Big family in a small house, part 5: Finding personal space

Did you miss the beginning? Start here:

Although our living quarters are small, we are not forced to spend our days crowded together.  God has given us plenty of space if we choose to use it.

Outside – We live in the country, so the kids can make all the noise they want outside. They can also enjoy all the silence they want out there.

  • One of the girls has hung a hammock under the house (it’s several feet off of the ground) and she enjoys reading down there in the dim cool shade during the summer.
  • Another child has a favorite tree that provides a spectacular view.
  • Still others love to play in the woods nearby, or jump on the trampoline.
  • Perry-Boy likes to “drive” the retired Suburban at the bottom of the driveway.  He once took me to his aunt’s house and back without ever starting the engine.  😉

Deck – We are blessed to have a rather large deck on the front of our house.  When we have company, or when the children are just restless, I often send them out.  The deck is close enough that I can hear them and keep an eye on them, but they are not underfoot like a pack of hungry puppies.  This is perfect for noisy games and restless children.  It’s also great for cold days when they are not likely to stay out for long.  On muddy or even rainy days, they can play on the deck without getting filthy and bringing the mud back into the house.

Inside – I sometimes let the kids make blanket tents in the house.  If they use heavy comforters, I find that their noise is heavily stifled, and they will enjoy the same sensation from inside their tent.  If you toss some snacks and ideas in every now and then, you might be surprised at how long they stay occupied. “Are you  Eskimos in an igloo?  Have some seal jerkey and a whale-oil lamp, and don’t let the polar bears find you.”  Actually I don’t have to come up with ideas because my children do it all themselves.  Their storylines invariably involve kidnappers.

Flashlights, books, or an old laptop with a DVD drive will keep them busy for longer than you think.  Oops.  Did I say that out loud?

If they use a set of bunkbeds for the base of the tent, you won’t even have a mess in the living room.

If you don’t have these options, you might find that you can improvise.  Do you have a garage that can be used as an alternative play area?  A storage room or closet?  A hallway or empty space behind the sofa?


  1. Loved this series! We just moved from TX to OH and are thinking of building, but within reasonable means. We have a large…. err…. midsized (compared to yours anyway) family and have been struggling with needs vs. wants vs. our own priorities vs. what the world tells us should be a priority. Thank you for posting and sharing your inspirations and organization. i’d love to see more pictures of the house and floor plan, as it sounds exactly like what we are looking to do! Thanks again!

  2. Treehouse!! We have a small treehouse in the backyard which is where the teens go for privacy. The autistic son has a little corner in the bottom of one of the closets where you will usually find him. We are huge fans of hanging blankets over bunk beds to allow for ‘personal space’. We live in a more suburban environment but we have a decent sized backyard. I wish we had a bigger deck….Also, we occasionally find children asleep between the washer and dryer. If all else fails and a child really wants personal space, they hide out in the van or go to a friend’s house…I find this terribly amusing.

  3. I loved reading through this series. Our family of six (maybe more?) is house-hunting on a low-budget. Hubby and I keep asking ourselves, “How much space do we REALLY need?” You gave me some great ideas to share. Truely, the focus is on family and good associations. Thank you.

  4. I enjoyed reading your “Big family small house” series. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Makeshift tents with blankets is a compulsory part of childhood!

  6. Just finished re-reading the series. Great job. We live in an unconventional garage apt. It makes us crazy. We’re outside of Austin and in the same heat as you. But from April-Oct (usually) we can’t go outside. We have no shade and my 3 little kids get sick from the heat. We’re waiting for the green light to move to VA.

    I love your ideas. It’s given me pause on building our next house. We have a 12yo ds, 5yo dd, 4yo ds, 3yo ds and working on adopting the next one(s). Being a home school family we felt like each person should have their own place to retreat to. Because we are a family that lives in their home. This definitely gives me something to think about. Thanks for sharing your life.

  7. Space behind the sofa? What language is that? I don’t understand those words. Any space that might possibly be behind the sofa is already filled with

    1. dust
    2. a plastic container with yarn
    3. a plastic container with puzzles
    4. phone books
    5. construction-related catalogs
    6. pencils
    7. erasers
    8. lost toys/blocks/books/mail
    9. someone’s socks

  8. I went back and read your previous installments, too. I like your thinking! You’ve maxed out the efficiency of your house based on the wonderful priorities of family time and hospitality. I have a medium-sized family in a fairly large house, but if the kids had their way they’d all sleep in our room with us! We have much larger homes in this country than we need! I love the togetherness of your family! You are creating ties that bind!

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