I Need Tips for Living Is Small Living Quarters - Family of 5

Updated on August 13, 2009
S.S. asks from Troy, MI
28 answers

Since my husbands 35% pay cut, we have to move to a smaller home. The home we are in is 1100 sq ft and we are going to a 900sq ft home. I am so stressed about how to not live in clutter and cramped conditions. I have an almost 4 year old an almost 2 year old and having a baby in November.

The closets in this place are smaller than my current food pantry! How are we going to do it? Having little ones requires lots of large items, excercaucer, swing, bouncy chair, high chair, not to mention 16 buckets of clothes for boys and girls from 0- 6 years old!

I need some creative ways to condense or store things.

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T.A.

answers from Detroit on

Reduce is the best suggestion. Also, we try to have toys that are gender neutral so both kids can play with them. As for clothes, what about the space bags and sort them by size so you can grab a bag and expand it when you need to. I also have small closets so we have put in closet organizers and or shelves to help.

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L.D.

answers from Grand Rapids on

we lived in a 900 sq ft house with 3 kids and two dogs. It is very possible. I had help from the website flylady.net. It helps you organize, prioritize, clean and get rid of things. My favorite is the 27 flig boogy!! Hope this helps.
L.

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S.M.

answers from Saginaw on

Hello S., Big tubs work well. They can be stacked in closets or under beds. Beds can be raised with blocks to make room for storage. I have dressers that stack on top of each other. Using space upward rather than horizontal. Ditch the high chair and use small chairs at the coffee table. Plastic bags can be put under the chairs at each meal to catch spills. Use the attic to rotate toys. Put most of the toys up there, then every week put the toys not being played with up there, and bring down new ones. You will find the kids will think they are new toys again! If there is a crawl space, garage, or basement you have lots to work with. Instead of a full size crib, use a porta-crib for the baby. Put a mattress under one twin size bed to use like a trundle bed for the kids. Just pull it out at bed time, and push it under in the morning. Good luck. Hope this helps.

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G.L.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I have a convertible high chair/booster seat that straps to one of our regular chairs. It reclines and doesn't take up much space.

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L.A.

answers from Detroit on

Hi S.,

Here are a few suggestions:

- For your children's beds, if you can afford it, get beds with drawers underneath or use storage containers that will fit underneath the current beds/cribs for toys/clothing/etc. (Use a bedskirt to hide them or opaque storage containers)

-For the buckets of clothes, try using those space bags to store them in (the bags that you use the vacuum to suck the air out). I have never personally used them, but know someone who has and says they are wonderful. You can also use the underbed storage idea as well.

- Regarding high chairs, for the 4 and 2 year old, try finding high chair seats that you attach to a chair to eliminate an additional piece of bulky furniture.

- Bulky baby toy items (i.e. bouncy seat, swing, etc.), if you have more than one of each item, get rid of the duplicate. Give one to people who baby sit for you often or sell on craigslist. Also, maybe yoou can get rid of the least effective toy to scale down even more. As a matter of fact, do this with all your children's toys. Most children have more than they really need. Be honest with yourself while going through your children's toys. Ask yourself if they really play with it, and if they have 20 Elmo's that just do different things, think about keep only 3. Christmas and birthdays are right around the corner and they will accumulate more before you know it.

- Any unnecessary and unused furniture, get rid of it or find out a way to repurpose it so that it will be useful.

- When buying furniture, look for streamlined smaller scaled furniture with built in storage or consider unconvention ways of using different things. If you have a nice wooden chest, think of using it for a coffee table or pehaps a bench underneath a window to store toys, throws, books, etc.

- If you are an avid reader, pare down your collection of boooks by donating them to the library or selling them on craigslist, ebay, amazon, or have a yard sale.

- Stores I would suggest for inexpensive furniture and household items are: IKEA, Garden Ridge, Big Lots (sells nice furniture, most people don't know that), Walmart, Meijer

- Craigslist, Ebay are good sites to buy and sell used goods. Go to google and type in how to decorate a small bedroom, kitchen, etc. they have really great tips out there. Also you can take pictures of your rooms and go to HGTV dot com and post them on rate my space. People will look at them and give you some ideas on how to decorate it more effectively.

I hope this has helped. Much success to you and God bless.

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K.T.

answers from Detroit on

Hi S.,
My name is K. and I have faith in you! You can do this with your family....it's all a matter of organization.
First off you did not mention if the new home has a basement or not....that would be a real plus for your family. If not, you will make this work. Loosing 200 sq ft is not as much as you think it is. Right now your family is small and the kiddos require large items...when the kids get bigger the items do get smaller....so there really is hope.
By the way, I am a professional organizer and I "Love Young Moms" who seem to be overwhelmed with their home space. You can feel free to contact me anytime @ [email protected]____.com or @ ###-###-#### - I'd be happy to share some pointers with you.
The Lord will bless you for choosing to stay home with your family. Don't ever forget to praise and thank your hubby for allowing you this privilege of raising your children as the two of you see fit in God's eyes. BTDT and am so very blessed and thankful for that opportunity. Email me S.....I'd be happy to chat with you....even if it is just to take the time to encourage you.
May the Lord continue to bless you, your husband and your beautiful children as you serve the Lord together.
~K. T~
ps....I've read all of the previous posts....and you are receiving excellant advice. That makes this MamaSouce site a very cool thing ;-)

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B.T.

answers from Detroit on

Hi! We lived in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment until this year when we bought a house. We also had no garage so definitely no storage. I have twins and we were there until they were 4 years old. Mainly, living in smaller space means you get rid of A LOT OF STUFF. For example, when the kids were infant: instead of high chairs, we had fold up feeding seats that sat on kitchen chairs. And, we only used either a swing OR a bouncy seat, not both, and then when they graduated to an exersaucer, it meant getting rid of the bouncy and swing. Basically, we lived like our parents used to live...before they invented all this stuff at Babies R Us :)

I sorted clothing every season and sold a lot to consignment stores, only keeping the best or favorites. I rotated buckets of toys so that they weren't all out at once (that's a tip I got from this website!)

For the kitchen, we ditched a lot of stuff we didn't use on a daily basis, such as a breadmaker and an extra coffee maker. (some things I asked my parents to hold on for us until we got a bigger place--such as some nice china and things we got as wedding gifts). Also it meant deciding what kind of things you actually need to stockpile and getting very organized for shopping. There were times when I would bring back a huge package of paper towels and then realize that I had absolutely no place to store it.

I definitely found that having less "stuff" in general made living in our small space much nicer and it made me feel less stressed. Good luck in your new place!

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C.C.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi S.,

You're getting lots of good advice. I would suggest to look over your large baby items, too. We live in a small 2 bedroom apartment with 2 kids (under age 1 1/2) and my husband has a large library and I have two sewing businesses. In order to save space, I purposely do not have a baby swing or exersaucer or any other large baby toys. Afterall, what did babies do before someone invented those anyways? My kids are doing fine without them so far and when we visit friends who do have them my son has something new to keep his attention for awhile. I think less spawns creativity in children, too.

Oh, and if you decide to get rid of stuff, I highly recommend listing it on craigslist.org. You list it and the buyer picks it up - very little hassle on your end! We've made a lot of extra cash that way!

Good for you for being willing to downsize in order to live within your means!
C.~

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D.J.

answers from Detroit on

S. i lived and raised 5 children with my husband and me that made 7 in a 900 sq.ft. home. the key is rubbermaid totes and strict stucture. iwould store winter things in the totes in the summer and summer things in the totes in winter. i stored all toys and games in totes allowing only one tote out at a time that way the kids never got bored because i rotaed the crates every so often it was like getting new things to them.when they were little i only let one big item up at a time. under the bed storage box were a god sent when they got older each child had their own box to keep there favorite things in two will fit under each bunk bed. i was lucky enough to find some older dressers they may not looked as good as new wooden dressers but the drawers were deeper wich held more clothes and things. the other thing i started when the children were around 3 was to get their cooperation in the clean up that way they new only one toy at a time comes out. we also invested in a out door storeage shed because we couldn't get a garage in the back yard because of a tree this shed was great for storing seasonal items and items not in use.
[email protected]____.com

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M.C.

answers from Detroit on

Just a suggestion--if you need organizing bins and stuff like that, IKEA in Canton specializes in stuff like that for smaller spaces and their prices are reasonable. Quality isn't bad either. I bought a whole of stuff since my new kitchen was downsized.

M.

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L.S.

answers from Detroit on

Hi S., as a mom of 6 (who raised them in an 850 square foor home), the reality is that it will get cramped and cluttered! It depends entirely on your focus.The dream of staying home to raise your children is worth the clutter. Hopefully you have a basement. Your children will be gone before you know it! Enjoy them and don't stress about the house. I am down to 2 left in the house and it seems like just yesterday I was overrun! Pick one or two "have to do" items for that day and if you get anything else done Bonus! Take the time to enjoy your kids, before you know it you're running them everywhere, then they are driving, then they are off to college. You will have tons of time to focus on your house later. Hope this helps

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H.S.

answers from Detroit on

I know how you feel on the size of your new home compared to your old one. My husband and I were renting a 5 bedroom house with a basement and a yard, and it eventually got too expensive ... I have no idea how large it was, but it was a heck of a lot bigger than the 800 square foot apartment we're renting now. Let your two older kids share a room; buy a nice set of bunk beds that can be separated into individual beds; but the 3.5 year old on top (he should be able to climb a regular ladder w/o problem, or I've seen one where it actually has stairs, but I don't think the beds can separate.) Maybe you could look into getting a storage unit to store things you don't use often ... good luck and stay positive.

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C.L.

answers from Detroit on

Good for you for not sacrificing you having to go to work... but moving to a smaller home!

I'd see if you can find a family member that can store things for you to rotate. YOu could go to IKEA or even Walmart (they have deals now!) and get tupperware bins and store things in them and rotate as needed.

Maybe buy a small shed and put your things in there.. MARK them though with what they are.

Best wishes.. you'll make it work!

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A.V.

answers from Washington DC on

Honey, if I can raise a family of 7 in a 600 square foot house, I promise you, you will be fine. My husband took a 50% paycut 2 years ago, so we had no choice but to downsize.

Purging is key. Get rid of things that you don't need, and make sure you purge more on a regular basis. Every 6 months is what I do in the kids' rooms, and every 3 months in the bathroom and on my desk. Rubbermaid storage bins will be your friend. These are great for storing out-of-season clothes in the bottom of closets (and under beds). Just make sure you label everything. By labeling, it will save you so much time. Also, there are items you can buy that create storage that most people wouldn't think of - an ottoman that opens up is a great place to store toys in the living room. We have a trunk that serves as a coffee table and it's where I store all of my photo albums, baby books, and scrapbooking supplies.

You can get creative, and I promise you, it's not all that bad. Just don't be afraid to throw things away.

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M.P.

answers from Detroit on

There is a woman I know that can help. She has a business, Clutter Free Living. Her number is ###-###-####.

She is a professional organizer and an extrememly nice person.

Also, think of this in a positive light. Many people who downsize, tend to have less things that they really don't need.

You will survive and God is there to help!

Many blessings,

M.

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N.W.

answers from Detroit on

Do you have a basement? If so, pack clothes in plastic tubs and label them all clearly (i.e. boys/summer/ 4T) and stack them. The baby stuff clutters even the largest house...but you only use it for about 6-9 mos...so that I gues I'd just "dea" with.

The closet organizers that hang with cubbies are great. I use one in my daughters room...I pack it full of shoes, hats, swim stuff, burb clothes. You can even use it for socks, underwear, sweaters, etc.

You'll be surprised at how much space you can conserve when you need to...it's kind of liberating.

Also stacking baskets to store things with lids.

I would also clean out and get rid of things you don't use/need.

Good luck!

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G.B.

answers from Detroit on

I raised 4 girls in a tiny home and it can be done. Today they have those space bags, which are helpful for out of season things, extra bedding etc. I would do laundry often and pare down my kids' clothes to what is really being worn. Staying on top of things is very helpful. Perhaps there's somewhere outside that you can store some of the baby equipment. Actually the clutter may be easier to control in a smaller space. Storage under beds can be very useful, the closet gadgets that can hang more (top and bottom) - these items can be purchased cheaply and be very helpful.

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A.C.

answers from Detroit on

You can do it! Don't panic.

Think of this as a great opportunity to simplify your life. If you find yourself without enough space, ask yourself how much of your stuff you really need. You might find it makes your life easier and less stressful if you get rid of some of your unneeded stuff. Besides, it will be a lot less to dust!

Don't forget to use vertical space as storage space - for example use coat hooks on the entryway walls for coats and umbrellas. Use one of those over the toilet shelf stands to store towels/toiletries. We have a cloth shoe "tower" that hangs in the hall closet. It isn't any wider than a coat, but it holds 10 adult sized shoes.

Use slightly taller bed frames (or add the wheels to metal bedframes) so you can store stuff under the beds. You can even store thin items like the ironing board under the couch.

Combine storage/tables - for example, we had a gigantic safe (nothing valuable - just needed the fireproof aspect of it) and we put a nice blanket over it and made it double as a side table. Target has a great ottoman that doubles as a storage unit. We don't have a real coffee table; we use an antique blanket chest instead and store all our games and movies in it.

Get a table with leaves that fold down so you can make the table smaller in between meals.

I would look into smaller baby items. Maybe instead of an exercauser, you could get a johnny jump up. And maybe just keep the swing OR the bouncy seat. I would definitely do away with the high chair and get a portable one that you can hook onto the table. We bought a bassinet/playpen that is a lot smaller than the regular ones. It worked great but took up a lot less room. Instead of having a changing table, we bought a low dresser and put a changing mattress (whatever you call those) on top of it. Heck, you could just use the floor for changes also.

If you start to panic, don't forget to pray. God takes care of us.

Good luck,

A.

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D.S.

answers from Grand Rapids on

S.; yes we just did this, well first of befoer we moved as we packed things we packed what is absolutley needed and marked onthe box for it to go into the house other boxes were marked storage, mark your boxes clearly on the side too, so when they are stored if you fnid you need something go to storage and get it , but you must make sure you pack storage so you can get at things, like make one wall just boxes with room to walk or put up shelves, if you got storage, if not you might have to get one, pack only the necessity for like kitchen etc, kids really dont need much but in the way of love, and food and clothing, and shelter, the things we buy kids are busy toys, or things to keep them occupied while we are busy, we found we are happier with less to clean less to put away , so hang in there and make what ever place you get home, D. s

K.B.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi S. :)
I just wanted to say that I hear you!! We currently live in our starter home of 760 sq. ft. with no basement and no backyard (where we've lived for the last 7 years due to the fact that we have been unsuccessful in our attempts to sell it over the last 3 years). We have two little boys - Logan turned 4 in May and Tyler will be 3 in November. To top it off, I am expecting baby #3 at the end of September -all three children will have to share the same 10 x 10 bedroom once the baby outgrows her bassinet as it is only a two bedroom home. It is extremely difficult and feels very stifling at times, but you will get by - the kids don't feel the size of the house as much as you do, especially at their young ages. I don't really have a lot of advice for you in terms of organizing... we have a LOT of our stuff stored in my parents basement over 35 miles away. You have a good opportunity in the beginning when you first move in to make things as organized as possible. Really look at what you need and what you don't. Sorry I couldn't be much help, just really wanted to let you know that you are not alone!

K. :)

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M.K.

answers from Detroit on

Hi S.,
Good for you to continue to live within your means. We raised our three kids in a 900 sq foot townhouse - our dream to own our own home was not realized until our kids were well into their twenties and 2 out of 3 had already moved out on their own. Now, we live in a 2000 sq ft home and everyone tells us we did it backwards moving to a large home when the kids have moved out - but once the kids got older, I was able to return back to work and thus give us the extra income that we needed for the house.
Anyways - we have such fond memories of the townhouse - YES we were ready to move and yes, sometimes, it was squishy; but we still had sleepovers, the kids had plenty of toys and love and it all worked out.
As I look back, it seemed to be the smallest when the kids were teenagers and adult sized....however, at that time, we did not have all the toys laying around either!
Your kiddos are small. All they need is you and your husbands love, hugs and attention and a few toys.
You are a wise family to change your lifestyle to fit your income - not always an easy thing to do. Good luck.

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K.M.

answers from Detroit on

It will be fine. You won't need all of the baby things at one time just as he or she grows so those things can be folded and put up or in a corner until you need them. If there is a garage you could store things you aren't using at that moment until you do or even in an attic. There are a lot of storage boxes that you can put under beds also what about getting some of those bags I think they are called euro bags that you suck the air out to take up less space. You sound like a Mom that is organized and I am sure you can organize this place too! How about some type of furniture that doubles as storage that would help. I know it will all come to you as you move and arrange things. You will be in my prayers so hang in there.
K.

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E.A.

answers from Detroit on

We live in a 900ft square house and our motto has to be reduce and simplify! I feel like I am constantly thinking about how to use the space in our small house. Look for storage under the beds, get a hanging closet organizer, and use shelving units that can multi-task-- we have one in the kid's room that holds books on two shelves, fabric bins with toys on one shelf, and fabric bins with clothes like onesies and tee shirts and underpants on another shelf. Kid's bedding is folded on the top shelf. Instead of a full-size high chair, my kids have used a feeding chair that attached to one of chairs (and folds up when not in use). I got the one I am using now at the thrift store for $3. We had to really pare down and determine what we needed in terms of baby stuff-- my daughter used the jumparoo and bouncy chair the most, and then later we got rid of the bouncy chair and swing b/c my son wasn't interested in them. I stored all the baby stuff until my son was born and gave all my girl stuff away the week after he was delivered. I had to store the jumparoo behind one of the living room chairs. Winter clothes are stored in rubbermaid totes in the garage and basement, and every 3-6 months I go through the kid's clothes and toys and donate a bunch of stuff to the thrift store or to relatives. I keep dressers in the closets under the shorter hanging things, toys in small bins in the pantry (which is in our family room), larger kitchen items in the space on top of the kitchen cupboards, we have shelving in the basement for overflow pantry items, and best of all, it forces me, the inveterate pack rat, to constantly evaulate how much I really NEED. God gives just what we need (NOT always what we want). It helps that my husband is 100% on board with the reduce and simplify motto (in fact, I think I might have learned it from him).
Good luck! Small houses are easier to clean, and it's really just an American thing to be used to so much space.

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A.L.

answers from Providence on

I would use a highchair that straps to one of your dining room chairs and then put the regular one in storage. Will you have a garage? We store all our of clothes that no longer fit in the rafters in the garage. I also find that I have a lot more space if I put the kids' clothes in dresser drawers rather than hanging them up. We put shelves in their closets and then bought cloth bins to put clothes in. That helps keep us organized and get the most out of the space we have.Hope this helps-

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L.S.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I would suggest getting the space saver bags that you can store clothes in and it vacuums out the air so they can store more in a small space then condense your tubs. I'd also go through them and get rid of things that you know yo won't use again because it's too worn or out dated. One you have the baby I'd get rid of the boy or girl clothes that you won't need.

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B.S.

answers from Grand Rapids on

My husband and I currently live in a 900sq ft apartment and it's tight... I feel for you, we have a 2 1/2 yr. old and a 2m old so we have the baby gear all around as well as my daughters toys, which seem to increase and get bigger every year.
My husband and I co-sleep not for space reasons but for personal preference/belief etc... My daughter is in a crib right next to our bed and my son is in our bed. What that has done is open the second bedroom up for other stuff, we have all their clothes and many toys, and a couch in there so there is more space in the living room and it's not as cluttered. Other wise you use up probably the only two bedrooms you have in a 900sq ft. place for sleeping.

Just an idea.

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L.N.

answers from Benton Harbor on

Great ideas from Susan (I didn't read all the posts). Our Pastor challenged us one day to look at our lives and make sure we are grateful for the 4:19 things we have. Im sure I don't have to tell you where that's from! ;) Everything we have is God-given and it will meet our needs. I try often to be thankful for all the 419's that I have; a nice suv that can fit my family and runs well, a house that we can afford and that keeps us warm and protected, a family without health issues, jobs for hubby and me, etc. Our house is not huge, and it's old...luckily hubby is a lic. builder and electrician and has remodeled it. I am thankful that we are not at risk of foreclosure b/c we didn't fall for the 'too good to be true, buy what you can't afford' mortgage deals! You may be cramped, but you can do it. Im no statistics major but the families that I know who grew up in shared space are very close families. They know how to share, work together and solve problems. Invest in lots of shelves and put them in every room. This is all temporary, one way or another. Either your situation will improve or your children will grow up and move out...either way, right now, today...it's 419! :)

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T.A.

answers from Grand Rapids on

S.,

I have 5 boys and while we are remodeling our home we are all tightly squeezed into 1500 square foot of space. There are some tricks that help.

In the summer store the bulky winter blankets inbetween the mattress and box spring, all laid out flat. Then when the weather gets cool again you know right where they are.

Instead of nightstands by the beds or coffee tables in the living room I use a couple of rubbermaid covered containers stacked, put a squre board over the very top and cover with some pretty fabric, an unused sheet, or blanket, or tablecloth. Then you can get rid of the end tables and nightstands yet not lose any storage.

My boys sleep on twin bed with bookcase headboards, I had some leftover floor joists from the remodeling project and had my husband make them into squares exactly the size of a twin mattress, then took a couple pieces of plywood to make "lids" for them. (he used some smaller pieces of wood to make a support frame to hold the plywood up-I can give you better building plans if your interested) We then put the metal frames and boxsprings in storage, put the twin mattress right on this wooden box and use the space under the bed to rotate out unused toys and store off season clothes. All I have to do is slide half the mattress off to get in one end, or the other half off to get in the other end.

I have shelves everywhere, dead corners, unused high areas around the ceilings, you would be amazed at how much you can fit on a shelf. I got some cardboard boxes that I covered with pretty contact paper for some of them, I also put infrequently used bulky items on a high shelf also.

You will also be amazed at how much you can live without. I put some things in storage over 3 years ago and recently went through them. I honestly never missed most of it. So I figured that if I hadn't used it in that long, I wouldn't regret it too much if it was gone for good.

Good luck to you and God Bless, you will adjust, and everything will be OK!

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