Family Life in a Small Home

July 5, 2017

A couple years ago I saw a documentary on Netflix, TINY: A Story of Living Small, that got me thinking about small homes. I watched it while soaking in a tub upstairs at my parents’ home, a beautiful 4200 square foot property with five bedrooms and four and-a-half bathrooms. (Now, for a family that was originally seven people, but has become fifteen+, the space is perfect… or sometimes feels a bit tight when we are all there for the holidays.) I couldn’t help but think that at the time, the space felt excessive. And when my sisters and I aren’t visiting with our husbands and families, that space is definitely too big for my parents–a couple in their middle age.

I got curious about tiny houses and minimalism with families. I was seriously inspired by this idyllic home of 540 square feet, followed tons of little house families on Instagram, and started dreaming of my own cozy cottage. When Clay and I first got married, we lived in in three different houses that were each about 1200 square feet, and it felt roomy. We decided to downsize and cut out 400 square feet, moving to an apartment in downtown Denton that was within two miles of the Square, our church, my work, and the girls’ daycare. Before we made this transition, it was scary. I didn’t know any families of four who lived in a very small home. I went looking for house tours on blogs and YouTube and found there was very little out there. It made me realize how much excess we have in America. When we went on the apartment tour, I felt a lump in my throat. The apartment was exactly 804 square feet. My husband was so enthusiastic, but I was nervous. How could we possibly make this work?


After one year of living in our tiny apartment, I was hooked. I was so glad I’d risen to the challenge. Living in a small home is WONDERFUL. We actually recently gained more space–we moved in April to a downstairs apartment that’s 950 square feet, mainly because I was constantly worried about how much my children’s scurrying and stomping was driving our downstairs neighbors to insanity. I am still drawn to family life in a small home, and I’ve outlined some of my favorite things about it.

Please note: I am not a home stylist. I am not a home photographer. I am just a normal lady on a budget, trying to make a cozy, functional space for my little family.

1. A small home means less stuff.

My father, a wise sage, has it right when he says

Your stuff will expand to fill whatever space it’s in.

With a smaller place, there is less clutter simply because there is not enough room. A couple practical ways this plays out: After Christmas and birthdays, I am forced to reevaluate all our toys and books instead of letting them accumulate. I also make sure to only keep age and season appropriate toys, books, and clothing available. Everything else is packed away, donated, or sold.

Toys are so hard to keep clean. Like most American households, I am no stranger to cube storage. It works so well to keep things organized and easy to tidy. The baskets are Pillowfort by Target.
My husband’s zen zone is his coffee bar. It’s usually more cluttered than this. I love our Pour Over Art Print from Department of Brewology. Inside the coffee bar, which is actually a kitchen island from Target, are all of our small kitchen appliances like blender, panini press, rice cooker, etc.

2. A small home means more organization.

In our house, everything must have a purpose and a place. It’s fine if the purpose is merely sentimental, but if it needs to have a place to live (for this purpose, we each have a memory box (even the adults) where we can collect sentimental objects). Things that don’t have a purpose or a place are also donated or sold. Let me say, if you’re planning on downsizing, you may as well embrace IKEA now.

I am lucky our kitchen has this much storage space. Our old kitchen in the 804-sqft apartment had much, much less. I put our appliances on top of the cabinets and invested in a nice step ladder.

3. A small home is easier to clean.

With four people, there is always something to clean. I’m a mom of young children… sometimes the state of my apartment  makes me want to cry. But with less square footage, it is, undoubtably, easier to clean, which means I can use more of my time for things I want to do (rather than doing endless housework).

4. A small home is ideal for pursuing closeness.

We are a cozy, snuggly family, and enjoy being together. Living in less than 1000 square feet means that we are a little bit cramped, but in a good way, because it encourages us to get a little closer, both physically and emotionally. Perfect examples of this are that we only have one soft place to sit in our living room: on the couch, and our girls share a room.

This Ice Cream Cones Garland is a crafting kit from Paper Source. It was a very fun and memorable activity for my three-year-old to work on with me. Every time she sees it, she is reminded of the time we spent together, and I know it is special to her.
The art in my kids’ room is inspired by them. It is for them and about them, not about me. I love to display art they have created at school as part of the displays. Also featured here: “Show Your True Colors” print by local Denton designer Jude Landry, “Have More Fun” print by A Beautiful Mess, and “The Most Golden Girl I Know” card by The Great Lakes Goods.

5. A small home is cheaper.

A smaller home is cheaper to buy or rent, cheaper to heat and cool, there are fewer lights to keep on, it’s cheaper to furnish and decorate.

Our IKEA Norden kitchen table is a major space saver. It folds up completely into 10 inches and has 6 drawers for storage. We also have stackable chairs from IKEA. Denton Courthouse Print is another Jude Landry original. The letterboard was handmade by my brother-in-law, and the other art was made by my children. I also love our DIY Disney Pin Display.

6. A small home encourages contentment.

There are times that I wish that each of my girls could have their own bedroom. Certain things would be easier that way. There are times when I wish I had a mud room, or a guest room, or a bigger closet. But, ultimately, it is good for me to be reminded that I don’t need any of those things. I am fortunate to have everything I need, and more. Instead of wishful thinking, I focus on the blessings I have, and I am thankful and content.

More Pillowfort by Target, and Stella’s weighted blanket which helps her sleep. The IKEA Flaxa bed has two huge drawers underneath and we use it for dress up accessories on one side and all of Stella’s clothes on the other. The headboard is also a perfect addition and has room for tons of books and toys.

7. Sometimes a small home feels too small… so you get out!

I would be lying if I pretended like small spaces were perfect. Even though there are obviously a lot of perks, sometimes, a small home makes you feel a little tight and claustrophobic. This helps us get out and do more in our area and beyond. We are a family of doers, and living in a small home helps us do more.

The couch and ottoman are Nockeby by IKEA, the nesting coffee tables are Vittsjo by IKEA and are an excellent space saving addition. We also have concrete floors throughout our apartment, so a HUGE fuzzy rug was non-negotiable. This one is from Rugs USA.

So what do you think? Could you enjoy living in a small space? Have you considered downsizing? If you have a smaller home already, what do you love–or hate–about it?

By Kellie

Kellie is a redeemed woman pursuing vulnerability, color, and hygge. She loves to write, take photographs, play, and learn. She's a marketing specialist by day, a blogger at night... and a mom all the time. Kellie lives in Denton, Texas with her husband, Clay, and their young daughters.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Regina Golden

    Beautiful article! From one who started out in a one-room apartment, I agree with everything you said. The most wonderful word to use about a small house is “contentment.”

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