The Not-So-Tiny House: Simplifying For Families With Kids

Can you cram a family of 5 into 1,000 square feet? You bet you can. This family opts for a tiny home so they can live a big, big city-life together.


tiny home neighborhood modelRecently, Portland’s Tiny House Conference convened to the delight of simplified-life fans everywhere.

When I shared my story about why I believe the “Tiny House” contingent are on the cusp of a momentum that could change our world, a woman commented she was a huge fan of the Tiny Life, but she was also a mother of three. She has family who visits, and she needs space.


But downsizing isn’t out of the question. It’s a conscious living choice, and people all over are opting into it — even with kids. Smaller rooms, smarter technology, less waste. These are simple credos to live by. Here’s a great story about a Canadian family with five kids who have opted to cram into a 1,000-square-foot condo, and who say their family is better for it.

There’s no rule anywhere that says kids have to have a room all to themselves. There’s no law that each person needs a bathroom. These are conveniences of the modern age, that’s all.

With smart bunkbed concepts and wise space allotment, it’s possible to have a fully functional shared room for two or three children at once.

The Western reality check

Space is great, but we don’t need what we have. It’s not a joke when I say there are whole families of four or five living in 8×12-foot rooms in India and other countries. As opposed to being sick of each other like we’d think, they become closer, respecting each other and understanding they’re literally in life together, and thus work as a team to have a sane, safe, shared life.

Fifty years ago, most folks on a modest income would have small homes, shared rooms, and a reasonable volume of accumulations crammed under its roof. Somewhere along the way, we lost our minds and a “family” home routinely became 2,000+ square-feet. A room for every child, a room for guests, a room for playing, a room for media.

And so much stuff!

You can enjoy having less

Living a Tiny Life is about compromise and making choices. No one said it’d be all easy all the time. Maybe there won’t be as much “space” between all the family members, but there are families who’ve made that work. My friend Matt Collinge, a Vancouver realtor specializing in urban spaces, has a family of five living in three bedrooms, by choice, not necessity.

By living with a smaller footprint, he and his family can enjoy all the amenities and activities offered by living in the heart of one of the world’s fastest-rising cities. Beaches, shops, community centers, and so much more are just a stone’s throw from their home.


Granville Island and the False Creek neighborhood in Vancouver; a mix of condo developments, commercial space, and green space. This is a backyard for many people, with lots of reasons to find space outside of the home to feed a meaningful and enjoyable life. This is only one example in one city. There are places like this all over the world.  (image: Joe Mabel)

That compact lifestyle the Collinge clan have opted into becomes about living with communication, respect, and tolerance. Like any relationship, it can be hard to keep everyone happy in a smaller home, but do you know what happens when you don’t have another alternative? You find a way to get along.

Organization and design

It’s hard not to overstate how critical it is to have the right functional furniture, smart layout, and savvy space use with smaller-home living. This is true for family-sized homes just like it is for a party-of-one moveable tiny home on a flatbed.

Matt tells me a critical part of their success in downsizing comes from having to purge all. the. time. By living only with what’s needed today, they save space for tomorrow.

If you decide that a tiny home is the way forward for your family, the savings from mortgage payments, energy consumption, maintenance, and even the time you spend cleaning, you might benefit from hiring a custom cabinetry expert to really maximize space and help keep organization easy. After all, there’s more capacity in most homes than the majority of homeowners realize.

Final tips from a guy who knows

Matt says one way he keeps his family sane is by living where there’s outdoor space for his kids to have alone time and blow off steam. If you’ve got a yard, or access to outdoor rec space, it makes a big difference in how cooped-up you might feel with in the Tiny Living Life.

He jokes that it’s a lot easier to cram a family of 5 into 3 bedrooms if you have kids consecutively of the same gender. Now that’s smart planning! However, with a girl as their middle child, he thinks they’re looking at a fourth bedroom soon, since sharing gets awkward and weird between mixed genders in teen years. Yet he loves their lifestyle and they plan to get a place that’s still under 1,300 square feet when upgrading.

Choosing a different path

We’ve become used to the idea of big, spacious homes. They’re a status symbol as much as a comfort, but we’re the first middle-class group in history to enjoy large homes. We’re learning quickly the environment can’t sustain our choices. In the housing collapse of 2008, we learned many of us can’t financially sustain these choices either.

It’s amazing how cutting back in size, costs, and maintenance requirements can give so much life back to you. If you feel like all you do is work and you never get to see your family, maybe it’s time to consider whether less home might give you more life together.

It’s amazing how well we adapt when we simply choose to do so. Rethink your concept of space and family life, and who knows — it might be the radical financial and family transformation of your dreams.

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