- How to Eliminate the #1 Cost of Kids
- How 6 of Us Live in 2 Rooms, and Love It!
- 8 Ways Small Space Living Saves Big Money
- Creative Ways to Fit the Whole Family into a Small Home
- 5 Ways to Make Any Room Bigger
By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
In the previous article in this series, “How to Eliminate the #1 Cost of Kids,” I revealed how one decision can save you over $100,000 on the cost of raising 2 kids: Don’t move to a larger home.
The rest of this series is about how to make that work and save money with small space living. We’ve got lots of tips and tricks to find space you didn’t know you had, fit everyone in, create storage and play spaces, carve out privacy, and save lots of money!
How to be happy, without a lot of space
Today, however, I want to talk to you about a crucial part of being happy in a small home: your perspective.
How you think about your home is a huge piece of the puzzle to being comfortable and happy there, and to keeping your life affordable.
I wrote a lot about this topic in my first book, Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Joneses is Keeping Us in Debt. We naturally tend to compare ourselves to people who are better off than we are. That’s how we get motivated to strive for more, which is really the heart of the American Dream.
Are you a “Have” or a “Have Not”?
The problem is, if we’re always looking at and comparing ourselves to people who have more, than we end up always having less. And who wants to have less?
When we see ourselves as having less, we feel inferior. Like we’re not providing well enough for our kids. We worry they are lacking something they need.
More, more, more!
So what do we do? We try our hardest to give them more! More space, more toys, more activities, more opportunities! We Americans really know how to pile it on.
All that costs money. And isn’t going to help our kids thrive as much as these two things:
- Togetherness (time with you!), and
- Financial peace (not spending more than you can truly afford – and we can talk more about the concept of “what you can afford” in a later article because that can be confusing!)
Believe me, I understand as well as anyone the siren call of MORE. I’m pretty committed to a simplified, streamlined, “zero cost” life with our sons and still… when I heard this week that other kids in our older son’s class were going to a concert at Carnegie Hall, I immediately thought, “Concert! Wonderful! I should go online and see how much tickets cost!”
Concerts are wonderful…but expensive (unless you seek out the free ones, and there are always free ones!). We can sing a few ditties at home and get a similar effect. Maybe even better. More on music and the young child later because I’ve been researching this in order not to have to sign the kids up for expensive music classes…but I digress.
Back to your HOUSE. Lots and lots of people in this country live in very spacious homes. McMansions even. Every town has them – even Flint, Michigan, where I grew up. So we all have plenty of opportunity to see our own home as small and less than.
To be happy housing our family in a smaller space, we need to change our perspective.
The most important thing I do to enjoy living in 2 rooms with 2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 dogs is: EVERY DAY I AM GRATEFUL FOR WHAT WE HAVE.
Home, luxurious home!
I’m amazed, in fact, at the luxury of our home. It is climate controlled, it is solid, it is safe. It has a kitchen and bathroom with all of the conveniences we could need or want. We have comfortable furniture, books, toys, clothing, supplies, our own computer (for the adults)… our cup runneth over! We are incredibly fortunate.
It seems silly, even, to talk about our family living in a two-room apartment as being a sacrifice.
Family in a Box
We must always keep in mind, as we fret over storage space and privacy:
- Some families must turn to homeless shelters
- Some families live out of their car
- Some families have only a cardboard box lean-to for shelter
- Some extended families cram into one room
Then there are the men and women living together on ships and submarines. They share a room, that’s for sure. They have a small bunk and a cubby and hey, it works!
Small is relative. And for most of us, should really be a non-issue.
Ignore the naysayers
So I get frustrated that people think it’s not possible for us to raise our two boys in our 620 square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. We hear a lot of naysaying!
When I was pregnant: You’ll be gone within a year!
When we had the first baby: Wait until you have TWO!
Now with two little boys: Wait until they get older!
We have everything we could need here, and with some creative jiggering, it works. And it will continue to work. And we will continue to thank our lucky stars every day for our wonderful home in this wonderful city.
From complainer to believer in one night
Fine, but how to get the kids onboard, you ask? Well you can always visit a homeless shelter for perspective. But here’s a more fun way to go about changing perspective: spend a night in a tent.
Go camping. And not at a campsite.
Hike deep into the woods carrying all you need on your back. A tent, sleeping bags, and packs can be borrowed or rented. Share a small tent. Pump water from a stream. Gather firewood. Go without extras for a couple days.
Upon re-entry, your home will reveal its indoor-plumbing, storage-everywhere, fully stocked kitchen, creature comforts grandeur.
As my Russian teacher used to say at the end of every class, as we gathered our notebooks in an overwhelmed daze: V boie! To battle!
You can do this!