Chaos, Community, & One Small House

Last weekend, I read an article in the real estate section of the local newspaper about a single-family dwelling with over 5,000 square feet of finished living space. In an interview with the current owners, the husband/father praised the size of the children’s rooms (which each had their own private baths) by saying that in their old house, the kids had to play in the basement together but now they could all play in their own separate rooms. And, he said, when the family hosts big parties, there can be twenty kids playing upstairs and the dozen adults downstairs never even know it.

Based on the photos that accompanied the article, I think it quite possible that my entire house could fit into this larger one’s foyer without much squishing.

It was quite coincidental that I read the article last weekend on the same day that we moved the Bean into our room to squeeze eleven people into our house, eleven people sharing two bathrooms, eating fruit loops together in the morning in shifts, laughing at our wacky children’s antics.

Out-of-town friends from our days in Texas were in and out all weekend, the occasion being a philosophy conference that my husband had organized over on campus. On Friday and Saturday during the day, while the philosophers were busy philosophizing, we had six children aged 5 years old down to two-and-a-half months running around the coffee table, stomping their feet, dropping food on the floor, opening cabinets. Well, the two month old was just eating and sleeping; the older kids were able to handle everything else. Then, after the kids went to sleep each night, about a dozen adults would gather in the basement or outside around a fire to catch up, visit, and argue philosophy to the background music of baby monitor white noise.

I love our house, our fifties-era, fixer-upper, work-in-progress. I love it for many reasons, none of which is that the bedrooms have private baths or that you could never hear children playing upstairs. It is not very big. And it is creaky. And drafty. I will confess, though, that despite most of our personal belongings not being valuable–most are even second-hand–I am not a huge fan of seeing them scattered around the floor or getting banged into walls by small children. It requires a lot of in-and-out breathing on my part to survive those moments or, in this case, days.


Upon reflection, it appears that in fact I prefer the chaos and mess, prefer the borrowed air mattresses and pack&plays, the crockpots of food and leftover pimento cheese, prefer the hospitality and community, the humbling reminders of just how dearly I cling to the control I have over my stuff, my time, and my life, even prefer the exhaustion to

5000 square feet of don't-touch-that's
a coffee table you couldn't put your feet on
a half-dozen TVs hidden behind fancy cabinets
children hidden upstairs in their bedrooms
an unused dining room
private bathrooms
peace and quiet

Okay, maybe not the peace and quiet. I will probably always prefer peace and quiet.

But what I mean is this:

Come on over, friends. There’s always room here.

7 comments on “Chaos, Community, & One Small House

  1. Sara says:

    Well said!

  2. Ivy says:

    I totally agree with you. Another plus: don’t really need a baby monitor with a small 1950s house. Or an intercom system.

  3. Darla says:

    I’m with you. It’s crazy to me. And what about the heating/cooling cost? I think your home sounds like much more fun!

    • elizabeth says:

      Yes, that would be crazy expensive. Goodness me.

      Maybe it depends on what kind of ‘fun’ one wants to have! 🙂

  4. Sarah Johnson says:

    Great thoughts! I loved your house and felt very blessed to squish in there with everyone! You’re a wonderful hostess and a great cook…which reminds me, I need to get some of those recipes from you if you don’t mind (bread and hummus). 🙂

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