Large Family in a Small House: 5 Ways to Thrive

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Hi there and HAPPY MONDAY! Sorry for shouting. No, not really. I’ve always been a little bit too much of a morning person. 😉 I shared several weeks ago about how grace allows us to live as five people in 450 sq. ft., and that’s so true. Today I thought I’d suggest some practical ways to thrive as a large family in a small house. Click through to join me. Come on! It’ll be fun!


1  |  Play Musical Spots

Remember the game “Musical Chairs”? You know, where chairs are arranged in a circle, and players walk around them while music plays. When the music stops, everyone scrambles for a seat. The person who is left standing is “out.”

Living in a small space can be a lot like Musical Chairs. After all, there are only so many spots a person can nestle into for each activity. Often times a family member can feel “out” if they don’t have a place where they fit for each part of the day.

The trick to thriving as a large family in a tiny apartment is to shift spots in a way that no one feels displaced. Put simply: take turns. If beds are used up or currently off limits, we use pillows and blankets to create a cozy reading nest. If the table is covered in paperwork that can’t be moved, the kids will get a kitchen-floor picnic snack. If I’m cooking dinner and need to sauté without stepping over a child or answering 52 questions about Thomas the Train, then I must take a couple minutes to set the boys up for some individual play time in the toy corner.

So play Musical Spots, but make sure to use every available “chair” to ensure that everyone has a place to settle.


2  |  Clean Often

I used to have a manager at Starbucks who would say, “As the floor goes, so the store goes.” It’s so true. The floor, as the largest piece of “furniture” in any home, sets the stage for how tidy a space looks. We have set “pick up” times throughout each day to try to keep the Shoebox livable, but I still find myself bending to clear the floor often. The fact is simply that clean places are much more enjoyable to inhabit. So clean often. Wipe the horizontal surfaces when you have five free minutes (hah! because that happens SOMUCH). Pull family members on board with how neat you would like the house to remain most of the time, and hold them accountable to do their part. (That’s another joke with toddlers, but still, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?). Do what you can, when you can, and overall your small space will feel a little bit more roomy when it’s not as unkempt.


3  |  Spend a Lot of Time Together

Living in a small home doesn’t guarantee that a family will spend much quality time together. In fact, it is way too easy to get caught up in individual screens or activities and end up largely ignoring one another for large amounts of the day. So tip #3 is this: intentionally spend a lot of time together. Play family games. Read books together. Do the dishes as a unit. Go for walks all together. Watch a family movie, even. The more you practice interacting as a family, the better you’ll thrive at it.


4  |  Spend a Lot of Time Out of the House

As much as we love our Shoebox home, we won’t deny that it feels cramped at times. When we’re feeling squished, it helps to leave. 🙂 Our little patio serves as an extension to our house and gets us the little bit of fresh air we often crave. If we have some time, we take long walks to parks or arrange a play date at a friends’ house. It’s a great idea to have a handle on what’s fun to do around town each week to help break up the day. After spending a couple hours out and about, your small home will feel cozy and inviting once again… just in time for naps. 🙂


5  |  Think Ahead

Here’s the daily scenario: Little Lady is tired and wants a nap. I can’t put her in the crib because the boys’ nap time is approaching. They will need to sleep in their own beds, and I don’t want to attempt to move the baby in the middle of her nap. So I must think ahead to who will need which space at what time. I usually will tuck her into a corner of our bed, bordered safely by pillows. Then I’ll darken the apartment and read books with the boys either in their room or in a blanket nest in a corner. When you plan ahead for space usage, determine which family member will need a certain room or area the most first. Then arrange the rest of the family according to their specific needs.


Living as a large family in a small house can get frustrating at times, but by playing Musical Spots, cleaning often, spending time together and out of the house and planning ahead, you will find that life isn’t just more manageable. You’ll truly thrive.


Hey small space dwellers! Any other tips to add? Jump in the comments below. 🙂

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  • Jayleen Zotti
    August 18, 2014

    You guys are amazing! I love how you make it work and have a great attitude!

    • Evelyn
      August 18, 2014

      You’re sweet, Jayleen. We don’t always have great attitudes, but we sincerely try! 😉

  • Kara
    August 20, 2014

    Thank you for this! We serve overseas with an NGO, and have learned to live in smaller and smaller apartments. It is so fun to see Americans who don’t ‘have to’ thriving in even smaller spaces than we have.

    • Evelyn
      August 20, 2014

      Hey Kara! Living overseas is one of the best ways to appreciate “small” living, I think. So glad you stopped by. Thanks for commenting!

  • Connie
    August 21, 2014

    We had 8 kids in a one bath, small home. You have some really good suggestions. Keeping the level surfaces clear and getting outside were real lifesavers for us!

    • Evelyn
      August 21, 2014

      Wow! Great thought. I have a love-hate relationship with horizontal surfaces. I wish we didn’t need them, but often I feel like we do…. *sigh* Life is such a process! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
    August 21, 2014

    Oh my goodness! I love this and I love that we’ve connected! When I’m at a computer I’ll be following you everywhere.

    I have always “dreamed” of living in a small home. Even though many would say that 1000 sq feet is small – I see those small homes and think -yeah – I would love that.

    I look forward to following along. Thank you for introducing yourself to me. I look forward to getting to know you more.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend!

    • Evelyn
      August 22, 2014

      Thanks for popping by, Jennifer! It’s so fun to connect. Let’s keep in touch!

  • Jerilyn
    August 30, 2014

    We have more space than you (800 ft sq) but I can so relate about musical spots! Only 1 of mine still naps but all 3 of my boys get rotated through there at some point in order to change things up 🙂

    • Evelyn
      September 1, 2014

      Hi Jerilyn, 800 sq ft is still TINY for a family. So you have like “nap time stations”? That’s a great idea!! Thanks for chipping in. 🙂

  • Anna
    July 20, 2017

    Hi.. We have 5 kids aged between 10 and 10 months and live in a 750sq foot 3 bed maisonette with no garden. We have created a “dining room” under the stairs and we all sleep in the same “family sleep room”. The small bedroom is our dressing room and the other bedroom is now a playroom with a climbing wall, screens for each older child and a craft desk. No toys or screens are allowed in the sleep room, books only. Sometimes we feel like we need more, but we do love our home, and the challenges it presents us 🙂 xxx

    • Evelyn
      July 24, 2017

      Hi Anna! Wow, it sounds like you’ve figured out how to maximize your small space. I love how you’ve learned to thrive as a big family in a small home. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing! <3

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