Large Family: Small House

WE’ve been living in houses designed for families about half our size for many years now- having been living on one income since 1983. We’ve come up with various solutions to help fit our family into the house we have.

We don’t always have a lot of spare sheets, but what spare sheets we do have are stored between the mattress and the boxspring of the bed they fit.

Aim High, a suitable phrase for an Air Force family: by this I mean we work to have vertical storage rather than horizontal. I’ve put one dresser on top of another one to make more floor space before, and I’d rather have a tall, narrow bookcase than a low, wide one.

Put the legs of beds on bricks or buy those ‘bed risers’ from the local department store ( we found a set on clearance; turns out they even work under bunk beds). This gives you more under the bed storage. Updated to add, we’ve also used small paint cans- leftover from when we built and painted the new house. This doubles as stoarage space for our extra paint!

Get dual purpose furniture. Need a bench for the dining room table? Get one with storage space under the seat. Need an end table? Get a piece of furniture with storage space. Need a toy box? Make it one the children can sit on when the lid is closed.

Look for skirt hangers at thrift shops. These handy hangers have a row of rungs with clips on them. You can fit multiple skirts on these in tiers, and they take up no more space than two or three skirts would in your closet.

Do not limit yourself to the intended use of a particular space. We’ve used a kitchen cupboard for a bookshelf, a bathroom shower for a broom closet and tool storage, a storage room for a dining room, kept the microwave in a bedroom, put a hutch top on a desk, used a hutch top on a workbench for a baking center, and we currently use an old ice-cream table and a crate for a computer desk.

Use a walk in closet for a small play room or napping area for baby.

put hooks on walls, doors, anywhere you can to hang up coats and clothes.

Get a potrack in your kitchen. It does not have to be a big, expensive fancy one. Mine was 7.00 at a thrift shop, plus the price of the chains and hooks to hang it. Mind was not originally a pot rack. I don’t exactly know what it was. It is a smallish, green rectangular wrack of some sort. I turned it upside down and it makes a great pot rack. I have seen them made with old wagon wheels, bicycle wheels, even an old oven rack would work. Be creative!

When you need to maximize floor space you need to wring out every inch of closet space. When our older children were smaller we put an extra rod in the closet, several feet below the first one. Five little girls could share one closet because dresses for small people don’t take up much space, and by the addition of the extra rod we’d doubled the length of their hang-up space. We hung up everything in that closet because we wanted the floor space that dressers took. An entire outfit could fit on each hanger. This made dressing much simpler, too, as everything they needed, including underwear, was right there on the hanger. Shirts, sweaters, skirts, blue jeans- everything goes in the closet. Sweaters can be attached to a hanger with clothespins to prevent those pointy hanger marks from stretching out the sweater.

Today I realized just how long we’ve been making do with the space in which we find ourselves when I overheard Pipsqueak and Head Girl (an honour student in college, please remember) discussing the new house we’re building. Pip wanted to know if there would really be closets in every bedroom, or would some of them have to share closets (our house comes with three closets, two of which are upstairs where only three of us sleep. Can you do the math? Downstairs: one closet for six people).

HG told her yes, they’d have their own closets, the only people who would share would be the people sharing a room. That would be HG and Pip (and the DHM and HM, of course, except the parents’ room has two closets, so never mind).

HG told Pip that they might be sharing a closet, but she had this really cool idea that she’d learned while visiting a friend in Texas. “Pip,” she said, “We can get a dresser and put sweaters and t-shirts in the drawers! That frees up lots of closet space!”

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  1. Timotheus
    Posted September 17, 2005 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Get a potrack in your kitchen. It does not have to be a big, expensive fancy one.

    Ours is an extremely non-expensive one. 🙂 I mounted a pegboard on the kitchen wall, just like people often have for tools in their garage or shop. I hang all our skillets, saucepans and large utensils (BBQ tongs, steel rolling pin, etc.) up on that. Now I’m looking for something to help store sheet pans vertically.

  2. Myfriendconnie
    Posted May 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been meaning to put a lower rod in the closet where 3 girls share a room. I had never thought of putting an entire outfit on one hanger, though. Great idea!

    I’m going to try to get it done this weekend. Thanks! (I was just grumbling about how the girls throw all assortment of clothes in their drawers – socks with shirts in the same drawer as pajamas, etc. Then they complain that they can’t find the white shirt they need. Of course not, it’s in the sock drawer!)

  3. Sherry
    Posted May 25, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Lots of creativity is required to live in a small space. We had to use Rubbermaid boxes for out of season clothes storage, because there was simply no other storage available. They were exactly cheap, but they last for many years, and as I said, we had absolutely no other storage.

  4. M. Garrison
    Posted July 5, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Boy, it’s nice to hear that other people are learning to live with their small spaces! I am struggling myself. We are waiting with such longing to move into our three bedroom trailer which would seem small to some people with four children (and one on the way), but we can’t wait. Right now we are living in a STUDIO apartment behind my in-laws!!! Yes, our in-laws allowed storage and 1 room for the kids at their house, but still, it has been hard. And I’ve always considered myself an organizing decluttering queen. We have survived though for about eight months like this. I just remind myself of the pioneers in one room houses with large families and try to be thankful we are not strapped with a huge mortgage and I am able to stay home with my children. Fortunately, we are looking forward to moving soon.

  5. Brusekabiner
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    wow that is really a good idea

  6. Mom to Many
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    SO familiar. We own the smallest home plan in our neighborhood and have the largest family.
    But, we hang in to me staying home even as it gets more difficult.


  7. kristen6
    Posted October 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    We are a family of 6, which consists of 2 toddlers and 1 teen! We are moving into a home smaller than what we are in now but we will be buying instead of renting! We are excited for the large gated yard for my husbands garden and for the toddlers to play in. So I plan on using the covered patio in the back yard as a play area for them put all their large toys such as their huge Little Tykes kitchen, tricycles and their easel. I am also taking a bar that was taken out of my mothers house as she renovated and using it as an eating area on the patio as well!
    I love the idea about the pot rack. Our kitchen is much small that we are about to have so I will definitely use this idea!
    I love the sheet idea as well!
    Thanks for sharing!

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