you can’t have it all

Current guest arrangements, wherein the guest gets the toddler’s room and the toddler bunks with us.


Eight years ago, living small was just the first step after marriage. Find an apartment, any apartment, and throw a mattress on the floor. Soon, we moved to another apartment which we started to furnish and decorate and then we threw it all to the wind to move across the country. We landed in our new space, which we had rented after seeing four pictures, and realized it was tiny. It was a basement apartment and rather haphazardly designed, but we estimated it to be just under 500 square feet. There was something novel and charming about living in such a small space, but we never intended for it to be long term.

Seven years, several job changes, a baby, and a small renovation later – we’re still in the same apartment. Somewhere along the way we started considering our options. We watched the housing market in our town explode. We watched our friends struggle to purchase their first homes. We debated whether we wanted to give up our financial flexibility for savings and travel to afford a bigger space. The answer was ‘no’.

Part of us always assumed we’d move to a larger home and that had to be reconciled with our new plans. We always leaned towards minimalism, but we purged again and again until our space was comfortable and practical for our family in our current stage of life. Now, we make sure our possessions are an asset to us in the present. If something is no longer useful, we pass it on. We don’t buy or store things for a uncertain future.

While we embrace the decision to live small, we do have dreams that we put on hold. Matt would love a dedicated music studio. I would love an office. Sometimes all three of us would like just a little more space to separate from each other. We love to host friends and family, but our space is limiting. For overnight guests, we have perfected the shuffling of beds and sleeping arrangements, but how convenient a guest room would be!

The truth is, we will never have it all. Not in a small apartment, not in a big house. We always have to evaluate our priorities and right now that is to maintain a low cost of living so we can save and travel. The town we live in is crazy expensive, but to move away we would give up amazing relationships, all the outdoor activities we love, and careers that support our long term goals. We know we will never have it all, but for our family the things we gain from living in a small space far outweigh the sacrifices.



This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Megan Barnum– “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.

Little Bungalow– “Less Space, More Happiness” : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.

600 Square Feet and a Baby– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn’t.)

Shelley Vanderbyl– “Five Things You Don’t Need in a Small Home” : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don’t need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.

The Streamlined Life– “The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value“: Just because you’re a minimalist family doesn’t mean you aren’t sentimental.

The Justice Pirate– “What Small Home Living is Like” : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.

Our Nest in the City– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we “cope” and thrive despite it all 🙂

Fourth and West– “You Can’t Have it All” : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING– “The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home” : A smaller home is why we’re able to live such a full life.

Family At Sea– “The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom” : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn’t realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.

Real Food Simple Life– “The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family” : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper– “I Didn’t Know Tiny Living Was For Me” : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.

Family Pedals– “Location Trumps Size” : The truth is, it has been our home’s location–not size–that has determined our happiness in a given space.


4 thoughts on “you can’t have it all

  1. You bring up such an important perspective of never being able to have it all. In every situation there is a compromise. Bigger living space = more room but paying more in rent/mortgage utilities, etc. It’s easy to focus on only the good/attractive parts of a change. You are so wise to be looking at the full picture.


  2. I agree so much with the sentiment of this post and also what Kelsey said. I think in our society there is this mindset to just keep upgrading until you’re “happy.” But when is there actual contentment? Being creative with the space and resources we have has made us appreciate our home and situation. I’m like you—I would love to have my own office and my husband desperately wants a music studio. But our mortgage is affordable, our neighborhood amazing, and we’re just making it work. For now. 🙂

    Thanks so much for writing for the Small Family Homes Blogging Community, Kaylan!


  3. Just discovered your blog through the Small Family Homes collective. Really interesting stuff! I’m originally from BC (grew up in Coquitlam) but living in Hong Kong now. Sure do miss the West Coast!


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