Pros and Cons of a tiny space for four people
July 30, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone in the MeFi world talk me out of making the horrible mistake of buying a home that is too small for our needs? Or, at what age will sisters kill each other if they have to share a bedroom?

We currently live in a 72 m2 (785 sq. ft.) 2-bedroom apartment in Cannes, France. I have fallen in love with the idea of an even smaller 68 m2 (732 sq. ft.) 2-bedroom apt that is being built immediately next door to my kids' school. We have two kids (both girls) ages 3 and 5, so a 2-bedroom currently works for us. But I don't know how long we can keep them in the same bedroom.

The existing 2-bedroom is in the city center and has no garden or green space. The prospective 2-bedroom is in a 1 hectare (2.5 acre) wooded park. It will have a terrace of about 20 m2 (200 sq. ft.) on one side and 10 m2 (100 sq. ft.) on the other side. It is immediately adjacent to the girls' primary school. If we move there they can walk out of the gate of the apt grounds, walk 20 feet up the sidewalk and into the gate of the school. To me this seems invaluable (they will go to that school until they are about 11 - 12 years old).

But, it really only makes sense to buy the new place if we live there for at least 10 years. By that time the girls will be teenagers and well fed up with sharing a room (I presume).

Can anyone tell me any horror stories (or success stories) about attempting to live in a tiny space w/ teenage girls? Will the wooded park setting of the apt take any of the strain off the claustrophobia of the living space?

Preemption: Renting at the same location is not an option and we can't afford a 3-bedroom place in that neighborhood.
posted by pandabearjohnson to Human Relations (49 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It might depend on the local culture. Will their friends have to share rooms? I've hung out with families of 5+ that all shared one bedroom in the winter to keep warm, and they got along great, but I think kids get resentful if they see that their classmates have more freedom.

Also, is the bedroom big enough to divide with a screen or partition if that's what they want later on?
posted by chaiminda at 7:55 AM on July 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

Can you put any furniture on the terrace? Having a little kid-sized table and cozy chair would make it easier for them to have some quiet, solitary time if their sis was in the bedroom.
posted by amber_dale at 8:02 AM on July 30, 2012

My father and his 7 siblings were raised in tiny a 3 bedroom house not a whole lot larger than that. I know of other examples.

So, it seems to me that it is totally doable. If it's worth the effort to you is a separate question, but I can't really answer it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I shared a room with my sister for years and we turned out fine!

But I do have a question for you: is this apartment in hearing range of the playground? Will you ever work from home/be around while school is in session?

I moved into a flat across the road from a primary school. We saw it and signed the lease during the school holidays. Boy were we in for a surprise. Every time the kids are out in the playground it sounds like someone is being murdered/there's a small riot in progress/an elephant has escaped. For such tiny humans they sure make a lot of racket!
posted by teststrip at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The convenience of living right next to the primary school also only lasts ~8 years or so; it sounds like this is a fantastic short or medium-term idea, but not a good 10-year plan for you.
posted by aimedwander at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

My less than 1,000 square foot, two bedroom home was fine for my family of five (three children) until my eldest daughter suddenly hit puberty at 11 and became adult-sized seemingly overnight. She also no longer has the patience to deal with her younger siblings getting into her things. We repurposed the (separate) dining room into her bedroom until we can move somewhere larger before the middle child also suddenly transforms. She spends a lot of time outdoors in a shaded swing where the other children do not bother her.

Does the apartment have a space that could be re-purposed like that? Also, with two girls I would say the need for two bathrooms might be higher than the need for two bedrooms. Any chance either girl will be going away to boarding school in their teen years?
posted by saucysault at 8:07 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

aimedwander: "The convenience of living right next to the primary school also only lasts ~8 years or so; it sounds like this is a fantastic short or medium-term idea, but not a good 10-year plan for you."

Can you go into the reasoning behind your 10-year timeframe? I would suggest you look at it as a 8-year timeframe, as that is when the girls will be leaving primary school, and about the age when a little more privacy would really be helpful. If leaving this new apartment in 8 years rather than 10 is at all feasible, then I think it is an excellent plan.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My best friend is one of 13 siblings raised in a 3 bedroom house, 2 bathrooms. They have some of the best adult sibling relationships of any family I know.

That said, by 3 and 5 you probably have a decent understanding of your kids fundemental personalities, do they match? Is one of them an extreme extrovert and the other a strong introvert? The main potential conflict I can see coming is if one of them really needs a lot of space or privacy. But really, people know what they're raised in. If you were downsizing from a mansion or something you might have a problem, but at this age I personally think I would go for it.
posted by dadici at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2012

I shared a room with my big sister until she went to college (I was 14, she was 18). I'm not saying we didn't fight about things, but it was honestly fine overall. We bunked our beds and had separate desks and dressers. Every so often we'd rearrange the furniture. We probably kept each other up later than we should have when there were sisterly things to talk about. This was in no way a big deal.

(I should put in as a caveat that my parents tried to put my *little* sister in the same room with us (she was five years younger than me, so she was maybe 4, I was 9, my big sister was 13) and that lasted about two weeks before we kicked her out for doing things like counting pennies at 6 a.m.)

Kids need privacy, but there are plenty of ways to get that without having your own room.
posted by athenasbanquet at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that this is unlikely to be *just* a ten-year plan. In 2022 you're going to be facing a situation where your older daughter is "almost" out of the house. Are you going to buy a new, three-bedroom place for the three years until she heads off to school? Consider that you may be in this place until your daughters are out-of-the-house for good (whenever that is.)
posted by endless_forms at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I shared a bedroom with one or another of my siblings until I was 13 or 14. When we moved into a house big enough for me to have my own room, I was actually hesitant about it because I'd been sharing for so long and was used to it. Had my own for four years, went right back to sharing (a VERY SMALL DORM ROOM) in college. I lived in a community where most kids had their own rooms, and it really just wasn't a big deal. We as a family always spent a lot of time in the public areas of the house, which I think makes a difference. If you're a family who all retreat to private areas, that would be harder to share.

I was in college in the late 90s when there were just starting to be large, large numbers of either only children or kids who'd never shared a room, and college is a much harder transition if you've never lived closely with peers! Student Life had a big upswing in roommate complaints when the generational shift brought in such a larger percentage of onlies and never-shared kids, because there was less expertise in dealing with the little negotiations of living closely with someone.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2012

I shared a room with one of my sisters from when she was moved out of her crib until I went to college. And then in college I shared a room with a roommate.

My other sister --- she shared a room with my brother until I went to college, then she quietly moved into the room with my other sister without anyone really know, sometimes siblings have to share rooms.....I don't think it's the end of the world.

And given our housing situation, it does look like my son and my daughter will share a room for at least a few years in our current apartment.
posted by zizzle at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2012

I shared a room with my sister from around the same age your girls are until we were 11 or so. For much of that time we were in a tiny room with just enough room for some bunk beds and storage. It was great when we were little, but looking back on it I can't imagine we could have lasted much longer without getting into some serious conflict.

One of my best friends growing up has shared a room with her younger sister for most of her life -- she's even (grudgingly) moved back into it at the age of 23 after being away at university. To say that she doesn't agree with the arrangement would be understating it and, imo, her relationship with her sister would be much better today if they had been allowed to separate during their teenage years.

On preview I agree with saucysault's point -- this will likely be fine until the older sister hits puberty, whenever that is, so you should make sure you have a Plan B for that point, whether it is a partition, another room or a move on the horizon.
posted by fight or flight at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2012

I don't have girls. I have two sons. They shared a room on and off when they were little. My ex was career military, so we moved a lot. When we finally got into a large house for a time and they each had a bedroom, they used one room as a play room and the other for sleeping in spite of the fact that I had designated them a bedroom apiece and furnished them accordingly. From there we moved to a much smaller apartment. They technically shared a room but my oldest spent most nights sleeping on the couch.

They have always gotten along well. They have generally disregarded how space was supposed to be used and, instead, used it as they saw fit. When they wanted to be together, they couldn't be separated even though we had plenty of space. When they didn't want to be together, they weren't, even though they technically shared a room.

I eventually learned to mostly butt out of their relationship. It helps that I am a fairly laissez faire parent to begin with and tolerated my oldest son choosing to sleep anywhere but his own bed as a toddler. So there was plenty of precedent long before he was a teen.

So I guess I would say if you are willing and able to be a little flexible, it may not matter that there is less space. I usually had a futon for a couch so fleeing to the living room was an option most of the time and I never made a big deal of it.
posted by Michele in California at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

My younger brother and I (a girl) shared a room for a number of years, until puberty. Basically it was a big room with a built in sliding door so we had some privacy. Honestly, we never got into each other's way, except in the mornings when we both needed the bathroom to get ready for school.

In retrospect (he lives in a different country now) I am grateful for the memories I have of our shared childhood, singing songs and telling stories to each other late at night, and even of our fights!

I would worry more about what previous commenters have said about how noisy it is to live near a school. Little kids make big noise, and the road may also be very congested during the school-run hours.
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2012

Lots of people share their rooms with their siblings. I did until I was 12-13, and many people do until they leave for college. The space issue is going to be culturally determined. If small living spaces are the norm, then it won't be a big deal and, and sharing a room between a 3 and 5 year old doesn't seem like it would be a big issue for the next 5-8 years. In general, however, it strikes me as a bad idea to move from a small living space for 4 people to an even smaller living space. That doesn't seem like a good 10-year plan at all.

If this is the norm for where you live, it's probably ok for the near term, but if this is because you have some eccentric love of small places, keep in mind that it's not really fair to impose your eccentric preferences of your own kids, who certainly didn't ask to be born into such a situation.
posted by deanc at 8:33 AM on July 30, 2012

Would circumstances permit future expansion? Given that location, you might be able to increase the home's value beyond what it would cost you.
posted by carmicha at 8:33 AM on July 30, 2012

Just wanted to comment on playground noise during recess: we live next door to a school and to me the sound is a happy one. We are rarely home during the day though, so it might be a different story for you.
posted by Dragonness at 8:41 AM on July 30, 2012

I'll echo the many comments that say it's not a big deal to share a bedroom with your siblings until a point. Obviously, it depends on the local culture (I believe that homes tend to be a lot smaller in much of Europe than they are here in N. America, so sharing a room with siblings until you move out may be the norm), but based on my personal experience I'd say that right around the time that your oldest hits puberty is the time that she'll start to really want her own room. (If I'd had to continue sharing a bedroom with my brother for much longer than I did as a child, we'd likely have killed each other; plus, privacy is *ahem* very important for a 13-year-old boy.)

Pre-pubescent kids sharing a bedroom is no big deal, but once they reach puberty they tend to want a lot more privacy. It's not absolutely vital, and if it is normal in Cannes for children to share a bedroom well into their teens, then no biggie. But if the local culture is that kids tend to have their own bedrooms once they reach a certain age then your daughters may start to make it into a big issue as they get older and see that their friends/classmates don't have to share a bedroom.
posted by asnider at 8:42 AM on July 30, 2012

1000sq ft, 2 br house, five kids (three boys and two girls, at the time) sharing a room until The Addition when I got my own room at seventeen for a year or two before I moved out. Honestly, before we all officially moved into the addition, it wasn't that huge of a deal. We just didn't have a ton of stuff and we didn't spend much time in our room except to sleep or occasional veg time with a book or whatever. Mostly we hung out in the living room. I think the thing that benefits you is that your kids are already in the same room now. Friends that had to downsize to share a room in their preternatural turned the situation into a civil war. For us it was just how life was. None of our friends shared rooms and they all thought we were odd because we did, but my parents were very matter of fact about things that everyone is different, most families around the world share space, that sort of thing... It was truly a non-issue. And to speak to the benefits of things, my siblings and I remain very close friends as adults, half of us married with kids. Also anectdotally, when I moved into my own room that year i was seventeen,for the first three months or so it was not at all uncommon for me to wake up to find my youngest brother, who was two at the time, snuggled up with his blankie at the foot of my bed.

Definitely doable, and while I don't discount those who ask what their friends around them have for living situations, I think that can be a non-issue as long as your attitude, as parents, makes it that way.
posted by takoukla at 8:43 AM on July 30, 2012

Have you asked your partner's opinion?

I shared a room with my younger sister until I was 14 or so and by the last year or so I really wanted my own space.

I do feel like 732 square feet seems quite small for a family of 4. I am going to move into a ~600 square foot apartment with my boyfriend and I'm afraid we're going to be tripping over each other all the time, and there are only 2 of us! I know that's a bit smaller, but I feel the same idea applies.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:48 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I grew up across the street from my primary school and about a half block from my middle school. It is awesome because school mornings were relatively stress free - no driving and parking. We loved living so close to school and the big playground.

My parents still live in that house. While it's noisy during recess, it's the middle of the day and it's not a problem. More problematic is the drop-off / parking situation in the morning and afternoon. You also need to be careful driving, because kids aren't great about looking before they cross the street. Again it's only about 30 minutes and it's not a horror.

We live in a small casita and there's definitely an art to living happily in a small space. How much storage space are you losing in the move? If the space is well configured, then a small decrease in square footage isn't a big deal. If the girls have room for their stuff, then it's infinitely better. It's hard to live with a sibling (or anyone) in a huge mess.
posted by 26.2 at 8:49 AM on July 30, 2012

One of the aspects of this is about how it will be seen by the girl's peers. In my experience the French are particularly adept at living happily in smaller homes - and so sharing a room with a sibling is not considered some weird outlier fate. If you ask around other parents at the school I think you will find many who have faced and dealt with the same issues.
posted by rongorongo at 8:53 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I slept with all but one of my siblings (he's much younger) at some point or the other in childhood, scoring my own room for a few years when my older sister got married. I think it's a benenfit for kids to share. As adults we are all very close; I heard from two of them already this morning!
posted by readery at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2012

My twin and I shared a room since before we were born (we were womb-mates [rimshot]) until I got married and moved out of my parents' house. Anyway, we turned out just fine. My brothers also had to share a room as well, but not for quite as long. Sure there were fights, but that's the case with most sibs. It's totally doable. If this is what you're worried about, it shouldn't be a deal breaker.
posted by patheral at 9:05 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I spent my teenage years with my sister and my cousin in a small bedroom. Triple bunk beds. We attempted to kill each other occasionally. (Not really)

It was crowded, but I honestly didn't spend that much time in my room. I was really active in school clubs and had a job, so I wasn't home that much. I did my homework in the kitchen or at school, I never had a desk in my room.

Honestly, I think sharing a room makes a kid better at conflict resolution.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:20 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My sister and I each had our own rooms growing up, but we shared one of them until the end of high school. Then we shared a one-bedroom apartment after college. We like each other as people in addition to being close as siblings. I think my sister would have preferred not having me around more often than I preferred not having her around, but it's so personality-dependent. Our peers would have thought it odd if we shared a room, but we were suburban American teenagers. I had friends in the City who shared a room and no-one thought it was odd--that's just how apartments in the City are.

We always had fewer problems sharing a bedroom than we did sharing a bathroom that was difficult. It's really hard when you all have to leave the house at approximately the same time in the morning to share one bathroom, particularly when one of you wants to blow dry and then use a curling iron on her hair. The only times my sister and I have ever really fought about something was when we had similar schedules and had to share a bathroom.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2012

Nevermind the bedrooms, if all 4 of you have to go out in the morning it's the bathroom you will be fighting over..
posted by 3mendo at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

My sister and I shared a room for the vast majority of time before I left for college. There was a year or so after our older brother went into the military that she lived in the room that had been his. Then Mom remarried and we moved into a 2 bedroom home with my step-father.

My sister's a morning person who wakes up singing. I'm not and was greatly annoyed. Through scheduling, we worked around that. Essentially, we took turns having time in the bedroom alone to get ready in the morning. One was in getting dressed while the other was eating breakfast or taking a shower.

She also snores terribly. When we were living in that 2 bedroom home, Mom and I were the only two in the house that didn't snore. My step-father, sister, the dog and my pet rat all snored. I slept with earplugs.

So, long stories short, we survived just fine through shared space. It was just what we got used to. Who cared what our friends had that was different? That was their family and not ours. We had what we could afford. If we whined about something not being fair, Mom was happy to pull out our birth certificates and ask us to show where they guaranteed life was fair.

We even survived going from a shared room to private rooms back to a shared room. People are adaptable.
posted by onhazier at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2012

I think it will really depend on your kids. I didn't share a room with my sister, but our rooms were across the hall from each other with no doors, therefore, no personal privacy. Puberty was hell in our house because of it. For a couple years it felt like I was coming home to be the target of her temper everyday after school, and there was nowhere to go to get away from it. We lived way out of town, mind you. If we had lived in town with friends around to go visit, that also might have made a big difference.

If you can do it so that your girls still have a clear sense of personal privacy if/when they need it (and they will need it), you might be fine.
posted by human ecologist at 9:35 AM on July 30, 2012

Nevermind the bedrooms, if all 4 of you have to go out in the morning it's the bathroom you will be fighting over..

Oh, god yes! This is a serious thing to consider, especially once your daughters become teenagers. My wife and I barely manage to share our lone bathroom in the mornings (thankfully, I start work 30 minutes later than she does most days, so we can stagger our bathroom time a bit); I can't imagine how we'll manage if we stay in this house once we have kids.
posted by asnider at 9:38 AM on July 30, 2012

My sister is a year younger than I am. We shared a room for most of our time living at home. When I turned 13 it was obvious my sis and I had a hard time sharing as teens. Our parents found some peace by giving us the bigger bedroom. So they switched rooms with us and we shared for a couple more years. After those next couple years we switched back and my sister built herself a "room" in the dining/family room area.

When we shared the small room we didn't spend much time there. I camped out on the couch in the front room. My sis spent a good amount of time on the back screened in porch. When we were in our room there was a LOT of fighting, but that had more to do with temperament than space. The fighting continued until we didn't live in the same house anymore.
posted by Swisstine at 10:02 AM on July 30, 2012

I'm American so my viewpoint doesn't really count, but my wife and I have one small child and I already feel like our 2400sq. ft. house is full. But 2.5 acres of wooded land right next to your daughters' school sounds fantastic and I would be personally tempted to buy that. Is it possible to remodel the house and add an extra bedroom?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:08 AM on July 30, 2012

I shared a room with my sister until I left for college. When we're both at home (which happens very rarely, unfortunately), we still sleep in twin beds in the same room.

The lack of privacy was kind of a drag, but in retrospect, it wasn't a big deal.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:10 AM on July 30, 2012

My wife and her sister shared a room--bunk beds and all--until they were in their mid-20s and they were fine.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:14 AM on July 30, 2012

There were far too many (five) of us for us to have our own rooms. One or more of us was sharing a room for most of our childhood. I'm sure we've got random complaints/gripes about our childhood... I'm also sure that room sharing was NEVER on that list.
posted by jph at 10:22 AM on July 30, 2012

I shared a room with one of my sisters until I was 14 when an addition was built. I can't recall any bad memories so it couldn't have been that bad. My youngest sister had her own room all that time mostly because as a baby it made sense to be in her own space and we just never bothered to change things. I know we got into some conflict about our 'stuff' but I did learn at a very young age about privacy and respecting other people's things which I think is a good thing. I was very excited about getting my own room of course but I also recall missing being with my sister. No more lying in bed 'talks' and whatnot. Interestingly about the same time is when I started to become more distant with my sister and we ended up fighting more then we ever had. Have to wonder now if there was a connection.

It also made it really easy when I moved on. I lived in places where I shared a room and though not ideal I didn't find it hard.

I do agree with the comments about culture being an influence. In NA in many parts it seems to be a 'thing' for everyone to have there own room. Possibly an influence from a culture that places a lot of value on the individual. It is perfectly normal though for people to share space. In the past it was perfectly normal for large families to share and things turned out fine. When my grandpa grew up he shared one room with 4 other siblings. 2 boys and 2 girls. A curtain divided it in two.

I live in a two bedroom house right now. (1200sqf) We've talked about it and if we ever have more then one kid they will be sharing a room with the ability to be divided The house is old, one of the first in the area. I saw a picture of it from 1875 that showed the family who lived there in from of the house. There were 12 people! Mom, Dad, Grandma and 9 kids. No idea how 12 people managed to fit but they did. I figure that if they could do it with 12, 4 would be a piece of cake. lol
posted by Jalliah at 10:25 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also living on the French Riviera, and with many friends who have families – this sounds like a pretty sweet deal. The only families of four I know who live in any larger than 70sq.m... well, they live in the Var, not the Alpes-Maritimes. If you want to stay in the 06, two large terraces (note for others: those are pretty large by standards here) and access to a wooded park sound wonderful for kids. Seconding the suggestion to use at least one of the terraces as a kid-dedicated outdoor spot.

As for bathrooms, does it have a separate WC? Just having that independent from the salle dr bains is pretty nice. Again, I know plenty of families who deal with similar setups. Some take out the bathtub and put two showers in its stead. But as it's a modern construction and next to a school, there's probably something family-minded already planned? Only families can afford anything bigger than studios/1br here, after all.

Plus you'll have the 10-year garantie that's required with all new construction.
posted by fraula at 11:08 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Many apartments have spaces that can be reconfigured. I have a two-bedroom apartment which I share right now with one other adult and one part-time child (his son, who lives in another city and only visits sporadically). If we had to have two kids sharing his room, we could. Or, we could move ourselves into the smaller bedroom and use creative furniture arranging to subdivide the bigger bedroom. Or, we could subdivide the living area---we have his computer area and mine separate right now, but we could get one bigger desk for both of us to share and put screens up and get a (small) extra 'room' out of it. Most adults, all theyr do is sleep in their bedrooms, so I'd happily take the smaller room if it meant the kids could live in harmony. Think outside the box a little and think about what the space really is, not what it is 'intended' to be. There is no law that says the parents must have the master bedroom, or even that their bed needs to be in a 'bedroom' at all if another area in the home will do...
posted by JoannaC at 11:38 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

In that climate your children will probably spend a lot of their free time outdoors. There are many ways to make shared rooms work well and once your girls get older they will find some of their own. Give them the biggest bedroom and give them their own desks, armoires, whatever.
posted by mareli at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2012

We live alone, just the two of us, in a tiny two bedroom house about the size of yours, I think. It is a duplicate of the 2 bedroom house in which my husband's grandmother raised 5 closely spaced children. It's going to be fine. Like everyone says, give them the larger room*, invest in bunk beds, prepare to add curtains as they get older and need more privacy.

*If you can; what are the proportions of the bedrooms?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:36 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the idea that it shouldn't be a problem. As long as they have a space in the house to be able to go to when they want to be alone. I think sharing rooms is probably good for the majority of kids so they can learn how to cooperate and share.
posted by gjc at 3:12 PM on July 30, 2012

I shared a room with my sister until we went off to college. we turned out fine, we loved it. kids don't always need their own rooms. we're twins, so the age difference was not an issue.
posted by sabh at 4:30 PM on July 30, 2012

My sister and I shared a room for a while, and it was fine for me (the elder sister) but I think probably not that fun for her. I was pretty bossy and controlling. If your daughters have that dynamic, step in. I would also keep her up late nights to talk when I was bored. Mainly the worst thing about it for me was all the big boxy furniture my hoarder mom put in there. We would have to enter the room sideways because of all the stuff she had in there with us. If you try to keep the amount of stuff and the size of the furniture to a minumum, that should help lots.
posted by cairdeas at 6:42 PM on July 30, 2012

I think it depends greatly on your daughters' personalities and how well they get along, both of which can be hard to predict. As an introverted child, I would have been miserable sharing a room with my extroverted, social sister. She on the other hand probably would have been fine sharing with someone she got along with. I just think it really varies by personality, as seen in the wide range of experiences reported here.

The wooded park setting sounds beautiful, but one thing to consider is how much freedom do you foresee giving your girls? If they won't really be allowed to wander unsupervised, the park probably won't provide much relief from the claustrophobia for them (even assuming they like nature).

Also, yeah, the bathroom! Teen girls can spend a lot of time in the bathroom.

Personally it seems risky to me if you would need to be there for 10 years, and I would probably go for a 3-bedroom in a less ideal location. But that's speaking as an introvert here.
posted by asynchronous at 9:54 PM on July 30, 2012

Re: the bathroom.... I'd say don't sweat it. I lived in a one-bathroom house during my teenage years, and it made my life in the college dorms much much easier, because I'd gotten into the habit of doing all my hair and makeup (which in high school was pretty profuse) at my dresser mirror, rather than in the bathroom. Seriously, why do you need a sink to dry your hair, put on lipstick, etc? In a crowded house, the bathroom is only for things that actively require running water.

At ages 3 & 5, they're already themselves; you probably have some idea of how well they're enjoying life in small spaces, how well they share a bedroom. Do you think they'd be disappointed if you moved to a new place and it was even smaller? Do you think the park would make up for the lack of indoor space? It works for some people but not for others, so you'll have to take a good look at your girls and consider whether you think it's a good idea for them. Ask them, even.
posted by aimedwander at 6:57 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was a teenager, my parents bought a house that was inadequate to the needs of our family; they "fell in love" -- it's a beautiful house, historic register, award-winning front garden, blah blah blah. But the "historic" layout of the house made it a very inconvenient place to live, and they sold it and bought a new house within a couple-few years.

That first house was 2500 sq. ft, and nominally four bedrooms (though that's a lie.)

My point being, thinking in terms of "number of bedrooms" and area may be kind of a mistake. Well organized space matters more than how much of it there is. How do the bedrooms relate to the public space of the home? Is the public space of the home one big space, or can you subdivide it a bit?

Built-in bunkbeds can give the "feeling" of having ones own room, albeit a tiny one.

You might consider reading Sarah Susanka's Creating the Not So Big House. She also has an earlier book, "The Not So Big House", but that's more of a manifesto, while "Creating. . . " is more practical stuff.
posted by endless_forms at 8:33 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My four sisters and I lived together with our parents in a three-bedroom house for the entirety of our childhood. So, five girls splitting two (eventually three) bedrooms. We never had our "own" room (except for the year or two when I was the only child old enough to have a bed), and we tended to switch rooms/decor every couple years or so. I personally went from my own bed, to the bottom bunk of a bunk bed, to the top bunk, to a different room altogether, to my parents' old room with a sister who still slept in the same bed with me when I was 17 and she was 10. It was no big deal. We're all super close. I definitely had some angst about now having my own space and all of that, but it didn't decimate my sense of stability, it just made moving off to college all the more exciting.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:49 AM on October 15, 2012

Oh, and the girls who were high-drama my freshman year of college were usually girls who were used to having their own room and could not abide a roommate. Sharing helps teenagers learn to acquiesce and negotiate, in good scenarios.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:52 AM on October 15, 2012

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