Monday, November 30, 2015

Answering large family objections, Final Part - My, how small your house is!

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Finally, inevitably someone will inquire about the size of the house a large family lives in, as if that should be a major deciding factor. This is a thinking that I can sympathize with, because I, too, used to think that big family = big house, simply by necessity. However, over the years as I have talked to other large family moms, I have noticed that besides medium-sized families in average sized homes, there are pretty much two extremes: large families in small homes, and small families in large homes.

I don't think this is a coincidence - people are choosing to have either a big house, or a big family. At approx. 1550 sq ft, our house is definitely considered on the small side for a family our size, at least by today's standards (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, plus dining/school room, kitchen, living room, no garage, but two good-sized sheds). Even just a hundred years ago, however, our house would have been considered a mansion, and that even long before indoor plumbing and heating/air conditioning were standard conveniences. No, judging by most of history, and even the vast majority of the world today, we live in the lap of luxury. There are those who suppose that "gain is godliness," so to them, bigger equals better, but I think just the opposite is true.

By virtue of the fact that there are many of us living under the same roof, and that the bedrooms are - well, bedrooms for sleeping in and not for children holing up in by themselves, we have grown very close as a family. Games and activities take place in common areas like the kitchen or living room. For better or for worse, we are around one another much of the day, and it really does change who you are as a person. For the better, I like to think, as selfishness is the one thing we simply don't have room for in our house.

You see, it doesn't take much room to find sleeping quarters for 11 people. We will not need to bust out the shoe horn to squeeze this new wee one in. No, the thing that eats up space is stuff. We would all do well to have a lot less stuff, and a whole lot more time spent with one another. There are authors making lots of money writing books about how to cut down on all the clutter and things, which just add mental baggage and stress, not peace and prosperity. Less truly is more!
For now, we will simply lengthen our cords, and strengthen our stakes. Since my morning sickness has up and left for good a couple of weeks ago (YAY!), I have been working like a crazy woman at radically simplifying our lives by getting rid of things we neither use, care about, or would ever miss. Having lived in the same house for a decade, there has been plenty of time for things to accumulate that we really don't need. I have been nothing short of ruthless, getting rid of anything none of us were excited about (okay, the youngest ones' opinions don't count, as they would like to hoard even outright garbage). My goal is to downsize by about 50% or more overall, but in areas like clothing and toys, more like 80%. We have filled dozens of lawn bags with things to be thrown away, have donated many, many boxes of things and have sold others online, and still have an entire room full of stuff to be sold at an upcoming yard sale. And honestly, none of us is missing any of the things we got rid of. In fact, the backbreaking and allergy-inducing work aside, this project has been very satisfying and liberating. The big boys and girls are fully on board, motivated and helping, as they, too, understand the benefits of living more minimally, and actually having time to play with the few things they care about, rather than spending all their free time being curators of a toy museum of items they don't really use. Also, they cannot wait for the de-cluttering to be done so we can switch around the bedrooms.

The triple bunk bed in what used to be the boys' room. Yes, we usually always have sheets on our bed, not sure why we posed for pics without them.

The three girls will move into the current boys' room, which has a beautiful triple bunk bed in it, and even has a toddler bed under the loft part for a possible future sister (the toddler bed is now where the little bookcase and dresser were in the above pic). Us parents will move our bedroom into the former girls room, which will open up the largest room in the house, currently my bed room, for the boys. All five of them will be moving in there. To that end, we will commission the same carpenter who made the triple bunk bed to make a quadruple bunk bed (twin over full, and twin over twin, in an L-shape), and will also add a toddler bed for Boaz for now. This can later be upgraded to another bunk bed (twin over full) if the boys keep outnumbering the girls. That configuration provides ample sleeping room for as many as 13 children in all, a number we are still very far from, and may never even reach. Our fourth bedroom has a guest bed in it and also doubles as the office, so we won't count that.

 The new quad bunk will be similar to this, except that the sides will be reversed, and one of the beds in the bottom will be full size, not twin.

Years ago, I thought that surely, eventually we would have to move to a bigger house. But now, as our family has grown, and even though we are in a position to move if we wanted to, I no longer want to move. Five of our children were born in this house, and if I can, I would like to grow old here and have all those memories to cherish still. We like our neighbors, we like our neighborhood, we like our pool and yard, we like being close to church and the city, we like that our church started in this house. When the kids are grown and gone, this house will be HUGE for us, and we will have so many wonderful memories here. The kids will love bringing their own children over to their childhood home. No, if we can make do where we are, we gladly will. We will live smarter, not larger.
And while those who don't know better feel sorry for our kids that they share bedrooms, the kids will go to sleep whispering and telling stories, scheming, making priceless memories, and growing closer each day. To them, it's like summer camp every day.

We all make our choices - this is ours. We love our kids far more than worldly possessions, and are thrilled to have been blessed with another one on the way.


  1. Ugh. Stop writing stuff I agree with! :) Anyhow....back when I was the age of your younger ones, an 1,800 sf house was considered huge! I was one of 6 kids in a house about that size, with, wait for it....ONE BATHROOM! This was one of the nicest houses in our city, mind you. (An older, New England town.) Let me tell you, I learned A LOT about how to get along with others, and how to manage my time and space. And, honestly, when we did a shift of bedrooms, and my sister and I wound up with our own, (tiny) rooms, I missed her! The thought that you need a new, 4,600 sf house with en suite bath for four people to live comfortably is asinine.
    Please, if you have time, post pictures of your Advent Calendars...that's how how I found you in the first place. Funny, isn't it?

  2. These quotes really stood out for me: "No, the thing that eats up space is stuff. We would all do well to have a lot less stuff, and a whole lot more time spent with one another."

    "and actually having time to play with the few things they care about, rather than spending all their free time being curators of a toy museum of items they don't really use."

    I don't have children yet, but I hope to have this sort of wisdom when I do. The consumerism and advertising aimed at children is ridiculous. Every time I go to a store there is a child having a meltdown screaming for more toys. It is great that you are putting your focus on relationships with each other rather than things.

  3. I thank you for sharing your family and the passion you have for our Father in Heaven. I am one of 8 children, my husband is one of 7 and we always wanted 8 children(at least). When I was 29 I had issues delivering my daughter and as a result, could not have any more children. So we graciously accepted that 4 was the number of children that we were to have. We were military and had two in while we were in Germany and many locals would tell us no, no Frau --- no more. Three is too many. Here in the states many times we have been told we have a large family. Four is and was very easy. Once we had the third child, I understood the valuable lesson all moms learn by baby three, you can't hold them all and realize it is ok to put them down! Even though we only had four I raised them like I was raised with a large family mentality~only those from large families understand. Like you, we really did not watch television but became a game family, a hiking family, an all outdoor enjoying each other family. We promoted reading of His Holy Word at the table, we read the Bible in the morning before chores, then we homeschooled 21 years total. We did not really ever live in a large home, and now we live in an older manufactured (trailer) home in the desert of New Mexico. We have a small farm and the children learned the value of work, knowing where their food came from and the love of the Creator and His handiwork with the sunrise, the sunset and the totality of the skies here. The children, now all adults did not run from responsibility of being adults. They found jobs in service, police, fire, ER, and the courts, and two have married with the third engaged. In a time where many are delaying marriage and children to "get and education" and live life, my kids did what my husband and I did. Found love married and began bringing children in to the fold. The kids live in the town near our farm (after one served in the army), and we all get together at least once a month, and we see each of the kids at least weekly. The kids and their loves get together and share yard work, projects, and child care and I really am seeing how the foundation my husband and I placed because of God, is revealing itself now. I am thankful for you and your family as you are ever so lovely and remind me of my group when they were small. I am thankful that in spite of the world, you and your husband stand and walk in Truth and place His standards as the measure in your home. I am excited for you and your family for the new baby and am certain each of your children are thrilled as well. Thank you for your taking the time in your ever so busy life to share the love a family can have all because of recognizing that without our Saviour we are nothing.

    Hugs from a little farm in southern New Mexico...that if I step on my back porch I can see the White Sands,

  4. Whoa, this is a mansion! What you are doing is only logical, I've always figured that we should get one bedrom for each gender + parents... I can see that you also got on de-cluttering, maybe minimalism also? :) I figured that minimazing possesions and organizaing them to use smarter gives the same adrenaline rush as buying brand new that you "cannot live without" :P I hope my husband would join me on this excitement also :D

  5. What a beautiful post! Hurrah for minimalism!

  6. I'm an only child and seeing kids grow up like yours and like mine-- family oriented and lots of siblings-- I think about what I would have given to have memories like that. I enjoy what you share about your family. Everyone always looks so happy!!

  7. I agree about the bedrooms. They are for sleeping and to keep clothes in. I like us all together.

    Your kids will relish their bedtime adventures their whole lives. I think you are giving them a gift.

    I have wondered how you did things. I couldn't picture how you fit everyone for sleeping. Those beds are unbelievable. Love them. The craftsmanship is amazing.

  8. You are better staying in this house. When you grow old, it actually may be too big for you. Most of people buy large houses when their kids are young, and then end up living in much too large houses until they decide to sell them and move into something smaller.

    I'm 65, we bought our house when I was 42 and we have only one child. I could not see buying a bigger more expensive house when I thought my son would be going away in eight years. Alas, he's 33 and still living at home, but we still fit into the house and I won't have to go through the downsizing I've watched my mother-in-law and all her friends doing.

  9. We have been fans of minimalism for several decades. The only things that come into the home are items that are "needed" and which bring joy. If I buy a pair of shoes, for example a pair of shoes must leave. Likewise for other types of clothing. We do not EVER shop for enjoyment or as a way to pass time (I never understood that anyway). If an item hasn't been touched or used in a year, it goes.

    When buying things for the home (kitchenware, furniture, etc.) we focus on getting the absolute best we can afford in classic styles; things that are durable, heavy, will wear well, and not become dated.

    In terms of dressing myself, I suppose I'm a bit like the furniture (!). I'm a professional, must look polished at work, and live in an area with four seasons. I have a few classic pieces for each season that I build around. I'm sure my wardrobe is far leaner than people presume it to be, as I get compliments almost daily.

    It's so freeing.

  10. And while I'm being so chatty . . .(I'm down sick today and usually much more of a lurker). Allow me to write a bit more about quality over quantity - when one can afford it. I think it attaches to the theme of living in smaller spaces, living within one's means, and decluttering.

    As someone who cooks everyday, I had to buy a new blender every year because I insisted on getting a cheap plastic one. When I think of the cumulative money I spent over the years, I cringe. If you cook, spend your money on quality items for those appliances you tend to use the most.

    Before I was married I was traveling for work in Turkey (years ago) and had occasion to visit a "factory" where Turkish rugs are made. I was able to learn more about them and watch the ladies tie and cut the wool as they make those unbelievable patterns. I explained to the owner that I loved cats and didn't think I could care for one of these rugs. He explained that because of the way the wool is knotted (cut not looped) cats could scratch on it for "200 years." So I bought one a smallish one and hand-carried it home, spending a bit more than I could really afford. Many years later, that rug (still much loved) is in our bedroom. It has suffered many forms of urine and worse from both humans and pets, blood, mud, unidentified spills, and yes, years and years and years of cat scratching. It is beautiful and just seeing it makes me smile.

    My point? There is no substitute for the real thing. If you see a genuine Turkish rug at an estate or garage sale, by all means snap it up. Quality stands up to real life and is a true thing of beauty which lasts.

    P.S. Later in life we added room size Turkish rugs to the living room and dining rooms.

  11. Love this post. I want to print it out to hand to certain people. I have only have three children, all the same gender They share a bedroom, we use the other bedroom as their playroom, plus we have a living room and family room. People keep asking when we're going to move to a larger home, it's crazy. Five people in a three bedroom is NOT crowded. It is as if people are somehow offended that we are satisfied with our home, don't feel the constant need to upgrade, don't want to heat and a/c large unoccupied sections of a house, and actually see the day when our mortgage can be paid off. It really is no one else's business.

    Also, congratulations on expecting the next little one. Wonderful news.

  12. Awesome! Loved reading this post!

  13. My house is considerably larger than yours and I would not recommend it. A big house is an awful lot of work. Much more expensive too, especially the cooling and heating. We are planning to downsize and embrace a more simple life. I like what you said about stuff. It's disgusting how people develop these unwholesome and un-natural relationships to all these inanimate objects. I'm reminded of the old expression "use things, love people, don't love things and use people." Your family life sounds cozy. I sometimes wonder if we don't take an inordinate pride in the material aspects of our home and have an inordinate desire to impress others. Guilty.

  14. My house is about the same size as yours, and I have four children (5, 3, and 18m twins). But as it is a mobile home, we are very lacking in storage space and yard space (no basement, no attic, no garage, no fenced in area). We have a large livingroom and eat in kitchen, and then bedrooms (which are good-sizes). I am curious if you have any good storage solutions for the living space so it does not look like it has been taken over by kid things and cluttered all the time. I try to purge toys often, but without having a yard to go out in play in regularly, we do rely on what we can play indoors a lot. Would you share how you outfit your main living space and where you store what toys you have?

  15. I absolutely LOVE to go thru and get rid of STUFF! I can't stand clutter and I feel so much better after a good spring, fall cleaning. However it never fails that at least 1 thing I get rid of (it could be something as worthless as a piece of string) I will invariably need it for something! Happy cleaning!

  16. We just had our 5th baby, 3rd homebirth this Sat. last & I completely agree about staying where you make the memories. We're leaving the master bedroom a little earlier than you guys, probably next year as we've got 4 girls now. She came about soon after a certain sermon/documentary on the sin of birth control. :) She's out in the living room sleeping in the bassinet by the woodstove, small portable beds are a blessing.
    Diana we're also in a modular home, w/ no storage space, garage, basement w/ similar sounding rooms. The 3 girls have a 9 cube cubicle from Closet Maid, they each get a row to store what they want in their bedroom. Their brother keeps the bigger "common toy" sets in his room, blocks, Lincoln logs, legos, etc. It's not as pretty as the cubicles but they live in cleaned out cat litter buckets & stack nice.

  17. We just had our 4th and are living in a 900 square foot house. I got my first "Are they all yours?!" just the second time we were all out together!

  18. I'm not judging your family, just curious. Sorry, if this has been asked before. How are you going to afford to send your children to college? I'm struggling with just one and am looking at getting a second job when my second child goes.

  19. Please keep trusting the Lord. In the church I grew up in (IFB) we had about five families that had at least 9 children. One family went all the way to 16 children. As a teenager and having one sibling, I grew to admire these families and they taught me a lot. They all homeschooled and trusted the Lord for their family size and it made a huge impression on me. It made me realize what I had missed out on, with no brothers. I just cant say enough how much of an impact these families had on me. It showed me what could be done and that God is able to provide. My husband and I strayed and got my tubes tied after the third because we had a moment of weakness that has now turned into a life of regret, but we have reversed the surgery and now can say that we are willing and ready if God chooses to bless us again after such a heart wrenching journey of learning to obey God. If ANYTHING ELSE, I know that there will be other young adults, children not in your family, singles, and others that will be touched by your obedience to God's Word in trusting Him with your fertility. It will change them forever!

    Have you seen this??

  21. Wow! I finally had time to sit down and read this, and I love it! I had always wondered if you guys would consider moving, down the road as your family size grew, or if you were going to make your circumstances work. I love reading about all of your plans and how you are making your space work for your current and future family size.

    This is also really encouraging for me, because our family is MUCH smaller than yours (four children) and our house is somewhat bigger than yours (1800 sq ft, including a garage), and I've wondered if we were going to "have to" move sometime in the future. We've been told by family members that we really need to upgrade. Your post is great encouragement to make what we have work. And, as you say, it is totally the STUFF that crowds one, not the people. We too have some major decluttering that needs to be done. It's so freeing to do, and I love it.

    I also love having children share rooms. As an only child, I had a very lonely childhood (especially as a serious introvert), and longed for siblings. I love how our children enjoy sharing their rooms. Our 3yo cries when the 9yo is not with him when they go to sleep! It's precious. And there are so many good lessons to be learned there. We had some friends who had only two children, and rooms enough for each to have her own room, but they chose to have the girls share a room simply because of the value of learning to share space. Additionally, one thing I do NOT EVER want is the phenomenon of sulking teenagers shutting themselves in their rooms. I think it's a huge benefit to have a house small enough that children don't have that opportunity.

    And I am thrilled to hear that your morning sickness has left completely! Congratulations!! As you know, I (by the grace of God) avoided HG last time, but I was still exhausted and nauseated from beginning to end. I'd love to have a more energetic pregnancy with NVP that actually resolves before birth. I can't wait to read your tips.

    Merry Christmas to you all!!

  22. I really love that bed. Lots of good opportunity for playing and whispering after bedtime! :D

  23. I love the beds! I struggle with this--we are currently a family of 8 (girls aged 3 months and 12, boys aged 8, 7, 4, 2) and are in a 5br/3ba, 2500 sq ft house. We're moving across country for my husband's job and are going to be living in a 3/1.5 1300 st foot house, and I'm so worried about the logistics of it. Three of our boys are autistic and like their space, and our youngest boy is a daredevil who will jump on and off of anything, regardless of danger. Giving him access to a bunk bed is giving me legit anxiety--to the point where I've considered giving my oldest her own room, the three older boys one room, the two littlest their own room and us sleeping on a murphy bed in the living room. We upgraded from a 3/1 to a 5/3 right before our fourth was born, and giving them their own space and us having our own space has been a blessing, but also sad--before, they were always in the room with us so we were constantly aware of what they were doing and we felt closer as a family. I am looking forward to keeping close quarters again---and also living in a climate where I can send them outside to play and not worry about the heat when they get too rowdy!


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