That, folks, is the tiny house that our family of 7 used to live in. When I say “used to,” imagine hearing the angels of heaven singing HALLELUJAH while you ponder the size of this little dwelling.
This little house had 960 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, and a tiny dining room that we used as a third bedroom. That meant that the dining table was in the living room (which was also our school room). The kitchen had one counter, a sink, stove, and place for the fridge. This is also where the washing machine was. There was a one-car garage, which also had the dryer. There was also a greenhouse attached to the back of the house, like a lean-to.
Shew! That tour was QUICK!
When we moved in, we had three kids, and it seemed pretty small even then. But it was “temporary.” You know, til we located our dream home in the country. Little did we know that it would be 2 kids and 5 years more before we found that dream home and moved.
As our family grew and the time crawled by, I learned a few things about making this tiny space work for us.
The most important thing I learned was that my attitude matters. What God gave me, He could give me the grace to handle. And I can tell you, it took lots of grace, dished out in daily helpings, to get me through that.
As homeschoolers, we stay home the majority of the time, so we use our house constantly. Every room. That means picking up messes constantly and putting them…where? It means clearing off the table a gazillion times for meals, school, puzzles, sewing, meals, and more meals. It means having children and toys right underfoot…literally. All day!
So attitude became the most important thing for me to work on. I prayed, confessed, complained, and prayed some more and God worked in my heart. I never gave up the desire for a bigger home, but I learned to keep my desires in check while thanking God for my current home and implementing some pretty strict rules.
If you are in a tiny house and need encouragement and tips, please let me say that your day will come. In the meantime, see if you can implement any of these tips to save your sanity!
In general, keep clutter to a minimum. A small house can either feel homey or cramped. It all depends on the amount of clutter you have.
- Keep coffee tables, end tables, desks, shelves, counters, and dressers clear and clean. Only keep absolute necessities on their surface.
- Sort through your mail daily. DAILY. Don’t keep junk. Pay the bills or use a drawer to keep current papers, bills, and stamps. Don’t leave it sitting out. Stacks of stuff make you feel overwhelmed.
- If you need to save papers or receipts, scan them. Newspaper articles, recipes, cutesy poems? Read them, throw them away, or mail them to someone else. If you want to save the recipe, put it in a binder and be done with it!
- Go digital. Pinterest is a wonderful place to keep your craft ideas, gift ideas, book lists, etc. Do away with piles of stuff and organize it digitally.
- Put books on the bookshelf, magazines in a basket, remotes in a bin or basket. Keep surfaces clear. Throw trash away.
- Keep colors light. Decorate with lights and neutrals.Keep decor to a minimum. Lots of colors and decor add to the cluttered feeling, and we all know clutter is B.A.D.
- Carefully consider every purchase. If you aren’t sure where you’re going to put it, don’t get it. Use this rule for every shopping trip. It’s very freeing, and it saves money!
- Get creative with storage. Slide books and magazines, movies, video games, and other flat stuff under the sofa.
- Make your furniture do double duty. A storage bench or storage ottoman makes more sense. Beds with storage drawers under mean you don’t need a dresser.
- Utilize every inch of hidden space, like the backs of closet doors, under beds, and under cabinets. I used tons of 3M hooks in our closets to hang bags, jackets, belts, and any other thing that would hang from a hook.
- Use closet space wisely. This means you probably need to weed out your clothes to just what you need. Don’t save your skinny jeans. It will be more fun to buy new jeans when you lose weight! If you haven’t worn some of those clothes in the last YEAR, sell them or donate them. I. am. serious. You’re wasting space, and that is stressful!
- Organize dresser drawers and use that space wisely. My dresser held clothes in only 2 or 3 drawers, and I used the others for misc. items. Empty shoe boxes are great organizers. I have shoe boxes in every drawer I can think of! Sort socks, underwear, and other small garments in these. Use them to organize your make-up, hair accessories, and toiletries. (Remember: clutter is B.A.D. It makes you feel more crowded. So don’t keep everything out on your dresser!)
- Use underbed space wisely. I used to keep (okay, I sort of still do this) all my scrap fabrics. Even little tiny scraps. And that’s all that was under our queen-sized bed. Silly me! That’s a good place to put shoes or jackets when they’re out of season. Wrapping paper can also go under here.
- Use vertical storage. Book-cases can hold more than just books, and I don’t mean vases, photo frames, and decorative balls! (Decorative balls just baffle me, by the way. Maybe it’s my time spent in a tiny house that did it, but I can’t fathom decorating with a marble ball, or a twine ball, or a ball of any sort when I have stuff that actually means something to me!) I used one bookcase to hold my jewelry box, perfume, shoes, scrapbooks, diapers and wipes, sewing supplies, etc.
- Bedside tables should be extremely useful. Keep a light, your reading, and a phone charger there. If there are drawers, they can be used for storing misc. stuff from any room in your house. I keep my memories in mine (cards, photos, drawings by my children, etc.).
- Keep only as many towels as your family really needs. I mean this. You aren’t running a hotel, so you don’t need extras for company. If you have company actually spend the night, wash your family towels before they arrive and fluff them up for company. You don’t have space to store “extra” stuff right now!
- We used an over-the-door towel rack that had multiple hooks for hanging used towels. And no one is allowed to throw one in the dirty laundry! Mom does that once a week!
- If you have a tub/shower, get a second tension-shower-curtain rod to hang down the middle of the shower. I have done this for years. (Hang it high enough so the tallest member of the family isn’t bumping their head!) Use this to hang more towels, swimsuits, or drip-dry laundry out of sight. Pull the shower curtain closed and no one will know.
- Clean out your toiletries monthly. Get rid of expired stuff and decide if you have more shampoo varieties than you really need. Don’t stuff the shower with 10 different shower gels. The entire family can use the same kind. Better yet: use bar soap. It’s actually cheaper and longer lasting.
- Bath toys are overrated. Seriously, they stay wet, get mildewy, and where are you going to keep them? I struggled with all kinds of bath-toy-storage devices and none of them stayed where they needed to stay, drained water, and were out of the way. So we don’t even do them anymore. My current toddler likes to bathe her baby doll, so she does that in the tub and they are both happy. The rest of the kids take showers now, by choice.
Kids and Toys:
- Rotate toys! This is my Numero Uno tip. If you’ve never done this before, you’re going to want to set aside an afternoon. Get out all the toys and first decide what you don’t need to keep. YOU don’t play with them, so don’t whine over this. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on something, if your kids don’t use it, get rid of it! Then sort toys into groups, and keep one group in the house. Put 2 or more tubs (depending on the mountain of toys you are keeping) in storage (garage, storage unit, whatever) and rotate them every 6-8 weeks. Trust me: the next time you bring out a tub, it will be like Christmas! And you will not be cleaning up every single Lego, car, and action figure that your kids own.
- Get rid of the toy box. If you do the toy rotation, you won’t need it. They’re a jumbled mess all the time, and how many dirty diapers or PB&J sandwiches have you found in there? See? It’s no good. Use the under bed area to story bins of toys, or a bookcase with bins or boxes. We have squeezed a small bookshelf in the closet and stored toys there. We still use this method, as well as bins under the bed. No matter what size the children’s room, floor space is always good.
- Encourage your kids to get rid of stuff. I have paid my big kids $5 for each garbage bag they got rid of (whether it was trash or donations). You should have seen the clutter that left our house! I have worked with them on this so much, that now they easily get rid of things they don’t need, without any prompting from me.
- Label, label, label. To encourage the kids to clean up, I made it easy for them! Label dresser drawers, bins, etc. with pictures (if they can’t read) or signs (if they can read). This eliminates the excuse that they don’t know where to put everything. Cleaning a room is overwhelming for little kids, but this takes the guesswork out of it.
- Reduce the amount of clothes your kids have. Ask yourself just how many things they really need. If you see clothes in their room that never get worn, or rarely get worn, then it’s probably time to clear them out. Sell them or donate them.
- When you save out-grown clothes for the next siblings, again, think it through. Only save the stuff that’s in good condition or that will really get used. You want to use your storage space wisely.
- Keep your homeschool supplies to a minimum. This is SOOOOOO hard. It’s fun to buy everything out there! But it’s wiser to have only what you need. See my post about how we managed all the school stuff here.
- Sort games and learning toys. I made Activity Boxes, instead of having a pile of games and cards and manipulatives to sort through. The kids were allowed to get out one box at a time. Read the entire post here.
- Again, contemplate purchases carefully. Only keep appliances and tools that you will use regularly, and find ways to subsitute for the fancy stuff. Do you need a mixer and a blender and a food processor? Nope. A blender does a fine job for most things. Do you need a special tool for coring strawberries, or can you do that with a paring knife? See? It’s fun!
- How many bread knives do you need? Or mixing bowls? Or cookie sheets?
- Simplify your dishes. Have cups, bowls, and plates that are all the same, so they stack easily. Get rid of the cutesy cups for your kids and streamline your cabinets. I don’t know how many character cups with weird lids and straw-thingies I’ve gotten rid of. They’re mostly fun when you first buy them, and then they are forgotten anyway.
- Hang recipes and substitution lists inside cabinet doors. Again, this reduces the cluttered look. Clutter is B.A.D.
Less is More! A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place!
I started with attitude, and I will end with attitude. [clickandtweet handle=”@nickitruesdell” hashtag=”#tinyhouse” related=”” layout=”” position=””]God is not concerned with the size or spectacular-ness of your house; he’s concerned with your heart. [/clickandtweet]Is your heart grateful? Does your husband know you are thankful for your home? Do your children feel blessed to have their tiny place? Mama sets the tone of the house. No matter what size it is, your home can be a happy place. : )
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.