Over the past five months, my family and I had a wonderful opportunity to live at a friend of the family's guest house while we transitioned into a new position in ministry and a new city. This was so good for our family because we were able to transition more easily without buying a house right away.
We could get to know the area a bit better, have time to sell our old house without jumping right into a new one and live rent free for a few months which was easy on the budget!
We lived care free for a few months and it was wonderful. We were able to eat out more often (yay for not cooking all the time) and went on a few more fun trips with the kids, like the Shedd Aquarium, the Zoo and Thistleberry Farms during the fall.
(Bouncing on a beautiful fall day at Thistleberry Farms)
(The Windy City from Shedd Aquarium)
(Riding the train into Chicago)
(Lake Michigan was beautiful that day!)
Although it was super convenient for us, there were some down sides.
The guest house was probably a maximum of 800 sq. feet. It might even be smaller. We have three small kids ages 3-7 and my husband and myself. The main living room, was also our bedroom. There was a very small bedroom that was almost exactly the size of a full mattress with no gaps on the sides. That was where all three kids slept on the floor on an air mattress.
At first it was kind of like camping, the thrill of sleeping in strange, temporary places. Then the thrill started to wear off and it became completely normal.
I know that life has a way of teaching us things through every season. We learned some good lessons that I hope will stick with us in the future. It also made us more appreciative of having a home again with bedrooms and space to spread out when we finally bought a new house.
Here are 6 Lessons We Learned From Living in a Tiny House with Kids:
1. You definitely think harder about "things" you buy at the store.
Do we literally have anywhere to put this thing? For example, take the Target dollar bins which are my weakness. Where will I put all these cute office supply trinkets? Do I really have room for one more package of cute post it notes? I just have a kitchen counter, no "office" to speak of. This was a wonderful lesson to learn. This is probably one of the main reasons people live in tiny houses. It is like automatic forced editing for your life. Minimalism at its best!
2. It takes about 30 mins. to clean up the whole place!BUT, It takes about 30 mins to trash the whole place. This was probably the most frustrating aspect for me. With the kids, because the main room was where the kitchen, bedroom and living room all existed it was where we LIVED all the time. So getting the kids to clean up their LEGOs, or bowls of goldfish crackers, or tiny bits of cut up paper from making a paper bag puppet all took significant time to follow behind and enforce. On the brightside, this lesson needs to be learned! When you live in a bigger space it is easier to just shut the door to the basement and worry about the toys strewn about another time. Not so in a tiny house. I like that myself and my kids were learning what happens when you don't clean up right away and what kind of space and feeling there is when you do clean up after each activity. (I still struggle with this!) This is something I hope to continue in our new home.
3. A shower can be a magical place of alone time to recharge.
When you are physically very near each other for 12 hours straight, you start to get annoyed with lots of little things that normally shouldn't bother you. I found the perfect solution to this struggle. Take a nice long, hot shower. Don't forget to lock the bathroom door behind you! I would use lavender essential oil and drop it onto the shower floor before turning on the hot water to add another dimension of calming aromatherapy to my alone time. When the weather was nice, I would take a daily long walk to have some peace and quiet and reflect and pray. This is so needed as a busy Mom living in a tiny house.
4. You find free public spaces in the community to enjoy.
I am a total library geek. I love the big rooms, the colorful displays of books, the quiet energy of minds engaged and the allure of learning something new and interesting. I also, LOVE the kids spaces they almost always have. We are fortunate to have a ton of libraries to explore here in our city. I found the closest one and made it part of our weekly routine. We would go once a week, but if we were feeling cramped in the the tiny house, we would go more often. There are toys to play with, books and magazines to read, ipads to play, and usually do-it-yourself crafts sitting out waiting to be made. All for free! Parks are also a must when the weather is nice. You REALLY appreciate these free community spaces when you are itching to get out of the house, but want to avoid Target and the gimmie-melt-downs thereafter. Plus, it sends a meaningful message to our children that there are experinces that value education over consumerism.
5. Natural light is good for the soul. Big windows are more important than actual space.
We had these awesome big windows that went all the way up to the ceiling in our tiny house. I learned just how important having that natural light coming in during the day was. It makes the space FEEL so much bigger when you can see the outdoors rather than walls. If you are looking into choosing a smaller space to live with kids, this is a MUST. Have an entire wall of windows on one side. It will make all the difference. You will be a happy camper.
6. You get creative with where to store things.
We did have this one very large shelf that went from floor to ceiling. We stored all of the kids games, art supplies, our office supplies, and any other thing that doesn't have a home. You can also hide candy or things you want to keep away from the kiddos in baskets high up on top. It is essential to have a shelf like this! We also got creative with using walls to store things like papers by simply hanging a piece of string across a stretch of wall. You can use mini binder clips or clothes pins and display kid art work or school work easily. Of course don't forget under the bed and under the couches for more storage!
So we have learned or gotten better with many important life lessons through our tiny house experiment! And, yes, it is possible to live with kids in a smaller space. In fact, it is good for a lot of reasons. I can see how having more room in your budget is a benefit too.
That being said, the tiny house craze, in my opinion after a trial run, is not the best option for raising kids. Ask my husband, he would tell you I was about to lose my marbles by the end of the five months (and some actual tiny houses are wayyyy smaller!). I love the romance of the idea and the counter-culture seduction of minimalism at that level. But at the end of the day, we all seem to be a bit happier and less frustrated with actual bedrooms and personal space now.
I could maybe see Dan and I when we are empty nesters having another trial run in an actual tiny house. (Hmmm another experiment down the road?)
For our family that was a season and we are glad to have a little more room in our new home to stretch out, hopefully taking what we learned through it all to heart.