I often sing the praises of my little 1100 sq. ft. home. I love it, and I love that it helps keep our acquiring habits in check, however, I must confess, there is a downside to large families living in small spaces. I thought perhaps it was time to share them.
Space- That’s a no brainer, right? I mean, if the con is about living in a small house with a lot of people, it’s only natural that space has to be part of the issue, right? So, what’s wrong with the space in a small house? I’ll tell you, and it isn’t what you’d think. I think square footage wise, we’re good. I don’t think we need more inches of wall or floor space to make our house perfect for us. No, the problem comes in when things are designed specifically for a smaller number of people. Let’s take our coat closet for example (Yes, tomorrow’s junkie installment was the inspiration for today’s post). Our closet is about three feet wide, three feet deep, and seven or eight feet high. It was designed to house the coats for about four people– five max. It has to hold enough for ten people. Simply lining up our coats on the closet rod, if each of us only has two, still fills it with twenty coats in 3 feet of bar space. Get the picture? It holds ten very nicely with a smidge of room to spare. Twenty, not really.
This is magnified in every room. Our kitchen has plenty of cupboard space… now. However, if we still had the kitchen we had when we got married, we’d be hurting. Badly. And, we’ll never have a packed pantry. Just sayin’. The boy’s room closet would have been fine except that it also houses some of the girls’ clothes, all of the family games, a bunch of books and more stuff than I think we should even own sometimes.
I firmly believe we have every ounce of space in our home that we need to live comfortably (and compared to the rest of the world, luxuriously). However, how that space is arranged makes all the difference. I’ve always said that there were 1600-1800 sq ft homes that had less usable space than our house does, and it’s true. On the flip side, if a house is designed for five or fewer people, some parts of that house just aren’t going to work well for ten. And that’s ok, once you realize the limitations of the house.
Maintenance- With a large family, people tend to realize the hard way that maintenance has to happen on a very regular basis or the whole place starts looking pretty shoddy. Multiply double the intended inhabitants by over twice the normal use of things and you’ll discover more dings, gouges, scratches, scrapes, and other signs of wear faster than ever imagined. Trim needs semi-regular touch ups, floors need more frequent sweeping and mopping than our unused-except-for-eight-hours-a-day counterparts (people who have homes empty during the work/school hours and who sleep at night so the house just “sits”). When you have ten people and nine of them are wandering through the house for sixteen hours a day, it’s just a Second Law of Thermodynamics kind of result. Again, that’s ok as long as you’re prepared to make the changes necessary to fix it.
I remember reading that a quality couch should last fifteen to twenty years. I decided that this meant our couch shouldn’t start looking like a dump pile until it was around ten years old. It almost made it there, too. I forgot to add the friends part to it. So, now I say a large family should be able to keep one for about 8 years until it’s just completely worn out if you use it ALL the time.
Limitations- The fact is, every house has limitations. Large homes have theirs as do small ones. You can’t give every child their own room if you have more than two children in a three bedroom house. Period. So, if having “private space” is of vital importance, then small home living isn’t for you. However, I figure that since most people marry and share a room with their spouse for the rest of their lives, it doesn’t hurt to learn to share space as a child. If you share with multiple siblings, then marriage is a step up in the world on the sharing front. More space for you. 😉 Sometimes it means one bathroom for ten people. Generally, that isn’t a problem. Just teach your older kids to crack the door a bit while they’re doing hair and/or makeup or to do it in their room so people aren’t waiting for the bathroom when the one getting ready could step out for a few minutes. Aside from the rare occasion when the whole family has the runs, it is rare that someone can’t wait a minute if two people happen to need to go at the same time. Frankly, 3/4 of all waking hours has an empty bathroom. Just sayin’.
So, when I say I prefer our small house and wouldn’t want a larger one, I mean it. When I say that I think our little house has more usable space than a lot of houses that are 50% larger than ours. I have no doubt– I’ve seen it. However, when I say these things, I don’t pretend that there aren’t cons to the pros… I just think the pros outweigh the cons.