This is part of the series Enjoy Small Space Living, With a Family! Here are all the articles in the series:
- 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
Small space living has many advantages – savings lots of money is a big one! Here are 8 ways it pays to raise your family in a small home:
1. No nursery extravaganza
Let’s start at the beginning of family life: the nursery. Lots of families here in New York want to move out of a one-bedroom apartment when they’re having a baby because, of course, they “need a nursery!”
What crap. You don’t need a nursery. Or even a crib. And certainly not all the pastel décor.
Baby can’t see it, and you won’t care
I know, it can be so fun to plan the nursery when you’re pregnant, especially with your first. But the fact is, that’s a lot of energy and money spent on a very fast phase of life, when the baby can’t even focus and you’re too sleep-deprived to notice how nice you made things look.
My advice, as with activities and clothing, is to take whatever money you have budgeted for the nursery and set it aside for later, when the kids are old enough to beg for something they want and you really want to give it to them. Don’t waste your resources on a newborn. All they need and want is you.
An alternative to a nursery:
Still need to have fun planning a nursery? I get it. Have your fun. Fun is important! Set up a couple of baskets.
That’s what I did before having our first son. I indulged in three nice baskets – one of them an actual baby supplies basket – and lavished lots of time and attention setting up a couple diaper changing stations and a nursing kit. Fun, cute, useful!
2. No play room
As the kids get older, the toys multiply. But with no whole room to dedicate to a play room, you’ll cave into fewer toys! Which is a bonus all around. That means:
- less time and energy shopping
- less money spent
- less time tripping over, picking up, and organizing toys
- less storage needed
Plus, young children don’t want to play in a separate room – they want to be near you.
Most importantly, fewer toys is better for the children. It’s less overwhelming, and teaches them to be more creative with the toys they have – the simpler the better. Less is more, it’s true.
3. Fewer closets
It might seem like a necessity to have lots of storage space with kids. For their clothes, for their toys, for their equipment, for their art supplies…. But actually storage space breeds stuff. When we have less space, we’re more careful about what we buy, and end up making do with what we have.
As with not having a nursery or playroom, you’ll end up saving money having less clothing, toys, gear, storage bins. And you’ll save a whole hunk of time keeping track of, storing, maintaining and ultimately purging those things.
4. Smaller wardrobes
Our sons’ wardrobe fits into two small baskets. They sit on the bookshelf in the living room. Cloth diapers have a basket and a drawer. We have two space bags of out-of-season or out-of-size clothing in the closet (our one closet).
Yes, our boys are young so their clothes are smaller and they’re boys so it’s easier not to give into all the pretty girl clothing options. But it simplifies life all around to severely limit clothing.
Less to buy, fewer choices for us and them, less to keep track of, and more use out of clothes that fit for a short time. Good for us, good for them, good for the environment!
Same with shoes: babies don’t need shoes at all until they walk, and after that kids only need one pair at a time (with the possible exception of a pair of rain boots).
I always tell the shoe sales person up front that we only have one pair of shoes at a time and then I ask what they need for this season.
Smaller home = less furniture.
Furniture is expensive, and the fewer rooms you have, the less of it you need. Not just furniture, but all the feathering that goes into a nest: window coverings, rugs, wall décor, lighting….
The furniture in our entire home right now consists of 13 items:
- 1 bed
- 1 two-drawer cabinet (which I plan to donate soon…)
- 1 small easy chair I’ve had in my bedroom since I was 12
- 2 end tables (really kitchen cabinets from Ikea!)
- 2 couches (one is basically a glorified dog bed so we need to reduce!)
- 1 coffee table
- 1 desk chair
- 2 stools for the kitchen island
- 2 high chairs
6. Lower bills.
Fewer rooms = fewer light fixtures, fewer appliances, fewer TVs and cable boxes, a smaller-range wireless router, fewer and less powerful air conditioners, less space to heat. Our electricity bill is under $100 a month.
Whenever I watch House Hunters and see huge houses for relatively (compared to Manhattan) not a lot of money in places like Florida, I always wonder if the families who buy them are taking into consideration the air conditioning bills! And the furniture, decorating, landscaping and maintenance.
7. Less maintenance.
This is huge. The less house you have – including roof, plumbing, appliances, flooring, landscaping, windows, walls – let alone what’s inside it, the less time and money you spend maintaining.
Very often, tackling the chore list for our two rooms and small roof garden, I wonder how any parents have time to keep up a bigger house.
Time and money to clean and fix
The routine cleaning alone takes a lot of time (albeit I believe that’s time well spent!) [link], let alone the seasonal upkeep (like window washing), special projects (like painting) and the big one: emergencies (like a pipe leak or broken air conditioner).
And lastly, a fun one: you can upgrade, for much less money!
When we redid our tiny bathroom, we could basically buy any tile we wanted to, because there was so little space to tile! So hey, we got natural stone and really love it.
When we installed carpet it only went on our stairway, so we could afford wool (and the dogs chewed up two steps of it the very first night we got it put in, but anyway…).
Ever buy plants for landscaping? We only have containers in our small garden. I’ve noticed many times that we only need one or two vines or a few bulbs to be showcased in a container, whereas if we were planting a whole yard…yipes, that would add up quickly.
Whatever it is you need to renovate a small space, there’s less of it so you can spend more. If you choose to.
It’s not a sacrifice, it’s an opportunity!
I hope this helps you realize that living in a small home is not a sacrifice so much as an opportunity.
It’s an opportunity to save money, yes, but also an opportunity to streamline your life. To have more time. To prevent overwhelm. To be kinder to the environment. And to teach our kids valuable lessons about stuff and its many costs.
You can do this!