How to live in a small house with a big family
A few months back I started my tiny living series on my YouTube channel. I had often spoke about how as a family of 4 we live in a 2 up 2 down and how we manage it. I also often get comments asking how we make it work or that they don’t understand how we manage it! Answer is quite simple really….we don’t have much stuff!! living in a smaller house requires a bit of creativity but also we are very much a frugal family who are trying to reduce waste, live sustainably and save so reducing what we have hasn’t been hard.
Back story is that we move into the house very quickly as Chris had left the army and we didn’t have long to leave the married quarter and find a new house. I wanted to stay in the village we live in and rented properties do not often come up. The cost of renting was going to be a huge for us as we were use to paying our 200 pounds a month for our property including our council tax (named differently as its different to what civilians pay). The 3 bedroomed properties, though the normal rates for around here was a shock to us and so 2 bedrooms would have to do for now. We knew mortgage payments would be much cheaper but with his health problems, sudden move and a tiny toddler, renting would have to do until we could save enough for a deposit. Another thing that I know frustrated my husband was that we could have purchased a help to buy property in a another local village however with me not knowing anyone in the area other than people in our village, Sebastian settled in his nursery and the help that I had around me, I didn’t not want to move to a new area where the help to buy properties are available and whilst there are plans to build houses in our current village, it hasn’t happened yet. Older properties require much higher deposits.
Our little 2 up 2 down is on our village green and Highstreet street meaning that we literally have everything on our doorstep and I absolutely love it! Our house is on a row of small cottage terraces and every single one has an extension on the end be it a full extension or just conservatory. They have room for dining tables, storage or playrooms etc. Our house is the smallest with no extension meaning that its literally our living room and Kitchen. Upstairs we have a landing with our main bedroom which is very large, bathroom that is a decent enough size for what we need it for and Sebastians room (Albert will share) which is smaller but still a decent enough size.
Our old house was also a 2 bed but had slightly more storage and rooms meaning that we did accumulate more furniture which we have kept in storage until such time that we move and need it.
We have had to make a few sacrifices and the hardest one has been the dining room table. I think we would feel it’s loss more if Chris worked a normal 9-5 meaning we eat together each night. But we don’t and he is often not around. Sebastian enjoys eating on his little Ikea table and Albert has now joined him on there, and me being busy sorting things out in the kitchen eats my meals later and on my lap which is what i’d likely do anyway if I am on my own. We do eat out a lot as a family when Chris is home. However I do wish so much that we could sit down as a family more often on a table and it is somethings I really have missed recently. But we decided not to bring it as it would go in the place where we now keep our ‘play area’. With 2 children, and a husband who works so much it was essential to have a large space for them to play. I go through the toys regularly and keep it a Montessori style theme. I have done a video on this here and will do a blog post on zero waste/minimal toys soon. Rotating them regularly for toys that are in their room helps.
We had huge issues getting sofas in and out of our last place (chopping them up or removing windows!!thats another story) so we had to chop our sofa up to get it out when we left. Thankfully it was was on sale when we brought it. We didn’t want to take the window out again, it was bad enough first time. When I moved in, Chris was away and so it was down to me. I love a good bargain and I am super frugal and we really are working towards being more minimal/zero waste. As this was a temporary home I decided to look for something second hand. I found a lovely sofa squashy and comfy sofa in our local charity furniture shop. They delivered it all for £80 pounds.
It is a sort of chord brown underneath so a nice large white throw really brightens it up. On dull days the room can be quite dark so having lighter colour can really brighten it up. I also got these scandi style cushions have added some colour and style. The lights were kept up from Christmas time as I loved how they looked! Having one sofa can be a pain if we have guests, but we make do and will head out if need be. We live right across the road from a play cafe and other cafes!
We decided to store our TV unit as it was quite wide and my husband brought it as a surprise. I have to say I am not keen on it. It was costly and quite modern with little character and so not my style. My main issue is the children being able to touch the TV and Sebastian was only little at the time. So I purchased this unit from a charity shop for £25 pounds and the painted it. It makes great storage for my books and craft things as we lost the storage for that as there isn’t room for our old bookshelf. I added new handles which gave it a new lease of life.
The nest of tables match and I purchased them second hand off a selling site. They are not too big that they don’t fit and big enough that Sebastian often uses it as a little table to eat on.
Minimalism really is key here!! Making sure you only have out what you need. Like I said we have put a lot in storage but only as we are downsizing temporarily. Meaning using the walls for photos rather then standing frame on shelves, selective with ornaments, and donating ones we couldn’t fit and that didn’t have such sentimental value. You really don’t need much ‘stuff’. Plus its more to clean!! We have under stairs storage and coat hangers behind the sofa.
We have 3 plastic containers which contain precious baby clothes/items, 2 memory boxes and clothes we have kept to be handed down. Plus our double pram which we don’t use much but don’t want to let go off, the baby car seat and there is still space! Its all about boxing it away, and neat placement of things. We also have a rule. Both Chris and I are only allowed one large plastic box each with our memory items. For example mine contains stuff from when I was in school, diaries, photos, old valuable CDs, precious letters and things. This keeps hoarding to a minimum.
The kitchen is a decent size and we also keep sides minimal. We only use about 3 cupboards for food and crockery etc so it leaves us with about 4 large cupboards to store craft things, medicines, paperwork etc. I will do a video on this soon so make sure you stay subscribed!
Upstairs we are lucky the the rooms are large. Certainly the main room which has plenty of space for multiple storage units, plus a cot and also a co sleeper. You could, not that you would want to, but fit 2 children in this room as well as adults.
I recently did a room tour of how we store everything and keep things minimal. We capsule wardrobe, make sure that we only have and keep what we need and wear. This make things easier but it is so good for the mind!
Under bed storage has been essential for us, so absolutely consider this when buying. We have drawer units on either side that make full use of space underneath. Also a wardrobe where you can store things on top. We keep suitcases on it, and a plastic box of children clothes for the next size they need.
On to Sebastians room which I have not decorated or anything. As its temporary, I didn’t want to have to turn it back to before. Also he doesn’t play in there much at all and is mainly used for sleep but he has some posters and I am planning on getting some frames/ pictures to put on the wall.
This room is large enough to fit 2 toddler beds in, certainly a bed and a cot. However we plan to put in a Kura IKEA bunk bed in which will fit well and save space. We will have to store the tipi away but it can be used in our next home, erected when needed or in the garden. It isn’t something that would be greatly missed. Leaving in its place the wardrobe and some toy storage.
Hope that this post has helped. Back in the old days family of sometimes over 10 would live in 2 up 2 downs!! And it would have been totally normal and not always families who lived in poverty either! I always think if they can do it so can we. Trouble is that nowadays people are used to having so much stuff!! People think children need lots of toys and they really don’t. Technically, and not that I ever would, you could sleep 4 children and 2 adults in this 2 bedroom house!
I would have no issues having another baby in this house with the 2 older children sharing the bunk bed. However while I think it is ok for 2 small children and a baby, I don’t think it would be suitable for 3 older children (say if the youngest was around 3). Children do need more work space and privacy as they get older so somethings got bear in mind.
Thanks so much for reading, be sure to check out my YouTube channel, and I will be back soon!