The 5 Secrets to Living in a Small Space with Small Kids (WITHOUT Losing Your Mind!)

Small space living is a topic close to my heart. I had my first experience with small space living when I worked for a year in the United Kingdom and lived in a “box room” (and yes, a box room is just about as big as it sounds!).

Several years later when my husband and I bought a 1,000 square foot home and had two children under two, I began to focus on how to live in a small space with two active toddlers without going nuts and drowning in a sea of kid paraphernalia! The house definitely doesn’t look perfect 100% of the time (real life, right?), but I’ve found a few simple things have helped to keep our home ordered and pleasant to live in, even with little residents.

Without further ado, I’m excited to give you the top 5 secrets I discovered on my journey to living well in a small space with small kids.

Secret #1

Declutter First

It sounds obvious, but we often jump into buying bins and cute storage containers before we even stop to consider if we actually need to keep everything in our homes. The thing is, when you’re living in a small space, you often don’t have room for tons of storage containers. You need to make every single container count, so it’s best to do a ruthless declutter first before heading to Ikea.

It can be hard to get rid of kids toys, books and clothes, but if they’re not getting fully used and loved, it only means more stuff for you to organize, clean and shuffle around the house. Besides, more than a few parents have noticed their children tend to play better when they have less toys.

What You Can Do Today: List the top spots in your home which are causing you the most stress. Where do you feel like the mess is constantly getting the best of you? If there are multiple spots, pick the top one and set a timer for 15-20 minutes. Until the timer goes off, do nothing but declutter that area. Even if you don’t finish, you will be surprised how much you get done. Plus, decluttering has a snowball effect! Once you get started, momentum quickly begins to build.

Secret #2

Start a Toy Rotation

Our only indoor play area is the living room. With no playroom and no family room, I quickly got frustrated with feeling like my living room was a “kid zone.” Maybe it wasn’t a big deal during the day, but at night when I was sitting down on the couch with a glass of wine, it wasn’t exactly a relaxing atmosphere.

I decided to start a toy rotation. Toys come and go from our living room on a regular basis (every month or two) to ensure the area doesn’t get too cluttered. I’ve found I prefer everything needs to be able to tidy up in less than ten minutes, and I should be able to sit down and feel like I’m not in the middle of a daycare center.

What You Can Do Today: Grab a box and put in a selection of toys to “rest” for awhile. Put the box away in a closet or some place out of the way. Since you’ve already decluttered, these are obviously toys you intend to keep. After a couple months, pull the box out and trade the toys out for different ones. Your kids will enjoy playing with something “new,” and you will enjoy the benefit of less toys to clean up each day.

Bonus: If you pull toys out of the box and you find the kids are no longer interested or haven’t missed them, you can simply donate them and create more space in your home permanently!

Secret #3

Pick Storage You Like

Sometimes, it can be frustrating in small living spaces to feel like nothing can look beautiful or decorative or more “grown-up” when you have kids. Their stuff is everywhere, and it’s all bright neon colors and flashing lights and nothing like that beautiful color scheme you have in mind for your home decor.

For me, the answer has been storage that serves both as storage and decoration. I hide completely those things which are big and gaudy (the big Fisher Price basketball hoop lives in the entry closet when not in use), and everything else goes in storage containers which hide their contents and are also attractive. Matching baskets, the drawers of our little entertainment center, coordinating neutral bins or crates, etc.

What You Can Do Today: Find containers YOU like to store kid things, whether that’s books, toys, clothes or anything else. Obviously, they must be somewhat durable, but make sure it’s something you find both enjoyable to look at and easy to use.

Bonus: These storage options do NOT have to break the bank. Dollar Tree has great options, or the Goodwill or garage sales can also yield good finds. You can easily pick up simple, and yes, even attractive options!

Secret #4

“Batch” Your Tidying

In a small home, the mess builds up FAST. I used to tidy multiple times throughout the day, but then realized it was just not a good use of my time. My kids were constantly into everything!

Now, I tidy twice a day. I tidy right when they go down for afternoon naps, and I tidy right after they get in bed for the night. Since I do this regularly, each tidy takes less than ten minutes. Our oldest kiddo is starting to help with cleanup also (but with toddlers, it’s more the principle of cleaning up than actually being helpful, right?:).

As Gretchen Rubin says, “It’s easier to keep up than to catch up,” so I usually don’t let our main living area go too long without a tidy, but at twice a day, I can feel like our small home isn’t completely going to pot, while also not feeling like I’m constantly cleaning up while the kids are hanging on my shirt.

What You Can Do Today: Pick designated times in the day when you’ll take just ten minutes and pick things up around the house. This isn’t about deep cleaning or diving headlong into a home project, but rather, just keeping some physical order for mental sanity. It’s surprising what an incredible difference it makes.

Secret #5

See the Positive

It can be HARD to live in a small space with small children. There are some days when the wheels simply fall off the cart, and that’s okay. There are some days when the kids are climbing the walls and its easy to think if the house were just larger, the problems would all be solved.

The truth, however, is that small living spaces can hold many blessings if we’re willing to see them. Less to clean, less to maintain (and thus, less expensive), and the list goes on. Small isn’t always bad, and large isn’t always good.

On days when the walls are closing in, I challenge myself to think about all the benefits we gain from living in a small home. It doesn’t suddenly enlarge my space, of course, but it usually helps pull me out of my funk.

What You Can Do Today: Challenge yourself to think of all the reasons you’re grateful to live in the home you’re in. Sometimes, it’s not even the features of the home itself! I often think how grateful I am to live in a walkable neighborhood with two parks close-by and the possibility of running almost any errand on foot.

Hey there!

Thanks so much for taking time to read the secrets I’ve learned about small space living. I truly hope they’re an encouragement to you as you seek to make the most of the space where you live.

I blog regularly at aflourishingplace.com and I hope you’ll stop by every once in awhile so we can connect. My heart is to help women make their home a refuge through decluttering, organizing and beautifying.

All my best,

Betsy