Three Kids One Bedroom (not littles either) ~ How We Do It

As most of you know we have been living with my parents this summer as we launch Life 3.0. My parents built their house for a couple in their stage of life -  with children long grown and gone and coming for visits only now and then (the more visits the better as far as my parents are concerned). 

There is a large loft bedroom/sitting room where my parents sleep, an office and a guest room. That's it for "rooms". Everything else is open (except for the bathrooms of course). 

Thankfully, they still own the trailer they lived in while building the house. That trailer is where Damien and I sleep. Which leaves the guest room for the kids to share.  

Trust me, this is not a tale of woe of how our children all share a bedroom. A first world "problem" like that is offensive to the majority of the world's population. Or at least, it offends me on their behalf.

We see nothing wrong kids sharing rooms. And in our case, Damien and I are sleeping in a space barely bigger than the bed. And that trailer is starting to get chilly at night. I'm not complaining, I love the honest-to-goodness comfort of wool blankets and flannel sheets on cold nights.

But three children (& all their stuff) sharing one room does beg the "How do you do that?" question for most North Americans. Us North Americans we love our space. The bigger the better. Or not. 

We will be moving soon out of my parents spacious and beautiful (but bedroom-challenged) home and will be finding our own place to live again. As we search for a new place to live I plan to share our housing philosophy.  What we're looking for in a home to rent and eventually what we want for a space of our own.

You will either laugh (the Tougas' think they can do what?!) or cry (those poor delusional Tougas') depending on your perspective. But you're going to have to wait a little while longer for that emotional roller coaster.

Today I want to show you how our kids have shared one bedroom for the summer at my parents. 

Stack the Beds

This is the classic, stuff-more-kids into a room strategy. My dad is a builder (he built the house) so he built this bunkbed for the kids to sleep in before we came. Yeah, my parent's are just like that. I'm crazy blessed. I know. 

The other bed you see in the room is way gorgeous for a kids' room. My parents have collected so much antique furniture over the years that it just oozes out of all the spaces and is used yes, even for a kid's bed. Lucky ducks, while we sleep in a cold trailer (smile).

Stuff in Bins & Less Stuff

Before we moved we went through a large, painful, time consuming purge. It was all worth it. And we will do it again after we fully unpack our trailer when we arrive at our next destination. More than half of our belongings have stayed in the trailer this summer. Much of that is furniture, which we didn't unpack while living at my parents.

Some of it is... I don't remember what. If I can't even remember what's in there it probably doesn't need to be kept. Oh... goodie, goodie (rubbing hands in downsizing glee). More purging yet to come.

Back to the bins. When we moved we gave the kids each a set number of plastic stackable storage bins. We wanted the bins to stack for easy moving and be short enough on their own to roll under beds. A small investment at Lowe's (no fancy stores like Ikea where we lived) for a long term gain of controlled chaos in the kids' rooms

This photo below shows them all out and stacked but they actually stay stored under the beds.

Each child got two or three bins, depending on their needs, and were told they could keep only what fit in those bins. After we arrived the same principle applied - they can only keep and move to our next destination what fits in those bins. 

There is a constant evaluation and re-evaluation of goods going on because new stuff is always coming in the door. Seashells and sand dollars. Jewelry and souvenirs. And who knows what else.

A couple years ago I wrote a guest post at Small Notebook, 3 Steps to Less Clutter in the Kids' Rooms. Those steps still apply and are the strategies we've used for years to keep kid-clutter manageable. 

The best part of having done that regularly when they were little is that they now de-clutter on their own. This is true of nearly all child training - the things you work on, teach, and spend so much time doing with little ones does become routine for them as they grow. So take heart mamas with young ones. It's worth all that effort!

Can I hear a hallelujah chorus?

Having a defined space for collections of stuff is one of the best ideas ever for controlling chaos. And if you want to downsize your life, you downsize the bins. And if you want to both downsize and be somewhat portable, ie: moving your family twice in six months, bins are simply a must have. 

The things not stored in our kids' bins are clothing, lego, general craft supplies (Brienne is a paper crafter and keeps a bin under her bed for that), school and learning supplies, and their handmade castles and miniature toys.

Sounds like a lot but you'd be amazed at how much is still in those bins. Polly pockets and sling shots, samuari swords and dress up shoes, barbies and corn husk dolls. You know, kid stuff. 

As far as their clothes (there is no closet in the room) the kids have three separate storage areas for clothing. One for each of them.

A dresser for Celine, a re-purposed toy storage shelf for Brienne, and a three-tier wire basket shelf for Laurent. 

The clothing storage isn't the most elegant but it worked. When we move and the kids will be (probably) all sharing a room again we will keep the clothing storage system behind drawers or closet doors. I don't care if the drawers are messy, I just don't want to see it. 

When we move again packing up the kids' room should be a breeze.

Knock on antique wood. 


20 September 11


I have always had a problem

I have always had a problem with people saying sibs shouldn't share bedrooms. It just seems so... immature or something. It goes right along with the "civilized" concept of babies in cribs and living off formula from day one. We can't seem to get over the fact that while we all need space once in a while, we also thrive off of love and being together. Yay for shared bedrooms! And an amen to warm blankets, gotta love those 50 degree nights. Is it colder up your way?

I don't know - I actually

I don't know - I actually think that having a space of one's own (even if quite tiny) is important. That breathing room allows us to move away from eachother for a time and carve out a little niche which refects the individual and then come together again for family time. Of course much of the world doesn't have this privilege but it doesn't mean they would not choose it if they could. My husband grew up without any space of his own (several boys in one tiny room)and always wanted "better" for his children. I grew up with 12 kids in my family and did share a room most of my childhood but even my mom said she felt that, if possible, it was better for us to have a space of our own. In addition, at a certain age I do not think most boys/girls would like to or ought to share a bedroom.

As usual, though, I love reading your posts and philosophies on various aspects of life because they are far from haphazard and I totally respect your purposeful choices. How blessed you are, too, in your relationship to your parents!

There are all sorts of

There are all sorts of positive reasons for having smaller living spaces, for sure. Because of hard work and determination your family is in a position to really dream about the kind of life and home you want and I do think it is important to keep in mind that Laurent, at 10 (?), will not necessarily have the same needs as Laurent at 16 (and I know you weren't asking my opinion and I also totally know that you are putting enormous thought and family discussion into all your decisions). I am in no way advocating huge homes or expansive bedrooms. I do appreciate your reminder that when kids are part of the larger vision and planning process they are more willing to make sacrifices in other areas.

I really enjoyed this post.

I really enjoyed this post. My girls (5 & 8) share a room, and a bed, by our choice. They have gained so much from it. They have shared whispers and laughs (and yelling and bickering) at night when they go to bed. Sometimes in the morning we will hear them plotting together before ever coming out of their room. When we check on them before going to bed ourselves, they are often cuddled up together, even though they weren't that way when we tucked them in.

In their shared space they have learned so much from compromise. They are almost polar opposites, but they find some crazy common ground in decorating and organizing their room. They are now asking for bunk beds, which I think would give them a little of their own "personal space". I think that's sufficient (and generous, in a worldly context).

I have also been amazed at the bitty steps the girls have taken in their own decluttering. This is something we started working on as a family over the past 18 months. My oldest totally digs it. She despises having to clean and really "gets" that the less stuff you have, the less you have to put away! My youngest is the sentimentalist, but has surprised me at the number of things she is willing to part with. One day she just handed my husband a toy, out of the blue, and declared she was done playing with it. Hurray!

Oh my, I could go on and on. :-) Thanks for a fantastic post!

As you wrote, in North

As you wrote, in North America you're used to so much more space than we have here in the old continent, where it's totally normal for kids to share one bedroom - or, even, sleep on the sofa-bed in the lounge. I used to use the bin system when my boys were little, but I found that was a little inefficient over time, as things tended to get stuffed in there, and just accumulated. So, we did without the stuff and the bins (except for two) (they have a small bookshelf, a little desk and one small wardrobe), because the main problem for us isn't the "things", but working around the "needs" of three different individuals of very different ages sharing one small room.

I really enjoy your posts

I really enjoy your posts about downsizing and decluttering. My boys share a bedroom, so we can have a learning room at home. I am interested in following your move, how you will declutter again, and any storage methods you will share. Thanks for letting us come along for the journey!

I really enjoyed this post!

I really enjoyed this post! We just moved to a tiny little house (because, like you,we are going to travel)and the girls share a super small bedroome (and I mean SMALL). It is a challenge to get them to actually sleep, but they are really OK sharing that space. We also use bins for storage under the beds. I found a store rack to hang their cloths and it works pretty nicely. It sure is an adjustment, but we figured that the rest of the time we will either be on the road in a trailer or tent or renting a small house in other countries, so we better get used to have less space!

I agree with a lot of what

I agree with a lot of what you said in this post. We have 4 children ages 14-3. the 2 boys in one room and the girls in the other bedroom. We have 2 bedrooms. We started out living like this and still are mostly because of financial circumstances. we once had a 4 bedroom home and you know what? The kids were always together in that home, and they climbed in to bed with each other every night to sleep. My teenager does need her own space and she finds it. She can be in their room alone while I take her younger sister to do something, or she goes for a walk or to a friends house. I find that when one of the children need privacy they will find it by going to a room which no-one is in or outside. My little one will lie down under a table and play My self I go outside or I say that I would like some quiet time in my bedroom. If we are still here in a couple of years when my son enters his teenager years we will replace our sofa with a pullout bed or futon type thing. From our experience I have learned to be adaptable, I have learned to create lovely nooks and multipurpose areas in our home, I have learned to make what we have comfortable, useful and meaningful. I am glad that in our struggles we can see light and we are thankful each and everyday for what we have. I think that I have learned simplicity out of need and that is ok with me. I am happy my kids are inventive, creative, and grateful because of it.

Love this post! We live on a

Love this post! We live on a houseboat - 40 ft long, 4 people. (2 adults and 2 children.) So I understand where you are coming from with the space issues. Love the bins idea too! We are constantly purging things. Toys seem to keep appearing... and we are constantly making trips to the Goodwill! My kids are the only grandchildren on both sides of our family so you can see how they would be spoiled. :)

Wow a houseboat!!! I always

Wow a houseboat!!! I always wanted that as a child and would tell everyone that! (I don't want it now though, but I think its very fascinating!

Fantastic post as always. As

Fantastic post as always. As a 12 year old I shared a very small bedroom with three other siblings: Brother aged 10, sisters aged four and 18 months. Interesting times, but we survived!

One thing to think of with kids getting older and needing space - when my brother was a teenager and he was 'too big' to share a room with sisters, he moved in to a 2nd hand caravan in the (rather big) backyard. Our sister later moved in to it when he moved out of home. Gave him (then her) personal space, but still meant they lived at home and shared communal areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

Ha! You've got nothin' on me!

Ha! You've got nothin' on me! I have four girls, ages 9, 12, 14 and a 4 year old all in one 11x12' room, with only one desk, a bookshelf and beds. The closet houses all four girls' clothing, perfectly. And if this is another girl I'm pregnant with, she'll have to sleep in there too. Sooo, to anticipate that, we've made a "trundle" bed of sorts, which pulls out from underneath the full on bottom, twin on top bunkbed they have. This arrangement will sleep 5 girls. Whew! Talk about crowded! But we make it work.

I love this post. I've been

I love this post. I've been thinking of a similar one. We have four children in one bedroom and a fifth on the way. When we move to our farm at first, we will all be sleeping in one small room. Then the kids will have two rooms to share once the rest of the house is built, and I'm not sure how that will go. As is right now, they rotate who sleeps in what bed and with whom, and most nights I end up in their room with the littlest in her matress on the floor. I think it is wonderful for them to share their space, and it brings connection and harmony to our family. I'm glad to see someone else who thinks along the same lines, since most can't see how we manage with all of our children in one room.

I loved reading about how you

I loved reading about how you do this. We have "only" two bedrooms at our house. The first thing one friend asked me when she found out I am pregnant is what am I going to do? I already have 2 kids in one bedroom (bunk beds) and so what will I do now? I told her the baby will be with us for about 2 years (we've always done that, no nursery for us) and then go in with the girls...and if its a boy later we can figure something out if I need to. That's my question- how do you deal with the boy girl thing? The baby might be another girl, but maybe not. Its a long way off but just wondering.

When we lived in an 830

When we lived in an 830 sq.ft. house with two very small bedrooms, and three children, our son (then 8 or 9ys old) did ask to be separated from his sister. The baby shared our room. We had a small sunroom and moved our son into one end and put up a curtained partition on a suspension rod. This allowed him some private space but we could also open the curtains for a larger play space in the day since the sunroom was the kids' playroom; I also ran a dayhome while homeschooling in this small home! Thankfully, we had a big yard :)

Yes, I am certain personality

Yes, I am certain personality is the biggest issue. Regarding third child, we only got our 6yr moved from our room this summer. We tend to sleep share until they are 3.5ys but she just couldn't leave so graduated to a camping mat on our floor and even now would prefer to always be with one of us - day or night. The rest of us are more introverts and NEED some time/space alone.

Renee, I just tumbled across

I just tumbled across your blog today, and I love it! I love your heart and your passions and your blog just draws me in and makes me want to invest in my family even more. Thank you for sharing your family and heart with the world.

Renee, I LOVE THIS. We have

Renee, I LOVE THIS. We have both girls in one bedroom right now, and it's a very real possibility that *if* we add a third to our family, we would have three kids in one bedroom. My heart is so with yours on everything you have written here. Thanks for taking the time to write it up, mama!

I came to your blog today via

I came to your blog today via Sarah Bessey. I am so glad!
thank you for this post. I love it!
We have a 3 bedroom house in which we hope to remain long term & we have number 5 child on the way. Room sharing is going on here, for the long haul!

About private space & alone time - I think that is a valid need. But I also don't think that means private bedrooms. I think having a space kids can claim as there own to decorate is good. the wall space by their bed, the top of their dresser, or another shelf or whatever will work. And their own bed for quiet reading or play.
I think the main thing that is needed in room sharing is teaching respect for one another. For each other's belongings & for their breathing room & quiet time. I am sure you see that as your kids occupy a space together, they learn to be more thoughtful of each other?

I never had my own room growing up - sometimes I was in a room with 3 other sisters. It was all fine. (Sure we fought. But we fought with the siblings we weren't room sharing with, too.)


[...] 2 bedrooms with all the beds we need and space for kids to store their stuff. [...]

Many, many counties have

Many, many counties have ordinances that ban this; in most areas the rental laws ban sharing once people are over the age of 6; military families who live on base cannot have children over 6 share a room. If you don't believe, call CPS and ask. It can result in children getting taken from parents and in changes of custody during divorces.

There are no laws in the US

There are no laws in the US banning children from sharing rooms at any age in a private residence.  Housing that is government assisted, and apartment rentals, may have restrictions due to local housing codes.  CPS may frown upon it if they are involved in a custody issue.  But under normal circumstances, this is something neither the federal government nor the states regulate in a private residence when there is no ongoing custody issue with the children


Thanks for this post! I

Thanks for this post! I stumbled across it while searching for help from other parents who have children sharing a room. We are currently living with my grandparents while we search for a new home. Our 3 daughters share a room. While this wasn't a problem initially- their ages are very different- and it's getting harder. Our oldest is 11 and our other two are 4 and 3. While the 4 and 3 year olds do great sharing- it's becoming very difficult with the 11 year old. They want a nightlight- she wants complete darkness. She wants her own space and privacy when she has friends over. She wants music on to go to sleep- her younger sisters don't. Lately it's been taking 2-3 hours to get them all asleep. Growing up I shared a room with my sisters- so I am def. not against room sharing with siblings. It was a great experience and even now when we go to my moms- it's not uncommon for all of us kids (3 girls and 1 boy) to go up to my mothers room and have long conversations while all laying on her bed. It was very refreshing to read a story from another mother, going through the struggles of not only have 3 children sharing a very small space, but also the added stresses of living with relatives in their homes. My grandmother is a bit of a clutter collector- so on-top of already small space (2 bedrooms which we have use of) there is just no room for anything. Everything is in storage except clothing and some toys. Some days are much easier than others. Today is one of those hard days for me. Thanks for the encouragement!

Stumbled upon your blog while

Stumbled upon your blog while searching for creative ways to fit our three daughters (7 and 4 currently sharing a room, and 21 month old ready to permanently "move-in" as opposed to cosleeping with mom and dad each night)into their tiny bedroom. I love the beds your father made- can you offer any suggestions as to how to maximize space in a room smaller than that which you pictured (nice room, love the windows and high ceilings!)? Ours is about 10x10 if I am being generous, and has a very small, poorly designed closet. (1930s bungalow-closet space was not a priority) Our two older girls currently have bunkbeds, but adding a trundle would take up much needed under-bed storage and so I am fretting about this! :)

Sometimes I share that in our

Sometimes I share that in our house, although it's very spacious and we have 3 bedrooms, both our boys (7 & 8) share a full-size bed in our bedroom. It's been that way since they were babies. People have a hard time understanding why parents sleep close to their offspring in America. Long before we had children, I read Jean Liedloff's Continuum concept and combine that with growing up in Africa, it only made sense to us that we need to huddle together for safety and warmth. Imagine living in a war-torn country or a place where wild animals roam? I've been in both and couldn't imagine leaving my kids to themselves in a different part of the house. We recently gave our boys the option to move into their own room and beds and they immediately said "not yet." I am glad, because these snuggly days will soon be over.

We have a huge house, 3500 sq

We have a huge house, 3500 sq ft, 4 bedrooms 3 bath, and a giant bonus room. we have 4 kids and 1 on the way. our 2 older kids (14 yr old boy 13 yr old girl) have their own rooms, and our younger (5 girl, 4 boy, incubating girl) will all share the bonus room. as the big kids move out to college we will begin to discuss the need for the others to separate, but they love being together. they have never NOT shared a room. the big kids shared until they were 10 and 11. because our house is big we have plenty of space to give them their own rooms, but there is comfort in sharing your space with the ones you love. i love to hear them giggling at night after we've read them their books. discussing their plans for the next day together. it is wonderful. There is time when they aren't going to want to be that close, so I'll cherish this as long as I can... I admire your thoughts on clutter keeping it to a minimum. we find ourselves overrun with STUFF. and even the really great stuff is just stuff. as we prepare to make room for the new baby we have decided 1 bin (almost equivalent to your 3 small containers) per child. The rest, with our kids help, we will donate. I want them to feel good about what we are trying to do. Thanks for this bit of reading...


[...] are a North American homeschooling family of five (three kids, not littles either) and we currently live in small spaces. On [...]

I loved your post on this

I loved your post on this subject. My family is downsizing into a much smaller space & I have 3 girls that will be sharing a room. Most of the ideas that I have found look like a magazine article and not like a real bedroom with little girls & Stuff! I think the bin idea is going to be a great way to contain the it stuff! Thanks.

There are no laws in Florida

There are no laws in Florida (where I live) and most states about different genders sharing a room. I always find it weird when someone freaks out because a boy and girl sibling are sharing a room. Seriously, do you think your kids are going to molest eachother or something? Until your kids reach puberty I think it's more than fine. I shared a room with my twin brother until I was 11 1/2 and it was okay.

Thank you for this post. My

Thank you for this post. My husband and i are in the process of adopting 2 boys, and we already have 2 children- a boy and a girl. We have been discussing whether the three boys can share a room or whether we will need to create space to add another bedroom somewhere. This blog gives me hope that the 3 boys will be able to exist happily together in one space!

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