Tiny House Kids: Oh the Noise!

Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! 
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! 
-How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss*

Any time you have multiple people together in a small space, the noise will ramp up. Especially if some of those people are very young with very little volume control. Even before we had kids, though, I remember having friends over to our tiny apartment and shushing everyone once it got to the official quiet hours for our apartment complex.

This is a very real struggle in a small home, and while we have the benefit of not sharing walls any longer, as well as living in the middle of the woods with few neighbors to bother, it's something that we have had to develop solutions for in order to make living tiny with kids work for us.

There are basically two categories of noises that we deal with regularly that have very different solutions. The first is noise created by our children that makes it difficult to think, let alone hold any kind of conversation. (And we like to talk. A lot.) The second is noise that we would like to keep from our kids: things like adult-themed movies and games and conversations and basically any noise after they go to bed. In addition, Chris leaves for work while the rest of the house is still asleep, and we need a solution to deal with the noise he makes while he is getting ready in the morning.

Kid Noise

I want to start by saying that, after dealing with infertility and loss for many, many years, I am still in awe of the fact that noise from kids (our kids!) is even an issue we have to deal with in our home. Yet here we are, grateful, with ears ringing nonetheless.

One of the best things we have done to maintain our sanity is to turn our one official bedroom into the kids' room with playspace and a door that closes so they can be free to strike up their kazoo and harmonica band whenever they feel like it.

Getting them to keep their noisy activities in that space is a battle sometimes, though. When the weather is nice (and even sometimes when it isn't!), we send the kids outside or take them to a local park to get out some of their rambunctious energy. We also make it a priority to take turns getting the kids out of the house so that Chris and I each have a quiet space to ourselves at least once a week. This time of self-care really helps to soothe frayed nerves from all of the chaos that having young children can bring.

In the end, though, we often just have to embrace the energy and go with the flow of noise in our tiny house. I'm not above locking myself in the bathroom for five minutes so I can hear myself think at the end of a long day, either!

Adult Noise

Having the bedroom somewhat isolated in our home (see our floorplan here) does help with noise issues after the kids are asleep, but one of the best investments we've made that allows us to enjoy time as adults sans kids is a fan. We have used some form of white noise since before our kids were born, and it's been an excellent way to mitigate the sounds of us banging around in the kitchen or living room after they've gone to bed. 

In order to avoid issues with circulating dust and other allergens around the room all night long, we generally stick to fans that include air filters. Since maintaining air quality in a tiny home is sometimes difficult, we see this as a solution to more than one problem. Our favorite air filter is this Therapure model by Envion. With a filter that can be cleaned at home with a vacuum, it is easy on the pocketbook and generates less waste over its lifetime than other types of air purifiers. There are many great options available, though, including built-in air filters and wall vents.

Another lifesaver for us is a simple pair of headphones. We think everyone who lives in a tiny house should have a pair. I often watch TV on my Chromebook after everyone else is asleep, and having a good pair of headphones makes all the difference. Chris does some limited gaming upstairs while the girls are awake, and his headphones let him worry less about what our kids might be overhearing from some of the more mature-themed games he plays.

We prefer headphones without strong noise-cancelling properties so that we are able to hear each other still while we are wearing them, but if you need to be able to concentrate fully on what you are doing, say for a job, there are many great noise-cancelling options to choose from as well.

Chris has a Sennheiser Game ONE Gaming Headset that was an unexpected gift from my brother, who ended up with two pairs in a fluke shipping mishap. I asked Chris to write a short review for you all, so here it is in his own words:

The Sennheiser GAME One headphones are high quality over-the-ear phones made with gaming in mind. While expensive, they provide exceptional sound quality and plenty of volume. They don't feature noise canceling or virtual surround sound. They do, however, feature clear, crisp audio and a pull down mic that transmits a clean signal to friend and foe alike. Additionally, the cushions are well made and provide a comfortable experience for several hours at a time.

For my own use, I have a pair of August EP650 headphones that can be purchased from Amazon for under $50. Similar to Chris's Sennheiser headset, the EP650 pair fits over the ears. I find them to be comfortable, but not quite as comfortable as the Sennheisers for long use. They are rechargeable through a micro-USB cable, but I only have to charge them every couple of weeks because the battery life is phenomenal. I can plug them right into my Chromebook to charge if the battery dies unexpectedly as well. I primarily use the Bluetooth function, but they also come equipped with a 3.5mm jack in case you prefer a corded experience. One of the best features of this particular model is that is folds compactly for storage. Over-the-ear headphones are never going to be the option that takes up the smallest amount of real estate in a tiny house (you'd probably want to look into earbuds for that!), but being able to fold this pair makes a real difference in the ease of storing them. 

We also have headphones that the girls occasionally use, but since they are currently on their third set in less than two years, we're still looking for a pair that can stand up to the level of abuse kids mete out on these things. If you have a good recommendation, please comment below!

Noise is not something that I hear discussed much in regard to tiny houses, but it can be a real issue at times. There are definitely ways to mitigate the problem, but no solution will be completely foolproof. Sometimes the kids just can't maintain a bearable volume level no matter how many times we remind them about the difference between inside voices and outside voices. Sometimes the power goes out, and the fan stops, and we all wake up because of the lack of noise. Sometimes we drop a pan at midnight, and no reasonable amount of white noise is going to cover that! In the end, learning to be patient with each other and considerate of each other is sometimes the best solution we have, and as with most things in life, it's a process. Especially with kids. But we truly hope that growing up in a small home will help teach our kids lessons about coexisting with others with respect and kindness that would perhaps not be as easily learned in a bigger space.

In the meantime, does anyone have a pair of earplugs I can borrow?

*Seuss, D. (1957). How the Grinch stole Christmas. New York: Random House.