Most of us don’t choose to live in a tiny house. It just happens. When there’s no money for a bigger place, we settle for whatever works. That’s my story; does that sound like you?
Having found ourselves in the position of having a small house and a small income with a large family, how did we manage? How do we keep the house running smoothly–and looking decently nice–on a minimal level of income?
Now, I’m not complaining about anything, here. My husband is one of the hardest-working men I know. He has been getting up at 3:30 AM every morning for at least the past 15 years he’s had his current job. Even before then, he was always a hard worker. And he also sometimes does carpet cleaning jobs in the afternoons and on Saturdays, too. Nope, I’m not complaining.
What I am doing is telling you how it is, so you can understand that wherever you are, it might not be so different from where I am right now. And whatever solutions I’ve found might help you, too.
So let’s get going: what are my Small House Homekeeping Tips?
Stay at Home
This one seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it. If we want to keep our house nice, we have to actually be there to make it happen. When we’re rushing from one place to another, we don’t have time to make sure things get cleaned up and put away like they’re supposed to.
There’s another dimension to this. Not only are we able to keep the house nicer by staying at home (for the most part), we will also be able to get a lot more done with homeschooling.
I know there are some moms who love field trips: they take their kids to the museum, the library, the park, national parks, the zoo, etc.
I find that as wonderful as all those activities are, they take away from the essentials–essentials such as doing the laundry and washing the dishes. Those things don’t rank very high on most people’s educational aspirations, I know. But they need to be done nonetheless. Who likes to come back from a trip to the art museum only to sigh as soon as you walk in the door at the sight of a stack of dirty dishes you didn’t have time to do in the morning because you were in a rush to get out the door? Those outings have their place, certainly; but, some healthy boundaries must be observed.
One of the best places to appreciate art is in one’s own home, through the mother’s skillful efforts at beautifying her house. Or imagine how sweet it can be to sit together with the children on the couch all huddled around an art book with amazing paintings.
Sometimes the most uncomplicated activities can be the sweetest and most memorable.
Another reason I don’t like to go places stems from the fact that when I was a youngster being homeschooled by my mom, she hustled us to music lessons, dance lessons, soccer practice, homeschool-group field trips, and the like. Which literally gave me a headache and made me feel dizzy. As much as I enjoyed the outings and the lessons, being escorted all around town in the car caused my motion-sickness to kick in. I also was never able to do much school work, which really bothered me. I had to wait until we got back home to do my math and grammar. If we had not gone all those places, I might have finished it by lunch, and had the afternoon free to do as I pleased.
The third reason to stay home is really quite simple: it saves money.
It saves money because we’re not using up all that gas. Since my husband doesn’t make a huge amount of money, it makes sense to be careful in this area, since a tank of gas will cost around $50.00 to refill. Are the activities we want to be involved in really worth the extra $50 per week?
It also saves money because we’re not paying for lessons. I know this sounds mean. But. Even if our kids don’t go to soccer practice, they will be alright. Let me say that again: They . . . will . . . be . . . alright. There are plenty of ways kids can keep busy and learn something important at the same time. All it takes is a bit of creativity and imagination. Which is probably what they need, anyway.
It’s easier to keep your stuff tidy if you don’t have that much stuff. It’s easier to clean when you don’t have to move so many things out of the way first. I have always found that when it comes to material possessions, less really is more. Less stuff, more space. Less stress, more peace. Less dust, more clean. Yes!
When I declutter, there are several steps involved:
- Separating what I want from what I don’t want.
- Getting rid of any unnecessary bulk (I want it, but there’s too much of it).
- Throwing away useless, broken items.
- Preparing a box to give away to Goodwill.
- Cleaning up before I put things back.
- Improving the way I organize things so that everything is more streamlined.
Let’s look at each of those steps up close.
Separating what I want from what I don’t want
Don’t get me wrong–I usually want a lot of things. The main question isn’t really whether I want them or not; it’s whether I truly need them. If the item in question has been sitting in a box unused for the past five years, then in all likelihood, I don’t really need it. Out it goes.
The only exception to this is sentimental items of an heirloom nature; this would be anything exceptionally special because of the story and people connected to it. But, most things do not fit that category. Most things in people’s homes come from Walmart.
Getting rid of unnecessary bulk
A good example of this: I want to keep some plastic blocks for the children to play with . . . but do we really need that many? Or, I want to keep an egg beater, but do I really need all three? In this case, I need the item; I just have too much or too many of it. The answer to this is to shave off the excess and keep the best while getting rid of the extras.
Throwing away useless, broken items
After many years of hoarding junk I thought we might fix one day, I came to this startling conclusion: it will never get fixed. It will sit there and take up space for ten years, looking ugly and broken, and every time I pass it I will think I need to get that thing fixed, and I never will. I’ve found that it’s better to think of that item as irretrievably lost to me now that it’s broken, part ways, and just toss it in the dumpster. Most likely, a year from now I won’t even remember that it existed.
Preparing a box to give away to Goodwill
It doesn’t have to be Goodwill; it could be any thrift store or charity of choice. It could even be a neighbor. Whatever we don’t want (need), if it’s still in good condition, it’s a candidate. But first, I always make sure that nothing is broken, and I clean everything that’s dirty. I usually try to keep things grouped together based on category (all the dolls together, all the cars together, all the shirts together, etc.). It’s just part of trying to be considerate of the people I’m going to be giving this stuff to. And then we take it to them before we have a chance to change our minds.
I’ve read that some people will store a box of unwanted items in their garage for at least six months first, and if they don’t end up needing anything out of that box in six months, it’s a confirmation that they are ready to give it away. And that’s not a bad idea–if you have a garage.
Personally, I don’t have the space to be storing boxes of stuff, so I just need to be extra sure that I really don’t want it before sending it on its way.
Cleaning up before I put things back
This is when I pull out the dust rag and my all-natural spray made with essential oils. I wipe everything down before putting baskets and crates of toys back on the shelf (okay, maybe not everything–just the noticeably grimy stuff). I vacuum, or sweep and mop/wipe down the floor. I dust all the shelves.
This is my deep cleaning, and it happens only about every 4-6 months. The rest of the time, we just clean around all the hard-to-reach areas.
I am always analyzing my current method of organization to see if it might not be improved upon for better functionability. So, I rearrange shelves and side tables if necessary. I group puzzles and games around in a different order. This is important to be doing because new items are always coming in: gifts from birthdays and other holidays, etc. So, we need to find places to put all those things; otherwise, they just get crammed on top of all the others.
Decluttering can be done a little bit every day. For example, on Monday I might choose to go through my sock drawer; on Tuesday, the knick-knacks on my dresser; on Wednesday, my shoes; on Thursday, the utensil drawer in my kitchen; on Friday, my pile of bills on the shelf; and on Saturday, one of the toy bins. Some people might like to have a schedule for rotating rooms of the house they will be focusing on (this week, the bedroom; next week, the bathroom). I have done that, too. But, sometimes I don’t have an official “plan”; I just tackle messes as I notice them.
The trick is, though, to always be working on something every day. If we keep the task small (about 15-30 minutes a day), it will be doable. But, if we procrastinate because we think we need to do it all at once, it will never get done. Trust me.
Better to do a little at a time than to do nothing at all.
Organize a cleaning schedule
I’ve noticed that if I don’t have a schedule for cleaning the toilet, it doesn’t get done. Then, a month later I notice how disgusting it looks (and smells), and I wonder out loud How long has it been since this thing was cleaned? A week? A month? It has really helped me to put it on the schedule–and then be disciplined enough to make sure it happens.
My children help a lot with this. By the way, this is another benefit of having a large family, and of being homeschoolers: everybody helps, and everybody’s here to be able to help! In addition to their scheduled chores, they are required to keep their rooms tidy, put their clothes away, make their beds, and pick up their toys. My children don’t have a lot of their own toys; instead, they share. The older children have their own little “treasure boxes” for special items, and anything else they want to keep they must put on top of, or inside of, their drawers, or in the closet or a special plastic tub I may have bought especially for that purpose (for example, my oldest girl has a box just for her knitting supplies).
With six children, not every one of them needs their own train set, or their own dollhouse. That would be ridiculous. No, they share.
Now, there are those times when things get especially hectic and the chore schedule doesn’t get followed to the T. That’s okay; we just pick up where we left off as soon as things calm down. It’s important, though, to not wait too long.
One of the easiest ways to make a boring house look pretty is to paint the walls and put up nice pictures. Just doing those two things can make a huge difference! The first place we lived in was an ugly, brick apartment. No, not the nice red brick; the blah brown brick. We painted the walls a spring green, hung a few cheap reprints, placed a new rug on the floor, and that place was transformed. A little bit of creativity can go a long way toward improving the look of a house, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Yes, there will be an initial investment (paint, brushes, nails, etc.) but the outcome is so worth it.
Being in the same house, almost all day long, every day, has taught me the value of investing in my environment. A clean, picked up, pretty home can boost the mood and help one to focus on important tasks. When my house is a mess, I have trouble concentrating; but when it’s tidy, my mind is free to think about other things.
A cozy and lovely home is attractive to a man. I can’t tell you how important this one is–wait a minute . . . I can: What does almost every man on the face of the earth want in life? I mean, every good man? A welcoming home, a loving wife, good meals, and obedient children.
Let me tell you the truth: when a man’s wife doesn’t take the time to make his house a home; when she doesn’t cook meals for him or look pretty for him . . . he starts to get distracted. He doesn’t mean to, it just happens. It doesn’t take that much effort to be a supportive wife and good homekeeper, but the benefits are tremendous.
Cut out all unnecessary expenses
Living on one income is doable. We’ve done it for years! True, we haven’t had the latest cars or the most spacious houses; but, we’ve made it work. How? By simply getting rid of the things we didn’t truly need.
We don’t have cable. We only have one cell phone. We buy used cars off Craigslist with our income tax refund. We pass clothes down from our older children to our younger children. We don’t go to the movie theatre but once a year (not missing out on that much, anyways). We don’t go out to eat very often. We don’t have big birthday parties (we do family get-togethers instead). We don’t go on vacations (at least not ones that are far away or that last very long).
I don’t get my nails done. The last time I went to a beauty salon to have my hair trimmed was several years ago, and I trim all my children’s hair myself. I literally have seven sets of clothes in my closet (not counting maternity wear), which I circulate throughout the week, and most of the items were bought at Goodwill, while a few things were purchased online. I think my husband has a few pairs of Levi’s he bought five years ago.
We don’t use our credit card, unless it’s unavoidable and urgent; then, we pay it off as soon as we can.
My husband has two jobs: a regular job at a factory, and a side job cleaning carpets.
In addition to that, I’m helping to cover the cost of our personal care products and home cleaning products through our home-based business (learn more about it here). After years of considering different options, I finally found something I absolutely love and that’s doable at the same time!
Sometimes I hear women say that they could never do what I do: not working an outside job, homeschooling, having as many children as God desires to give us, living in a small house, etc. My answer to that is: Why not?
If we want something bad enough, we find a way to make it happen.
Here are a few ladies that have been an inspiration to me in the area of homekeeping:
- Erika from Large Families on Purpose (mother of 9 children, in a home with 4 bedrooms–check out her new site, Family Living on Purpose!)
- Jill from Rodrigues Family Ministries (they lived in an RV with 11 children for a whole year!)
- Candy from Eyes 2 Jesus (super-organized woman who is always trying to improve her homemaking skills)
- Lori from The Transformed Wife (an older lady who is absolutely, unapologetically committed to biblical womanhood)
I hope these Tiny House Tips have helped you! Do you live in a tiny house, too? How have you managed to keep things orderly? I’d love to hear about it!