Tag Archives: small house

The Battle for Space

No, not outer space (sorry sci-fi fans).  Storage spaceLiving space.  I’ll explain.

I recently discovered, thanks to our yearly property assessment, the actual square footage of our house.  We bought this house in 2005 and somehow never knew the exact square footage.  That information, along with the year the house was built, had been “lost” according to the previous owners.  So we were given estimations – 800 square feet and built sometime in the 70s.  The figures were not far off, but still not quite right.

According to the property assessment information I found online, the actual square footage of our home is 768 square feet. The house was built in 1970.  The date doesn’t matter much to me, but I was quite surprised to find that I am living in 32 less square feet than I thought I was. 

But 32 square feet isn’t really much, right?  What difference could it possibly make to live in an actual 800 square feet instead of 768?

Well, 32 square feet is 4×8 feet.  A four foot by eight foot room would be quite narrow, but would make a great storage space.  Or, we could split that space up and make four small closets.  How about an extra bathroom?  From my rough measurements, our bathroom is around 5×8 feet.  Maybe we couldn’t fit a full sized bathtub in a second bathroom, but we could certainly fit a shower stall, toilet and pedestal sink in four by eight feet.

Honestly, I feel a little bit ripped off – here I thought I had more space than I actually have!  On the other hand, I’ve been receiving all sorts of comments about it from friends who live in more space but still feel cramped.  This makes me feel pretty good about managing to live in such a small space with four children.

What I keep explaining to people is that the problem with a small house and lots of kids is not the amount of people in the home, but the amount of stuff.  If we could just get rid of all our stuff (okay, most of our stuff?  some of our stuff?), we would have far more space, less clutter and no issues with storage problems.

So what kind of stuff is taking up all this precious space?  Well, here are just a few things we have a LOT of:

Games, movies, clothes, craft supplies, books, blankets, sheet sets, towels, small appliances, toys, gadgets (cameras, computer related items, etc), keepsakes.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.  My house is full of junk.  Some of this junk I want to keep.  The books, games and craft supplies will stay, although it would be great to move some of them to a shed outside where we could have  easy access to them.  The games are kept in a six and a half foot tall bookcase that eats up a good piece of my living room, and while I don’t want to get rid of them, it would be nice to reclaim the space.  I know for a fact that we have more clothing than we need and more movies than we even watch – those could easily be picked through and slimmed down.

While I long for a larger house and all the trimmings (can you say “play room”?  craft space?  two bathrooms?  sigh…), I also wish to enjoy the time I have left in the space I currently have.  I constantly look around and let out heavy sighs at the clutter and mess in this house, and when it comes down to it, the mess comes from too much stuff.  I’ve also been wondering if we couldn’t last another year in this house, which would give us time over the summer to take care of landscaping issues and possibly give the house a new paint job on the outside.  It would also allow us to save more money to help with the costs of a new house being built.  This is still a new idea, and while it is a little bit scary, it’s also exciting.  What if we could weed out some of the stuff and make more living space available in this house?  Something to think about anyway….

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Filed under Home Sweet Home, Life, in general

Making the most of what we have

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.

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Filed under Home Sweet Home, Kiddos, Life, in general, Money, Reading