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?

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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.

26 Comments

  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.”

  2. Reply

    Shawna

    Wow! I bet that is incredibly freeing to not have so much stuff to deal with. I constantly wonder where all our stuff came from!!

  3. Reply

    Emma

    Wow I love this idea. The house we have (assigned housing on an expat assignment) is ridiculously big an dI wish we had something more cosy. Not sure I could do 400sq ft but smaller is definitely appealing.

  4. Reply

    kiersten

    Very well said! We recently downsized – from a 3500 sqft house to a 1200 sqft apartment – and absolutely love it! It’s a little tight with the 5 of us, but we’ve realized that getting rid of all the ‘stuff’ and focusing on things we do more than the things we have makes us all a little happier 🙂

  5. Reply

    Maranda Laverdure

    Great post! It doesn’t matter how small or big your home is as long as everyone is happy and content. So well put!!

  6. Reply

    Tara

    You make small space living look great! I have thoughts of downsizing my life too. Maybe one day!

  7. Reply

    Carrie

    I love the minimalist idea. We’re always working towards having less stuff and less clutter….and in turn, having more experiences. 🙂

  8. Reply

    Darcy

    This is a great idea! Still wanting my tiny home!!

  9. Reply

    Melissa

    Fantastic post! I love the idea of living in a small home, especially having less to clean and becoming a family of doers. I totally agree with your dad, the more space you have, the more stuff you seem to accumulate. I love hearing about your experience living in a small home with a family. Very inspiring!

    1. Reply

      Kellie

      Lately I’ve been reflecting on being a “doer.” I think it has a lot to do with my Meyers-Briggs! I’m an ESFP. Do you know what you are?

  10. Reply

    Dani Wagner

    I love this! I love tiny homes too and can seriously see myself living in one someday. I love how you organized, especially that stuffed animal organizer.

    1. Reply

      Kellie

      It’s from IKEA! Super cheap and awesome to get it UP and out of the way. We have TOO many stuffed animals. Every time I say “hmm the kids haven’t played with this in a while,” they either hear I’m taking it to a thrift store and start to cry OR it suddenly becomes their all time favorite toy…

      I’m always desperate to get rid of stuffed animals. My youngest daughter sleeps with about 13.

  11. Reply

    Kim@Team-Cartwright

    I am completely in the stage where if something doesn’t have a purpose it is out of here. Three kids ages three and under means we love ikea stuff too. If you can’t store things in it, we don’t need it! Thanks for the reminder that our small house is a good thing, and that sizing up isn’t always the answer!

    1. Reply

      Kellie

      What is your favorite IKEA purchase you’ve made for your small home? Or any other brand for that matter…

  12. Reply

    Tasheena @ SimplyTasheena.com

    We live in a small home. My only wish is having stairs for separation or even a full basement. Our home is under 1k sq.

  13. Reply

    Barbara Alfeo

    Oh I love this! I totally believe in your values. Our blogs should be friends!

    1. Reply

      Kellie

      That sounds great! I am going to connect with you on Instagram 🙂

  14. Reply

    Ashley

    Sometimes I wish we lived in a smaller house so we had less stuff, haha. I need to work on minimizing in our larger space!

  15. Reply

    Innana

    I am all about small homes and living within your means! I love that storage bin btw! I’m sure the next house my hubby and I purchase will be on the smaller side. Easier to organize, I agree!!

  16. Reply

    Tracy

    “Instead of wishful thinking I focus on our blessings.” This statement really resonated with me. A great post!

    1. Reply

      Kellie

      Thank you for reading. It all comes back to contentment and gratitude, and there is SO MUCH to be thankful for. 🙂

  17. Reply

    Tiffany

    Our family has just expanded by 1. So now we’re a family of 4 in our “small home”. It works for now while they are still babies/toddlers but I’m starting to feel cramp.
    I agree with your reasons to downsize!

    1. Reply

      Kellie

      Yes, we shall see what happens as they get older, and when we buy a home. I love the cozy cottage feel, though! Congratulations on your newest addition 🙂

  18. Reply

    Annabelle Grace

    This post is so inspiring! I come from a big family (so we’ve had to have a big house growing up). Now that my siblings and I are older my parents are thinking about downsizing and building a tiny house!! Definitely sharing your article with them! Thanks for the post! Xx.

  19. Reply

    Jacinta

    I enjoyed reading this so much! Definitely inspiring 🙂 I do love cosy places, and I agree – small house means less to clean!

  20. Reply

    Laura

    My home is not super small – 48 sq.m but I rent it with a lot of things I would just throw away because the less – the better! Organized home – organized mind!

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