or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Organize & Declutter › how small a house is unreasonable for a family of 5 (or more)?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

how small a house is unreasonable for a family of 5 (or more)?

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
We're considering moving to the new ecovillage outside Ithaca NY, and we'd have to build a house, but because of the nature of building an ecologically friendly house, plus the cost of the lot, we'll be pushing our budget to build very big (and there's a limit the ecovillage has set of 2000 sq ft). We had been thinking about 1500 sq ft. but now are thinking we may be able to go smaller than that, and it would be great to have a smaller mortgage.

Right now we live in a house that's 2000 sq ft. but it's a raised ranch, and we don't use the downstairs really, at all. So we basically live in about 1200 sq ft, and the rest is just storage. We're not sure if we'll be having more kids (it could happen), so there's also that to think about... and my kids are very small still - my oldest is 4.

So... tell me about your medium/large family living in a small-ish space! How do you do it? Do you like your small space or would you prefer a bigger house?
post #2 of 44
Our house is about the same size as your current one, Jenna... and really, we don't use the basement much either (except for the laundry room.. and that's where my sewing room is!)... and we're a family of six...

Would I prefer a bigger house? .. eh.. sometimes I think it would be nice for the girls not to have to share a room, but really, that's not so bad (we have just two bedrooms on our main level... the older girls share a room and the baby sleeps with dh and I). Currently the only thing the basement is used for is videos (the tv is down there.. but usually we just watch DVDs on the computer upstairs) and many of the girls' toys are downstairs in the play room (but it's so messy now they really don't go in there much).

Bigger house = more to clean, I figure. And I'm all about LESS to clean
post #3 of 44
I think as the kids get bigger, you might all be happier with more space - but, I'm also sure there are plenty of people who live in even less than 1k sq feet with 3-4 kids and are content through the teen years. It really depends on your family dynamic and lifestyle, yk? Hard to predict the future - would it be your forever home?

We are in about 3k sq ft now as a family of 6 (kids range in age from 3-9). We love the space, but could get by with less and I'd say only 1500 of it gets used most of the time (like, the bedrooms are only for sleeping - and we tend to stay in a smaller area of the home). That all said, we were a family of 5 living in 700ish sq ft for a while and I hated it with a passion - but it was also an apartment. Our next apartment was closer to 1,000 sq ft and we had another baby at that point - it was much better, but still too cramped for us.

Honestly, I'd probably plan to build as close to the 2,000 sq ft limit - but maybe settle for 1500 if the layout was just right. That's just me, though - and I as much as we don't really need a house as big as ours now, I don't have any desire to go back to something too small.
post #4 of 44
We were a family of 6 living in 950 sqft, no attic, no basement. That was a bit cramped. My biggest compliant was no storage.

We recently moved and now have 1,700 sqft and will soon be a family of 7.
It's a ranch with a nice basement. And it is a bit more room than we really need, I am still adjusting to it. But I think as the kids get older it will be plenty of room and at this point wouldn't really want to be in anything smaller for that reason alone, the kids getting bigger. And I'm not sure anything bigger would really be necessary even if we had a few more kids.
post #5 of 44
As a family of 5, we used to live in about 1000 square feet (before that, in about 750, but my youngest was a baby, so it was more like a family of four). It felt too small for us, but we were in an apartment. I think we could manage 1000 square feet in a house with a yard and a garage for storage, and if it was laid out better. I would have shrunk the bedrooms in that place and expanded the living/dining/kitchen areas and made it more open. However, we're living in about 2000 square feet now, and we really use most of that space on a regular basis. The layout is weird, though, and I think we could probably get the same use out of much less square footage if it was laid out better. Definitely think about your layout when you are planning, because it makes all the difference. Also, if you build small to start with, you might plan it so the layout makes it easy to add on in the future if you decide you need more indoor space.
post #6 of 44
Thread Starter 
Ok, I'm just answering questions, but am too lazy to do the multiquote...

Yes, the plan would be that this would be our forever home.

Let me give a little background about the ecovillage. It's a "cohousing" situation - which basically means the whole point is the community feeling and we'd have shared spaces in which to keep things that we don't mind sharing (eventually - it's still in the early stages of building) - like garden tools, books (there will be a library in the common house when it is finally built), etc. We'd plan to have an attic storage space and probably a partial basement so that we could keep the furnace, water heater, etc down there. The kids already have friends living at the ecovillage, so presumably they will be spending a fair amount of time outdoors playing with the other children and we'll have the kids going back and forth from our house to others - so that sort of expands our "living space", you know?

Ideally we could just build this one (money will be an issue, I think, if we go more than 1500 sq ft)and live there forever, but if we need it we could live there for a few years, then build another on a different lot if we could sell the house we were in for what we spent to build it (which is likely because of the nature of it being an intentional community), because by then we'd have more equity by then so we could offset our loan better. Also we could add on eventually, if necessary. I'd plan to place the home on the lot and plan the interior of the home such that an addition wouldn't be difficult.

Also, as pp mentioned, I think layout is key - so as long as it's laid out in a way that we want for the way we live, we would require less overall space, I think (hope)?
post #7 of 44
We are a family of 4 living in 850sq/ft. It is open concept living/dining/kitchen with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. I think we could fit another kid in here. When all the kids get to be teenagers then ask me again.
post #8 of 44
Chiming in with teenagers. My kids are 11,13 and 16 and we live in 967sq feet with two dogs as well. 3 bed rooms, 1.5 bathrooms. The only thing I would add is one more common area of about 40ish sq feet. This way dh and I could have one area and the teens could hang out with friends somewhere else besides their bed rooms.

There are two co housingcommu ities where we are and their houses all seem huge. We live on the street that leads to one of them and they are all 1500+sq ft. Then they have the library the common kitchen area where meals are served, garden, compost, bees, and play spaces
post #9 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 34me View Post

There are two co housingcommu ities where we are and their houses all seem huge. We live on the street that leads to one of them and they are all 1500+sq ft. Then they have the library the common kitchen area where meals are served, garden, compost, bees, and play spaces
fascinating. there's only three houses up right now at the ecovillage and one in the building stages. the smallest is 1000 the largest 1500...
post #10 of 44
Um I think space is so relative. We are a family of four soon to be five and we live in a 950 sf house----- AND we don't even use the whole house! Basically I think the floor plan is SOOOOO much more important than sq. Focus on the KITCHEN, LIVING ROOM and BATHROOM. Bedrooms are for sleeping, and storage is over-rated (what do YOU have in storage that you COULD GET RID OF? I venture to say MOST of it). Of course I totally bias as hubby works at IKEA which is notorious for small home living, BUT I love the creativity that flows with a tiny home, the solutions you make for precieved problems, you find out how much you don't actually need, you feel less cluttered, less stressed and it's a breeze to clean.

I suggest you really take a look at your STUFF and figure out how much you actually NEED and plan the community living spaces (living room, bathroom, kitchen) with the most focus. The IDEAL intentional community imo is NOT a custom built house made LARGE, but INTENTIONALLY.

hth~!
post #11 of 44
We have always lived small and yes...layout and storage for what your really need are the most important factors. Right now, we have 2 tiny closets and we don't even own much BUT the things we do have need a space. I agree with getting rid of what you don't use at all...trade it for maybe something you do need or donate, yard sale, etc....Layout is critical. We have L-shaped bunk beds, which actually work quite well in a small bedroom. Again, we only own what we need and you will be suprised what you can live without. Another thing is living room furniture. We had a HUGE bulky couch that took up all the space and only had 3 spots. We swapped that out for 2 twin beds that only require the top mattress and the bottom has drawers for storage- GREAT for toys and misc. items. With huge throw pillows on the back and a tightly fitted durable heavy cotton "sheet" on it, they are quite comfortable, I have WAY more seating and more room around them. It's great. We now have a huge coffee table for games and coloring or just a good old fashion pizza and movie on the couch night. We offloaded our humugous tv stand and now just have a decent size flat screen. The movies/cd's are stored under our couch. Makes the kiddos clean up faster and organization easier. Think outside the box in small spaces.

I hated the cupboard we have in the kitchen for storage- think narrow and too high for me to reach the top. I bought some industrial shelves and made my own little pantry in a nook. It's just what I need and no one sees the mess. I use the cupboard for dishes, cups, extra serving pieces and storage of our cleaning items, cloth items and I barely use the lower cabinets...which means little hands cannot access things they should not. All I keep down there are the cleaning brushes, bucket, dog food in a tight container, and the grilling tools. No more bending over or misplaced items in the back of the cupboards on the bottom that I can't see.


Clothing- we REALLY have to work at this one. I work in a professional environment, so I need to wear suits, no casual attire for me. I use the front hall closet for that stuff- all work related. Otherwise, most of my around the house stuff fits in my 6 drawer dresser- even skirts and dresses can fold up if you try. I purged, purged, purged, and purged some more and still can't wear all that I have. My DS has a 3 deep drawer dresser for 90% of the his clothes, with a low hanging rod for his coats and items that don't fold up. I use the top of his closet for out of season items like coats and I keep a 6 shelf sweater holder thingy in there with our boots, mitten, hats and his undies, socks and extras on the bottom 3 shelves. Easy access and he can help put away the laundry.

I like that I always know where my family, furry or otherwise, are and to clean up and organize is literally a snap. My clotheslines is right outside my back door in my enclosed raised garden beds. It is simple and sweet. It does take some time to figure out your own house and how it works best. After years of moving 9 times in 3 years to many different types of housing, I am learning to work with what I have and yes, you can live small with a family.
post #12 of 44
Our actual living space is just under 900 square feet and we have 2 kids, a 100 lb indoor dog and a baby on the way. I never thought it was doable and was in a panic to move into something bigger. But finances just wont allow it. So we completely reorganized the house and the lay out. As stated, layout is key. If you can fit your furniture in a way to make there seem like more space, it's actually really nice. I wont lie, i love that i can deep clean this house in less then 6 hours. I love that i know where everyone is at all times of the day. I love that we are cozy.

The downsides: we have literally no storage for homeschool and clothing. Since dd#2 gets dd#1's clothing, we have to have places for these items. Also all his national guard stuff takes up loads of room and is only used once a month, so that goes in storage also. We ended up getting a storage unit, but our hope is to build a shed or get a storage thing for the back porch and then scale down our items in storage. But there are a few things i'm hesitant to get rid of (the bedframe that my dd was born on). But if we can live with out it for a year, clearly it isn't needed.

DH and i are both enjoying the scaled down version of our lives. Less clutter, less need for things. The ability to make things like the piano important and get rid of things like the Wii. And having such low utilities really is awesome. So yeah, totally doable. But ideally, i'd probably feel a little better with about 1200 square feet (i'd make the bedrooms bigger so we could keep our co-sleeping family intact).
post #13 of 44
We have plenty of space in a 1,280 sq ft house. I think we could probably go even smaller, maybe 1,000 sq ft or a little less. We are very much minimalists (or, well, I am, & I force it on everyone else ).

Oh, I guess it would help to tell you we are a family of 5 & our kids are almost 9, almost 5, and almost 3
post #14 of 44
Family of 5 here, with kids 16-6. We are working on adding another child to our family through adoption. Dogs, cats and rats live here as well. We have 1195 sq ft plus a garage.

I used to feel cramped here, but we have simplified a lot over the years and now it seems just right. Sometimes I long for another main room, but if you will have community space you won't need another gathering spot in the house. I think it's totally doable to stick with the smaller house.
post #15 of 44
Family of 5 here; our house was almost 1300 sq ft, but we're in the process of upgrading it to a little over 1600 sq ft, which I think will be just right & make a huge difference! We have 3 bedrooms, & it will end up being FIL in his own bedroom, DH & I in ours, our 2 DDs in their own bedroom (currently, our kids are sharing ours, & the 3rd room is full of computers (FIL's & ours) & office stuff (& junk that is mostly FIL's). 2 bathrooms, no basement, no attic. There is a garage, which FIL used for his car, but DH has his exercise equipment in there now that the back patio is being transformed into a large family room/office/crafts space, plus a small den room for DH to have as his own space. The current living room isn't real big, & is cluttered with some large furniture pieces & kids' toys. The kitchen is tiny (1950s ranch style house), but I can live with that.
post #16 of 44
Family of five (two adults, two seven year olds and a five year old). We were in a 2000 sq ft house that was nice and spacious, but just too much, I thought.

Our current house is just under 1000 sq ft and this is perfect, I think. The garage is 450 sq ft, which if we didn't have IT, we'd be hurting (we need storage space).

And LONG ago, when the youngest was under a year old, we were in a 700 sq ft house and that was MUCH too small but we could make it work as well.
post #17 of 44
People often say that little kids need lots of space to run around, but I have found that although young children can adapt to a small space, it is teens who often need lots more space.

For one thing little kids obviously become very big teenagers...adult size in fact, lol...so they take up more space. Teenagers also love to have lots of friends over to 'hang out' and they lie all round the floor just chatting or watching DVDs! Also they use space to play on the wii.

So if you are planning on staying there as the children grow into teens, that could be something to consider.
post #18 of 44
We are a family of 5-The boys are widely spaced ages 19,10 and just turned 4. our house was 1200 sqft-but when I was pg with ds#3 dh built in half the attic into a room for middle son. It is an attic room with the sloped ceiling and all-but it is nice to have some extra space. We still have half the attic for storage. This house seems to be a perfect size-without the attic it would be harder because we don't have big closets. Our bedroom doubles as an office for dh-that would not be doable for some people. We felt like the boys each needed a room because of the age gaps. If they had been closer in age we would have been able to double up a little. I honestly don't feel like our house is that small though. We have a large yard and the kids play outside a lot. We live in the south though-so even thoug hwe get cold in the winter it isn't quite the same as it is in northern climates where winter lasts half the year LOL! Plan what rooms you need-which ones you could combine-and go from there. YOu could also spend some time looking at houses that are smaller and get an idea of the real size of rooms in a small house.
post #19 of 44
Is this White Hawk? I have friends there! (I live about 10 minutes from EcoVillage Ithaca and about 30 minutes from White Hawk). I also have friends at EcoVillage Ithaca... dd1 attended the waldorf preschool there one year, and dd2 starts attending the Willow Tree preschool there this fall!

My experience... we're a family of 5 in a two room cabin. It's roughly 850 sq/feet of living space in an open ground floor and sleep loft. If it were better laid out (or if the second floor was "full height" and not a loft) it would be enough space. However, we've been building an addition (doing all the work other than the foundation ourselves). The addition will almost double the ground floor, giving us a children's room and a family/living room while providing space to shuffle the existing room into a kitchen/dining room and a "real" bathroom with a tub. The final sq/ft size will be roughly 1200. Which I feel is perfect, especially since we may have another kiddo.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now... being in Ithaca... if you are building in the new ecoVillage community (next to Frog and Song) then keep in mind that adding onto the home may not be possible in the future. Some people have found that their needs have changed in such a way that their "forever home" no longer fits. So plan for a surprise baby or grandbaby, an accident that impacts mobility, an older relative moving in. That sort of thing. It's true that there are great community spaces established already (with laundry, kitchen, playroom/outdoor playgrounds, garden, hiking, and pond space). But depending on any special needs (allergies to detergents or foods for example) you may need more or less built in items. So consider that when planning.

If you're thinking about building at White Hawk there is more space and more potential for adding on later so family shifts might be easier to handle in real time instead of in advance. However, this community is still in the early years and the communal space isn't as complete. You'll either need to build temporary services into your private space with the thought of repurposing as the community grows or do without till the community offers those resources communally. (or drive into town for those things)

If you have any questions or want to chat about Ithaca, drop me a PM.
post #20 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wombatclay View Post
Is this White Hawk? I have friends there! (I live about 10 minutes from EcoVillage Ithaca and about 30 minutes from White Hawk). I also have friends at EcoVillage Ithaca... dd1 attended the waldorf preschool there one year, and dd2 starts attending the Willow Tree preschool there this fall!

My experience... we're a family of 5 in a two room cabin. It's roughly 850 sq/feet of living space in an open ground floor and sleep loft. If it were better laid out (or if the second floor was "full height" and not a loft) it would be enough space. However, we've been building an addition (doing all the work other than the foundation ourselves). The addition will almost double the ground floor, giving us a children's room and a family/living room while providing space to shuffle the existing room into a kitchen/dining room and a "real" bathroom with a tub. The final sq/ft size will be roughly 1200. Which I feel is perfect, especially since we may have another kiddo.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now... being in Ithaca... if you are building in the new ecoVillage community (next to Frog and Song) then keep in mind that adding onto the home may not be possible in the future. Some people have found that their needs have changed in such a way that their "forever home" no longer fits. So plan for a surprise baby or grandbaby, an accident that impacts mobility, an older relative moving in. That sort of thing. It's true that there are great community spaces established already (with laundry, kitchen, playroom/outdoor playgrounds, garden, hiking, and pond space). But depending on any special needs (allergies to detergents or foods for example) you may need more or less built in items. So consider that when planning.

If you're thinking about building at White Hawk there is more space and more potential for adding on later so family shifts might be easier to handle in real time instead of in advance. However, this community is still in the early years and the communal space isn't as complete. You'll either need to build temporary services into your private space with the thought of repurposing as the community grows or do without till the community offers those resources communally. (or drive into town for those things)

If you have any questions or want to chat about Ithaca, drop me a PM.
It would be at White Hawk. I think I actually met you once a couple years ago at a party near there (not white hawk affiliated, but another mdc mama in danby). Anywho... Yeah, and I know that it could be a LONG time before they have a real communal space, but I have a very close friend who lives at wh, so I expect we'd spend a fair amount of time at each other's houses (we did before she moved up there, and she keeps trying to talk me into moving there, too), so at least our living space may be extended a little by virtue of that. We had been strongly considering this move a couple years ago, then chickened out because of the commute for Dh (he wants to keep his job in Endicott), but it's once again seeming ideal, despite the commute.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Organize & Declutter
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Organize & Declutter › how small a house is unreasonable for a family of 5 (or more)?