Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Large Family, Little Home

I wrote this post in response to the thorough questions asked about my last post, How Low Can I Go?

My husband told me that no matter how many times I put the word "hypothetically" in this post, my reader's wouldn't see it. I have a little more faith in you all, but I thought I would include this upfront anyway: hypothetically, hypothetically, hypothetically.
We have decided that if we still live in this apartment when we have a fourth child, we will switch bedrooms. So I was wondering...

Hypothetically, how many kids can we have and still fit in this apartment?

Well, we can fit three sets of bunk beds in the large bedroom, which would fit six kids, and there is enough floor space for one mattress to slide easily in and out from under one set of bunk beds, which makes seven. We also have a ridiculously large kitchen, and could easily fit one more set of bunk beds there, with a slide-out mattress. Then there is the couch. We could have a pull-out couch that sleeps two more kids. And, we are co-sleepers, if the baby's temperament is favorable toward it, so one more baby may be in our room. Maximum number of hypothetical kids: thirteen. What about clothes/toy storage?

Well, I will reiterate, this is all hypothetical. But, I'm a huge fan of shelving and milk crates, which you can find at yard sales from dairy farms that have gone out of business and at Walmart as file crates. Right now, all of our kid's clothes are in milk crates on the wall. Each kid would have a few milk crates hung in their bunk area toward the foot of their bed for clothes and toys. Finding a space for the trundle mattress kids and couch kids to hang their milk crates should not be too hard.

Why is this important?

It is extremely unlikely that we will stay in this apartment for the rest of our days. This is a more expensive area of the state, so if Dan doesn't get a pastorate right when he graduates, we would probably want to move anyway. We were also lucky to find the landlord that we did. He loves us for paying the rent on time, every month, and is letting us stay with our growing family. Regardless of where we live, though, we want to stay in a small space. Spacial manipulation is a key skill to have in small spaces.

Hypothetically, is that even legal?

Thirteen kids in a two bedroom, 445 square foot apartment? Well, I have looked extensively at federal, state, and local laws regulating occupancy. The federal law basically requires that landlords allow two people per bedroom. They can allow more than that, but they don't have to. If a landlord allows us to have thirteen kids in this apartment, it's legal. It is between us and the landlord. It would be more profitable for him to force us into a four bedroom apartment and have us pay higher rent, but it is between us in the laws' eyes. If the property changed hands, an eviction would be legal as well. As far as our state and local laws, they just say you have to comply with the federal law, so there is no further restriction. This is not true in all areas of the nation.

Although I don't like much government regulation, I am still bound by their laws and investigated all of this when we got pregnant with our third.

What does this have to do with the teeny house?

A lot. In my mind, small living is key to frugality for so many reasons. Many disagree, or value inside space so much that it is the priority that they save for. For many, it is simply something they are not willing to compromise, or they just won't go as far as I do. I value open space outdoors more than inside and I don't want you to picture us all couped up inside all the time.

I published most comments that came in because I think people have valid concerns. My first post on the topic was not comprehensive enough of an introduction to teeny house living. It wasn't meant to be comprehensive in regards to teeny house, as it was an outline of general goals so that my husband does not permanently have to work two full time jobs.

It is going to take several posts to go through the details planned at this point and they won't come all at once. But if there is interest, as indicated in the comment section of the last post, I am happy to share. I am going through the comment section and outlining the questions, queries and concerns into informative posts. This is a project I am excited to tackle, and I hope that you keep an open mind about my ideas. These ideas probably will not all be for you, but I hope you get something out of it anyway.

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am keeping an open mind and hope you are still blogging when you build your house! One thing I wonder... with living in Maine and planning to enjoy the great outdoors as extra living spaces, what will you do in the winter? In California, we enjoy our backyard through 3 seasons but would it be different in New England?

~Ryann

Anonymous said...

If you don't follow "their" plan I am willing to bet you can build a much larger house or at least one with more usable space that fits your family. While the website is great and the house are very cute they seem over priced for what you get. Take a look at this article.
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/look/a-500-home-in-hawaii-091136

Emily said...

Ryann, I actually have a whoe post on what we do with the kids for activities, and what they do in the winter. Hint: my kids do love the snow. I wonder if I'll still be bogging while we're building the home, but I imagine posts day after day might get mundane, but we'll see.

Anon, I think I could extend it a few feet, but we want it to be portable as well. That house is super cute, and I've seen a lot of others that look good, but if I were to consider and alternative, I'd want portable.

Estera said...

Yeah, what Ryann asked!

I live in Southern California, and DH and I enjoy the outdoors year-round (well, not so much in summer, but I'm sure our kids will...summer is prime tent/fort/backyard adventure time!). I've never been to your region, let alone in winter, so I don't have a frame of reference for what it would be like.

Also, and I know a post about this may be in the pipeline already, do you plan on having your children of both sexes share the same room? Can you share what your philosophy will be when it comes to teenagers needing to dress/needing privacy while going through puberty, etc? I would imagine that with that many people using one bathroom, using it as a changing room too would add to the congestion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily,

Why not just have fewer kids? It seems like a better option than spending all this time trying to figure out how to cram 15 people into 445 sq. ft.

Anonymous said...

Have you looked into local fire codes as well? It's not just federal/state laws that you need to comply with. You need to make sure that in the event of an emergency, there is enough space for everyone to evacuate easily.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how having 13 children, each of whom will have an enormous footprint on the earth, economically as well as ecologically, at all keep in step with your claims of simplicity and minimalism.

Anonymous said...

Anon this is exactly what I have been thinking! Thanks for writing it!

Kera

Anonymous said...

Have you checked what the Fire Code for your area says? Not just what State an federal law says. No, CPS won't take your kids for living in a small space, but who wants to get on thier radar anyway? With the sie of your apt I can imagine up to 6 kids in that large room and no more. Bunk beds in the kitchen is a dangerous situation. By the time your oldest are old enough to sleep there, you'll have a housefull already. Your bed in the kitchen however is very do-able. Ive known many families who transformed a to small dining room into mom and dad's bedroom so they could seperate the boys and girls.

Nothing wrong with using your money wisely or having a large family. Also nothing wrong with having kids bunk together, nor is there a "rule of thumb" about how much space a child needs. However I'm feeling that its a bit unrealistic for 13 kids in such a small space. I'd really like to see your blog when you actually have a large number of kids and see how it all works in real time, not just an idea in your head.

Anna said...

Here's the thing, which I don't think many are taking into consideration. You will not have ten children over night. Your living arrangements will probably be something that is constantly reevaluated and modified several times.

Right now you live in an apartment. As your needs change and you desire to become mobile, you may build one of these homes. As your family grows, you may build another.

Maybe down the line, God will recognize the need of your growing family and bless you with a home through the church and your husband's work. At which point, maybe you would park the other houses in the yard, for some privacy for growing teenagers.

Whatever, the point is, this will not happen over night and it will likely be constantly modified to fit your needs.

Don't knock it till you try it, readers. My favorite home, that my husband and I shared with our two kids, was bite-sized. Simple living can be refreshing, don't knock it till you try it.

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious as to the opposite sex sharing bedrooms. In some states, it is considered child abuse to have siblings of the opposite sex sleeping in the same room beyond a certain age.

Barbara said...

I am sure that your husband will have problem finding a church. Many have houses waiting for a pastor as part of the salary. Have you ever considered that God could move you to a different state. DH and I were sure that we would return to NC after his graduation. That was 38 years ago and 4 churches ago. We ended up in VT. for 34 of these years, NY two years and 2 years traveling. Babs

Emily said...

Was it not clear that I said "hypothetically" and that this scenario was not actually going to happen. It was just something to think about. I'm having to delete far more comments that I want to, as it is clear people aren't reading the post, but commenting ignorantly.

Emily said...

On the oppsoite sex thing, which is valid, and has not been addressed, no, we don't plan on having girls and boys sleeping together.

Anonymous said...

In some states, it is considered child abuse to have siblings of the opposite sex sleeping in the same room beyond a certain age.
^^^
Which states please? Do you have links to these laws that equate opposite sex room sharing to child abuse?

I don't believe it for a second.

crabcakes said...

Emily,

I was wondering about a 2-3 season solution of having an outdoor dining room when your family gets larger? I know out west, there are lots of home plans with sort of covered outdoor dining rooms with tables and all.

In Maine, that would be difficult during the winter (I live in New England too and let's face it, there are certainly days when you really just can't leave the house).

But if you had sort of a "carport" style covering either wood frame or that metal/canvas combo, I really bet you could get a nice working eating, reading, playing area for your family. Heck with a wood frame, you could even screen it in sort of "cabin style"

Amber said...

As a pastor I would think your husband would be willing and able to go where God leads him. Our current pastor grew up 700 miles away from where we are. He thought he was going to be a pastor at some church nearby, but God uprooted him and brought him and his family to our tiny town.

Prior to him leaving Ohio, he and his wife were told they would never have children. They tried for 10 years and had adopted a little girl by the time they came to us. Less than a year later, she was pregnant. Two biological kids later, their family of 5 is thriving because they followed what God wanted them to do.

Don't be too sure that God will call your husband to a local church, though it is a possibility of course :)

Anonymous said...

What if one of your children absolutely abhors the life you've chosen for the family? Do they have to 'tough it out' until 15 or 18 (whatever the legal age in Maine) or would you consider alternatives for them- like living with other family members?

Anonymous said...

Wow, do you seriously think that many people can share 1 bathroom?

Devon said...

I think part of the reason people are so up in arms about this is that--from what you have posted--you appear to not be planning for the 'hypothetical.' Hypothetical planning would include allowances for the different personalities of your children, or disablement, etc. Perhaps presenting it as something you'd like to do if possible would be a better way to get people to think about it--you do come off a little as if this is the plan set in stone--at least to me, as you have not outlined your planning ideas for many of the valid concerns that others have brought up. It is wonderful that you have faith God will provide--I wish I had a stronger faith--but life throws curve balls, and God allows them.

Obviously, no one can plan for every contingency or twist of fate, but maybe if you addressed some of those concerns, others might be more open minded. Or just say "this is what I would do in a perfect world." I've read all of this and frankly, I'm a little confused. I understand you are calling this hypothetical, but hypothetically what? Hypothetically you have 10 perfect children who don't have any special needs? Ten children who are ok with living in such a small space? Please clarify--I think it would go a long way to pleading your cause with all the naysayers.

Emily said...

Thes are not our plans, to stay in this apartment. This is NOT what we are going to do. It's not a matter of maybe we will, this is not what we are going to do. This apartment is not our permanent home. I wanted to show spacial relations, as that was on of the major misunderstanding from the other post, fitting.

Devon said...

Emily--I am so sorry to come off harsh sounding if I did. I meant about the Tumbleweed house--I thought some clarification would help with that, and I was obviously off base because this post isn't even about the house. But my question stands about the house/permanent plans.

You poor thing, you must feel like you've been thrown to the lions...I'm sorry if I played a part in that. You are obviously a kind person who loves her family.

Emily said...

Devon, you're very sweet. I don't expect to posts things like this without there being a backlash, even from people who generally agree with me. I understand. (:

I've got a post for tomorrow that I think might surprise people, entited, "I Got Thinking..."

S said...

Hi,

I think it is GREAT you 2 are so willing to "think outside the box". Therein lies the crux of frugality- the being able to do that! Also wonderful you are on the same page with each other for all this!!! As to the maximum amount of kids in that apartment? I would think 3 , mayby 4, and here is why- move the parents to the smaller bedroom and put a double bed and a crib in the other room if you are not co sleeping. Or if you co sleep then 4 kids. We have had bunks with smaller kids... all new bunks now come with a warning saying they are not safe for kids 6 and under... I can't tell you how many times my boys hurt each other and themselves on the bunks and we never had a child under 6 sleeping on a top bunk. We now have the bunk beds seperated...

Anonymous said...

Bunk beds in the kitchen? Even hypothetically you have to realise how unsafe and inappropriate that would be

Mandy said...

I am very curious about your birth control post. Have you considering Natural Family Planning? It can be very effective when used properly.

Thusa said...

This is off topic, but I have been wondering and keep forgetting to ask. What are your saving plans for retirement.
Also, random but do you ever play the lotto?

Anonymous said...

Here is my question. It's pretty simple and while it might be off topic, I would think you have through this through. What happens if your husband dies?

Treva said...

Emily, when I post a comment, I just want you to know that I don't mean anything snarky by it. Sometimes you just can't get a "tone of voice" in typing! Really though I love your posts b/c they really force me to think. No I don't agree with everything you post, but that's why I like it! So I just wanted to pull a Devon and let you know that as a person I think you're awesome and I really enjoy your blog. I'm truly looking forward to your future posts as I know you have several in the works and I'm especially looking forward to the series on your housing.

Anna said...

Wow, I'm starting to wonder if you should disable comments. LOL

Anonymous said...

This is for where you live:

Sec. 6-110. Minimum standards for space and occupancy thereof.

No person shall occupy as owner-occupant or shall let to another for occupancy any dwelling, dwelling unit, or rooming unit which is or would be overcrowded as determined by the following minimum standards for space and occupancy:

(a) Space per person. Every dwelling unit shall contain at least one hundred (100) square feet of habitable floor area for the first occupant and at least seventy (70)square feet of additional habitable floor area for each additional occupant. For the purpose of this subsection, a child under the age of one (1) shall not be counted.


For 13 people you need nearly 900sq ft.

Emily said...

Anon, I would love a link.

autumn said...

I think you're doing a wonderful job "thinking outside the box". I find it refreshing to see how you're planning...I also wonder how many people have lived like this. I mean really lived on under $1000 per month and in a small house. We have. It is some of my childrens most favorite memories. We never ate out. No tv. Very cheap food. We read books, walked up and down our dirt road. The kids each had five toys and four outfits. We hung every load of laundry to dry. I spent less than $150 on groceries for a family of five. We were happy. And most importantly content.

You inspire me to think outside my box! Good job! Great blog!

Anonymous said...

chapter 6, Buildings and Building Regulations
http://www.ci.portland.me.us/citycode.htm

This may not be your exact city, but you have to look at the city/town codes, not federal or state.

Emily said...

Anon, thanks, that's not where I live. According to my town hall, we are required to comply with state and federal code, and no further local restrictions have been added.

Mommy Musings and Meditations said...

"Anonymous said...
I'm curious how having 13 children, each of whom will have an enormous footprint on the earth, economically as well as ecologically, at all keep in step with your claims of simplicity and minimalism."

Hey Emily, I'm curious to see if and how you will respond to this comment. The view of having less children so you will not destroy the earth is something I've heard about only recently, so any thoughts you have on this would be very interesting :)
Awesome blog you have here!
Jenn

The Happy Acorn said...

I wish I'd have had your positive perspective and grateful heart years ago. Not to mention your faith and confidence in Christ. You're very inspiring. Thanks for this blog. I really am enjoying reading. May God continue to bless you and your family in all that He leads you. :)

Berean Wife said...

Emily,

Somewhat off topic but there is a family writing a book entitled "Big Family; Small House". The website is In a Shoe. She has covered things such as how to manage a family of 12 in a small home. You might find some interesting info there.

Berean Wife

Treva said...

It's so funny the thing about kids was brought up b/c it was also the first question in thesimpledollar.com's reader mailbag this week.

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2009/09/28/reader-mailbag-82/

The Pittsburgh Pair said...

I wanted to ask you if you think that this hypothetical solution is morally sound in shared living such as an apartment?

I could see that many children in a home (rented or purchased), but in an apartment, you would surely be infringing upon others as far as noise level, walking around, shared outdoor space, and the like.

Emily said...

Pittsburgh Pair, no, it would not be fair to our kids, as there is no land with this apartment. Noise level I hadn't thought much about, but it is valid. Another problem here is there is only one toilet, which would put an undue strain in the plumbing. Thanks for acknowledging it as hypothetical, though.

Melissa Ward said...

Thanks for your blog. This is my first time commenting, but I've been reading for a couple of weeks now. I've been challenged especially in the areas of electricity and water savings. I've definitely been more mindful of these things and have learned some ways to save.

My question is in regard to your husband's future ministry as a pastor and how that will affect your home life. My husband is a pastor, and you may or may not have considered what it will be like. For example, our home is constantly opened to the members of our church. We minister, not just on Sundays, but we are in the lives of our people daily, in order to truly disciple them. It's not just a 9-5 job, but a giving of our life.

We are also commanded in Scripture on more than one occasion to be hospitable people (especially for those in leadership in the church - 1 Tim 3, Titus 1). How does being hospitable work within your low food budget and small living space. I would think it would make it near impossible, but perhaps you've thought of something I haven't. We're about to buy a house, and one of our main criteria was a home where we could be hospitable to others. Bedroom sizes and bathrooms were not as big a consideration, but we wanted a big living area and a kitchen that could serve others, so we would have a place for people to come and feel relaxed and at home. A lot of ministry happens around the kitchen table.

DarcyLee said...

For many years, my husband's family lived in a 3-bedroom, one bath home. He and his 2 brothers shared a room, his 2 sisters shared a room, his great-grandma had her own room, and his parents slept on the pull-out couch. He doesn't recall anybody ever complaining. In fact, he only talks about how wonderful it was that great-grandma lived with them and what a blessing it was. This was back in the 60's and their house was not more than 900 sq. ft.

Emily said...

Melissa, about the food, we don't have a food budget, and enjoy having others over for a meal now without considering the cost. We get more out of people's company than the $3 we would save by not feeding them. I make most everything from scratch, and will continue to do so, and guests usually find that refreshing.

Where we will be building our own home, so customizing a larger living area is a priority, not only for hospitality, but for our own family.

I'm glad I heard from you. These are things I have certainly cosidered, however are not pertinent to the posts, so I haven't shared much about it.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered a yurt?

Emily said...

Anon, although a yurt would fit ou size requirements, the shape would be hard for a large family and it doesn't have the mobility we are looking for.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that you decided to delete well thought out posts- I spent a good bit of time on the one I wrote (which was not negative) and continued to use it as a reference. Its one thing to have never posted the post, but it's another when you go ahead and post it just to delete it 3 days later! It sure makes me think twice before spending anymore time reading your blog let alone posting on it-Thanks!

Emily said...

Anon, I have no idea what comment your talking about, but a week or so ago I decided to go through old comments and take out negative ones and ones that cause confusion, as they are off topic or a response to a deleted negative comment. I announced that I was doing it in a Monday's post.

Anonymous said...

I'm here from We Are THAT Family. I just wanted to say when my husband and I bought our first home over 28 years ago we were told the family before us had seven boys all in one tiny room. This was a 1000 foot 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home. I thought it was amazing and great! Bunk beds are a wonderful invention!

Sorry you have to deal with so much negativity. To each his own.

Dining Table Teacher said...

Most states only allow 2 children per bedroom. They can be mixed boys & girls until one of them reaches age 3. Then, most landlords won't do anything, but if anyone reports you they can be required to ask you to fix the problem, or evict you if there are too many children.

Being a landlord I can say that we'll rent to you if your numbers are right. It's up to you to decide whom shares. But again, if there was a report filed we'd have to take action (we're in OR).

TaraS said...

Hi!

I am a big fan of plotting out the most extreme hypothetical case, so I know what you mean. How can you know what is possible for you until you find out the outside limits of what is possible?

Also, regarding the ecological footprint, check out the stats you will find that people living the average North American lifestyle have a HUGE footprint, whereas people living simply by choice, or living in an area where simple living is the ONLY choice, make a far smaller footprint. It's a good bet that a frugal, green, simply living family of 13 or so will not exceed that of your average affluent North American family of 4.

Just saying.

Cathy said...

You know, EM, you are assuming that kids are one to a bunk bed. IN the midwest, a lot of farm families out here put their kids two to a bunk bed. I also a have a family member with several boys close in age- they had three littles in the double size futon below the upper bunk, which had the 10 and eight year old in it.
We solved the whole kid in apartment issue by purchasing a very small, very outdated, very old farmhouse on 4 acres. That way we have no one saying how many kids we can have on our own property. I really hope you can do this someday....then you can discover the joy of raising chickens and vegetables. Of course, then you will have the knowitalls calling CPS because you expose your kids to Salmonella....LOL!

Anonymous said...

it's one thing to dream about a large family, and another to actually HAVE one. i have six children, not huge by some standards, but big for suburban new york, i am quite the object of talk around here!anyway, things to think about....as they get older, and need their own space, tempers flare, yours and theirs. it's so easy to imagine life as it is now, but they DO grow, and the comfortable coziness there is now isnt there as they grow.think about eating/cooking arrangements, everyone needs a place to sit, as well as some "alone" space for each child to escape to. having more children than you can reasonably provide for is not romantic(as i once believed),but a real challenge, and financial commitment. i practice simple living, and frugality, but i also want my children to feel good about themselves, and not impoverished. God insructs us to use discernment in our choices.

Kathryn said...

The Duggar family solved this with boys/girls dorm style bedrooms which you could do on a smaller scale. We did it by buying a small house with a large yard so that as times improved we could add on. Ten years later we did add a large bedroom, bathroom, laundry room and office.

Anita (Living, Loving and Learning) said...

I know this is an older post, and I was thumbing through your blog to read the post I hadn't read before. I had to comment on this. I know of a family who raised 6 children in a 900 square foot 3 bedroom one bathroom home. The kids are awesome and love each other very much. I'm not sure where you live, but I can honestly tell you that rent and housing is so much cheaper here in the midwest. Nice 3 bedroom homes in our small town rent out for what you are paying for your apartment. Plus when your hubby becomes a pastor often churches give housing or housing expense.

Sonja said...

LOL! I kept envisioning what you were describing. I saw a wonderfully riotous household of happy, contented, healthy kids, all tumbling out of bed in the morning. It reminds me of movies I've seen set during the depression - many kids sharing rooms, and even beds - sometimes alternating head, feet, head, feet. LOL. While I highly doubt your situation will get to that point, it's hypothetically doable. Children are very adaptive. What children need is love, acceptance, & attention; they'll think how they're being raised is normal because, hey, it is. It's just not the accepted "norm", unfortunately. I was raised an only child & to this day, my dream of a family life filled with happiness and joy is a big family - lots of kids, and not necessarily a huge house to go with them. As for the "footprint" of a large family or burdening an overpopulated planet with more children, I have faith that whatever we decide to do - as long as it's what feels right to us - will all work out in the end.

Patty said...

http://unclutterer.com/2009/12/09/extreme-minimalist-living/

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