Living in a Small Home with Kids: 10 Reasons It Might Not Be Right for You

I recently read a great article over at The Tiny House asking "How Big Can a Tiny House Be?" In his post, Ethan ponders the definition of "tiny" when it come to little houses and concludes that the perfect "tiny" house is whatever size meets your needs, whether that is less than 100 square feet or much, much bigger. I think his conclusion is sound. He points out that even if a small house is too small for you, you can still benefit from some of the tenets of tiny house living. I would include living within your means and being mindful of the environmental impact of your chosen lifestyle as practices that anyone can enact, regardless of their home size.

If living large (or larger than we do!) is your thing, you'll hear no judgment from me. Living in a small home might sound romantic or adventurous, but the obvious truth is that there are downsides to the tiny house lifestyle. It's not all sunshine and roses, and you have to be committed to making it work, or you will go crazy. (You might go crazy in any case.) I try not to dwell on the hard parts too much myself beyond figuring out helpful solutions to make our lives easier, but I don't want to sugar coat the difficulties either. Living small can be hard.

In the spirit of honesty, here are ten reasons to reconsider going tiny with kids in tow.

1. Having Little Privacy

In a home this small, you have very little privacy. It's not a huge deal now since our children are still quite young, but as they get older, that will change. Assuming that we don't eventually move, I'm hoping that we will be able to carve out nooks for our girls and ourselves so that we all can have at least a little privacy when we want it.

2. Sharing the Space

We are always having to move out of each other's way, be it in the kitchen or in the bathroom or trying to get in and out of the living room. We bump into each other a lot. You get used to it after a while, and keeping the floor clear helps a lot, but it's an issue that only gets worse the more people you have in your home.

3. Finding Room for Guests

Hospitality is hard. We had a few parties in the early years after we moved in before Sunshine was born. It worked okay. We pulled out all the spare seating we could find, and it was fun in a crazy sort of way. We even played some video games with half of us in the loft and the others downstairs.

Another time we opened both our entry door and our sliding door and set up a picnic table and lawn chairs outside with a buffet line in our kitchen, and people filed through and sat wherever there was room. That only works when the weather is nice, though.

Having kids now makes it harder with early bedtimes and the need for quiet, not to mention all the extra stuff to trip over (i.e. toys and boxes of diapers).

4. Keeping Everything Picked Up

Sweetheart throws the stuffed animals on the floor 5 million times a day.
You have to be tidy all the time. Okay, so that's not quite true. You don't have to be tidy, as long as you don't mind living in a pigsty.

In cramped quarters, there is always someone coming in behind you to do their own thing, whether that's brushing their teeth or making a meal or even just walking across the floor. If you don't put things away after you use them, the house becomes a mess in about two seconds. There just isn't room to leave picking up until later. With kids, who are still learning to clean up after themselves, this is a HUGE issue.

5. Dealing with Clutter

Clutter takes over really quickly. Seriously. All it takes is buying a new box of diapers, and you're suddenly tripping through your house to get from one room to the next. I actually broke my toe kicking a box of diapers last fall. It's madness. That box of Christmas presents you brought home from the in-laws? It's a safety hazard, too. The toys and the papers and the food to feed a family? They all add to it.

Staying on top of the clutter is a never ending job. There are days when we have to just push things to the sides while we try to figure out where to house everything long term. Christmas and birthdays are anxiety inducing because, regardless of how genuinely grateful we are for the generosity of the people who love us, we still have to find room to stow all the stuff we're given. We're constantly reorganizing and purging and trying to be mindful about what we can and can't fit in the space we have available.

6. Maintaining Minimalism (Whether You Want to or Not)

When space is finite, you do have to be choosy about what you keep and what you donate or toss. You can't just buy anything that strikes your fancy. Before buying any kind of new kitchen gadget, I have to seriously consider how I might make room for it. Choosing Christmas and birthday presents for our kids is difficult sometimes because we can't get them everything we would like; there's just not room for it all. I wrote about finding room for the important things in another post, but the fact remains that for everything that comes into our home, there is something that has to go to make space for it.

Of course this isn't all bad. Being more mindful about the accumulation of stuff is hardly worrisome. It's just a hard mindset to adopt at times.

7. Paying More Because You Can't Buy in Bulk

We both came from families that bought in bulk at warehouse stores. When we first got married, we tried to continue this habit because it seemed like common sense. Buy in bulk to save money in the long run. Right?

The problem is that you have to be able to store whatever you buy. In a tiny house, you just don't have room for thirty-six rolls of toilet paper and twelve rolls of paper towels all at once. We eventually accepted that living small meant paying more per unit on a lot of household items as well as shopping more frequently for smaller quantities.

8. Rationing the Hot Water

The water heater is tiny. When we first moved into our house, we used to frequently run out of hot water if we we took long showers. Then the next person would have to wait at least an hour for the water to heat back up again.

We turned our water heater up to 150 degrees, which is not the safest thing to do because that water comes out really hot, but it makes the hot water last longer. We invested in a very low flow shower head, and that helped a lot, but it's still an issue when we all want to bathe on the same morning. It just doesn't happen.

We could look into an instant water heater, but the electric load that would put on our house makes me nervous, and our well water is really cold. It's a complicated equation that we haven't figured out yet.

9. Preventing Moisture Build Up

Moisture is a real problem. I'm sure this isn't a universal thing, but in many houses like ours, the insulation is somewhat lacking. There is only so much that you can fit into four-inch walls, unless you use some alternate building method. Most tiny houses are trying to maximize space in the floorplan, so going with thinner walls helps with that. What it doesn't help with is preventing condensation due to humid air hitting cold walls in the winter. With so many people living and breathing and cooking and bathing in such a small space, the humidity rises quickly.

Our bedroom is not well ventilated, so keeping the humidity down in there is an ongoing battle for us. This seems to be pretty common for many houses in our wet climate, but living in such a small space only exacerbates the problem.

10. Surviving Cabin Fever

When it rains, our walls seem to shrink. And it rains a lot here. Lately we've been letting Sunshine play alone outside as long as she stays right outside our many windows and doesn't go near my parents' driveway. The last few days, she's pretty much lived outside. She is a very high energy child, and letting her run around freely outdoors is good for all of us.

Winter is coming, though. I can feel it in the air. For us, that means weeks, if not months, of rain without end. Sometimes snow, but mostly rain. Our gravel driveway turns into a mud pit fueled by the detritus fallen from the trees that surround our home.

Because our home is so small, there isn't much room for our girls to get their energy out inside. I imagine that we will be taking a lot of trips to the library and the nearby children's museum once the weather turns. We'll probably turn on the music and have a few dance parties. Maybe we'll jump headlong into homeschooling preschool again. We've kind of taken a break to enjoy the outdoors while we can. We'll probably watch more TV than we should. Having the loft finished will be nice because Sunshine can go up there when she needs a change of scenery.

Overall, though, winter in a small home can be very long and dreary.

So there you have it. As much as I love living in a small home, it's not always easy. Some days I think having just a few hundred more square feet would make our lives a lot easier. At the end of the day, though, I'm grateful for what we do have: a roof over our heads and a family that gets to spend a lot of time doing life together.


  1. Whoa! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It's on a totally different subject but it has pretty
    much the same page layout and design. Great choice of colors!


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