Home Tour: 1 couch for 5 people

This is what my living and dining room look like when they’ve been picked up and children are not around. I write that caveat in because many days this place looks like we’ve been robbed and the thieves emptied the place looking for an illusive piece of Lego.

When we first moved into this home almost seven years ago we filled the living room and dining room. We had a couch, arm chair, coffee table, huge IKEA expedit entertainment and storage unit, a storage chest, dining table and chairs and a large storage cabinet for wedding china, wine glasses and such. Sure, everything fit into the space but looking back at the photos, and remembering how it felt to live there, the room felt heavy and crammed. When I was struck by the decluttering bug in the fall of 2010 I gave away the storage chest and cleared out a lot of what was stored in the IKEA expedit unit. Six months later we sold everything and moved overseas (it felt amazing to own no furniture!). Moving back four years later I knew that although we had added two more people to the family, we didn’t need all of the furniture we had before.

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This time around we skipped the big storage/entertainment unit and got two smaller pieces from IKEA. The bottom unit holds kids drawing items, games and puzzles on one side and the other side isn’t very full and holds some books and a few random decor pieces that we are trying to keep out of the baby’s reach. The shelving that is above the TV is storage for some electronic items and memorabilia.

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At one point we did have an arm chair but it wasn’t getting a lot of use, was bright red and we had received it basically for free while getting a grouping of second hand items. I gave it away and the space feels the better for it. When we need more living room seating we pull one of the dining room chairs over – the upholstered ones are actually quite comfortable. For now all five of us can sit on the couch together comfortably and the kids often prefer to sit on the floor to read or play or watch a movie anyways. In trying to live a life where my home functions for 90% of my needs, instead of 100%, we don’t have a second couch for guests. We do have visitors and we can fit three adults on the couch, with the dining seating another four seats and I can bring in the chair from the office. We had a birthday party here with ten or so adults and fifteen kids and we made do just fine with the seating.

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Our dining table has seen better days but was a good second hand deal and works with our space. Most of the time it sits in this compact square configuration leaving us a lot of floor space. When we have people over we take one or both of the leaves out, add in the office chair, pull out the kids table and party! *The kids table and chairs are actually my husband’s from his childhood. They rotate around our place for kid work/dining surface where needed. Currently they are ‘locked up’ in the master bedroom because the not quite 18 month old likes to stand on the table. If it’s a larger group than we have seating for we do two dinner shifts, kids eat first and go off and play while the adults eat. In a pinch we also throw down our picnic blanket and kids eat picnic style. Who doesn’t love an indoor picnic?

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Again, less furniture makes this room more livable. At another time I would have put a big book case along the wall where the kids table is and a china cabinet across the back wall of this room. Coffee table, add in a big arm chair or even a love seat, and this room has a lot less space to move in. We will have to make some adjustments when the kids are older and bigger – that couch isn’t going to hold all of us! – but I hope they are small. Plus if we are living in the city with teens I am expecting that they make use of the community centre, library and parks independently in the evenings. As Miss Minimalist says, “in pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, we must resist the temptation to recreate the outside world within our abodes.”

Next up: kids’ bedroom.

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  • awesome post. i love your high chair–with surprise baby number three, that’s the one i got, and i like it MORE than the super expensive tripp trapp we got when we were expecting our first. our baby (17 months) does not climb out, so we took out the straps (we can always put them back if he starts trying to escape) and now it’s even EASIER to clean, which is awesome. we’re in the middle of baby barfaggedon, and i have to say, that chair hoses off really easily :)

  • I love that final quote. Yes, why do we try and make our homes into community centres? How much better to go out and build community in the community!

    When we lived in the US Midwest, I couldn’t believe how many people in our neighbourhood had pools. There was a lovely neighbourhood pool, no more than a 10 minute walk from any house (except everyone drove, of course, so a 1 minute drive). It was sociable, but not too busy – sometimes you could have it to yourself. There were lifeguards. I didn’t totally get why anyone would want their own pool. Though of course I also get that I was looking and judging from a different cultural viewpoint. Same principle though.

    I love your couch!

    • A neighborhood pool sounds amazing. I grew up a twenty minute walk from the beach and we lived there in the summer.
      Couch: IKEA really nails it. Sturdy, nice design and everything can be put in the wash! Can’t recommend the IKEA Stockholm sofa enough. It is one of their more expensive (for IKEA) models but after sitting on a half dozen couches in the show room we really felt the construction was best on this sofa. So far it is surviving under the constant abuse from three kids pulling the pillows off and jumping on it.

  • I love the 90% solution. Our loveseat came with the couch but doesn’t get much use, and I agree that it is easy to pull dining chairs into the living room when needed for guests.

  • Our oldest is a 6’1″ 200 lb 15 year old man child and one loveseat it still works for the 5 of us. Most of the time we take the cushions and lounge on the floor.

    • :) this is nice to hear! They already sit on the floor a lot so maybe that will just continue? I just remember my older brother dominating one of our living room couches growing up. In his teen years he lived on that thing.

  • So glad you made this post I was just thinking to myself I wish I could see into a minimalist house .

    • I have just been thinking “Why didn’t I do this long ago?”. It’s been really fun and tidying up and taking photos has made me appreciate the space even more. :)

  • I really enjoyed reading this post – as we move into our first house (950sq ft) as a family of three, knowing we’ll be living there as a family of four someday, I like seeing how others utilize the space. I really love that line about making your space work for the 90% of the time. That has been my biggest “aha” moment on my journey to minimizing and decluttering – My space and belongings now reflects my actual lifestyle instead of being set up for the 10% (or less) occasions where I need something different. The site looks great – I don’t know when you did the redesign/refresh but I love it!

    • Thanks, Meredith. Still some kinks to work out with the new design but I am enjoying how fresh and, hahaha, uncluttered it is.
      I would love, and have loved in the past, to own lots of seasonal decor and items for hosting one off large gatherings. But I have had to accept that if I want to live comfortably in a smaller home I really only have room for what we use regularly.

  • Great post! Love how your home looks neat and intentional, but still attainable. Inspiring!

  • I’m really enjoying the posts on how you make your space work for your family! We have a large entertainment center that we go back and forth on getting rid of in order to make more space. But I get stuck on which items to get rid of- it holds a lot! Games, puzzles, toy trucks, electronic equipment, dvd’s, etc. Any suggestions?

    • Those trucks can take up a lot of space. We love them at the sand park and someone gave us a collection of them when we moved back last summer. I pared down recently to just the big digger and the mini dump trucks.
      DVDs: do you use them? We stopped and just stream now.
      I find that if you are really stuck it’s good to just pack a few boxes of the not as loved/used items away. See how things go for 2-3 months if you can live without them then donate them. Good luck!

  • Your living room is darling! I love the art on the walls and the windows and the pillows on the couch – it’s all quite beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  • I like reading your posts. My family isn’t on the same page but I do believe less is more. I have to stop throughing away my husbands and kids stuff tho haha that’s the tough part not to

  • …that same thief comes to our house! I suspect he/she won’t ever find the piece they need!! Great post.

  • I love this post and can’t wait to see the toddler bedroom :) We find that even now when we have people over, half the adults sit on the floor out of choice anyway. Sometimes because they are chasing small people around but also just because I think they find it comfortable, plus it’s a fun way to be involved in what the kids are doing while still being a part of adult conversation. Your place looks great!!

  • I appreciate you sharing your home! I love seeing what works for others. After buying a house nearly twice the size of our first one due to the housing market here (Austin) and time constraints , I was afraid I’d hate the extra space. Instead, it seems to work for our family since half of the members are big introverts and need their space. The best part for us about having a bigger house is that we get to be the hub for neighborhood kids coming over. Plus, with family over a thousand miles away, we have space to host them (and all of the parties/play dates I host). I think minimalism is all about making the space you have work for you, whether its 800 sq ft. or 2200 sq ft.

  • 90%- yes! I have been thinking about how our little Mazda5 van works really well for us 80% of the time. The other 20% it is a real pain, honestly. But 80%- a no car payment- still works well enough for me to stay content with what we have. Sounds like how you describe your sofa situation:)

    • There is a family of six in my building with a Mazda 5. The kids are ages 6-12 and they just make it work. I applaud you! We went minivan. It was hard to find anything that fit with a rear facing car seat and two very tall drivers.

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