I suppose I wasn’t surprised when concerned friends and family started inquiring about what we were going to do with our living situation once the baby arrives. One of the first questions Mike’s mom asked was, “Where do you expect to put your baby? Surely not the downstairs bedroom?!”. My own mom piped in presumptuously, “Eventually you’ll need to move into a bigger house.” Mike’s dad was more concerned about how we were going to fit “all their stuff” in one room. Only my father offered to help move furniture around. But I’ve had my fair share of tiny spaces and fielding questions and comments on living in such. And we’ve decided as a couple to do as we always do, and make family growth work in our tiny home.
A history of tiny dwellings
It seems humorous to us that our own parents voiced concerns. We both grew up in tiny spaces. Mike lived in a two bedroom apartment with his dad and sister until college. He shared a room with his sister during childhood, and then with his dad in his teen years until his sister left for college when he was 17 years old. Apart from his senior year in high school, he essentially shared a room with someone until he graduated college. After which, he moved into a house with his buddies and upgraded his room to a garage. Absolute freedom.
My own story was similar. I moved ten times before high-school. While we sometimes lived in houses big enough to have our own rooms, we also lived in two bedroom apartments (thrice!). For six months we stayed at a one-bedroom Extended Stay America. The most cramped memory was when we immigrated to the United States. For about a month, all five of us slept in my father’s co-worker’s office space. My mom, dad, and brother shared a full-sized bed while my sister and I slept on the sliver of a floor between the bed and the computer desk. We weren’t even allowed to roam outside of the bedroom except for the few hours that the owner was away at work. My brother co-habited in my parent’s bedroom until he was three years old. And my sister and I definitely had our fair share of sharing spaces.
Our current tiny home
This may sound silly, but I realize that Mike and I have chosen tinier and tinier spaces. In the end, we kept arriving to the conclusion that less is more. Our first loft together was 1,595 square feet, which we rented the first year and a half of our marriage. The second loft which we purchased was 1,500 square feet. Comparable in size, but with a larger footprint downstairs, which we rented out. So our living space was slightly reduced to under 1,000 square feet. When our roommate left, we sold that property and sized down even further. Our current tiny home is 1,318 square feet. Similar to our first two lofts, this one has the secondary bedroom downstairs.
We live in a tiny home. That much is undeniable. However, I don’t find that as problematic for family growth as the layout. A split-level townhome (described as an ideal bachelor pad by a neighbor-mom who also lives in the same floor plan) isn’t exactly conducive for family living in the traditional sense. The upstairs space is about 900 square feet (or less?) comprised of the living area and the master bedroom.
My gripe is with the second bedroom. Located on the first floor, it has a tiny stand-up shower in the bathroom and is positioned right next to the front door and the garage. The walkway to neighboring townhomes looks directly into the second bedroom. As a parent, I may worry about being on a separate floor, in case of emergencies. I also wonder if it’s bad that a stranger passing by would be geographically closer to the baby than we would. The solution may be to move the nursery upstairs.
Deciding on Family Growth in a Tiny Home
In the grand scheme of raising humans, I still find this banter on how tiny a home is to be quite frivolous. In the end, we have decided to stay, for now. I have found a solution by way of a bassinet on casters that would solve for the “where to put the baby” problem. Call it stubbornness, but I find the challenge to be endearing. I’d like to rise up with creative ways to exist in our current situation.
Expansion is the American dream. The solution for most people is to buy more stuff. Quick fixes solve problems, yes, but only for a quick amount of time. Mindset shifts, which take much longer, could result in more permanent solutions. We’ve spent the past six years of our married life finding ways to cut back – whether it be on waste, spending, stuff, to-do lists, social norms, expectations or space. These more permanent solutions are what yield the temporary one for our family growth in a tiny home dilemma.
Since we’ve always wanted to dabble in real estate, we have the fall-back option of buying a bigger space and renting this one out. However, like all else in life, I want to see what ‘staying and seeing’ yields. At the very least, I want to wait until the baby arrives to see what lifestyle we want to lead. Will we both work part-time and parent part-time? Will we resume our previous career schedules and make the same amount of money? Or will we value this tiny home as a means to stay close with our child, both geographically and because we don’t have to work and be away as much?
I have found peace with our decision in the mothers before me who have navigated similar terrain.
- Erin Boyle managed family growth in a tiny New York 500 sq. foot apartment which she called home until her third babe was born.
- Alison Mazurek lived with a baby (and then two…) in a 600 square foot apartment in Canada until past toddlerhood.
- Our neighbor Leah is raising her son in the same townhome layout as ours, and he is thriving.
- My own mother managed three wild children in a co-workers bedroom.
At the end of the day, I’ve landed on the same conclusion as when we adopted our cat Theo: There is always room for loved one. Family growth will be just fine in a tiny home.