I am doing a series on Small Home Living and today's featured guest poster is Erika from Earth Muffin Manor (isn't that such a cute blog name?) You will see from her story below that she and her husband weren't exactly planning to live in a "small home"...but it just worked out that way. Her home didn't change but her attitude did. She is going to share with us how she LOVES her small home. Hope you are as inspired as I was.
My name is Ericka and I am blessed to be the wife of a very wonderful man and the mother of a growing family of precious children. When we moved into our current home, I was pregnant with our third child. We looked at several homes and chose this one because, though the house was small, the lot was large. The other options we looked at had larger homes with small lots. We knew we could expand the house if need be but we couldn't expand the lot and with dreams of chickens and gardens and tree swings dancing in our heads, we chose to go the small house/large lot route. So, we live in what was false advertised as an 1100 square feet, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house on 0.40 city acres with a detached garage that was also falsely advertised as having some minor seepage in the foundation during heavy rains. Once we got settled in our home and my husband measured off the square footage in order to put a new roof on, we discovered that our house was only 900 sq. ft. and that the garage was absolutely useless for any sort of storage options due to the 4 inches of standing water that collected in it every time it rained. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that it rains a lot! Now, 6 years later, we have 6 children (and no, Lord willing, we are not done:) ), two dogs, a lovely flock of chicken and the coziest little house!
Much to the surprise of the average American, I happen to like my little house. In 2006, the average American had 900 square feet. In our household, each of us has 112.5 square feet. In addition, we home school, so the children do not hop on a bus and leave their 112.5 sqft for 7 hours a day. What does this mean? For our family, it means the following:
1) We SHARE. We share the bathroom, we share the living room, we share bedrooms, we share the stereo, the computer, the sink, etc. In essence, we share everything. We don't foster a sense of individualistic ownership in this home. We are a family and all that we have belongs to US, not him, her, or me. Now there are a few exceptions: everyone has their own bed, everyone has their own toothbrush (:)) and everyone has a few special items that are not community property. But as a general rule, we share.
2) We KNOW each other. Because we are always together, and tightly together at that, I can tell you what each of my children is doing ALMOST all of the time (there was that time when the 14 month old got into the bag of flour. But give me some credit! Flour is a very silent enemy!!!!). I can hear the words that are coming out of my children's mouths, I can see the looks on their faces, I can watch their body language. This makes teaching and training SO much easier for me! This also allows my children to spend quality time with each other. There will be the occasional moments of individual play but for the most part, my children play and interact together nearly every waking moment, giving them lots of opportunities to learn to treat and deal with others in a Christ-honoring way.
Recently, one of my older children came down with the flu. I got him all situated in his bedroom and told him to lay low and rest. Seemed the perfect solution for not feeling so good: it was quiet, no one was allowed in, and he could read and listen to music all by himself without anyone bothering him. Not 20 minutes later, he came out, asking me if I could make him a little bed on the couch. "Why?" I asked in amazement. He replied, "Its just so lonely in there...."
3) We ACCOMMODATE. When your husband has to remove the toilet from your only bathroom when you are 37 weeks pregnant, it is an act of love that drives him to purchase a camping portapotty and put it in your bedroom. To your surprise, you may just find that getting your big ol' belly out of bed and shuffling 3 feet away to use the potty sure beats walking across the living room (as small as it may be) to visit your (little, tiny) bathroom multiple times in the wee hours of the night. You just might find, in subsequent pregnancies, that you secretly wish for that portapotty at the foot of your bed to magically appear again .
4) We MINIMIZE. We do not have room for anything we don't use on a very frequent basis. We simply don't. We don't have a coat closet or a pantry or a basement. We don't have room to stock up. We don't have room to collect things as a hobby. We don't have room to have fine china for company meals. We have enough room to house what we need to live and learn and that's it. And I LOVE it! This attribute of living in a small home with a large family definitely has its challenges and we are continually fine tuning this but it is a challenge that I actually enjoy! Every thing that we own, be it the couch or the coffee cup, comes with responsibility. The item must be given a place, it must be cared for, cleaned, and accounted for. This takes time and energy and often, this takes time and energy AWAY from people. The less I own, the less owns me and I like this.
We are blessed. We are blessed because our 900 sq ft has a roof, four walls, heat, running water, and electricity. It has a refrigerator, a freezer, a washer/dryer and a toilet. It has books, a piano, a sewing machine, Legos, beds and food on the shelves. Since all God promised to provide for us was food and clothing, I'd say He has blessed us above and beyond what we ever deserved. And when I envision our family in a large home, maybe with two stories, a couple of bathrooms, a large living room, maybe even a family room, a laundry room, a guest bedroom, etc, etc, I feel this lonely feeling come over me. Wonder where my children would be playing? Wonder what they would be doing? Wonder if I would be able to hear the little girls giggling away as they play with Playmobil? Or the sweet babbling of the baby just waking from her nap? Wonder if I would be able to catch that attitude that needed to be addressed? Or that good deed that needed to be praised? Yes, I suppose there wouldn't be as much dancing outside the bathroom door. And there wouldn't be as much stumbling over little people as I go about my daily tasks. But you know, I think the potty dance is rather cute and I actually like having precious children underfoot. So if you don't mind, we'll keep our 112.5sqft per person....and thank Jesus for it every moment we can!
Join me next Thursday for another installment in our Small Home Living series!