Home Tour: One Bedroom For Three Boys

Sharing our home in this series on the blog. More here and here.

Three boys. One bedroom.

My best tip for making a small space work for three kids isn’t a design hack or even a space creator like having less stuff. My best tip for making our small space work for three kids is this: get outside. We don’t have a yard nor space to have an indoor mini tramp or rec room you could play soccer in. Our home has to meet our big needs – place to sleep, relax and dine – but it can’t meet all of our needs. We can’t own all the toys or all the books. So we let the library and our friends and the tot drop in at the Community Center own and store a lot of toys and books that we use on site or borrow for a few weeks. Grandma has the water guns and the mini soccer goals and big remote control cars at her house. If you don’t have an attic or garage or basement you are forced to just own what you use most of the time and find other ways to enjoy your occasional toys and activities.

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Technically this room houses three but at the moment the youngest sleeps in the office in a portable crib but plays and has his toys and clothing stored in this room. Our plan is for the three boys to share this room for the next two to three years and then do some shuffling to give them more space.

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The IKEA hack toddler bunk beds (originally our neighbor’s 5kids1condo.com) are fantastic space savers. Our older two – age 6 and age 3 – fit nicely in them. I won’t disclose too much about the design (because it’s not mine and I don’t want to be sued!) but this is two IKEA Gulliver beds stacked on each other with four supports keeping them together and a custom ladder. It’s very sturdy and we all love it.

On the other side of the room we have a play corner centered around the ubiquitous IKEA Expedit unit. I try to keep the toy collection contained to just these boxes plus another box in the living room but I will confess there is a Paw Patroller and Air Patroller out of view. The boxes: two are full of wooden trains and train set pieces, the rest is Duplo, Lego, dress up clothing, wooden puzzles and some Hot Wheels cars and tracks. We cull the toys a few times a year via the methods in Simplicity Parenting. Some of the books are displayed on picture rails that just fit in next to the closet and there are more books stacked around the house.

kidbooks

The small but deep closet in the kid’s room holds two IKEA units for clothing. Sometimes I KonMari all the clothing… sometimes the three year old pulls all of it out looking for his pajamas (they were on his bed). Sometimes the baby pulls all the clothing out just because it’s fun. So yes, I don’t KonMari their clothing frequently. I have a rule that if the clothing can’t fit in unfolded then we need to pare it down.

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The rug is very second hand Pottery Barn and was incredibly dirty when I got it. A number of runs with the Dyson later it’s nubby and worn but pretty clean. The little chairs can fit at our kid’s table to increase our hosting options.

A big comfy reading chair that the kids could sit in with me would be nice. But it would eat a lot of floor space and make the room feel crowded. Instead I sit on the carpet or the kids come into our bed or we all sit on the living room couch. When the kids are waking each other up or pestering each other and not falling asleep I think it would be nice for them to have their own rooms. I’m not immune to the “wouldn’t it be nice to have” thoughts but when I go there, and I do go there, I then try to remind myself what the nice to haves come with: eventually feeling squeezed out of our small-ish home.

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What about when they’re teens? It wasn’t until second year university that I first experienced having my own bedroom. Oh how I loved it. The privacy and the ability to decorate and do as I please was such a luxury. I would really like our children to have a year or two of their own bedroom in their teen years. Which is why if we stay in this home we will do a room shuffle every few years so each boy can have a year or two of high school with his own bedroom. Here’s another “it would be nice to have”: It would be nice that they spend enough time sharing a bedroom with a sibling(s) that they learn how to navigate the rough and calm waters of living with people and also, that they really appreciate having their own bedroom when it finally happens.

Did you share a bedroom growing up? When did you first have your own bedroom? I feel like most kids these days don’t have to share but I like the skills learned from negotiating with a sister over what poster goes on the wall and who gets the top drawer.

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  • I’m really disappointed that IKEA isn’t selling Gulliver anymore. I have a 4 year old in a Gulliver and a 2 year old in a crib-toddler bed. I would love to do a bunk bed if baby #3 comes along.

      • I’ve been watching and hoping! My nearest IKEAs are both six hours’ drive away (one east and one west, and I’ve made those trips many times), so IKEA items don’t come up often.

  • I love the Ikea Hack idea! I am definitely going to have my husband work on a version of that.

    And even though we’ve got a lot of space (we live in 4 bedroom house) but my husband and both shared rooms with siblings for most of our childhood. We have already put our 3 boys (6, 3.5, and 18 mo) in the same room. So far, it’s been so good for them :)

  • I shared a bedroom with my sister until I got married. Only had my own room after my husband passed away, even now I share with my cat!

  • I have one younger sister and we always had our own rooms growing up. I think it was bad for our relationship, we fought a lot and were very possessive of our things and spaces. Then in college while I adjusted well to sharing a dorm, she did not. I think not liking having a roommate was the main reason she dropped out after only one semester. So I think sharing a room is good for kids and so far my kids have been sharing.

  • I got my own “bedroom” at 13. I cleared out an area of my parents overstuffed 2 car garage and moved out there. I lived out there 6 months then woke up with a mouse staring into my eyes a few inches from me. I moved back inside. My parents had 7 kids, the rule was you shared a room until your senior year of high school , then they’d give you your own room. After that if you stayed at home you had to go back to sharing. My junior year my it was just my 2 younger brothers and I living at home so we got our own bedrooms.

    My oldest has his own room. He was an only child until he was almost 9 and does best with his own space. The younger two are b7 & g5, they will share a room until they need separate spaces. By then we should have enough cash saved to buy or build our house.

  • We made one room work for our four boys, then ages 17, 15, 13, and 11, via a triple bunk and a single mid-height loft bed. This was actually my oldest’s idea as he knew his days with his brothers were numbered. The one caveat is that we had another room dedicated to their closet space, a smallish office off the laundry room. It housed two chest of drawers, hang up clothing, some collectibles, and their toys. No toys or personal items were allowed in the bedroom as it served just for sleeping and hanging out together. We used some rather generic closet organizing units to get the shelf space and racks we needed.

    It worked beautifully. Love seeing how you make your lovely home work for your family. We are currently down sizing from a 2,380 square foot home to a 1,380 square foot home. And you are inspiring me to simplicity. Thank you!

    • Any suggestions on getting kids to go to bed or just stay in bed after lights out? My boys (7, 5 and 3) share a room and they are constantly getting out of bed messing around. It can be really cute but the older two have to get up early for school.

      • Kara, My answer is: lots of physical activity. It’s not a magic bullet, but more often than not, the room-buddies fall asleep without much trouble when they’ve had exercise and fresh air. Those days when physical activity doesn’t happen are the days we tend to have shenanigans at sleep time.

  • Oh their room looks lovely! It’s nice to see a bright cheerful boys’ room; usually they’re all painted some dark color (maybe it’s a US thing?) and that must get so depressing especially in dark winters.
    I shared a room often as a kid (3 kids, 2 bedrooms). Sometimes I hated it, because I thought mom wasn’t being fair (maybe she was though, I can’t remember details). Also, what I really wanted was time to myself sometimes, but my parents never really thought alone time was important. But it sounds like you’ve thought through all of that!

    • We need the white walls – makes the room look and feel bigger than it is!
      I craved alone time as a kid and found it by hiding out in the basement reading or sneaking off into my mom’s room or the backyard. My husband and I are introverts so I really empathize with kids that need but don’t have their own space.

  • I have three daughters. The oldest has her own small room but my twins share a small room. They are 7 and fight constantly even though they really only sleep and get dressed in there. We do our best to seperate them when we can but they are together in school, share the same friends, and have to share the space in this house. We are not seeing the benefits of sharing a room! I would live to know if anyone else has had these types of challenges!

    • My twin sister and I shared a room (other siblings with us sometimes too) until we left for college. It was hard – we had the same friends and sports so spent a lot of time together – but looking back on it I think it was great for us.

  • I wish we could have our kids share! Our problem is the gender and age difference, we a have boy 11, girl 8 and boy 18 mos. We have a small house but it does have 4 bedrooms so they each have their own rooms with all their own stuff, including art supplies and everything – so our living space only has a few toys for the toddler.
    Until only recently the oldest would do sleepovers with my daughter because they are super close, they always wanted to sleep together, but he’s now entering tween land and just thinks he’s too old to sleep with his little sister! It breaks my heart but we knew this day would come. I hope our toddler gets a chance to bunk in with his older sister before she hits her teens too!
    I always shared a room with my sister growing up, we did fight a lot but it had nothing to do with sharing a room – we’re just like oil and water, she’ll always be my sister but we just don’t mix!

  • My twin sister and I always shared a room. Our two brothers each had their own rooms, which I’m sure we deemed “unfair” as children at some point but to kids just about everything is unfair. I’m not sure if we’re super close because of sharing a room, being girls, being twins or all of the above. We put our three boys (7, 5 and 3) in one room and our youngest (girl 12 months) in another. It works for us now. If we could get the boys to go to sleep at lights out it would be a perfect arrangement.

  • Our girls 4&6 years share. We moved miss 6 into her own room at one point last year, she lasted 1 night missing her sister. Now I see the benefits of sharing, I hope they will for as long as possible.

  • The boys’ room looks lovely.

    I never shared a room growing up, apart from a couple of months in temporary rented accommodation when I was 8, and again at 13, when we were moving countries. I agree there are useful skills learnt in sharing bedrooms.

    We had a 4 bedroom house when our eldest was born, so it never occurred to us that our daughters could/would share. They have always had their own space, which has also not been where toys have been stored. I read about calm bedroom spaces which clearly send ‘time for sleeping and not playing’ to kids and went with it. Ours have therefore always played downstairs in our living areas, but again this has been possible due to our luxury of space.

    I think if finances make it at all possible, it’s especially important for adolescent boys to have their own rooms from a certain age (puberty), even if it’s effectively a closet. Kids also grow very quickly physically; I have two girls, at 5’10 & 6ft. They are both slim, but rugby built males could get pretty claustrophobic in a small apartment. And I won’t mention the smell – Rachel you might want to move out for a few years! 😀

    • Hahaha! Yes we are considering renting a house for 4-6 years while they are all teens. I also think privacy and space is important for the teen years which is why if we don’t move we may do something like have the parents on a Murphy bed in the living room for a few years. There are a few renovations would could put in to create more privacy for everyone.

  • Do you know the name of the IKEA units in the closet? I have been looking for something similar for my 3 girls sharing 1 room.

    • It’s the Algot system. I like that is is small and lightweight and we can seperate and move them around. The downside is that the baby pulls stuff out of them all the time.

  • Ironically, our kids all slept better (less night waking) when we moved them from separate rooms to one shared room. It did take a little consistently in the very beginning to make sure they weren’t playing and talking in their room when they were supposed to be sleeping, but now they sleep great together. They can get up in the night to go to the bathroom or in the morning without waking anyone who is still sleeping.

    I also got my own room when I was in high school and actually missed sharing a room with my sister :)

  • I shared a room with my brothers until I was 10. Then I moved to my own room (as the only girl in the house). My sons are 17 and 15 and shared a room until last year, when one of them was sick and needed TPN and antibiotics through a PICC line. We had to change the nutrition and antibiotics several times in the middle of the night, and we didn’t want both of them to be up! Separate rooms have worked out well, and while sharing was great when they were younger, I think older teens benefit from privacy.

  • I think this is inspiring. I lived in a fairly small cottage (in Ireland) with three little children, it was fine as they could play outside. I suppose you can’t let them play unsupervised where you are which must mean that you don’t often get a break. How are the winters there? Its hard to be outside for a long time in cold weather (but it really wears kids out and gets them calm). I wonder what warm communal spaces would be available to you in your community?
    I commend your priorities though – better to face the challenge of space than the challenge of debt!

    • Yes we have to take them to the park ourselves at this age. Easy in the summer and our winters are fairly mild so it’s not too bad then as well. We live three blocks from a big community centre with lots of space and activities for the kids and our building has a swimming pool which we use at least once a week. Multiple parks within a few blocks of us.
      Depending on the child’s maturity many parents let them go to the park on their own around 8 or 9. So it’s possible in a few years our oldest will be able to go to the community centre for basketball and such or down to the covered ball hockey area on his own.

  • I think you can easily use the current office as a room and put the office inside the master as a nook. There are options, esp.wi3 children of the same gender. Nice home!

  • Wow I love it! I grew up with 5 siblings so I didn’t get my own room until I was a teenager and my two older siblings were off at college. Although I also loved it at the time I don’t believe I would be as close to my siblings today if I wasn’t forced to share a room with them when we were younger.

    Sharing a room not only meant learning to live and share space with my siblings but it also meant late night and early morning talks with each other, playing games, and sharing clothes. I also plan to have my kids share a room until they’re older.

  • this is great! i’ve been contemplating the algot drawers for my kids, too… how have they held up for you?

    • They’ve held up fine but as an open system goes… not great with a toddler. He loves to just empty them all out :( So if I dare to Kon Mari all their clothes it’s undone pretty quick. I had a pair of Algot drawers that I moved with multiple times in my 20s and they were fantastic! I think we actually had them until we moved overseas.

  • I had to share a room with my sister and yes, there were times we hated it and devided the room into two areas :-) but as we got our own rooms when we moved to a bigger apartment we spent most of the time together in one room even for cuddling during the night. So now, with first baby on the way, my husband and i decided that our kids will share rooms first with us, and then with siblings, as long as possible. We both lived years in shared apartments with same aged friends or strangers and we think it is extremly important to learn how to share and be careful with other people s needs etc. I really like your posts and feel that your doing a great job as a parent. Your kids will thank you one day. Greetings from Switzerland

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