7 Ways to Thrive in a Small House

It is possible to not only survive, but THRIVE, in a small house. Here is how one mom does it. Which of these are you doing?

It’s been a little over a month since we moved into our new home. We’re getting settled in, though we’ve been so busy with baseball, summer traveling, and regular life stuff that we haven’t been able to get to all the little projects we have planned.

We’re still feeling blessed and excited over this perfect-for-us place. I shared in my earlier post a bit about it that we love it, but it wouldn’t be perfect for  everybody. The reason? It’s just about 1,000 square feet with 2 small bedroom, 1 tiny bathroom…and one closet in the whole house!

And while we love the house, barn, land and all that goes with it (including our new baby chicks!), there are some challenges that come along with living in a small space. Many of our friends said things like “I could never do that. Our 1,800 square feet is too small for us.”

I understand. Before we lived in our first rental (around 850 sq. ft.), I probably would have said the same thing. However, we’ve actually come to enjoy living in a smaller space, and I wanted to give some tips for those who might be forced into living in a smaller space for a season.

1. Start with a good attitude

Attitude is so important! Challenge yourself to choose joy. Challenge yourself to choose contentment.

No, it won’t always be easy, but it is possible. I can look back at all of the rentals we lived in over the past few years, and each place came with its own set of challenges. However, I can think of several good things about each place as well–even the one with the horrible mold that made us sick had a few redeeming things.

This is especially important because as I discuss in my Peaceful Home Course, your attitude is catchy. If you’re moping and complaining about your home, it will affect the rest of your family. Find something about your house that you like. If there truly is nothing, then simply be thankful for the family that lives inside it.

On this same note, don’t compare. Comparison will steal your joy and lead to bitterness. Just don’t do it. We can choose to be blessed and content in the Lord.

In Philippians 4, Paul said he had learned to be content in all circumstances, and he wrote that from a jail cell. Surely I can be content with a small home.

Tip: Intentional Gratitude: The 5 minute daily practice that will change your life.

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2. Minimize/Downsize

One of the biggest mistakes people make when living in a smaller home is to try and bring 2,000 sq. ft. amount of stuff into a 1,000 sq. ft. space. This doesn’t work. Technically, you can do it.  I’ve seen creative storage solutions to help people do just that, but too much stuff makes the small space look even smaller and more cluttered.

Make your possessions earn their keep, and carefully consider every purchase. As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Get rid of some things. There is no magic number for the amount of things your family should have, but it should be an amount that feels comfortable and uncluttered, with a place for everything. You’ll thank me later.

A few good resources have been released lately that deal with this topic. I recommend Unstuffed and The More of Less.

3. Make it beautiful

You can’t easily change the size of your home, but you can make it more pleasing. I tend to be a very practical person and haven’t always appreciated the value of decorating the house with pretty things. However, while I still want things to be as useful and functional as possible, I am coming to believe that this is our home and it should be a haven. If some well-placed decorative touches make me love it more, then it’s well worth it, especially if you’re feeling discontent with your home. A little bit of beauty can be just the thing to change that around.

This doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a lot of simple, frugal things you can do to make your space more pleasing and homey.

I especially love wall art that helps remind me of scripture and positive values, like this beautiful wall art from Dayspring. It’s beautiful and a great reminder to practice hospitality.

Dayspring- They Broke Bread...

The Nester has some great ideas for making your home beautiful, and even more great ideas in her book The Nesting Place.

4. Keep it Clean and Free of Clutter

In my homemaking series, I talked about how homemaking is more than just a clean house. However, if you’re living in a small house, a few things out of place here and there add up quickly and can make the whole space look cluttered and messy. You’ll definitely want to keep on top of the mess so that it doesn’t get out of hand. The good thing about this is that it’s also much quicker and easier to clean a small space.

This book is a great place to start if your home is out of control.

5. Get Outside

We value time outdoors and think it’s important. Also, our particular small house came with a barn and 5.5 acres, so we have extra incentive to spend a lot of time outdoors and I love that. If you’re feeling restless in your small space, get outside into the wide and open outdoors. Enjoy God’s creation. Stop and smell the roses. Plant a garden–even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can foster potted plants, and some small things like tomatoes, spices and herbs, etc. There are so many possibilities.

6. Get Creative with Storage

I’m not a proponent of wall to wall storage in order to hang on to too much stuff (see point #2). But, some things need to be kept. Did I mention that my smallish house comes with a single closet? That’s not one extra storage closet in addition to the bedroom closets. That is ONE closet in the entire house. That means I needed to get creative with storage. Fortunately for me, we do have a garage with a small landing full of shelves. It isn’t temperature controlled, so we are limited in what we can store there, but we have been able to store a lot of things there on shelving.

We also have a big, open living room, kitchen, and dining room area. It’s a very large room and I love how open it is. However, it also means that we have no closet or spare bedroom to “hide” things in, and much less wall space than I have been used to in the past [Anybody have any decorating and arrangement ideas for such an open floor plan? I’d love your help in this area–I’m designer challenged for real].

Anywho, nearly everything we own is right out for guests to see, so I wanted storage that was both pretty and functional. I love storage items that double as decor! I found some really cute baskets  this past weekend. I also love the cube shelves like these.

Other storage tips: 

  • Rotate toys for children
  • Downsize clothing and other possessions
  • Utilize under the bed storage
  • Utilize wall space

7. Experiment with the Layout

In our first small house, I arranged and rearranged a few times before settling on a layout that really worked. It’s amazing how much difference it can make to simply arrange things a bit differently in the room. As I said above, I’m no designer or decorator, so I’m still experimenting to try and find the best arrangement for our home, but it’s fun to change things up now and then.

Bonus: Love your family well!

A home is not about the space, or the house, or even the decor. A home is about the love and people in it. If you’re  spending your time loving, laughing, and savoring the moments, you can thrive anywhere!

These are just some of the things that we have done to thrive in our small house. You can also check out my post making your home a place you love to be, for more ideas for thriving in your home.

P.S. If you could benefit from a collection of resources full of inspiration and practical tips for homemaking, I wanted to tell you about a resource right now called the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. In it, you’ll find over 129 resources from your favorite bloggers and experts…all for 98% off the regular price! + There are physical bonuses as well!

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  1. says

    We are getting ready to move into a house that sounds very similar to yours- with 3 little girls. Loved your tips! I think the challenge to make a small home work is going to be so fun! Thanks for your tips

  2. says

    OMG…this is SO good. We are a family of 4 living in around 1K square feet. Not a “tiny House” but close! I agree on all of this especially the clutter part. We purge and purge often to keep the “stuff” from over-running the house. THANK YOU :) Stopping by from the SITS Sharefest!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      So glad you enjoyed the post. It sounds like you are making a small house work for you as well :)

  3. says

    Oh boy, I was sitting here cringing when you spoke about clutter. We have it due to my love for thrift store bargains and using them to pretty up our small house, ashamed to say in excess..
    Our problem is storage, I even keep our seasonal clothes in boxes in our old 89 Suburban that doesn’t run. It sits out in our lower yard where I keep clothes, books, lamps, ? and our chickens love to spend time under it in warm/hot weather.
    We live in a single wide mfg. home which has too much “stuff” in it. I recently spent over 3 weeks clearing out/organizing my very small craft room and room next to it which is even smaller/my sewing room, is next in line.
    Been considering renting a storage garage but realize that’s a bad idea and waste of money can’t spare. Must do some purging big time, clean out our home made shed. You have inspired me to get with it again, time to get it done. Thank you for very needed “push” in right direction. Now maybe daughter will get off my back about all my stuff. I appreciate you too. Who says older people can’t learn from younger? My kids, 4 of them, have taught me much over the years. Have wonderful weekend

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m so glad you could glean a little bit from my words. My struggle with keeping excessive stuff has been a hard-fought battle, and mostly out of necessity through many situations (moving, mold problems, smaller homes with little storage, etc.). I’m still a work in progress, but it is amazing how peaceful I feel once I let go of the stuff. It’s like my physical clutter was also causing mental clutter. I hope you’re blessed by your purging as well!

  4. says

    Great tips for living and being happy in a small space! Truly, it’s not how big your house is, how big your car is, how many clothes you have . . . those things won’t make you happy. Best wishes for thriving in your home!

  5. says

    I like this topic! We lived in Chicago in a 950 sq ft condo as a family of two, then a family of four! Now we are in a 1,400 sq ft townhome…I think the layout is actually less ideal than our condo, as it is spread over 3 floors. But at least we have a few extra bathrooms ;) One bathroom for a family of four is tough!

  6. says

    Here in the Uk our houses tend to be much smaller anyway, apparently our average house is now only 820ish squ feet. I guess it’s what you are used to. I love what you say about not comparing, I’m afraid here we do watch family’s on US tv programmes and have a little bit of house envy sometimes!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I’ll let you in on a little secret…most US tv programs don’t really represent the average US home. You’re right, though, it’s what you get used to.

  7. says

    Crystal, this is wonderful! I wish more people would get into small houses. When we were looking to buy our home years ago, I knew I wanted a home that was no larger than we needed with a small garage (no room for “storage”) and no storage sheds. Could’ve bought a larger house for the same amount of money, but I did not want a larger house. I always say most people don’t need more storage space, they just need less stuff!

  8. says

    My husband grew up in a very small home with 6 people in about 1,100 sq. ft with one bathroom and 2 closets. He values that fact and how close his family is even until today. I lived in a home which was 900 sq. ft with 3 of us. I understand how creative it is necessary to be to make the space work. Less is more for sure! Just thinking about it makes me realize we have too much stuff! Loved this! Thanks for sharing with us at Merry Monday.

  9. Raven Niewoehner says

    I have some tips I use for decorating a big open space. Create themes around each corner or wall but choose one element (i.e. type of furniture or texture or color) that appears throughout the room. Themes break the space into usable parts and tell the eye where to go when you first enter the room. A theme is function, color and texture/material. In our big room we have a technology wall. The color scheme is black, chrome and accent orange. It has computer monitors and a tv plus tv stand. The adjacent wall is all seating with a soft red and blue color scheme theme. The opposite wall function is board games. It has our neutral coffee table with neutral matching accent chairs on either side. Seating from other parts of the room can be pulled over for games. All our side tables in the room match each other and the floor perfectly.

I love to hear your feedback and value your thoughts! All I ask is that we remain respectful and civil, even when we disagree. Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate you!

Thank you for joining in the discussion!