I will never forget a sweet family I once knew. The mom, dad and four kids were living in an 800 square ft home. The parents slept in the living room so that the children could share the two bedrooms. The place was tiny. Yet, it was spotless. It was organized. And, it was a comfortable place to visit.
I loved going to visit and being in the happy family’s home didn’t feel uncomfortable, it was a true blessing. I admired the mother for keeping her chin up under her circumstance. But, I never pitied her because I knew she took pride in what she was able to do with her surroundings.
As my family grew, I would call her and ask her how to keep things organized. She would encourage me to get rid of what we didn’t need or use. She also had great storage ideas.
Our house started out not too much bigger then hers and the babies just kept coming. Whenever I felt upset with my circumstance I would think of her and it would keep me going. We’ve managed to add on a few more square feet, but we still have a small home for seven people.
These are the things that I have learned about living in a small home with five children:
Teach my children to love each other rather then stuff
We all know that we can’t take “it” with us. Why do we insist on cluttering our homes with stuff and plastic junk? I want to instill good character in my children. I want to teach them how to love one another and serve each other. None of this requires the use of plastic stuff. Life is about personal relationships with others.
Does this mean I don’t own any plastic junk? No! But, I question every item that enters my house.
Sharing is essential to life
The best way to learn how to cooperate with someone is having to share something with them. We share one bathroom with seven people. Let me tell you, it is tough. But, I honestly think that our family is as close as it is because of the kind of cooperation that we have to have with each other.
Our children share rooms with each other too. They don’t have the same interests so we have to carefully think over new hobbies. One of my children has an interest in astronomy. Before I bought him a telescope for Christmas I had to ask, ” Where are we going to put it?”. Usually, if something comes in then something needs to go out too.
Since they share space, I have to consider everyone involoved. It’s often a family decision about what comes into the house and what goes out.
Stuff is a hinderance
Too much stuff hinders creativity. Children will find many ways to play with anything that is available. If left outside for long periods of time they build shelters and forts. And, they will come up with a myriad of games using sticks, leaves and nuts.
Children that have everything get bored quickly. They say they have “nothing to do”. Since they may not get a chance to use their creativity if they are always given new things, they think they are bored. If children are given too much, they will value none of it.
My new attitude about stuff
We have developed a certain attitude about stuff. I know it is because we were forced to examine everything that comes through our door by asking:
- Do we need this?
- Does this add value to our lives?
- Where will we keep this when we are not using it?
- Does this develop creativity or hinder it?
I once had a friend ask me if I missed being able to have more stuff. Did I feel like I couldn’t give everything that I wanted to give to my children? I realized that she was coming from a different mind set. She wanted to provide more, but not in the way that I wanted to provide more. I wanted to provide more time to be together forming relationships. All that is required is shelter, food and clothing. (And, books for us homeschoolers.)
Really! That’s it. The rest is a distraction. It may seem extreme to think about it this way, but it helps keep my focus on what really matters.
Brenda blogs at The Tie That Binds Us about her homeschooling journey with five children in a small-ish home.