Living in a small house with kids is doable. With these easy but important tips and guidelines, you can learn how to make a small space less stressful for your family.
When I was pregnant, we had just moved in with my MIL to figure out what to do next when our lease was up.
We started house hunting only to realize the “dream” homes in NJ were WAY out of our prive range. I was fresh out of college and working at a nonprofit and we were 22 and 24 respectively.
The first house we looked at and put an offer on, I thank God we didn’t get. Not only was it tiny, but it was a one bedroom. Eek!
Small Houses for Families
While what we ended up in wasn’t a “tiny” home by far, it’s small. We now are a family of 5, plus a lab and a cat living in a 600 square foot house with 2 beds and one tiny bath.
We make it work.
If you’re looking for a small house with kids but not sure how to manage it, I’m sharing my best tips after living here for 6 years with minimal stress.
Tips for living in a small space with children
Today I’m sharing my BEST tips for living in a small home without losing your mind. While some days it can be tough, your mental health will thank you for taking these steps!
Think out every single purchase,
We don’t buy much of anything without sitting on it for some time, especially if it will take up any reasonable about of space.
Not only does this help us save space, but it ensures we’ve weighed out the pros and cons, know that it will be used often, and will have storage space for us to put it.
I should note, this is not my natural style. I love “stuff”. I love momentos. Thankfully, my husband does love to live a minimalist life so he can help me stick to it.
By enacting a minimalist style on “stuff” – be that clothes, furniture, toys, etc – you’re able to get more out of what you have. It also obviously means less room is being taken up.
This becomes especially improtant when it comes to furniture. In our tiny living room, we have a small couch and a TV mounted on the wall. This frees up a lot of floor space (no coffee table or end tables) which makes it feel huge!
Stop with the comparison.
It can be easy to see other houses – be it friends or strangers on social media – and feel jealous. Comparing YOUR situation to THEIRS does you absolutely no good.
Stop comparing your home to others. So long as you have a happy, healthy family and a safe, warm home, you have what you need. Everything else is extra.
There’s a home for EVERYTHING.
If something doesn’t have a home, we make a home for it. If we can’t find (or think of, if we haven’t purchased it yet) a home for it, it doesn’t stay in the house.
This is super important. If you have a bunch of nicknacks, toys, storage, etc all over your house, the clutter and mess will make it feel even smaller.
By having a home for everything, the mess can be more manageable. It also ensures that everything can FIT in your home and has a purpose.
Make and enforce rules.
This has been SO important. As my boys got older, they have a part in how we are able to manage living in a small home. By taking part in managing the stress and clutter, they are able to help make it more livable.
Some of our rules:
- Things go away before we play with something else.
- If they’re having a chaotic “play with alllll the things” day (there’s merit to it!) it stays in their room.
- Messes in one room at a time. If they want to play in the kitchen, they clean up their room first.
- Toys come in, toys go out.
Don’t be afraid to return gifts.
I’m probably going to get a ton of backlash for this, but I really do not care. I have NO problem returning gifts.
We have generous family members who usually keep our small home in mind. But birthdays and holidays can be overwhelming with 3 kids.
We say thank you for every single gift, then come home and pick what they REALLY will use for longer than 5 minutes. Then I bring back the excess and get gift cards. We also let the kids later use those gift cards for toys or outside stuff.
Another option is asking for OUTSIDE toys if you have a yard! A soccer net, a power wheels. a sand box or slide all get kids out of the house but also get the TOYS out of your house.
This can get stickier as kids get older, and sometimes I just put the toys in my closet to break out on rainy days. It helps with the “flow” of the toys in and out.
Use other people’s space.
This might not be great for everyone, but we are very blessed to have family where we can stash stuff.
Our parents have graciously taken in old car seats, stroller caddies, and baby clothes that Ryan has grown out of.
Utilize what you have! For us, that’s the basements, garages and attics of our poor, unsuspecting family.
We also use parents houses to store seasonal clothes or holiday decorations.
Get Out of the House
The number one reason we were so okay with moving into such a small house is that it’s in a beautiful area with tons of parks. We knew that from March to October we would be going to the park on sunny days and weekends.
We also have a large, fenced in backyard that more than makes up for a small home. Now that my boys are older, I kick them outside regularly. Not only do they get fresh air and expend energy, but they have more space to be kids.
Keep it clean.
Lastly, if the house isn’t kept more or less tidy, the clutter will drive you crazy. When there is stuff everywhere, I have such bad claustrophobia.
Find routines that work for you to reduce clutter and keep things tidy. Give your kids tasks to help out.
I promise you, a small house (or apartment!) and kids is doable. You do have to be strategic but as long as you follow these tips, I’m sure you’ll keep your sanity.
Any tips for a small house? What’s your favorite multi-tasking kid item? Let me know in the comments!
We live in a small house too, so I can feel your pain. It’s caused the minimalist part of me to really come out. I think you have a good philosophy with gifts- I think sometimes kids have way to much junk anyways!
It’s absolutely insane how much stuff some kids have. I plan on just giving Ryan a toy box or some sort of storage and when he gets older, insisting that he can only get new toys if he gets rid of another – everything must fit in the box.
tiff @ love, sweat, & beers says
Our house isn’t toooo small, but we have virtually NO storage space. It’s hard saving some things (like hand-me-downs from baby #1 for baby #2). I tend to be a total gift returner too. We don’t have room for stuff we don’t need, especially if it’s toys and things that Ethan isn’t really all that into or clothes that I don’t even like him to wear.
Having no storage space is definitely tough. My husband is very into throwing things out, but I try to keep them (like you said, hand me downs. Baby stuff is expensive!) Seriously, my mom has bought my son toys that the age range is a year or more older than he is! She’s like, he’ll grow into it! But we just do not have the space for things that aren’t being used right.that.minute.
I am so with you about returning stuff! I know this sounds terrible, but we really do not buy Matilda toys. She is just so happy playing with most non-toy type things, like wooden spoons, empty (and clean) food containers, etc. We did make an exception for a Colorwonder pad. Seriously, those things are amazing!
Yup!! Seriously I’ve watched Ryan play with a straw for like, 20 minutes..
That is awesome that you have a small house! Ours is slightly bigger but I’m not very good at staying organized and streamlined. I need to get better at it before the baby comes!
I’m not really, but my husband is kind of a neat freak so I try to keep things relatively neat for his sake ahahh
Katie @ Live Half Full says
Good tips! We’re in a small condo now, so I’ve definitely tried to get a lot of “multi use” things. I hope this helps!
Yeah,I think items that serve many purposes are definitely one of the most important things!
Amy @ Elephant Eats says
Gosh, I thought our house was small! We have much more room for storage than you, but our main living areas are most likely the same size. It really is hard not to have a playroom- that’s the one thing I wish I had. It would be so much easier to contain the toys!! These are some good tips. Also, I love that photo of Ryan pouting 🙂
I definitely feel you on the play room – but I don’t mind too much, since I would rather us go out and play than have so much in one room that we don’t want to leave.
Alexandra @ My Urban Family says
I’m so glad I came across this post! My husband and I are trying to downsize before starting a family and I keep going back and forth on being nervous and excited about the prospect. I know in some ways it will be hard, but it’s nice to hear that you are able to make it work!
It’t totally doable! For the first month we actually lived with my MIL and all three of us and our dog lived in my hubs childhood room. It’s all about making what you have work. I knew we could have a bigger apartment, but we wanted a home, plus the mortgage for our home was less than our old apartment’s rent.
Amy @ Life to the Full says
Awesome tips for living in a small house! When my first son was born, we lived in an “apartment-sized house” and WOW… does that baby stuff take up space. You are so right! The space wasn’t that big of a deal as long as the house was tidy – like you said.
We did eventually move into a bigger house but people still think this place is “small”. Not to us! It’s all perspective 🙂 With two kids now, I’m trying to go minimalist on all this baby/kid stuff. Seriously, how much stuff do these adorable little people need?! Loved your post!
It definitely takes up SO much space if you let it! I definitely agree that everything is about perspective. I have a friend who constantly talks about how small her home is, but it’s bigger than my house! She has a ton of stuff though so it seems smaller. Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the post Amy!
Julie @ Logger's Wife says
Yes! All of this, especially the first one. We also got a high chair that folds.I spend a lot of time researching and looking for space saving items. I’m concerned with having a baby in our small house again with a 3.5yr old that already lives here and has things. We hope to no longer be here once the baby is born in May but the housing marking being what it is, who knows? I’ll just find a way to make it work. 🙂 #Titus2Tuesday
Oh man, I feel you on worrying about how to fit another babe! Our boys will share my son’s small room, but I know in my gut it won’t be a permanent thing because it’s just too small. Good luck with your house hunt!!
I agree to all of these, especially thinking about what you are buying. Many people told us that we “had” to purchase certain items for our baby. But I knew buying those things would just add to the clutter, so I didn’t buy them and our son was fine. We live in a small house, although it is bigger than yours, and my number one tip is always to get rid of clutter.