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I never thought much about square footage until I bought a small house. Because I own such a little home, where every single inch counts, I am more mindful of living space than ever.

Thanks to the tiny house movement, I don’t have to look far for space-saving ideas. Everywhere it seems there are television shows, blogs, and books celebrating small spaces and highlighting all the perks of tiny house living: financial freedom, a simpler lifestyle, and smaller environmental footprint.

If you’ve ever watched the Tiny House Nation television series or read the Tiny House Talk blog, you’ll come across houses that are less than 500 square feet. Some are on wheels. Others are off-the-grid and eco-friendly. Many were built for a few thousand dollars.

To most people, my house in Burlington is shockingly small. We live in a tiny house – well, tiny-ish. Our house is not on wheels, and we are far from mortgage-free. Still, it’s tiny by most people’s standards. My husband Dave and I live in a four-room, 803-square-foot house with our three-year-old daughter, Phoebe, and our two cats.

Our house is a lovely, 100-year-old restored bungalow with nine-foot ceilings, cherry kitchen cabinets, and hardwood floors. We have an open living room and kitchen, two bedrooms, and one bathroom. There’s also a dry basement, front porch, back deck, one-car garage and small yard. From a practical standpoint, it’s big enough. But for most people I know (except for those die-hard tiny house dwellers – you know who you are), our house is extremely small.


A case for small house living

When it comes to house size, I’m clearly in the minority. In the United States, the average size of homes built in 2013 was 2,600 square feet, up from 1,725 square feet in 1983. While the size of the American family hasn’t grown in 30 years, houses in this country continue to get bigger. Still, there’s something to be said for living small.

A recent article in The Globe and Mail, “Squeezed, and Loving It: 5 Kids, 2 Adults in a 1,000-Square-Foot Condo,” mentions a study released by The Center on Everyday Lives of Families at the University of California.

The study found that regardless of the size of house, the families spent nearly all their time in a space of around 400 square feet, mostly in the kitchen, family room and dining room. The rest of the house was almost never used. The average backyard use by the children was only 40 minutes a week. Parents used the outdoor space 15 minutes a week.

Ultimately, researchers found that while we crave abundant space, we rarely use it.

A big, empty house

When Dave and I first started looking for a house in Burlington two years ago, we wanted to live in Burlington’s South End so we could be within walking distance to downtown. Of course, we could get more for our money living outside of the city, but we knew in our hearts that suburban living – even country living – doesn’t work for us. Neither does living in a big house with lots of space we don’t need. That was a mistake that we had made when we first moved to Vermont.

Nine years ago, we sold our 525-square-foot condo in Boston and bought a three bedroom, 1,800-square-foot farmhouse on an acre-and-a-half of land in Underhill.

The house in Underhill was old and charming – and bigger than we needed. For the three years that we lived there, we had rooms that sat nearly empty and unused – an office with crooked wood floors was a dumping ground for old tax returns, a den with cheap gray carpeting was our cat litter box room, and a small bedroom with peeling, green wallpaper was where we kept the ironing board.

Back then we lived paycheck to paycheck, and we struggled to fill the house with furniture or do any renovating. We didn’t know what to do with those unused rooms, so we basically ignored them altogether (except when the cat box needed to be changed).

For a while, we envisioned growing our family in Underhill to fill those hollow spaces. But children did not come easily for us. When we were expecting our first child in 2009, our daughter was delivered stillborn in my fifth month of pregnancy. The bedroom with green wallpaper and ironing board that we planned on making into her nursery sat empty in the months after her death up until the day we sold the house.

Underhill taught us a few lessons. We realized we didn’t want a big house or to live in a remote location. When we eventually became parents, we wanted to be a one-car family and live in a walkable community. For us, that meant settling in Burlington, where we’ve lived for the past five years (renting for three, owning for two).

While house hunting in Burlington with Phoebe in tow, I was also revaluating my professional career and longed for more flexibility.  I was working full time when Phoebe was an infant and toddler and desperately wanted to have more time with my only child. After months of searching for a home, I stumbled upon a for-sale-by-owner listing on Picket Fence Preview.

The house was an olive green bungalow built in 1913 in Burlington’s Five Sisters neighborhood. Even though the house was much smaller than we initially wanted, it was in a desirable neighborhood and considerably less expensive than our other options.  Rather than be house poor, we opted to buy our little house in May 2013. Three months later, I left my job and started working part time.

Embracing our tiny house

Since buying our home, I’ve learned that living in a small house forces you to get creative. We’ve installed drawers in my daughter’s closet so she doesn’t need a dresser in her room. We have bins in every room to store toys, books, Legos, and art supplies. We mounted our flat screen television on our living room wall, and got rid of our oversized coffee table.

We have a pull-out couch for guests, and durable patio furniture that spends six months of the year on our back deck to help us spread out. When my sister and her family visited us for Christmas, they stayed at our neighbors, who were away for the week and graciously offered up their home.

I’m the first to admit that living in an 803-square-foot house with my husband and daughter isn’t always easy. There are certainly days when I crave more space. A few items on the floor and kitchen counter can make the house feel like a cluttered mess. When I need alone time, there are not many places to escape for privacy. There are also the occasional jabs from friends or relatives who sometimes make our lifestyle choice feel mocked or misunderstood. But all in all, the good far outweighs the bad.

Whenever I wonder whether we made the right choice, I look around my little home and immediately know the answer. The emptiness is gone, and more than anything, our lives feel happy and full.

Erica Houskeeper is a freelance writer and communications consultant living in Burlington. She publishes a travel blog about Vermont, Happyvermont.comFollow her on Twitter

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.

This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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One hour.

That's all this summer goal requires. It requires pretty much no planning or bucket list-making or thought, other than keeping your eyes open for opportunity. This hour will find you.

I figured out the impact of this hour when we spent last weekend at a water park while my son played lacrosse. Going back and forth from game to hotel water park all weekend left us feeling disjointed and exhausted. It was lots of fun, but I was just tired at the end of it. Every bone in my body couldn't wait to get home.

My kids, however, who can run all day and still not be tired, really wanted just one more hour in the water park. This meant I'd have to put on my bathing suit. We had to check out of our room, so if we stayed, we'd have to change in the damp, icky changing area. My hair would be wet. The water park was so loud. Not one thing about the idea of staying sounded appealing to me.

But still, they wanted to stay. They looked at us with hopeful eyes, begging for the fun to continue. Pretty much every other family was headed home. But we made a decision that changed how I am looking at my whole summer – and, really, how I'm looking at how my role as a parent.


We stayed the extra hour. I am not exaggerating when I say it made all the difference.

I dug deep and decided I was going to be Fun Mom for an hour. I could have been Sit-in-a-chair-and-half-heartedly-watch-their-antics Mom for an hour, but I decided that would be a waste. If I wasn't going home, I was going to really be there for an hour. I was going to get my hair wet and not complain. For one hour, I was basically going to be a kid.

And it was So. Much. Fun.

I realized how important this hour was about 10 minutes in, when I found myself racing up the steps of the kiddie water slide area, chasing after Sam, plotting how I could adjust my way of sliding to finally beat him in our water slide race. I was ALL IN at that moment.

When I said I would slide with him, Sam's eyes lit right up and his little arms shot up in the air with a giant “YES!" He wanted to have fun with me. In that moment, I was not just Fun Mom. I was Fun Amy.

Having fun with your kids allows you to see them in a whole new light. I watched Sam use his God-given giant load of energy to run and run and run and embrace that hour, so much that I think he may be a fun genius.

I watched Kate fearlessly whip down water slides that made me scream like a baby. She held my hand. She was the one who was brave. She had no fear, and her fierce independence and determination made me feel lucky to be her friend for an hour.

I watched Thomas take Sam under his wing when it was his turn for slide races. I watched him teach Sam new water tricks and happily play in the kiddie area with reckless abandon, being kind and awesome to his brother at every turn.

I watched Ellie and Lily with their arms around each other, best friends for this sacred hour. I went down sides with each of them and floated through the lazy river as we all chatted, without a care in the world.

I held Todd's hand and rode down a slide with him in a double tube, just like in our dating days, our kids watching from behind, rolling their eyes with huge grins on their faces, hopefully seeing that marriage is more than making lunches and carting them around – that marriage is having actual fun with each other.

Spend the hour, my friends.

This hour reminded me how awesome it is to be the fun mom, to just be human with your kids. It reminded me how amazing it can be to say yes.

Sure, I could have used that hour to start on the massive pile of laundry we brought home. And full disclosure: We pushed ourselves to the point that there was plenty of super tired whining and complaining when we drove home. That hour could have saved us from having to stop for a little treat on the way home because now dinner was too far away. The house might have been cleaner and my people fed on time and in bed earlier had we not spent the hour.

But the laundry and the whining and the feeding of the people will always be there. That hour of fun was not only priceless. It was fleeting, like a feather in the wind we could catch if we tried. And we did.

Your hour may not be water park fun. This may sound like sheer torture to you. But your hour can be anything. And seriously, it's just an hour. We can do anything for an hour.

Thinking back, I remember my parents taking this same hour with us. My dad raced from roller coaster to roller coaster with my more adventurous siblings. My mom became more fun than any teenage shopping buddy we had. They spent the time. They took the hour. And we have amazing family memories because of it.

Life tries to drum that hour out of us. It tries to make us believe that getting stuff done is the ultimate prize. I am all for folded laundry and an empty sink and kids who are asleep at bedtime. But don't let life keep you from taking an hour here and there.

Find what you love, share it with your kids, say yes even when every bone in your old and weary body says no. Let your kids hear you scream like a kid going down a water slide. Get your hair wet. Eat ice cream for dinner. Play a family game of tag at the park as the sun goes down.

Show your kids you are more than a task master who cares too much about beds being made. Show them that you are not just the adult who wants them to entertain themselves at the water park while you sit in a hot tub (although I did that this weekend, too, and it was amazing).

Show them that family is fun, and that fun can actually come first. Show them the kid in you. It will bond you together in a whole new way.

Make it your goal this summer to take the hour. Those moments will make all the difference. And it's the moments that will change your family forever.

This post was originally published on Hiding in the Closet with Coffee.

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Breastfeeding is not easy. But neither is weaning. That's why this powerful photo from Brazilian mama Maya Vorderstrasse is going viral. Her husband captured the first time she ever breastfed their second daughter and next to it, almost two years later, the last time she fed their daughter from her breast.

And it's not just the photo that is powerful. In her caption Maya shares her emotional struggles with weaning and the tricks they used to make this transition easier for their youngest daughter. The caption reads:

"The first and last time my precious daughter ever nursed.

I didn't know that one person could feel so proud and so broken at the same time, right now I am a hormonal, emotional, and mental mess.

Raising my arm in this picture was very difficult for me as I had to fight through uncontrollable tears: this picture meant that I would never breastfeed my daughter ever again. I have been nursing for so long, that I don't know what it's like to not nurse anymore.

As I looked behind the camera, my husband is crying like I had never seen him cry before, like seriously, a deep gut cry. I was her comfort, her safe place, and I hope she still finds me that way. A month shy of 2 years old, she finally has a bed in a shared bedroom with her sister. We bought her her first bed, used any distraction we could come up with, snacks and new toys to keep her mind off of it.

My husband has taken over bedtime completely, including all nighttime wakings. We are on our third day, and every day gets a little bit easier. The guilt I feel for not putting her to bed is so intense and I can't wait to go back to it once she doesn't ask to nurse anymore. Closing a chapter is painful, but I am hopeful that this new season of our lives will also be special in its own way.

Through this maturation step she will not only grow more independent, but I will get a much needed break. She unlatched for the last time and sobbingly I said to my husband: "I did my best". He hugged me and responded with: "No. You did THE best, because you gave her your all". I love my family and am so thankful for such special and unforgettable moments like these. 💛

*my lazy boob has no clue about what's going on, but thoughts and prayers are accepted for my good one, I really think it might explode🤱🏻

**thank you to my husband, for insisting on filming this, I will treasure this forever.🤳🏼👩"

You've got this mama!

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If you're looking for basics for the kids for summer, you're in luck, mama. Primary clothes don't have logos or sparkles—they're classic prints and colors that can easily transition from one kid to the next. And this week, Primary is celebrating the new season with a major summer sale.

Items, like swimsuits, dresses, polos and more, are over 50% off. Most pieces are under $10 so you can stock up on an entire new wardrobe without breaking the budget.

Here's what we're adding to our carts—shop the entire sale here:

1. Baby rainbow stripe rash guard

With UPF 50, you can rest easy knowing baby has extra protection outdoors.



2. The track short

The easy pull-on waist will make outfit changes a breeze.



3. Rainbow stripe one-piece

Cute? Check. Will stay in place? Check. UPF 50? Check.



4. The short sleeve twirly dress

Made of 100% cotton jersey, this one will be a staple all summer long.



5. The polo babysuit

Perfect to dress up or down.



Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Being an adult is no joke. Beyond dressing ourselves and our kids and, ya know, feeding and bathing the family, there are so many other things that life throws at us. And because we're adults, we have to take care of these myriad to-dos. Welcome to: Adulting!

I'm not just talking about laundry, filling up the gas tank and stocking the fridge with groceries, but those tasks that always get pushed back. Getting life insurance. Refinancing your loan debt. (Students loans? Us, too.) Signing up for marriage counseling.

But guess what? These seemingly heavy-lift tasks are now a whole lot easier and faster to tackle. Here's how to check off your most tedious adulting chores.

The life insurance

When you're single with no descendants, life insurance might not seem like a top priority. But when you suddenly have a kid (or three), setting your family up for financial success is a must. And thanks to Ladder, obtaining a policy isn't the taxing, cringe-inducing process it used to be! It's modern and easy to use—seriously, you can even sign up for a policy from your phone or tablet. Ladder makes it possible to obtain a policy in under five minutes. Yes, really. See? No need to procrastinate!


The student loan redux

You have the degree and the career and you also have the debt. And like us, you're likely just paying your monthly minimums without considering refinancing your student loans—because that sounds hard and complicated. Laurel Road simplifies the process. You can check your rates in only a few minutes (and don't worry, doing so won't impact to your credit score!).


The marriage counselor

Did you know that 66% of couples report a drop in marital satisfaction when baby arrives? It's not surprising that an infant can cause stress for mama, but all that pressure can affect your relationship, too. Taking the time to really invest in marriage counseling often falls to the bottom of the to-do lists because of the many hurdles—finding a therapist, traveling to appointments, the cost of copays or out-of-pocket fees, the stigma around it all. With Lasting, however, you and your partner pair your apps and can begin working on your relationship together on your own timeline.


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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