Benefits of Raising Children in a Small Space

by 22 Permalink 1

I overheard a recent conversation Red had with one of his friends. They were comparing house sizes and Red claimed that his “house was huuuuge.”  Neighbor friend countered that his house was bigger. Red insisted that his house was bigger. And on it went. We moms smiled to each other over our not-so-steaming-anymore-cups of coffee, and I marveled at the unique perspective of a two-and-a-half year old who believes that 450 sq. ft. is a palace.

Here in America many of us have bought into the ideal that children need their own room for individualism, their own playroom and added sq. ft. to be well-adjusted and happy. It’s easy to assume that with each added person in a family more room is necessary. (And of course I admit that teenagers will need more space than toddlers do, but for these early years children do not need much area to thrive.) We are discovering that rearing kids in a tiny home is not only possible, but there are added blessings as well. Read on to learn some of the benefits of raising children in a small space.

First of all, I just need to say that children up to a certain age have an altered sense of distance since they’re so small. (Have you ever returned to your elementary school? Noticed how the once-endless hallway wasn’t so gaping after all?) Secondly, they don’t care about how big their room is. What matters is that they have a nice, cozy, loving, safe environment in which to live. Sure, they notice when houses have large open spaces to run in, but that doesn’t mean our home needs to be that way.

So. Benefit number one?

It encourages imagination

But what about toys?  Aren’t your children deprived of lots of fun toys to play with? No, actually. Thanks to wonderfully generous relatives, our boys have plenty of nice things to enjoy, thank you very much. However—and anyone with children will back me on this—most of the time they’d prefer to NOT play with their toys. That new computer box or the empty paper towel roll or daddy’s hand-held drill or mommy’s kitchen whisk are all normally WAY cooler than traditional trinkets. Oh, no. Our boys are not deprived of play things. Their imaginations and innovative spirits run rampant with many materials in our home, as well as with their toys. In fact, much of their playtime includes no objects at all, as is evidenced by the invisible pet crickets and stegosauruses our home currently houses. Thankfully, even the Shoebox has enough space for imaginary dinosaurs.

It models moderation

Raising children in a small space models moderation in consuming. When we shop, we shop for specific  items—things for which we have planned for which we have space available. We aren’t blind consumers, hypnotized by momentary wants and glittering ads. We do our best to make wise decisions about what enters our home and hearts, including material items, food items, even ideas and words that could invade through a show on a screen! It’s our way of “guarding our souls,” like Prov. 22:5 suggests:

Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them. Proverbs 22:5

By limiting (or at least filtering) everything that would come into this space, we are hopefully setting our children up for a life of moderation and wise decisions.

It teaches responsibility

Raising children in a small space teaches them responsibility and cleanliness. Because we ALL ALWAYS use ALL the space the Shoebox provides, we must do our best to keep it as clean as possible (or at least picked up) for the enjoyment and safety of the whole family. The table is cleaned after every use—be it my writing or Red learning his letters or family breakfast—because it is such a commonly used area. It is hopefully left spotless and open for the next use. Toys and shoes (shoes, because Number Two LOVES them and can’t keep himself from randomly depositing them in the oddest of places, see point #1) are cleaned up twice a day, once before nap time and once before bedtime. Cleaning up is often a struggle because, let’s face it, our children are ages 2.5 and 1. But we’re working on it, and as the routine of responsibly picking up after yourself continues to soak in, our prayer is that being responsible with their belongings will also become a cherished habit.

Of course, all these benefits of raising children in a small space can also be taught in any sized space. And our friends who live in larger homes—so, all of our friends—definitely embrace similar concepts in their parenting. We just find that smaller sq. footage forces us to be more diligent and purposeful in training imagination, moderation and responsibility.

This is list is by no means exhaustive. What other benefits and blessings of raising kids in a small space can you think of? Chip in  below and let us know!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
  • Jane Sasser
    July 1, 2013

    I love “even the Shoebox has enough space for imaginary dinosaurs.” I couldn’t ask for a better raising for my grandsons. 🙂

  • Anna Lockwood
    July 1, 2013

    My favorite benefit is knowing where your children are. In large homes people can get “lost” in a way not possible in small homes. 🙂

    • Evelyn
      July 2, 2013

      So true, Anna! I never have to wonder where my littles are, although that doesn’t mean they don’t find nooks and crannies to hide away in… 😉

  • Jenifer
    July 1, 2013

    I would say a certain familial closeness as well as learning to negotiate space for ourselves is a unique benefit of small living. I think it’s something siblings learn when they share a room, too.

    I also beg the question as to whether teenagers need more space. Isn’t it the same supposition that anyone needs more space? That baby does? Because I discover that those teens go to university, and immediately pack themselves like sardines into dorms, studios, flats, and houses. Perhaps they don’t?

    Anyway, we are banking on that. I don’t want to leave my small place. 😀

    • Evelyn
      July 2, 2013

      Jenifer, I love the familial closeness we enjoy too. I hope it continues! Also, you definitely have a point on whether or not teens need more space. I guess I think back to my high school years–I had my own room and I genuinely appreciated it. Then again, if we didn’t have room for it and I was used to squeezing in small quarters with my family, maybe I wouldn’t’ have minded that either. Great thoughts!

  • Lois
    July 1, 2013

    I love having a small space and find it works exceptionally when my grandchildren are here. I don’t have to set limits on which rooms they can go in, I can see them st all times as I only have one room and a bath.

    Children don’t need a lot of toys, too much and they wont value them. Here we create art regularly with found objects from pi scones to toilet paper rolls. Weather permitting they help in the garden, pull weeds, climb trees, play in dirt and sand and cha e butterflies. When we need a little downtime there are rotating books we get from the library.

    • Evelyn
      July 2, 2013

      Hi Lois, thanks for your great ideas of fun (cheap!) things to do with children. You sound like a fantastic grandma! 🙂 We are big fans of the ‘ol library too.

  • Jessica (@mamanewland)
    July 2, 2013

    We are about to majorly downsize and move in to my husband’s grandparents house to help care for his Grandma. It will be older and much smaller. This excites me and scared me all at the same time. I’d take all the tips you’ve got! 🙂

    • Evelyn
      July 2, 2013

      What a wonderful thing to do, Jessica–so giving! Just approach the change with a positive attitude; it will be a wonderful learning adventure! 🙂

  • Lisa
    July 2, 2013

    We have found that a small space teaches us to appreciate what we have, and we hope that carries through to our children. We have 1,000 sq. ft., which still seems plenty large to us but is a fraction of the size of the homes of many in our peer group. We don’t care. We like the idea of raising our kids in a home that we can easily afford (no money fights, sets a good financial example) and where we have to respect that others are using the same spaces (clean up!). When I hear my three-year-old say things like, “Mom and Dad, you have a cool house!” or “We have a big house!” I don’t really get the impression that we’re depriving our kids by living small. 😉

    • Evelyn
      July 2, 2013

      Lisa, you sound like kindred spirits! I’m sure your children will pick up on your contentment–after all, they say that children learn by the examples we set, not what we tell them, right? 🙂 Thanks for chipping in.

  • sustainablemum
    July 6, 2013

    I don’t know how big our house is in sq ft but I know that compared to most houses in America it is small, but where I live it is considered average for a family house. When you have a small space you usually have less stuff which means you have less to tidy up, less areas to clean and more time to enjoy living. I find it is better for my sanity and the state of the house if everything has a home, a place it could be stored even if it is not there for 90% of the time! I would not change my space for all the money in the world, although a bit more land to grow more tress would be good 🙂

    • Evelyn
      July 8, 2013

      Love your thoughts, Sustainable Mum! I’m with you–more trees is always a good thing. 🙂

  • HappinessSavouredHot
    August 27, 2013

    What I like about a smaller place is that family members don’t isolate themselves in rooms at the extremities of the house. You spend more time close together.

    • Evelyn
      August 27, 2013

      Hi there, YES, it’s so true! In fact, more often than not I find I’m stepping over my boys as they play in the tiny kitchen with me, or they’re clamoring over my clothes bin as I’m attempting to pull something out of it. I hope and pray that my children will grow up with a close bond as they get older as a result of living so literally “close.” Thanks for stopping by!

  • elle
    June 29, 2014

    Hi, Id love some advice how to settle in a small home (homeschooling family 4 kids) in a small 3 br house? We have most of our stuff stored in the cubbyhouse outside and in our small truck and I contantly look for things!! We are here temporarily but it can be another 6 months…..12 months….
    I tend to forget about my stuff but struggle to feel settled with some boxes nestled in the corner of the living room.

    • Evelyn
      June 30, 2014

      Hi Elle,
      I’m so glad to have you here! That sounds like a whole blog post in an of itself– “perching” somewhere temporarily is so, so hard. I don’t like to give advice as a rule, but off the top of my head I think I’d encourage you to settle in as much as possible. Our “temporary” one year downsize has turned into four years, and it has helped me tremendously to embrace where we are at now as home. If you can get to the things that you keep wanting, pull those out. Otherwise create rhythms and spaces that help you live as full as possible no matter how long you stay at this current house. Stay tuned for a post next week… 😉 Thank you so much for commenting!

  • Hannah
    September 24, 2015

    I lived in a fairly big house since I was a kid and my mom would always tell me to pick up my stuff and don’t let the my laundry pile up (we do our laundry separately so that we would learn at an early age). When I moved into a condo, I realized how important it is to make the most out of the space you have. It taught me to organize my stuff and be frequent on my laundry and not just pile it up until I need fresh clothes to wear. It’s just like organizing you inventory in Resident Evil 4 or Diablo 2. You really need to make each square foot count.

    • Evelyn
      September 24, 2015

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Hannah!

  • Linda
    January 19, 2017

    I know this blog is a couple of years old now, but I am wondering how your needs have changed (if at all) since posting this blog?
    We currently live in a 775ft³ townhouse. Our son is 4.5 years old and enjoying the friends in the complex. Although I agree with the closeness of living in a small space, our unit is VERY tiny and we are really BURSTING out of the place (while being very selective of what we bring in). So, we have put in an offer on a big family home in our neighborhood and all of a sudden I start doubting this move – what if my child becomes lonely and miserable? I grew up in a huge family house and I loved it, but in those days it was still safe to play outside with the friends in the street… Please could you give me some encouragement?

    • Evelyn
      January 19, 2017

      Hi Linda! Oh sweet friend, I’m so grateful for your comment. I understand where you are at because we had officially grown the Shoebox in the spring of 2014. I felt the squeeze keenly, but I also had mixed emotions about leaving our teeny home. 😉 My thoughts to you are: If you know you have outgrown your current home, that’s OKAY. There are major benefits to living in small spaces, but if you know that your family does need some more space to thrive, then have faith in that decision and go forward in peace. 🙂 As for you child becoming lonely and miserable, I highly doubt it. 🙂 He will make new friends in your new neighborhood and will be stronger for it. If you have really great friends you will be leaving behind, be intentional about inviting them over or scheduling time to see them! I find that relationships you must work to keep strong tend to richen and deepen because you both must make the effort to see one another and stay in touch. And, by the way, I do a LOT of playdates to invite friends over or meet them at parks to encourage fellowship for all of us.

      As far as where we are at right now, I still believe 100% in every one of these benefits. We are now a large family in 1,000 sq. ft., so we do still live in a relatively small space for six people (for America!). 😉 Although our home isn’t TINY anymore, we still see blessings from residing closely and being intentional with how we live. You can still foster those values even in a larger home. 🙂 I hope that helped ease your mind a little bit. Thanks so much for piping up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *