coming in and out and raiding our refrigerator. Which, by the way, I wouldn’t trade for the world. They are like family to us.
You may be wondering why we are living small in 1,100 sq. ft. Did we lose a bet? Did we buy a small house when there were only two of us and later started adding children? Maybe we misread the real estate listing when we bought our home and thought we were getting 11,000 sq. ft. instead? Nope. We chose this home on purpose.
Throughout the twenty years, my husband and I have been married, we’ve had the opportunity to live in homes of varying sizes. We’ve lived in houses the size of our current home when it was just the two of us. We lived in a 400 sq. ft. apartment, when our oldest was 6 and our middle son was 2. The house we owned before we purchased this one was more than twice the size (about 2,400 sq. ft.).
In fact, it’s because of the last home we owned that we decided to live in a smaller one. The house was great. As I said, it was around 2,400 sq. ft. and was situated on over 5 acres in the country. However, the mortgage was not so great. When we purchased the home in 2007, we were living on one (fairly small) income. But the bank said we could afford it and we listened. In fact, the bank qualified us for much more than we purchased our home for. It didn’t take us long to realize, sure, we could afford the mortgage payments. IF we gave up eating, electricity, and the vehicle my husband used to get back and forth to work. Somehow, we managed to stick it out for five years before we admitted defeat and put our house on the market.
After that experience, we vowed if we ever bought a home again, it would be one we could comfortably afford.
The experience with our too-expensive-for-us house led us down the path of living small. When we sold our home, we also sold almost everything in it. We moved with our three children to a small apartment close to my husband’s work and could only fit the basics. Unfortunately, we thought we had to keep some stuff and ended up renting storage space for awhile.
Amazingly enough, I soon realized I love living in smaller spaces. I started to declutter with wild abandon and soon emptied out the storage unit. I discovered by living small we were not only saving money, but we were becoming closer as a family, and I spent less time cleaning and “organizing” (ie. shuffling things around).
Prior to purchasing our current home, I started reading tiny house blogs. If you are interested, here’s a list of over 100 such blogs. I was fascinated with the idea of living in a tiny house, however, my family was not. As a result, we compromised and signed a contract on our current 1,100 sq. ft. home. A huge bonus was that we could afford it and still have a life. After all, being house-poor is no fun.
There are four things I (am learning to) do in order to keep my sanity while living small.
If you are thinking of living in a small house but aren’t sure if you should take the plunge, I highly encourage you to just do it. Our family is nothing special and if we can do it, so can you. There are plenty of people with families larger than ours who live in homes that are smaller than ours. None of us are saints and none of us have it all figured out. Our family has learned to adapt over the years and yours will too.
Make a list of pros and cons. If the number of your “pros” is greater than your “cons” it may be time to move your family into a small house.