It’s good to be back to writing again. I took a few months off to focus on adjusting to our new family dynamic a baby girl to the mix. Its been interesting finding a good balance with all the kids and to be honest we’re still not quite there. I’m jumping back into things with another post as part of the Small Family Home Blog Community. This month we are focusing on the necessities of small family living.
Living comfortably in a small home (under 1000 square feet) with a five kids comes with a few difficulties or challenges–one of those being space enough for the kids to play and move around naturally. For years we struggled trying to balance couches and tables large enough to fit our ever growing family with space enough not to feel on top of each other and claustrophobic. Finding a way to open up the little space we had became necessary for my sanity and our family’s wellbeing. Living in Scotland where it rains most of year added yet another challenge, kicking the kids outside to expend their energy isn’t often an option. While we do go outside in the rain, sometimes it just gets too cold and miserable after a while. Opening up our little space requires a lot of intentionality when it comes to the furniture we choose to put in the home and how we arrange it. It has taken years to finally come to a solution that works for us.
A few years back when trying to heal my diastasis recti, I began listening to the Katy Says podcast all about nutritious movement and alignment. She introduced me to the idea of living furniture free. Now when I say furniture free I don’t mean bare empty rooms with nothing but the walls and floors. I simply mean cutting back on pieces of furniture that minimize our ability to move and encourage us to move less and sit more.
My initial motivation to get rid of furniture in our house that encourage one type of static movement (sitting on a couch or dining room chair) was all about getting more natural and varied movement into our everyday and encouranging our muscles to move through their full range of motion. We didn’t get rid of a couch completely, we just opted for a pad on the floor with pillows instead. This requires us to squat all day long when getting down to sit on the floor. The pad doesn’t cradle our bodies in the same way a traditional couch does and requires us to change our position regularly engaging a variety of muscles all over our body. As a busy mom, I don’t have much time to work out as often as I’d like so I want to get as much natural movement as I can into each second of the day. With each piece of furniture we eliminate we get more and more opportunities to work our bodies.
Getting rid of the couch really opened up our tiny living room. Immediately the ceilings seemed much higher and the space was much roomier. My kids loved all the extra space they had to run, jump, roll and crawl. I didn’t find myself as bothered by their rambunctious play because there was more room for it. I now had more room to do my own exercises without having to worry about hitting furniture or needing to move it away before starting.
We do get a few weird looks from people when they come into our house and if I’m honest some complaints. We have kept a rocking chair and some ottomans for those who aren’t so comfortable with the whole floor sitting idea. I would like to get rid of the mattress completely and use more pillows and cushions but not everyone in the family is on board with going that extreme. Maybe one day I can convince them.
Just recently we took the next step to our furniture free house by getting rid of our dining table and chairs and swapping them for some low coffee tables and cushions to kneel on. Before the change our dining room felt so cramped. We had little room to get around our big table that sat 8-10 when fully extended. It drove me nuts and we had little space to use the room for anything other than eating at the table. In a small home it helps if rooms are multipurpose and now the dining room can be used for more than just eating.
The coffee tables are so easy to push aside when we aren’t eating. Cleaning up after eating is quicker and we can use the extra floor space in front of our computer to do yoga together or spread out a long piece of butcher paper for an art project. Now we actually have dedicated space for our keyboard and other instraments in a little music corner. The room feels so much more functional now and the kids (and I) are so much happier. There are still a few kinks to work out as its definitely not as easy to contain 4 little kids at a coffee table for dinner but its slowly getting better.
So for us, now that we have begun this journey we have come to realize how necessary going furniture free is to thriving in our small family home.