I am currently working my way through A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn. It is fantastic so far. The author is the mother of ten – four biological children and six adopted – and she advocates attachment parenting and co-sleeping andis a Christian to boot. She also has a very relaxed attitude about her large family. She obviously takes it seriously, but isn’t uptight about it. My favourite part so far was when she admitted that she doesn’t make her bed every day. Ahhh, how nice. A little reality when it comes to housework. She talks about the perceptions people have of the mothers of large families – that they are either insane or incredibly organized – and how she is neither.
Anyway, I’ll probably get around to a more detailed book report when I finish the book, but I realized that what I wanted to write about today tied into what I learned reading this book.
One of the things that Mrs. Ostyn advocates is room-sharing between children. Obviously this is necessary in a family with ten children unless you are millionaires and can afford a house with eleven rooms. She also encourages readers to change their current space rather than assume they need something bigger when they add to their family.
I would not be considered the mother of a large family – yet. I intend to be in that category eventually, but with only three children, I’m not quite “crazy” yet, especially living here, where it is very common to have a minimum of four children per family. Knowing that I at least hope for more children makes me want to think of myself this way even now and prepare our family for more children even before we are expecting them (yeah, that answers that question – I am not pregnant again…yet).
We currently live in a two bedroom, one bathroom home with no basement and only about 800 square feet of living space. We have a shed for storage, but no attic and no garage. We have three children sharing one room that contains a bunk bed, a toddler bed, a playpen, bookcase, toy box and Little Tikes vanity. We have a total of two closets in our home. Yes, two. No pantry and a minimal amount of kitchen cabinet space. We currently have over the door hooks or organizers in every room, just for extra space for toys, towels and clothes. There was a time not too long ago that I looked around this house in despair and wondered how we would manage if we could not move before another baby was born. I have talked to God about this and asked that He not give us another child until we can move, but now I think He may have other plans for us. Fifty years ago, families lived in houses the size of ours with four kids – and often more. They did not have huge television sets, computers or an abundance of modern appliances taking up space. Their children did not have every new Playskool toy from the Sears Wish Book (was there a Wish Book back then?) and did not need what our children seem to “need” now.
I will admit that we have too much stuff. We have more clothing than we need, my children have more toys than they need and we have managed to fill much of our space with other things that we very seldom use.
While getting rid of at least some of this stuff will help our space issues immensely, adding better storage solutions will help with the things we can’t go without. One issue I have is running out of places to store food. It is a huge money saver to buy in bulk and limit your grocery shopping trips as much as possible. The problem I have is that when I do stock up like this, I end up with food all over my counter tops and even on the floor in my kitchen because there is no cabinet space left for it. Yesterday while putting something up on the wall in my hallway, I realized that if we put shelves up at the top of the walls in the hallway, they would not be seen by most people (as the hallway is mostly hidden from view when in the living room) and they would hold some of the gadgets I don’t use often, or the bulk foods I don’t have room for in the kitchen. The size of our house comes in handy here, as the hallway is right outside the kitchen and I wouldn’t have to walk far to get to what I needed. Yes, it may make our house look a bit cluttered to have shelves all over the walls, but it is a space solution that is relatively cheap and does not require any actual construction.
I have determined that we could easily sleep four kids in the second bedroom, although the space will get tight when it comes to clothing and toys/books. Under bed storage will be used under every bed (including the play pen when possible) and whatever isn’t needed in the house will go to the shed. I am also considering buying a second, smaller shed to go just off the back deck so that the kids’ clothing could be stored there when not being used (i.e. larger and smaller sizes that are being saved for other kids). In the winter, it is a pain in the neck to have to walk all the way across the back yard to get to the shed for kids and maternity clothes when needed, but there is simply no space in the house for the dozens of bins required to hold all that clothing.
My hope is that by using our space more efficiently, we will be able to stay in this house much longer than we assumed we would be able to. We paid $126,000 for this house four years ago and our payments with property taxes are under $900 a month – you cannot beat that without living in a trailer or renting. Currently, we would have to pay upwards of $250,000 for the size of house we would want to move into – something with a minimum of three bedrooms and a basement. Staying here a little longer will enable us to save money and build up the equity in our home. It will also help us down the road to know how to live in somewhat cramped circumstances and know that we can manage it without any trouble (or without much trouble, anyway).
Stay tuned for more on the book in a few days (I’m almost done!). And if you don’t want to wait, buy the book – or do like I did and check it out at your local library.