Living Well In Less Space

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Living Well In Less Space

Have you ever felt like you  needed  just a little bit more room? or a bigger house? or  a larger kitchen? I’ve moved over 20 times and I can assure you that the next house is not always bigger-- sometimes it’s smaller—drastically so.  The magazines that talk about this topic  almost always fail in one particularly striking way, in my opinion. The furniture (with special storage inside) that  they suggest and the organizers and the tearing down of this or that wall to allow for that bay window storage bench, or some other space saving feature almost always require money.  Now if we had plenty of money, we wouldn’t be living in a house that is ‘too small’ would we? I’ve yet to find one truly helpful solution for those on a limited budget for this problem except for Maria's post here about the importance of space planning before buying furniture.

Most of my friends have homes with anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet..which I have to say sometimes makes me feel a wee bit envious. Sigh...Our homes over the years have normally been around 1800 sq. ft. and for much of that time housed seven young adult sized family members.  In fact, that’s how big our current house is, but we also have a guest room for my daughter, plus a small storage building for seasonal things and a workshop for hubby’s garage stuff—no garage.  The bedroom space is fine..but the living space is pretty cramped.  

The guest bath is very small considering that  three teenagers (and at one time four) share it.  In our living room, we not only house the couch, chair, and entertainment center, plus a couple of bookshelves and a hutch, but the piano and the cubbyhole shelf for fabric. It’s a pretty tight squeeze.  We can just barely get our large dining room table and a china hutch in the dining room—and not much else. 

boys' desks

We have two living areas,  but only one dining area. We have no guest rooms, library, media room, or basement. If we didn’t have so many people, we would probably have plenty of space.  But as it is, we can barely get past the washer and dryer in our ‘mud room’ and still open the dryer door. The second living area is our office/school room/craft room housing four desks, and three bookshelves and one hutch. 

I have to say that as we are all bumping around the kitchen trying to make lunches and clean up, I have sometimes found myself wishing for a bigger house.  (We have lots of company!) I have even dreamed, more than once, that I suddenly ‘discovered’ an additional room in the house. It was so fun getting that one last bulky piece of furniture out of a cramped room and into the new one. Of course, then I woke up. Sigh…

One solution that I feel truly works is something my DIL, from Germany, Ebeth does. She not only throws out everything (just sparing the kitchen sink), but she replaces bulky furniture with lighter, thinner pieces. 

 I noticed, while staying with her dad, Klaus, in his flat in Germany, that everything is smaller in Europe! Bath towels are about a 1/2 to a 1/3 of the size of ours. The spoons are more like espresso cup spoons. Furniture is NOT ornate or heavy. IKEA style is very popular everywhere. I took a lesson from her and got rid of a bulky high chair (4' square of floor space) and replaced it with a vintage high chair that was only 18 x 18" of floor space--thin and compact. It fit great in our tiny dining room.   I also replaced our old heavy 80's style fat sofa with a much narrower width couch that actually had more seating than the old one plus it's matching loveseat!

Sell your bulky stuff on Craig's list..then go buy smaller things from the same place!  It would make sense for us to do the same thing with our coffee table, end tables and dining room table and chairs.  Small Furnish has a lot of good ideas on this topic. I didn't know there were so many pieces of furniture designed especially to save space or do double duty. But IKEA has the cheapest prices and their designs really are very streamlined, which is why Elisabeth loves their stuff so much. I will say that she buys her IKEA stuff on Craig's list not from IKEA. She's almost as frugal as me. :o)


The quickest solution to lack of space

is NOT to get a bigger house...

I’m convinced, within my heart, that whatever home the Lord puts us in, is the one I need to be content with. We once lived in a 500 sq. foot house with only three rooms with four children! It can be done. :o) Of course, we all agree that it’s much harder to downsize than to upsize.
living room one side

If you need more space and can’t get a bigger house, then the best solution is  to get rid of things—especially furniture (and the stuff in it if it’s a storage piece.) 
This month, I was beginning to feel cramped in our living room and knew the time had come to get rid of some things. Tim and I decided that we needed to get rid of a bookshelf.  Of course we also got rid of a LOT of books too! Sniff...  (Seven large boxes of books are ready to go..and we can now sell the huge storage hutch in the living room!)  Rebekah and I took stock of what could be removed from the living room and decided that the antique sewing machine, the retro style leather chair, and possibly the lovely cradle that Percy sleeps in would just have to go. Wow—that hurts!  Those are all pretty things that give our house character.  But they are also a tremendous waste of space and I know it.

To be honest, those things are also cramping our lifestyle right now. We need room for grandkids to play, for the teens to have their friends over, and to have company. People are more important than decor—plain and simple.  So these items are all going on Craig’s list except the cradle, which we will give back to my mom. Sigh..I do love pretty things like this, but I want my hubby and family to feel comfortable too. When even HE notices that we are getting cramped..well, it’s time to do something.’s his house too and he has no interest in antiques.  I think sometimes, we homemakers forget that little fact.

So I’m selling a few treasures, which will help with the family budget…and with the lack of space. But when we are done, we will have more room for family fun which makes it all worth it!  I have to remind myself of some very good advice that a pastor once gave me.

And in the spirit of blogging friendship I'm linking with Clip Cafe on her WIP linky party. She's organizing just like me. I'm still working on the livingroom. And I'm trying to sell stuff. Hope to get to post a photo of a more streamlined livingroom next week. :o) If you are in the middle of a project, you might like to join her too!

Hubby, son, Andrew, DIL Ebeth, kids, Jacob and Rebekah, and Ebeth's father, Klaus with our mutual grandson, August.

 ‘Love people and enjoy things, not the other way around.’  We need to hold our family close…
and our things..loosely.
Because, after all, they are just things.  

When we are discontent with the size of our homes, without meaning to, we can inadvertently give a hurtful message to our husbands.. It's the idea that they are somehow not providing good enough for us. Our men need our encouragement and support..not a ‘you’re failing’ message.    

We want Hubby to know that we are content with his best,
because most men are doing their best to provide for us. 

Sometimes the Lord simply doesn’t allow us to ‘have more’ because he knows it wouldn’t be good for us or our family.  It’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson, but I hope that by sharing this struggle with you, I can encourage you to do a little soul searching about the ‘space issues’ in your home.  Perhaps the solution to lack of space in your home is to downsize your possessions rather than to upsize your house. :o)  When you get rid of your end up with space...plenty to move around and relax. It just means letting go of that stuff we 'love' so much. It's hard...but when you do feel great!

Philippians 4:11 I am not saying this because I am in need, 
for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Is there some area in your life where you have learned to be content...or need to learn?


Mary Ann Pickett said...

Absolutely right "Love people, not things..." Our house is small, too. I really try to have comfort but not overcrowding. I think the trend really is to downsize anyway. Your family is darling.
Mary Ann

Breathing In Grace said...

You are such an inspiration!!!

Trudy said...

I feel your pain, Donna. This post hits right to the heart. I am so in need of getting rid of stuff. I have way too many books. We have 12 book cases in our home, and it still isn't enough to hold all of our books. I can totally relate to you space wise. Our home is 1900 square feet. The bedrooms are small with no walk-in closets, except one very narrow one in the master that hardly qualifies. Our kitchen is galley style, just a walk-through with a teeny tiny pantry. Our dining is part of the living room. There is no breakfast room, but there is a breakfast bar, which is a big help. We having two living areas, thank goodness, since we have so many hobbies and we homeschool. Our living room/dining serves as the music room, living room and school room. The entrance is lined with book shelves and serves as the library minus the chairs. The activity room houses the computer, art table, sewing desk and acts as a play room as well. That is a good message to be content with what we have and thankful for our husband's provision. By the way, I put up a hula hooping post today with a mention of you. I have another one posting on Thursday.

Laura said...

Great post, Donna! We could all do with a little culling out. We've been trying this here at home. I really love your idea about replacing bulky furniture with smaller pieces...this really does help...and second hand stores, thrift shops, and yard sales are great places to find these items!

Hope you have a blessed week!

Kerrie said...

Great Post Donna! I have been trying to get rid of things for about 10 yrs now! We have been in this house for 5 yrs....And the work goes on-LOL!

Caroline said...

I hate hate hate feeling overwhelmed with stuff. Right now I am feeling overwhelmed by my sewing stash. Must reduce the clutter!! hmmm, I remember you were going to do a post on organizing that. Maybe I missed it while I was sick?

Such freedom getting rid of things! When we moved to this house (much bigger than our rental, 1200 sq feet to about 1900 - this one is a palace!) we unpacked our books and got rid of enough that they fit in the library / play room / sewing room. We still have a bit more to do in the garage. I wish the downsizing was easier and less time consuming.

Donna said...

You are right Caroline. I was going to do that post on organizing the sewing stash. I have got some photos...that would be good for this week. :o) I'll let you know when it's up.

But I think I need to purge first!! I have too much fabric too.


Ky said...

Another meaningful post from Donna. Well said! There's nothing worse than being cramped when there is company. It's irritating.
I hate clutter and even though we have moved into a bigger house recently, I still feel like there is too much stuff. So, the purging continues.

Ky xx

Donna said...

Thanks Trudy! I liked that post! Darling photos!

Donna said...

Comment by Over Yonder

Great article! I agree a bigger home doesn't mean a better one. Your home looks so neat,orderly,sweet,comfortable and homey!! I like our home too but we honestly would have been just fine if it had been just our upper level. (especially if we had all that lovely acreage you have!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I have had my things in Storage 3 times in my life for 2-3 years. I lived in RV's and now a home that we watch. This has been the means to teach me that I can manage very well without all my THINGS.
Here soon the stuff that was in my last home has been in storage at my son's rental. They have to move by June and It will come here. I know now that I must go through it and get rid of things that are not necessary. This post has helped me very much. At our ages things begin to drag you down with all their up keep. So I will keep the things that are useful and that have special meaning and are useful.
If I can't use an antique I will sell it.
After all This Place is not our Home. We have a spiritual Citizen ship-looking for the return of our Lord.

Between you, me and the Fencepost said...

I love what you say about Hubby doing his best to provide for us and being unhappy is sending a message that we aren't happy when they are doing their best. There have been times when I have just learned to shut my mouth when I complain because it bothers Aaron so much and the way you say that Hubby is doing his best. Hits home. Of course Aaron takes my complaining personally. His best is put into what we have. I will see more from that perspective when I want to be a whiny brat and shut my mouth!

Donna said...

Great job girls! It's a never ending process. If I didn't have trouble keeping up with the de-cluttering..I wouldn't be writing about it.

And the part about hubby..I learned that from other wise women. I didn't just 'know' that. But I HAVE learned, over the years, to look more at situations from hubby's perspective.

It's so easy to derail our marriage relationship by sending negative messages...and we don't even mean to. We just have to be careful. :o)

Trudy, I've seen your house and you are right--you are working with the small space--big family problem too. Just start, one room at a time.

Photography said...

Great post (again!!!) Thanks for linking up.

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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