It has come to my attention that I have three children, two adults, and one cat living in a two bedroom, one bathroom house. It has also been brought to my attention, repeatedly, that this is a rather abnormal situation for a middle class American. As soon as we announced that I was pregnant with our third child (right after the inevitable comments of “Trying for a girl this time around?”) came the statement of “You’re going to need a bigger house”. Recently my next door neighbor sold her two bedroom house where she had lived for years with her young twin sons and her parents. My mother commented on the sale musing that she had a hard time imagining a family of five living in a two bedroom house. I could only laugh as I reminded my mother that I am currently part of a family of five living in a two bedroom house.
Right now our house works surprisingly well for us. This past summer we switched bedrooms so that all three kids could be together in the largest bedroom (our former bedroom that we shared with Baby ). Older and Middle share a set of bunk beds on one side of the room and Baby has a crib on the other side of the room. The kids’ room has space for their most beloved toys; the rest live in our hall closet in which Husband installed floor to ceiling shelves to convert it to a toy closet. The kids spend the vast majority of their time playing in the common areas of the house and outside. Because the quarters are tight we have one very important rule about our space, you are not allowed in anyone’s bed without their permission. This gives each child the ability to physically escape if they need to. Everything has a place; if it doesn’t, something has to go to make room or it isn’t allowed to stay in our house.
Perhaps most importantly, our mortgage and expenses are manageable on one income. Our house sometimes feels small, not for the amount of people in it, but for the amount of stuff. Although I try to be as minimalist as possible, five people add up to a lot of clothes, shoes, and special things. On top of that I am ready for anything with a huge supply of food and emergency preparedness supplies. Add to that my dislike of waste and my love of old things; suffice it to say our house is certainly full. But a bigger house won’t necessarily fix that problem – at least not for long. Much like an iguana grows to fit the size of its enclosure, I think that it is all to easy for our amount of material goods to expand to fit the house in which we live. I know five years from now when I have an nearly twelve year old, a nine and half year old, and a nearly seven year old our house will certainly feel more cramped. People tell me that we will “need” a bigger house. That simply isn’t true. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we live in absolute paradise compared to most of the world. A bigger house would almost certainly mean more energy usage and a greater environmental impact and I seriously question how fair and right that is. We don’t need a bigger house; but, sometimes, yes, someday we probably will want one.
Last summer partly in search of a bigger house, partially for a safer neighborhood, and perhaps, so our children can attend a public school we are happy we looked for another house. I’ve always dreamed of fixing up a big old house (and filling it with a bunch of kids – I’ve got that part down!). Something with a huge front porch, lots of stairs, a dark basement, and a big unfinished attic – all on a big lot of course. I remember one fixer upper that we looked at with five bedrooms and three bathrooms and I was surprised that I wasn’t at all interested in it. I looked at all that space and the idea of cleaning it all was horrifying. I suppose that if you have a house that big, one must hire a housekeeper? Or at least wait until the kids are older and they can pitch in better with the cleaning? I also found that I didn’t like the idea of the kids being so far away from me in the middle of the night; even a room just down the hall from us sometimes feels too far for Baby. We’ve also poured our blood, sweat, and tears into our current home (literally – Baby was born in the bathroom) and the idea of tackling a big house – when we never got a chance to finish this one – is totally overwhelming. I found looking at big, more expensive houses, that needed a lot of work was the perfect antidote to any feelings of “our house isn’t good enough” that I was having. We stopped looking.
This past year we’ve spent some time adding some built-ins to our house to give us more functional and attractive storage. We replaced a few things that needed fixing. I have a goal of painting the entire house – inside and out – this year. I’m halfway done with the inside and have painted the doors outside. This past week I planted another hundred bulbs in the yard. I would surely take a big old house if someone handed one to me with the exact same mortgage as the one we currently have but that’s not going to happen. So I’ve decided to be happy here.
I don’t know what the future holds for us. If I was still working at my old job we could have that big house (but would I have any time to enjoy it?). Now I’m going to school; it will be at least a couple of years before I have a well paying job again. Even then, my new career probably won’t come close to paying what my old career did. I don’t know what this means for my dream of a big old house I am not sure how to figure this out. The only thing I know is that we’re not moving for the foreseeable future – we’re not going to spend a massive amount of money for something we don’t love. I sometimes wonder if we won’t somehow stay right here forever – maybe adding a second story some day or a second little house out back for my sister or parents to move into. This isn’t my dream house but maybe it will be where my dreams come true?
How big is your house? How many people live there? Is it too big or too small or just right?