Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Creative and Contented: Large Families Living in Small Homes :: Daja Gombojav from The Provision Room

I'm so pleased to introduce you to my first guest blogger for this series, Creative and Contented: Large Families Living in Small Homes.  Daja Gombojav (of The Provision Room) blesses us with her writing, sharing tips on how to manage life with many people in one small house, and how to navigate, and find peace amidst, the situations you can't manage. Welcome to Ordinary Lovely, Daja!  Thank you for contributing!  

There's Always Enough

Five months ago there were 10 of us (8 kids and two parents!) living in a medium sized house in Los Angeles. We had three bathrooms, a room for the boys, a room for the girls, and one for Mom and Dad. The finished basement was the school room and toy room, so the daily mess was usually kept out sight and out of mind. We were comfy, everyone had their own space (so to speak), so that when you needed a little space or time to yourself, it could be found. 

Then things changed. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with stomach cancer. So my husband flew to Mongolia (where he is from), picked her up and brought her to live with us. This was only weeks before we packed up the now 11 of us, plus the dog, and drove across country to our new home and farm in rural Maine.  As if those changes weren’t quite enough, my brother-in-law and his five year old have moved in as well to “help with Mom’s care.”  So, now there are 13 of us. Oh, did I mention that a month into these changes we found out that God has blessed us with another baby? Due in December, right in time for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s day.

Now we live in a three bedroom, one bathroom farmhouse.  Thankfully, time and space can still be found for oneself, provided you head outside. The goats are very good listeners, actually.

My husband and I have lived a lot of places since we’ve been married—tiny trailers, apartments, duplexes, small houses and big houses. Urban, rural, upscale and Third World countries. We have always lived by the motto that there is always enough. In God’s economy there is enough room at the table, enough food in the pantry, enough hours in the day, and enough love and affection to go around. Our motto has been tested. Oh, I assure you, it has! But, it has held up. There is always enough.  Where there is love, there is room for more.

That doesn’t mean that there aren't challenges and logistics that have to be worked out and sometimes re-worked out.

Here are some simple principles that make everything work:

  1. Lower your expectations. Seriously, keep those standards low. The house is not going to look like a showpiece. Ever. Get used to it.
  2. Keep a loose schedule. It may have to be flexible, but still try to stay in that rhythm. It helps everyone to know roughly when meal times are coming, when they can make noise in the mornings, what time they should be in bed, etc. You don’t have to be legalistic about it. But rhythms just help life and sanity.
  3. Everyone should have responsibilities. Whether that be to pick up after yourself, to handle certain meals, to take over certain chores, everyone should pitch in.  It really adds to the general tension when someone isn’t pulling their weight. 
  4. Set clear expectations.  It doesn’t do any good to let something become an irritation (say, someone who leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor….purely hypothetical, of course. Of course.) if you didn’t clearly articulate your expectations.  Don’t let irritations build up into bigger issues. When they are small—or better yet, before they even start—make the expectations clear to the whole family.
A few very practical suggestions:

  1. It used to drive me crazy to come into the kitchen and find about 20 dirty glasses on the counter. No one knew whose glass was whose so they just grabbed a new one every time. Meant a lot of unnecessary dish washing, time and water wasted.  So, our solution has been to go to the thrift store and have each person pick out a mug.  They are all completely different, but you know clearly which one belongs to whom. A bonus is that because they are from the thrift store there are no tears or regrets when someone breaks one.
  2. Laundry, laundry, laundry. The bane of my existence. The solution has been to buddy up the children, an older one with a younger one and assign them one day a week that is their laundry day.  The in between days are the family laundry days for things like towels and linens.  Anyone who can read and check pockets can be responsible for their own laundry!
  3. Banish the snacking. When you have as many children as I do, you can spend all day in food prep and clean-up. And snacks are the worst!  We took a cue from French parenting and did away with snacks. We now have three regular meals and one afternoon “tea time.” This gives everyone the chance to learn to delay gratification and the opportunity to appreciate the cook!  Believe it or not, when we banished the snacking a lot of the whining went away, too!  A bonus is that our grocery bill has gone down! Woot!
  4. Family devotion time is important to us.  Sometimes in a large family this can be very difficult to accomplish. Just rounding everyone up and having 10 minutes of peace and quiet in order to pray together can be tricky. Our solution has been to incorporate devotions into meal time.  At the close of the morning and evening meals we have a time to read a bit of Scripture or theological book (just a little! Don’t bore the little ones. Keep it short and relevant!), everyone shares what stood out to them and we discuss anything that comes up.  And then we take a moment to pray for any needs and to thank the Lord.  

Being a big family in a small house definitely has its challenges, but they are nothing compared to the love and affection that builds between family members willing to make it work. Some days it seems like a long sanctification and some days like a fun revelation. We take each day as they come.

Whether your family numbers two or twenty, we hope these little tips are helpful.

Daja Gombojav is Gana’s wife and mom to eight of the best kids in the world.  She is making her home in rural Maine on a little homestead they call Kylo Farm.  She is the co-founder of The Provision Room.  At The Provision Room, Daja and Kristina blog about abundant home-centered living! You can find ideas for family worship, healthy traditional recipes, hospitality tips, gardening ideas, natural remedies and sometimes just plain old quirky fun!  Check it out at http://theprovisionroom.com .  You can also visit on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ProvisionRoom), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheProvisionRoom) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/theprovisionroom/)


  1. I loved this, Daja...especially your focus on "there is always enough." We have also found this to be true. It's a gift to me today to see how you are living abundantly through God's grace in unexpected circumstances. It's also a gift to see how many socks you have to fold (as I'm contemplating my own pile of folding this morning). Thank so much for sharing with us!

  2. i agree with everything she said, especially coming from the same number of children in our house, it all rings true!

  3. The amazing Gombojavs have blessed multitudes here in SoCal! They taught me how to relax a bit more and enjoy a lot more the "life's happenings" along the way. Visit The Provision Room to learn, laugh and be inspired by Daja and Kristina :)

  4. Excellent principles and suggestions:)

  5. Inspiring and awesome! God bless you!


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