I have children who go wide-eyed when we visit people at their houses. These homes usually have so much space! Everyone has their own bedroom! There are yards! Pets!
It’s somewhat astonishing to my 7-, 5-, and 3-year old, who have been raised living on campus at Baylor School here in Chattanooga. We moved on campus when my 7-year-old was three and her 5-year-old brother just eight months old. They don’t remember life any other way.
As apartments go, ours is not tiny; we have three bedrooms and two baths, a laundry room, and a decent-sized kitchen. But we also have a family of five and soon to be six. It’s not the “norm” among the people we know.
If you find yourself with several children and not a lot of space, too, take heart: people lived this way for hundreds of years. Seriously. And they still do around the globe. It’s not going to kill anyone to share a room (my daughter, in fact, has complained because she DIDN’T share a room with anyone and was lonely).
Here are my tips for surviving small-space living with many small children:
- Reduce the noise. Maybe it’s just that I am a major highly sensitive person (HSP) with noise issues, but I think living in a smaller space with a lot of active kids is enough to drive anyone to noise-canceling headphones. I limit TV watching, will not tolerate more than one noise-making device at a time, and quietly re-home toys that make obnoxious sounds.
- Purge the toys. Not all of them, of course. But do you have several kinds of blocks? Get rid of all but one. Narrow down the options. If you have any storage space, rotating toys is great, helps clutter, and makes the kids excited to play with their own toys again. Sell gently used toys at a consignment sale and make some cash; that will make you feel better about getting rid of them. And by no means should you let your children SEE their toys leave your home.
- Ask for experience gifts. On a similar note, ask for experience gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Memberships to the Creative Discovery Museum and Tennessee Aquarium; passes for movies, High Point, or a jump park; covering fees for gymnastics, dance, martial arts, or other sports; or simply a one-on-one date with a friend or relative are all clutter-free and appreciated around here.
- Use positive language. Even if you don’t feel great about having a small space, don’t let your attitude trickle down to your kids. Tell them how fun it is to have siblings and to share a room with someone–like a slumber party every night! Don’t beat yourself up when you see other people’s spacious homes. I try to remember that I have a lot less space to clean!
- Love the life you have. Try not to wish away the time until you can have bigger and better. Your kids only have one childhood and you only have one life. Do what you have to do to embrace your current life. Your future self will thank you.