The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home

All of us jammed into the bathroom (back when Mae was in my belly). Photo:  Blue Window Creative

All of us jammed into the bathroom (back when Mae was in my belly). Photo: Blue Window Creative

Living small is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Here I've attempted to summarize the awkward and imperfect about living in a small space with kids that maybe you always wanted to know (or maybe not!) .

One Washroom 4 humans

Though Theo has moved to using the full-sized toilet, we keep his potty in the washroom for emergencies where one of us is using the washroom and he can't hold it. It sits out or hides in the tub.  I would love to lose the potty altogether but have found it also comes in handy when little friends are over and seem to always need to go at the same time.

When 1 or more people are sick

Nothing makes your space feel small like having one or more people sick. Maybe an overshare but Theo and I took turns throwing up last week. Trying to keep two moving kids somewhat separated when one is sick is impossible in our space.  Not to mention that the overflow of laundry and trying to quickly wipe down all surfaces the sick people touch so as not to infect the other family members.... not our small space's most shining moment.

No Naps or Sleep-ins for Mom and Dad

I keep hearing from friends about this wonderful deal where on Saturdays one spouse sleeps in and the other gets up with the kids and then they swap roles on Sunday.  This isn't an option in our small space.  If the kids are up, everyone is up. There's no where for one of us to hide and get an extra hour of shut eye. This is one of the reasons bunk beds appeal to me so much.  I have dreams of sneaking away to the top bunk one afternoon, closing the doors to the kids room with the black out blinds pulled and having a long nap (I'll let you know if this ever happens one day).

Stroller in the entrance hallway

I've mentioned this before but our stroller is basically our second vehicle as I walk everywhere with the kids. There is no where else for it to sit but in our front entrance.  It blocks our closet that holds our coats, shoes and bags. Then if you roll it out of the way to access that closet it blocks our pantry or washer and dryer closet.  Not to mention the dirt, rain etc that it tracks into our home. I am constantly sweeping, vacuuming and mopping this area. I would also argue it is an eyesore visible from many areas of the apartment. I think I have almost developed a blindspot to it, like "what stroller?".

Everywhere is a play space

Because space is limited I want our kids to be able to play everywhere in our home.  Thus, toys end up everywhere, the couch is a climbing gym and the length of our home a race track or hotwheel track. We can't be too precious about our furniture or things. Our furniture can be beautiful but it also needs to be hard wearing and washable. While I love a minimal, modern, inviting space, I need ours to be kid friendly. Anything too precious that can be broken, damaged or hurt little ones, has been removed from our space. The last thing I'm waiting see how long I can hold out on is my ceramic and wood planter stand (that I love!), Mae has taken an interest in it but we'll see if it becomes a hazard.

Our Laundry Room is a closet

And by closet I mean a single closet that only holds our stacking washer and dryer (and I know how lucky we are to have in-suite laundry!!). So hang-drying clothes end up in the bathtub on the drying rack. Clean laundry ready to be folded ends up on the couch ready to be jumped on by kids. It motivates us to fold and put away quickly before they are dirtied before they are even worn again. But sometimes it feels like laundry is taking over our home.

Master Closet is in the Shared Kid's Room

I've mentioned this in the past but our Master closet is still in the kid's room. It holds both mine and Trevor's clothes as well as our two document boxes and some miscellaneous seasonal storage. This is the closet where we knocked out the bulkhead to maximize storage (post here). Anyway this means that at night we are reluctant to access our clothes once the kids are asleep (especially since Mae is a light sleeper, despite all our best efforts to convince her otherwise). This doesn't bother us too much in our day to day life but sometimes we would like to pack at night for a trip or plan an outfit and it really is a risky move to access this closet after both kids are asleep.


I hope these real life awkward realities of living small with 4 people in 600 square feet are mostly amusing. For us they are small sacrifices that we are comfortable making for the overall benefits of living small with fewer things. Often over a glass of wine Trevor and I will talk about the quirks and difficulties of living small with kids and come up with ideas to solve issues that are affecting us. But usually the conclusion is that these small inconveniences are worth it to live in the city we love, in a walkable neighborhood, within our financial means, that allows us to adventure more.

I have found that raising a family in a small space is often misunderstood or judged by others. I always hope that my sharing our lifestyle on this blog will encourage others to consider living small or if you already live small to celebrate it. I'm grateful to have found other like-minded people through this platform and Instagram.

This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Minamalist Meg -- “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you. 

Little Bungalow-- "Less Space, More Happiness" : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does. 

600 Square Feet and a Baby-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn't.)

Shelley Vanderbyl-- "Five Things You Don't Need in a Small Home" : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don't need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.

The Streamlined Life-- "The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value": Just because you're a minimalist family doesn't mean you aren't sentimental. 

The Justice Pirate-- "What Small Home Living is Like" : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.

Our Nest in the City-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we "cope" and thrive despite it all :)

Fourth and West-- "You Can't Have it All" : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING-- "The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home" : A smaller home is why we're able to live such a full life.

Birch and Pine-- "It's Not Always Easy" : Living tiny often means defending your own life and choices: daily.

Family At Sea-- "The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom" : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn't realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul. 

Real Food Simple Life-- A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper-- "I Didn't Know Tiny Living Was For Me" : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny. 

Family Pedals-- "Location Trumps Size" : The truth is, it has been our home's location--not size--that has determined our happiness in a given space.