Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our Home is a Work in Progress

When we moved into our home 18 months ago, it felt quite large and spacious to me - definitely plenty of room for our little family of 4. I remember the previous owners leaving us a note that said, "We hope that you enjoy this little house as much as we have," and thinking to myself, "Little?!" The house felt just right, and as first-time homeowners, my husband and I were thrilled to finally be moving in and making the home our own.

Fast-forward to now: We still love our home and feel completely blessed to be here - truly, it is the perfect home for our family at this point, and as a bonus we love our neighborhood and the local school system. At the same time, we are already starting to feel like we are outgrowing this space! There are several factors at play here: We have a growing boy who likes to have his also-growing-boy friends over to play, but we can never seem to find the right space for them to be while they're over here. We have a feisty toddler who has just decided that she will no longer be confined to her crib, so we are working on some new sleeping arrangements :) We have a new baby on the way that will eventually need a place to sleep, but we're still working out the logistics of room-sharing and saving our guest room/office vs. separate bedrooms and losing that extra room. Also, we are realizing that we need to purchase some new furniture to make our home more functional, but we have been going back and forth for months on what to get and where to put it.

The questions are less about square footage and more about layout: Could we pull off putting our desk and computer in the playroom, which is already starting to feel full? Should we purchase some new furniture that will provide more functional storage for the children's toys, and if so, how should we arrange it? If the new baby is a girl, would we put her in the same room as our big boy? If so, for how long would that arrangement work? (Our toddler daughter would not be a suitable candidate for sharing a room at this point :) )

I imagine that every family goes through similar growing pains, and that these will be issues that our family will deal with on an ongoing basis as our family continues to grow. The funny thing is that my husband and I are both such analytical thinkers that we are trying to plan out every last detail before we act, which leaves us with lots of planning but not much decisive action! We are also trying to spend our money wisely, which involves a lot of talking, thinking, searching, and waiting :) At some point, we'll probably need to just move things around, try them out for a little while, and rearrange if necessary.

How have you and your spouse made decisions about your home? Do you have any great advice to share with all of us? Any helpful books or websites? Have you made any mistakes that you've learned from and would like to share with us?

A blessed Feast of the Epiphany to all of you and your families! It's hard to believe that we're already a few days into January of 2010!


Sophie said...

One thing I've realized about home arrangement is that families go through so many stages so it's wise to choose arrangements and layouts that are flexible and easily changed. For instance, many of our school room things that we put on the wall, we use removable 3M hooks, even for the clock, etc. Because as the children change and needs change, we will need to change the layout.

I am also always analyzing and planning and arranging our house to make it completely functional and more pleasant. I have found sometimes that waiting through a problem makes it easier to see the solution. I have also found that making big decisions around a toddler's current needs or shenanigans is silly as they change their acts so quickly! :)

Choose furniture that is flexible, that goes in different spots in your house in case you need to rearrange. Be vigilant about the stuff you choose to put in a room or a storage space.

I have found Holly Pierlot's Room Analysis sheets in the Mother's Rule of Life ebook to be invaluable for this sort of thing. Go into a room with your husband too and really take stock of it's purpose, and making sure that the entire room serves those purposes. (It also helps with decluttering of STUFF).

JMB said...

We've made a few big mistakes in our current home, some more expensive than others.

This is the biggest one: I wish we redid the kitchen and back entry (mudroom) when we first moved into the house and had some savings. Ten years later, the big chunk of equity is lost in our house and I don't think we'll ever see it again. If we do, that will have to go to college tuition (5 short years away).

2. The wood floor guy was willing to rip up the dowdy vinyl in my kitchen for a pittance and replace with hard wood and I declined because I didn't want to waste any $ on something that we would eventually change (see above). A year or so later I couldn't stand it anymore, ripped it out and ended up spending way more on vinyl than the wood floor would have been. That was just plain dumb.

3.I would highly recommend paring down your stuff wisely. Put up some shelving in your basement or garage or pantry for storage. And be critical of what takes up valuable real estate in your house.

4. We hired a carpenter a few years back and he built some built in bookshelves in our living room, family room and computer & arts & crafts stations in the basement playroom. That was $ well spent.

5. Decorate the downstairs (public rooms) of the house before the upstairs.

6. One of the best things we spent $ on was new windows. Wow. What a difference.

7. It never hurts to get an outside opinion on your decorating dilemnas. It doesn't have to be a professional. Maybe your mom or a friend has a good eye or is very organized. Have them come over and go through your house. Be open to change. They may see something that is so obvious but because you live with it every day you are blinded to the possibilities.

Jen said...

We also have a small house (3 bedrooms - no basement) with a family of 5 (so far). We know have a master bedroom (which is not much larger than the others), a big girls' bedroom and a nursery. The office was collapsed when #3 arrived and we got a great computer desk from Ikea (Alve Secretary with accompanying add-on unit with adjustable shelves and storage boxes). We also added toy storage from Ikea to the children's rooms (both from the Trofast series). These items were definitely money well spent as Ikea furniture is designed to save space & maximize storage. They also have petite table & chair sets for children that fit great in a small space. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said... and for inspiration and some good ideas for small spaces. . .

Young Mom said...

We always keep the baby in the room with us until about crawling age. We have a laptop instead of a desktop. My biggest reccomendations is go light on your furniture, make sure its what you really want and get quality. Its amazing how much stuff can pile up that you aren't using or don't really like. Be sure to check out your local online classified, kijji and craigslist for good furniture for a fraction of the price. And take your time. I've settled for stuff that I didn't really think would work that well because "we are out now and this might be the only chance to get it" and ended up wishing I'd never pushed myself to buy it.

Lisa said...

I second the suggestion to surf Craigslist a bit. We have a TINY apartment, and found the perfect furniture pieces to fit a small apartment there. Even if we had gone shopping to a more expensive store, we wouldn't have found more appropriate pieces.

Karen said...

I love IKEA for ideas. The kids love to walk around the "houses" in the showroom, while I get to ponder solutions.

There are lots of little things we did to help, like putting an office area in the kitchen. Too many to list though. Living with less helps in general. Also, limit what we have out and store the rest.

Is there a space that could be transformed into livable space like a basement or attic?

Anonymous said...

We actually put our baby's crib in the guest room (with all our family out of state we have to have a guest room) and when company comes we put the baby with us. I'm so glad- that still gives big boy a room to play in with his friends and go to for solace. If the baby was napping there three times a day it would almost be like big boy didn't have a room. And then our toddler girl got to keep her room. And there is usually room for a small computer nook in the family room or master bedroom, I've found.

Bethany said...

We will be a family of 6 in a few short weeks, three boys and 1 girl. When we moved into our current house (our first too!) we gave the "master bedroom" (the larger of three) to our two boys. When our third boy (due in Feb.) is old enough the three of them will share the room. With a set bunk beds and a loft bunk bed system with bottom bed put into storage so they can use the area underneath for reading and playing.

Until the little one is old enough he will be sharing a room with his sister (2 1/2).

I think bunk beds are a great space saver. We've also been known to stash dressers as well as toy boxes and shelves with toys or books in closets to make more room in the room (not to mention it helps hide the mess from random visitors stopping by).

I also concur with Karen, if you have anyway, both logistically and financially to create a livable space in a basement or attic or even a former porch, I personally think that a finished basement etc... that adds square footage maybe the second best investment one can put into a home (second only to the kitchen redo). Even it seems a large awkward space, you'd be surprised how the placement of a couple of low shelves and file cabinets can help separate one large area into two smaller ones.

Kat said...

Thanks to everyone for all of the great suggestions, I'm mulling them over and will report back with the results!

A few of you mentioned basements...Alas, here in TX we have no basements, but it sure would be great to have one! Also no porch, and the garage gets very hot in the summer. We live in a ranch-style home and our attic is just plain yucky, but we are able to store Christmas decorations and anything in plastic bins up there.

The previous homeowners built a desk/workstation into their guestroom closet, which I think was genius. I wonder if we could pull it off...

Catherine said...

Previous owners of our 1950s ranch house converted the garage into a fourth bedroom and second bath, which we use as the master. Not having a garage created a big storage problem, so we added a large shed in the backyard last year. With four children including one with special needs who really needs his own space, we have forgone a guest room or office (a child can sleep in the master or on a sofa bed if a guest comes). We have a laptop desk in the family room and a tall file cabinet in our laundry room (where our water heater used to sit--we replaced it with a tankless one that's mounted outside). Best of luck to you in your rearranging! Even just installing a window A/C in your garage could open up some office or workspace.

Mary Alice said...

January is always a big time for re-arranging furniture for me, I think the tree comes down and I just see my house in a new way!

Thanks JMB for all that great advice, we are first time homeowners and all of those are things that we are considering, so it is good to get an experienced view.

I think that shelving and limiting stuff are crucial, but we are also finding that our HUGE house lacks a dedicated playroom and we have been tossing around the idea of finishing the basement. We don't really need the space, we don't use our formal dining room and it is not even properly furnished, but we do need an indoor place for kids to play that is not a bedroom, especially because, with homeschooling, it helps to have 'play' seperate from 'school' space.

I agree with the comments that having flexible arrangeements are best, and also say that the best things that we have purchased have been bookshelves and various storage components.

Our boys have plastic dressers in their closets which really open up space in thier rooms, I want to do this for the girls, too.

Oh, and bunkbeds have gotten us through some tough times, we had four kids in a two bedroom apartment. We get ours from JC Penney, the grandparents have all gotten them as well, and they look as good as Pottery Barn!

Blair said...

Lots of good ideas! We're a family of 5 in a 4 bdrm ranch style (also in TX!) and actually don't use all our space! Our formal living/dining are used as playroom/schoolroom, and the computer is in the schoolroom. That actually works well so I can do things and keep an eye on the kids. Our toddler still sleeps w/ us, so his room is like a guest room which also acts as a playspace for the kids. 4th bedroom is a sewing/junk room that needs help! We don't have a lot of big furniture, so that probably helps with space issues. Hope you figure out a good arrangement!

Jennifer Frey said...

I think the key is really maximizing storage space. Ottomans and tables that provide storage are a must. Also, learn to use the storage you have (under the bed, in the closet, attic, etc). Also, we buy all of our furniture second hand. This is both more environmentally responsible and also saves a ton of money. You'd be amazed what you can find on Craigslist, especially in this recession! We also do lots of estate sales and auctions. Having brand new furniture in a house full of small children makes no sense; they are just going to destroy it!

Also, I think it is important to develop a system for toy storage and stick with it. It will save you many headaches and moments of frustration. Shallow bins are the best for kids.

Also, I recommend Jamie Novak. If you google her name, you will find her website. She has great ideas, and I've had some of her books out of the library several times.

Finally, I think room sharing is a blessing for kids. My two little ones share a room and it works out perfectly!

JMB said...

Mary Alice,
We refinished our basement a few years ago and it's been a godsend. I have my laundry room/storage on the unfinished side and the playroom on the other separated by a wall. We added a big walk in closet for out of season coat/boot storage. On one end of the room we built a TV/video game storage cabinet and then along the opposite wall a long counter for computers and arts & crafts. We have 2 computers set up and the kids have about 8 feet of arts & craft space, plus built in cabinets for paper and computer games. Because of all the storage space I don't really have much furniture down there, just an old couch from This End Up that remarkably has withstood four children and two dogs for 15 years now and still looks good, and some chairs for the computer/art counter.

Anonymous said...

Here's how our family does it with #9 on the way in a 1000 square foot home. The three boys are in one room with a bunk and a trundle, one bookshelf and one dresser. The 5 girls are in a triple bunk my husband built which can sleeo three small children on the bottom. Normally 2 sleep there, but often the one in the middle bunk crawles in with them. There's another bed on the other wall. We have two shelves built over the top bunk and the other bed. Toys and treasures go under the single bed. The girls have one drawer each in the dresser, and my husband built a little closet on one end of the triple bunk. There is a small computer desk in there too. (Not much walking or play room though.) The living room holds the piano and lots of book shelves. The kitchen has the computer. We don't have a dining room, but have fold out tables that can seat 14 for the living room. The garage is the weight/X-Box,TV/Laundry room. We rotate summer/winter clothes in and out of the shed to save room. We also have bookshelves up in the shed so the homeschooling books we need are easily visible. Baby will sleep with us for the first year and then move to an infant bed pushed up against ours.
Hope this helps those of you with small homes.
God Bless,
Jane-mom of 9

Right Said Red said...


Random question--does JC Penny still sell the bunk beds you bought? I did a search and couldn't find any bunk beds.