How to Host Overnight Guests in A Tiny House


Since downsizing from 2000 square feet to under 200, we have hosted several visitors. However, the occasional passerby who wants to come in and “oooohhh” and “ahhhhh” at how we survive on so little is much different than housing overnight guests. This weekend we hosted our sister and brother-in-law and their three awesome kiddos for four days.

You read that right. NINE. 4 Adults + 5 Kids (under age 10)=9 humans housed in less than 200 sq.ft. for four days.

Sandwiched inside, it didn’t take long to learn a few lessons about surviving tiny. Here’s our point of view…

The Tanks Will Fill- We did it. We unknowlingly filled a tank for the first time. Living in a 36ft fifth wheel full time offers it’s advantages, like having two black and two gray tanks to correlate with the two bathrooms. However, as it turns out, when the weather turns south and everyone showers inside, the gray tanks will fill…quickly.

For us, this meant a quick drain of the tanks during the conveyor belt of kid showers when it ended up stopping up the sink with sudsy water. No big deal…except when the poop tank hose EXPLODES. Yes. I said it. The forty feet of stank poo water line’s tension became too great and fought itself free…all over my husband. (Insert gag reflex here.)

He cleaned up and the tanks were drained. The showers continued and everyone survived. But it still remains, that the tanks will fill. Nine humans emptying bladders (and other things), showering, brushing teeth, and cleaning dishes will inevitably equal full tanks.

This is true in every part of life. We will fill up. We get physically full, emotionally to the brim, and mentally overflowing. What we are learning living tiny is that, when the rest of your life has been simplified by choice, the stuff that tends to “fill up” and cause stress becomes infinitely easier to manage. We chose this and we sincerely love it.

Infinite Counter Space Wouldn’t Be Enough- This was true in our “normal” sized home as well. There, in 2000 square feet of outspread glory, we had counters, an island, and a bar in our kitchen and it was still covered with mail, papers, homework, and random bits of unidentifiable food from earlier in the week. When your counter is simplified to a measly sink with fitted inserts and a 1’x3’ space that can flip up to extend your “counter”, things can get hairy during food prep for nine.

Still, we managed to cook simple lunches, leftovers, a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and biscuits, and a dinner of chili verde ribs and grilled santa fe chicken packets with all the trimmings. No one went hungry and no one complained. We ate dinner outside under the awning and the glow of the stars and our porch string lights. We drank and laughed with a campfire as our background and no one pushed and shoved for space. It was delicious and glorious.

Keep It Clean, Ladies and Gents- Houses can get messy fast. I am talking lighting flash, head spinning speeds. My kids have this innate talent to completely demolish a room beyond recognition within seconds of me walking out, wiping my forehead sweat and returning the Clorox to its respectful space in the cupboard. Just like that; all of my hard work undone. It is insane.

When you have nine people within arms reach of each other for four straight days, things are going to inevitably get dirty, broken, stepped on, peed on (I swear this actually happened), etc. But guess what? No one even noticed.

Yes, the dog peed on a pair of sweatpants that had been pulled off the clothesline in a vicious game of hide and seek, but in the midst, I sat back and watched as different people (sometimes even the kids) would clean up their own table mess, clear their after dinner crumbles, and wipe a counter or two. The shoes were put away because, if they weren’t, the hallway became impassable. Food was put back in its place because there simply wasn’t room to stack anything else, lest we be recommended for the next season of Hoarders.

Seriously, the toilets were cleaned, the toothpaste wiped up, the clothes put away, and the only thing that remained in its wake were incredible memories, hilarious laughter, and hours of family bonding that we undeniably needed.

It is important to note that I hid away air fresheners that SUPER helped with that fresh scent little boys can bring to your bathroom. I would HIGHLY recommend using Damp Rid’s brand. Magic makers!

You Can Hear Everything- When you parent kids who are far apart in age, you balance a lot of tricky tasks. Nap times must correlate with activities for the older ones or the littles never sleep. Meals don’t always coincide and Legos can’t be left unattended or our 1 ½ year old daughter will destroy them all in a reign of toddler terror.

When five kids are running rampant throughout 200 square feet, toys are stroon about as if a Toys R Us tornado just ripped through, leaving nothing but Fisher Price shrapnel it its wake. However, guess what happened when Sparrow needed to rest? The kids played endless games of Uno. They ran around outside and learned to slackline. They planned and constructed entire towns out of Legos. It was pretty much awesome in every way. And the babe? She rested. Her nap times didn’t suffer and the older kiddos got some much needed babyless quality playtime.

You’ll Spend Your Time In The Great Wide Open-Literally no one wants to be sardined into any tiny space with tons of other people, no matter how “farm to table” that space is decorated. For the love of Joanna Gaines (my spirit animal), my gloriously repurposed barnwood décor does not make me want to sit any closer to anyone on my couch that says it fits three, but clearly they cannot qualify as normally sized adults.

So we solved that problem. We sat outside; for dinners and Legos, for playtime and partying, we sat outside. We had the most amazing time cooking s’mores over the fire and watching a “drive in” movie under the stars on inflatable mattresses and lawn chairs. It was one of those moments as a mom when I take a mental snapshot and hope it will be one of the memories that I replay when I am eating chocolate ice cream during Bingo and arguing with Agnes at my table at the old folks home.  I pray that our kids and nieces and nephew remember this when they are adults reminiscing during a BBQ at one of their houses while their kids destroy everything in their path.

Yes, it was tight when we were all inside, but we still managed to play a hysterical game of Monopoly Deal. The kids were taught how to handle their life while navigating this game of insanity with their mom and uncle as they secretly squirrel away money they’ll obviously need for therapy later. These will be joint sessions with me, because they’ve scarred me for life. This is real life. They have a problem and it starts with Boardwalk and ends with Passing Go, ladies and gentlemen!

We made the best of the small space we had and the most of the outdoors. We slayed the Cincinnati Zoo like it was our job and the kids saw animals I cannot even pronounce. We ate Graeter’s ice cream until we needed elastic waistbands on our pants. And even when the forecast said rain all day Sunday, we went outside anyway. And it. Was. Awesome.

When It Rains, It Pours-The weather called for a 90% chance of rain, but we rolled the dice. It seemed, on hole 3 of Udders and Pudders at Young’s Dairy Farm, that we had missed the storm. But alas, to the soundtrack of Life Is A Highway in the background, the skies opened up. While the rest of families ran for cover, we—along with a few other deticated troopers—played through. The rain faded and the whole family got in all 18 holes while Sparrow and I danced our little soaking hineys off to the most random putt putt soundtrack known to man.

We killed a corn maze, taking no prisoners as we destroyed the other groups who rode the hayride to the entrace with us. They didn’t know it was a race, but the Burgers play for keeps!

We finished the day off with mounds of ice cream and leftover pizza from what my neices agreed is “lifechanging pizza and breadsticks” from Bentino’s in Yellow Springs.

It rained. It poured. It was cold and shivery. But we just huddled together. We turned on the heater and crammed seven of us around the tiny dining table built for four and drug out Monopoly for a solid hour. It was glorious.

I Couldn’t Have Imagined The Memories-While many plan vacations with Disney character themed T-shirts, resorts, and beachside reading, our family goes against the grain. All inclusive resort with drinks delivered poolside, you say? Not us. No ma’am. We’ll just go ahead and slam everyone in our extended family into 36 feet and see what shakes out.

We didn’t know how things would go with all of us in a camper for a weekend, but we knew we needed to reconnect–as families who live apart do. It didn’t matter if it was at the cost of air mattress sleeps and kids that seemed to multiply by the hour. It was good and it was rich and it was necessary.

If you haven’t connected with family or friends in a small, cozy, simple space or in the beauty of a rain shower outside, DO IT! Seriously, you are missing out on memories to save the blowout you just paid $80 for and, sister, it ain’t worth it!

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8 Replies to “How to Host Overnight Guests in A Tiny House”

  1. Oh wow. No way. No thank you. I don’t even have a guest bedroom in my 3 story house for the explicit purpose of having all out of town guests not stay under my roof. (This sounds so terrible when typed.) I just happen to know my emotional limits and boundaries, and physical space is a big one. More power to those of you who can do it so gracefully. *Or well, end up on the right side of the poop shower!

  2. We had 12 people stay with the 5 of us in our small 1950’s ranch when we lost my brother-in-law. Needless to say, the memories are worth 1000 times more than the mess. I would do it again and again. Sadly, it may not come to pass now that those 3 families are spread out all over the country since Maria’s wrath. #makeitcount

  3. This sounds absolutely perfect. We’ve been trying to work up the nerve for a tiny home. Then (surprise!) Boy #3 showed up. ???? And yellow springs bentinos really is life changing. ????

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