Thursday, August 13, 2015

Creative and Contented: Large Families Living in Small Homes :: Christy Isinger from Fountains of Home

I'm so happy to have Christy Isinger (of Fountains of Home) here today letting us in on some of her unfounded fears and assuring us that even if your bedrooms are outnumbered by children, everything will be ok and the kids will be fine! Welcome to Ordinary Lovely, Christy! Thanks for your contribution to Creative and Contented: Large Families Living in Small Homes!

Babies are More Important Than Square Footage 
(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About a Small House and a Lotta Kids)

There is so much I could say about small house living with lotsa babies - so much! But I'm going to try and share a bit about why the thought of making our house work was one of my biggest fears with each successive pregnancy and how things worked out and the the world didn't end and we're all alive so far -- even though we didn't move.

When my husband and I got married nine years ago we moved into a small, second house on my parents ranch because we weren't sure where we'd end up or when my husband would get his dream job. We thought the "little house", as my family called it, would be a nice little boat-hole for our newlywed life until we moved on to who knows where.

But - when we found out about three weeks after our wedding that we were expecting a little honeymoon baby we started to plan on being in the little house for at least a year or so. My husband's job prospects at the time didn't pan out, and he started working in a completely different field but with the prospect of training, moving up quickly, and dependable hours and money. Then we found out we were again expecting a couple months before our first baby turned a year old. We thought we'd just see what would work out, if God pointed us in another direction we'd move, but right at the time, being so close to my family was literally keeping me afloat as I dealt with colic-y babies and piggyback pregnancies.

By the time we were expecting our third baby in three years I started to freak out somewhat about our tiny house. We had only about 900 sq feet upstairs with three small bedrooms and a semi-finished basement that was mostly being used as storage. How on earth would we be able to put in actual twin size beds for multiple children in these tiny bedrooms? Where would we put their clothes let alone their toys? And what about our six month long winters? What were we going to do trapped inside in frigid temperatures for days on end?

Well, I got pregnant a fourth and fifth time and with each pregnancy this irrational fear about how our house wouldn’t work for our life with a lot of babies kept getting bigger. I didn't want to move away from our desperately needed support system, but the idea of getting babies to learn how to sleep while sharing rooms with 3 or 4 loud toddlers seemed completely looney. Making us all fit was one of those worries I carried around just like I carried around our babies for nine months, it wouldn't go away and it nagged at me no matter how much I tried to trust in God.

But with a little ingenuity we just made it work somehow. At one point we had two cribs and a twin bed in a 6x8' bedroom. We had three little kids aged 4, 3, and 2 sleep together in the same tiny room. I will say that there were nights when they all kept each other up that I honestly wanted to pull my hair out. There were many early mornings where they all woke each other up. But slowly we made progress and sleep started to happen.

When we became pregnant with our fifth baby my husband built a boy cave downstairs for the brothers to move into. It resembles a monk's cell in that it only contains their beds and a rug because we like to keep our sanity and take away anything that could be broken or create noise. That leaves our 3 year old boy still bunking with our 8 year old girl while the baby still gets her own room to learn how to sleep through the night in.

Something else that helped a lot was deciding to put all the kids clothes in the baby's room since that room had only one crib. We have a few dressers in there, since this house is too small to have closets in every bedroom, where all the kid's clothes are found. It cuts down on laundry work while at the same time making a one-stop-getting-dressed-spot for everyone. It's not exactly Pinterest worthy, but so far it's been functional for us and worked out just fine.

We've become experts in getting rid of "stuff". Although the basement is now a great place to throw all the toys, we're still mortally serious about keeping the amount of toys down to a minimum and regularly cull the plastic. We have no junk drawers or extra space for all the annoying clutter that has to go somewhere but really has no home, so our kitchen counters can become stacked. But again, more reason to keep on top of it because if we let it get out of hand we wouldn't be able to cook at all!

There's many times that I silently curse our stupidly small entryway while simultaneously silently praying that one or more children don't topple down the stairs while trying to get in from the cold. And I'm not going to lie that having a little more space to myself in my bedroom would be a treasure, but we've made this small house work with five kids. Somewhere down the line in the midst of all the baby crazy I realized that this house was working even if it wasn't perfect. All my irrational pregnancy worries, were actually solved with flexible solutions that didn't take nearly as much work or money as I had previously built up in my mind. What was most important was keeping my babies healthy and alive, and keeping my sanity with toddlers by living near my family, and that's worth a lot more than square footage.

Christy Isinger is the mom to five lovely, loud young children whom she herds in the northern wilds of Canada. In her spare moments she likes to drink wine and quote Chesterton while watching TV. She blogs about family life, faith, and good books at Fountains of Home, and co-hosts the Fountains of Carrots podcast. She can also be found and followed on Facebook and Instagram.


  1. We moved into a 900 sq ft home with a semi-finished basement when we had 2 babies. That quickly turned into 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 babies and a grandma, to boot. We got our 2nd bathroom in the basement after grandma had lived with us for a year and we had 6 daughters! It can be done! Really!

  2. So good! As we're expecting our third I'm starting to wonder how the heck we'll all fit. The house isn't small really, but only two bedrooms upstairs. So it's either keeping all the kids upstairs or move some kids to the main floor... and both sound frightening! After our second I learned that babies NEED their own rooms. The two share a room now, but she still doesn't sleep through the night well. Meaning the toddler is tired and we can't let the "baby" (13 months) cry it out. Sigh... we'll see how it all works out. ;)


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