You can’t raise a family of six in a small city apartment. Each child needs his/her own bedroom. Parents shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford a big apartment or house. You can’t raise a child in a condo. It’s impossible to live full-time in an RV with children. Suburbs exist for raising kids. Kids need their own backyard so they can run and play. You can’t possibly squeeze three pint-sized preschoolers into one hotel bed. If you can afford a big house, that’s what you should have–or want–for your kids. Living in small spaces is cruel to children.
There’s probably only one place in the world I can imagine these words being spoken to parents, by family and strangers: The United States of America. That’s the only place I’ve heard these words spoken (or have read them), with the exception of a hotel in Spain. The only place where I’ve been judged for not wanting more space.
I’m lucky, by most standards. I have a choice of where to live. I have ‘plenty’ of space to raise my children, by my standards (though some think my 2000+ square foot house is small). I’ve raised my babies or spent ample amount of time raising them in a large farmhouse, a condo, a three-level house, a tiny city apartment, a suburban ‘MacMansion,’ and various apartments and hotels dotting the map.
Other families aren’t so lucky. They don’t have a choice. Some US families must jam several children into a shared bedroom, and mom and dad (or just mom or dad) take the couch. Some kids grow up sleeping in the living room that they also share with mom, dad and maybe grandma or other extended family members–and maybe the family cat.
Only in the US do people get twitchy thinking about whether small family living is cruel. In our hyper-liability, safety, and self-focused culture, people get revved up over occupancy standards and noise, and hung up on their own notions of how much space other people need, unfortunately sometimes to the point where parents worry about neighbors or landlords calling social services or getting evicted.
Just take a guess at how many European or Asian apartments would not live up to US space standards? Hmmm….I’m guessing a good chunk of apartments in Paris wouldn’t meet US occupancy codes for space vs. family numbers or US social standards. Probably not the one my kids and I lived in for a month. I’m guessing tiny apartments in Tokyo that large families have creatively designed to accommodate multiple children wouldn’t meet US codes or social standards either. I’m guessing the custom designed 667 Sq. foot tiny houses in Sweden wouldn’t fly compared to US city standards. And, nope, not those small huts where families of 12 live together in third world countries, either.
Small Space Living and Simple Living is a Growing Choice
Families have lived in small spaces throughout history and around the globe. Think caves. Huts. Laura Ingalls (House in the Big Woods). Tents. City apartments. Country cabins. Mobile homes. RVs. Tiny houses on wheels.
But small space living and simple living is a growing choice among families. For many, it’s a lifestyle. For others, it’s purely economics. Still for others, it’s a decision to reject the mainstream view of how families must live and a way to purposefully live their own authentic, self-defined lives.
The Benefits of Tiny, Small Space Living
1. Smaller Space Means Less Stuff. Less stuff means more room to appreciate the important stuff–the ‘stuff’ that really matters. Family time. Each other. Learning. Creativity. Experiences. When you live in a small space, you don’t have room for excessive materialism. There’s just not space to keep buying and storing stuff.
2. Simple Living Can Make You Healthier. Studies suggest that materialism can be linked to poor health. People who live more simply often live healthier. Don’t think it’s true? Dare yourself to do a purge of your closet, drawers, or whole house. Dare yourself to get rid of (or donate) 10 things. 25 things. 100 things. There is something psychologically (even physically–like breathing easier) freeing and restorative to getting rid of clutter. Less stuff can help you chill out. Actually, relax. Small living also means you get outside more often, which means more exercise.
3. Relationships Rock. My kids are the very best of friends. Sure, it could be because we homeschool or the way I/we parent, but I think sharing space has a lot to do with it. Sure, going from lots of space to less could be challenging initially if you are downsizing, but small space living requires better communication skills and patience–lots of togetherness! The world needs more of that, right? Could there possibly be a better way to really know your kids and/or significant other? As a parent, a small space means you know your family WELL.
4. Simple Living Can Help Your Budget. Simple living can stretch out your budget and allow you to save. Many families are turning to Full-time RV living as a way to not only homeschool their kids on the go, but to also ditch their sticks and bricks houses (and all the expenses that go with owning a house). Others are rejecting the idea that they must move to a big house in the suburbs and keeping their pre-children apartment and raising their kids in the city–note what appears to be an uptick of families in previously ‘child-less’ areas or buildings of Manhattan. Small living is a great way to finance travel and bigger life dreams.
5. Living Small Can be Eco-Conscious Living. Want to save the planet or leave it better for the 7th Generation? Yep, tiny living might be the way to go. Talk about reducing your carbon footprint. Smaller heating bills. Less stuff. Smaller packaging. More conscious spending. It’s all good.
6. Small Living with Kids Means You Know Where to Find the Best Playgrounds and Hotspots. Parents who live in small spaces might just be the leading experts in the neighborhood on the best playgrounds–because they get out often to let their kids roam and play. They may also know the best coffee shops or restaurants with play areas, kids spaces or menus. They may also know all the best meet-ups and kid spots in town, and how to find great babysitters (small spaces mean date nights become even more important).
7. Small Living Means Uber Creativity. If there’s one way to encourage or foster creativity in children, small space living is the key. Whether figuring out how to organize space with IKEA storage containers or building a bunkhouse in a Class A RV, small living means kids grow up with a front row seat to creativity.
You can raise a family in a small space. Successfully. Happily. Safely. Peacefully. Without losing your mind. Just ignore the crazy talk.