They love each other!
The idea of the American Dream was coined by author James Truslow Adams in 1931. What began as an idea that each person, regardless of social position, should be allowed a full, rich life according to the degree of work they put forth has evolved into something a little different. In our current day, it seems that the so-called American Dream is the idea that happiness will be found via bigger and better things. Luxurious SUV’s, sprawling houses filled with the latest electronics and more things than we can ever use are what many of us dream of, with the cost usually being endless debt and tension headaches.
Now, I’m not saying that any of these things are bad. I do drive an SUV, albeit a small-ish one, and I like nice things. But I also know that in the last several years, we have worked really hard on deliberately scaling our life back, and have learned to not only make do with less, but to enjoy our small life. We are a family of six happily living in 800 square feet (yes, you read that correctly! We live in an eight hundred square foot house!) and I thought I’d share a little bit about how to embrace small living.
First of all, contrary to popular belief, kids do not need their own bedrooms. Our six year old twins and our five year old all share a room. They have a bunk bed that is a full size bed on the bottom bunk, and although the idea is that the girls would sleep together in that bed with our son on the top bunk, they all still choose to sleep together in the bigger bed. They all started sleeping together when the twins were 2 1/2 and CeCe 1 1/2, and they have insisted on it ever since. I am sure that one day soon Cade will want his own bed, but for now they find comfort in the closeness and we are in no hurry to take that away. I firmly believe that sharing a bedroom creates a bond between siblings, as well as forces kids to learn to compromise and think of others. Furthermore, since we co-sleep, transitioning the kids from the family bed to a sibling co-sleeping situation is familiar and comforting to them.
Since we don’t have a playroom anymore, we are forced to keep toys to a minimum. The kids’ toys are organized into several baskets according to type (animals, dress up accessories, cars, etc.) and placed up on shelves. There are a few bigger toys like a barn, doll house, dolls, etc. down low where they can always access them, but otherwise, things are kept where they have to ask to get a basket down. That way, one basket is cleaned up before another is brought out, keeping messes under control so we are not overtaken by toys. We also carefully consider each item we bring into our house, knowing ahead of time that we can’t and don’t want to sacrifice space for something that is going to get little-to-no attention.
Clothes are another item we try to limit. I definitely struggle in this area, because not only are there a lot of us sharing small closets and dressers, but I have a hard time resisting cute kids clothes! However, I try to only buy things that I think we will love, and if something hasn’t been worn in a while or is too small, we remove it to leave room for the things we still wear and love. I have found that we all tend to wear the same things over and over, only holding onto certain items for either sentimental reasons or because of guilt over not wearing them enough or maybe because of what we originally paid for the item. I am trying to be better about this and only fill our closets with quality clothing that lasts and for the kids, things that I love to look at, so that less is more.
One neat thing I’ve found with living in a small home is that we spend a lot more family time together. In our old house, the kids had a playroom and spent a lot of time in there. They were together, but often separate from my husband and I. Now, even when the kids are in their bedroom, they are nearby. I hear them laughing, playing, and even fighting, which enables me to enjoy the sounds, join in, or intervene when necessary. It’s easy once your children play independently to relegate them to another room of the house in order to work on a to-do list or just enjoy some time alone, and while that is important, not having many choices of where to send them forces us to be with one another and in the long run, this has had a wonderful outcome.
There are plenty of times where I think that we need more space. But honestly, after the first few months of adjustments, there have been more positive than negative aspects to our small living. We use less energy, have less waste, and spend more time together. I frequently remind myself that if families the world over can live in tiny spaces with many family members, we can not only manage our small house, but enjoy it. If you are someone who lives in a small house but dream of the day that you have more space, try to embrace where you are right now! Make it a choice to live small, instead of feeling like a victim of your circumstances. If you live in a large house, make small changes to scale back and simplify your life. I think you will feel lighter if you do! When we have less stuff to focus on, we have more time to slow down and intentionally focus on the important things like our friends, family, and spending time enjoying life with them.