Saturday, August 15, 2015

Creative and Contented: Large Families Living in Small Homes :: Amelia Bentrup from One Catholic Mama

Although her family recently moved, Amelia Bentrup, her husband, and four children lived in 846 feet and lived to tell the tale!  She was so generous to share this post that she originally wrote on her own blog, One Catholic Mama, back in April.  I'm so happy to have Amelia share her super practical and down to earth ideas on making a small home work.  Welcome to Ordinary Lovely, Amelia!  Thanks for joining us! 


Small House - (Sorta) Big Family . How We Did It

846 square feet

2 bedrooms

1 bathroom

6 people

1 cat

That is how we lived for about a year.

I'll be's been difficult.  Very, very difficult.

Somehow we survived.

This is how we did it and in the process, I did learn some tips for small house living.  

1. Minimal Furniture.

This should go without saying.  When you live in a small house, you can't have even one unnecessary piece of furniture.  No coffee tables.  No knick-knack holders.  Nothing that doesn't serve a purpose.  Beds.  Kitchen Table, Couch, Chair, Desks, Dressers, Bookshelves.  That's it! Nothing decorative.  Nothing non-functional.  Nothing that takes up space.

2, Learn to ignore the mess.

One of the biggest problems with a small house is that small messes look much bigger in smaller spaces.  The kids build a fort in the living room.  Forget it.  You can't even walk through it anymore.   Everyone doing school on your one (small) dining room table.  It's GOING to be a mess.  When you have several kids sharing a room, all it takes is a few clothes thrown on the floor, for the entire room to look like a disaster area.   You kinda just have to embrace it, or it will drive you crazy.

3. Kick everyone outside.

Unfortunately this doesn't work when it's cold.  Winter was hard, but once spring hit, it got much easier. Our small house did have a large backyard .  That helped A LOT when the weather was nice enough to go outside.   Or I would just go outside myself and leave everyone else inside.  

4. Save nothing.

You don't have room to save anything.  So don't.  Get rid of stuff quickly. And when I say get rid of it, I mean get rid of.  If you have a bag of outgrown clothes...put them in the car to drop off someplace the next time you are out.  Don't leave them in your house....anything you are getting rid of, get rid of immediately.

5.  Realize that it just takes sacrifice....for everyone.

We all had to sacrifice a little privacy.  Which has been really, really hard.  The kids have no place to do stuff without the toddler getting into it.  No one has their own room. There is no place to talk without kids overhearing.  Everyone is sharing ALL THE SPACE, which is hard.  So, you just have to learn to deal with the lack of individual space.  And realize that it's just as hard for the kids as for the adults.   Think of it kinda like Little House on the Prarrie living.

6. Enforce bedtime.

There are certain children who, if we had a bigger house, I would likely have let them stay up later.  However, we didn’t have a bigger house.  So the only way for us to get kid-free time was after everyone was in bed. So off to bed they went..earlier than they maybe otherwise would.

7. Come up with alternative bathroom arrangements in a pinch.

This is a big one.  Having just one bathroom was very hard.  So, we actually have an old plastic cat litter pan (the cat doesn't use that one) we keep in the garage.  In an emergency, someone has been known to pee in that, and then dump it outside.   Just in an emergency.

However, that can be limited by anyone who is going to be in the bathroom for a longer period of time (ie. for a bath or shower) checking with everyone else first, to see if they need to use it.  It's hard to remember to do that, but when we do, it makes everyone happier.  

Those are my tips. We lived in that house for about a year, and even though we’ve since moved to a larger space, I learned a lot during that time.  It was definitely a period of growth for our family, a time when we grew closer and learned to make lots of compromises and live together. .

 Amelia Bentrup has a master's degree in reproductive physiology of dairy cows.  She and her husband, Ben, met in graduate school and have been married for 14 years. They have 4 children, ages 13, 10, 7 and  2.  Amelia spends her days homeschooling, chauffeuring kids around, working, mothering, laughing and loving. In her free time, she loves to read, hike, exercise and write. Currently she puts all her creative juices into blogging at

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