Thursday, March 3, 2011

Living the Small Life

Nothing about our life is small.

We do everything big, it seems.  I'm big.  My husband is big.  Our family is big (six children).  Our car is big--it has to be, to fit a family of eight!  So naturally, people expect our house to be big.  And it usually has been.  Until, perhaps, now.

We are looking for a new place to live.  (Yes, again.  Long story.  Short version:  awful landlord.) Unfortunately, finding a home to rent for a family of eight isn't easy.  We want to keep our expenses down, so that we can achieve a truly debt-free life, and be able to afford healthy foods and products for our family.  To do that, we need to minimize expenses.  One of our biggest expenses is rent.

To rent a home with four or more bedrooms can be very expensive.  Now that our children are old enough to share a room without the younger ones waking everyone up, we can put the three girls in one room and the three boys in another.  Unfortunately, the landlords of the world don't see it that way.

When I tell a landlord on the phone we have six children, there are usually two reactions:  silence, or an instantaneous "oh-this-house-wouldn't-work-for-you."  I've even had jerks tell say "Six? Oh, that's too many."

I've tried explaining how I am strict with my children, that they are better behaved than 95% of the children I see today, that they aren't allowed to run wild with crayons and color the walls, or run the neighborhood unattended, etc.  I ask them to please meet my children and see how nice they are.  I tell them that people nowadays think every child needs their own bedroom...but bedrooms are for sleeping, so what does it matter if there are three sleeping bodies in one room?  So shouldn't it be more important to have a larger living room?  But alas, to no avail.

How did this happen?  Fifty years ago, most families lived in two or three bedroom houses, no matter the family size.  And families were definitely bigger then!  I read that back then, in America, we lived in an average of 300 square feet per person.  Today, it is 1000 square feet per person.  Keep in mind, that the average family has LESS than two children now, and there are more people choosing to stay single and elderly widows living alone out there, than 50 years ago.  When you think about that, the fact that we are still averaging 1000 square feet per person is staggering.  Because that means there are a lot of people out there living with multiple thousands of square feet per person in their home.

Now I'm not going to say that's a bad thing.  If you can afford it and choose to live that way, that's your choice, and I support your freedom to choose it.  But why do I have to modify MY choices to fit the narrow-minded viewpoints of others?

How did we go from a society where the American dream was a nice little tract house and a car in every driveway, to a society where each person in the household has their own bedroom AND their own car AND their own tv, so that mealtimes take place in separate rooms in front of separate televisions or computers, and communication between family members is limited to "when will you be home?"

Does it make sense that families have gotten significantly smaller while, at the same time, homes have gotten exponentially bigger?  Does a four year old need a 14x16 room with a double bed and a walk in closet, all to themselves?  Bedrooms are for sleeping and playing, not running laps!

My children don't want to sleep in separate rooms.  It's no fun for them to be all alone at night, or to wake up and have no one in their room to play with.  Heck, I don't even want to sleep alone! Nighttime noises sound pretty creepy when you're alone.

My children don't even play in their rooms, except in early morning.  They prefer to play together in the living room most of the time.

So then, why should I have to pay $300 more a month for a bigger home that will take more work to keep clean, when a small one will do? We have a four bedroom home now, and one room is kept for storage.  (Which of course means that I, like most Americans, have too much stuff.)

And guess what?  My children put less wear on a home than the average family with two children, because I watch my children.  I've even had a landlord remark once that we had less wear and tear than he'd ever seen in any of his family rentals.

Since no landlord will rent a smaller house to us, we have considered buying a mobile home.  But even that is problematic.  Some parks obviously don't want larger families, and they quote a federal law (which I've had repeated to me by several park managers and landlords, but haven't seen myself) that says that you can't have more than two people per bedroom.

Excuse me?  What the heck is the government doing telling families how many bedrooms they have to have?  So even if a bedroom is 20'x20', I still can't have three children in it?  That's insane!  And what about families that have lost their jobs and their homes, and can't afford a four bedroom home no matter how bad the neighborhood?  There are plenty of families like that around today.  I guess they should live in a cardboard box?  Or turn their children over to the state?  Please, Uncle Sam, get out of our bedrooms!

If we did find a small home to live in, would our neighbors try to find a way to cause us trouble, simply because they disagreed with the way we choose to live?

Families shouldn't have to face this kind of discrimination.  You should be judged on the kind of person you are, not on the lifestyle choices you make, even if those choices are different than the mainstream.  Especially at a time when so many good families are in trouble.

Right now we are looking at an older home with four bedrooms and one bath.  I'm not crazy about the one bathroom part.  It's easier to live with three bedrooms than it is to deal with sharing one bathroom.  Because while three people can easily share a bedroom, you can't share the toilet seat!  (Okay, I may have one child goofy enough to try, but I certainly don't want to see the aftermath!)

This home, while having four bedrooms, is still small.  So you may have the opportunity to see posts in the future about downsizing and living a more simple life.  Which is what we've been wanting to do, anyway!  After all, if a family of eight can modify the way they spend and the way they live, that takes away most excuses that a typical family might use!  Right?  ;-)

I think this topic is one I should cover in a future podcast.  Click on the Real Health Revolution banner in the sidebar to check out my podcast and subscribe!

In the meantime, here are a few links to some websites that extol the virtues of small home living:

Small House Living
Small Living Journal
Living Large in Our Little House
Tiny House Blog
Life in a Shoe: Big Family in a Small House
Quintuple Bunk Beds: crazy design for five nested bunk beds and a home with NO bedrooms designed around their use (intended for African shelters).


  1. This is wonderful! I couldn't agree with you more! Got to be the most refreshing thing I've read all year. Thanks for your post,

    Mother of 3 expecting twins:)

  2. Excellent, just excellent, enjoyed so much

  3. I'm so glad you both liked it! We've finally moved, and actually ended up in a huge house, because that's what we were able to find, where they'd take us, and it fit what we were looking for. It's a great house, with four bedrooms (six if you count the two non-traditional ones) two levels, and 4000 square feet--though it doesn't feel quite that big. I have to admit I love it, especially since the house doesn't look as bad when the kids strew toys everywhere. We're spending over $500 a more on rent though. Eeek. But I still think that we shouldn't be forced to live in a huge house if we don't want to. It isn't fair to discriminate against big families. People should be judged on WHO they are, not how many children they have.