Ask Design Mom: Siblings Sharing a Bedroom

August 3, 2011

Question:
I have three children, two of which share a room. As they get older, there is much grumbling of why they have to share a room. Having six children, have you come across this issue and if so, how did you deal with it? Many thanks for your time. — Meg Grant

Answer:
Hi Meg! We’ve never lived in a house with 7 bedrooms, so as you guessed, we have lots of experience with room sharing in the Blair Family. It’s one of those things. Some kids love it. Some don’t. Olive loves it — we tried a solo room with her and didn’t last 2 days. Maude, on the other hand, begged for her own room for ages, and finally has one! But who knows in the next house…

When Maude would be especially frustrated, the best fix for us was to help her do a mini bedroom makeover. Switch furniture around. Add a new piece of art. Decoupage some furniture. Make an inspiration board for her next bedroom. A trip to Target for a new throw pillow. Something small or big that would help her feel ownership of the room and be excited about it.

How does it work at your house, Dear Readers? Do your kids share rooms? Did you share a room as a child?

P.S. — The bedroom pictured is Oscar and Betty’s room in Colorado. We built the beds for super cheap! You can find instructions here.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jan @ Family Bites August 3, 2011 at 8:44 am

Great ideas! My boys have always shared a room, first out of necessity and then because I thought it was good for them. At nine and eleven they periodically ask for their own room, but not too often. I think they’ve learned a lot of life lessons through sharing and I know they quite enjoy having someone to chat with late at night.

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2 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm

thanks, Jan, I feel the same way…but my 7 yo is hard pressed to see the learning experiences!

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3 karajayne August 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

i’m a huge fan of room sharing. my boys have always shared a room and always will. if my girls were closer in age i’d have them share too (the youngest ends up in the oldest daughters bed most nights anyway). not because of a lack of room, but because i really do think its good for kids. my oldest daughter often ends up in the boys room as well. i think there is a lot of comfort in having someone else asleep near you. i believe that i read once that studies actually show that kids who share a room sleep better. perhaps they feel more safe and secure with someone in the room with them.

it could be good for kids to learn to share space and responsibility too. they will most likely be sharing space with someone most of their adult life whether it be with a roommate, spouse, etc.

i do understand that kids need some time/space to themselves, so each parent needs to make those decisions based on their child and family dynamic.

funny thing is as the youngest of 6 kids in my family with two brothers just older than me – i never shared a room.

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4 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I heard someone years ago on NPR presuming that because so many kids no longer share rooms, they have a very hard time relating to others….I find a lot of truth in that. I WANT my girls to share a room and due to our house size, there is no other choice right now. My eldest is just going through a stage of “finding my own space, Mummy!”…

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5 Tammy August 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

We just moved to Provence and live in a home that is about a third of the size as our house was back in the States. Here, all three girls share a small room. Our answer–staying outside as much as possible and giving our teenager occasional alone time in the room.

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6 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I read a great article awhile back saying that American homes are at least three times the size of European homes. We live in smaller house and have no intentions of changing that. I love being in a small house. Not sure how old your girls are but there is a great book: http://www.amazon.com/Squash-Squeeze-Julia-Donaldson/dp/1405055286/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312596337&sr=1-1 that explores living in a small house. Thanks for your suggestions!

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7 the emily August 3, 2011 at 9:20 am

My 7-year-old (Isaac) has a much harder time with sharing than his 4-year-old brother. I never had to share a room and so I feel bad for him, and understand the need to be alone sometimes. We make sure that the things that are Isaac’s, that he doesn’t want siblings to play with, are on a shelf that they can’t reach or touch. When he needs to be alone I can’t let him shut himself in his room because it’s also his brother’s room, so he gets to go in my bedroom with the door shut for a while. I hope someday to have a home with enough space for all of us, but until then, I try to make the room as much his as I can.

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8 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Like the idea of sharing your room…thanks!

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9 Janan W August 3, 2011 at 9:30 am

Coming from a family of 8 children I shared a room until I moved out. I complained, but I have alot of good memories too. I now have three girls and my youngest is a boy. My middle two girls share and there is constant complaining. I agree with DM, we go back and forth between bunkbeds and seperates. We sometimes have hung nets over the girls beds. A little change can go a long way.

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10 Kristen E August 3, 2011 at 9:32 am

My 3 nephews have 2 bedrooms among them, and their parents routinely rotate who gets his own room and who shares. I think that’s a good idea – I know it’s good for them to share, but it’s also good to feel like they have some privacy sometimes. I also have no problem telling the other two to stay away if one of them wants to be alone for a while! Nobody should feel like they HAVE to be around other people all the time! (Can you tell I’m an introvert?)

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11 se7en August 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

We have always separated our home into sleep and play areas… we have eight kids in a two bedroomed home: Our four big boys sleep in their own room, my three youngest sleep in our enormous bed… and my oldest daughter has her own corner of our bedroom that was the closet. We would love to evolve into a girls room and a boys room – but that may leave the father person and I out in the cold!!! When our kids grow into a bed we get them loft beds so that they and there stuff are pretty much contained within the space of a single bed and they can make a little private cavern underneath it. But really we only sleep in our bedrooms, my kids all play in the kitchen or outdoors… We specially made a big living space in the kitchen, and they lounge around in the lounge for reading. It works for us… Mostly it feels like a grand enormous home – four huge rooms: lounge, kitchen, 2 bedrooms… and a bathroom of course!!! When it does feel cramped I remind myself that most people in the world have homes even smaller than my kitchen… everything is relative really. No-one has ever moaned about sharing – they know no better and I think they would be lonely their own!!!

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12 heidikins August 3, 2011 at 9:56 am

We had 5 kids and 3 available bedrooms growing up. The solution was to switch up who had to share with whom every year or so. I shared with ecah of my siblings at some point, and had a room of my own sometimes as well. Granted, we didn’t worry about having “decorated” or “styled” rooms, we just moved our favorite bedding and hung our favorite posters on the walls of whatever room we were in. I can’t imagine redecorating every bedroom every year, but for us, it was much simpler than that. It was just someone else’s turn to have their own room.

xox

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13 Jaime August 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

I grew up the oldest of 6 kids and our entire family of 8 squeezed into only 3 bedrooms (one room had 2 double beds). I didn’t always enjoy it then, of course, but I’m happy I had the experience now – having to share teaches you very quickly that you are not the center of the universe (a perspective that not enough kids these days have, at least according to the crotchety octogenarian in me).

Love your site!

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14 Tina Isakson August 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I agree, Jaime!

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15 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm

agree…and I LOVE your “crotchety octogenarian” wisdom

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16 Nicole K August 3, 2011 at 10:28 am

My 7 year old son and my 3 year daughter share a room. My son grumbles, but I also notice that most of the nicest sibling moments they share happen in their room. One things that really helped was giving my son as special play space. He has a lego play area with some bookshelves at the end of a hall that he can block off with a lego sorting unit. Having his own little space where he can indulge in his favorite play has helped a lot. It has also been a wonderful way to keep the legos from invading the entire house.

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17 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:10 pm

love the small individual space, going to try that one!

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18 Jessica August 3, 2011 at 10:30 am

we have 3 available bedrooms in our home. 2 kids, plus 1 on the way. my husband and i have one room…to ourselves. our kids, 5 yr old boy and 3 yr old girl, share a room and the extra bedroom is for guests and computer space. even though we have the room to expand and split them up, we plan on putting the next baby in with the older kids. and making the guest room a play space. the idea of sleeping quarters and a play space is so ideal in my mind (at least for now).

i love that they share a room. they love sharing a room. plus, it s a great life lesson. it’s perfect for us.

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19 Mariel August 3, 2011 at 7:40 pm

We also have 3 bedrooms. Our 4 yr old son and 2 yr old daughter share one and the other is our guest bedroom. I often wonder what we’d do if we had another baby. I think sharing a room has created a special bond between them and honestly I think it helped my daughter sleep better as a baby. I wonder how long they’ll want to share since they are boy/girl.

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20 Anna August 4, 2011 at 4:46 am

I too have a 3br home. I have a 2yo and one arriving next month. We plan that they will both share. The 3rd bedroom is really critical for us to have as a guest room as my parents live out of town but stay with us to help out a lot. I did not have to share as a child, so have some reservations. It’s refreshing to hear that it works so well for you, thank you.

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21 Liv M. August 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

My kids are too young to know better, 2 and 6 months, but they share because we only have 2 rooms. But honestly, if we had a third room, we’d still keep them together and use the extra room for art/office/guest room.

I always shared a room with my sister until I was a teenager and I probably grumbled a lot but I’m over it now.

I like what some of the ladies are saying about teaching their kids to share, and I hope my kids have less of a concept of mine… we’ll see how it goes.

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22 Jenn P. August 3, 2011 at 11:15 am

It’s funny this came up today because my husband and I were talking about this last night. We really want our kids to share, but one of them likes to hit the pillow and go to sleep and the other talks, and talks, and TALKS and then falls asleep. The third could share, but the big room is downstairs and he’s only 3! (Can you tell he’s the baby of the family?). I’ve loved reading what others have to say, and I thing sharing is a great idea.

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23 Nicole August 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

I have been considering merging my 4 year old daughter’s and 2 year old son’s room. Toys/Playroom in the bedroom with the brighter walls, additional windows and more space. Bunk beds, dresser and clothes in smaller bedroom, a little darker and 1 window. Hmm… still thinking.

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24 sarah August 3, 2011 at 11:36 am

my sis and i shared all growing up…we loved it. we would talk late into the night, and every month we would get out our floor plan of the room, and move the furniture on paper. once we were happy with it, we would move the stuff for real. i think that gave me my first love of design and decorating right there in that bedroom. we have one right now, so he has his own room, but if number 2 someday is a boy–they will be sharing for sure. i’m too much of a decorator and designer to make a girl go with a boy, since his room is ship themed.

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25 Rachel in AK August 3, 2011 at 11:48 am

My two boys have separate bedrooms; however, both share their rooms. My 8 year old prefers to sleep in the same room as his brother. My two year old is fine with that as long as they are not in the same bed. I think it would have been fine if they HAD to share because they sleep most nights in the same room. When we have guests, my 8 year old has to sleep in his brother’s room since he has a queen bed.

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26 Valerie August 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I come from a family of 10 kids, so I shared a room until the oldest 3 had moved out and freed up some space! My mom helped us co-habitate by allowing us to change rooms every 9 months or so. Sometimes roommates changed along with the room, but not always. We also moved furniture around & had fun with bunk beds (to bunk or not to bunk, that is the question!). I generally enjoyed the time I spent sharing a room w/my siblings & look back on the memories fondly.

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27 Amy FJ August 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm

My two littles share a room (one girl, one boy) and so far they love it. It seems that British families have smaller, cozier living arrangements than many American families so we encounter a lot of room sharing in story books from “across the pond.” In our house we love Shirley Hughes books and it makes sharing a room just that more “usual” because we see it often in books!

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28 Janelle August 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm

We have 5 kiddos, and for now, only the oldest (almost 13) has his own (albeit smallest) space. There are 5 yrs between the two little boys, and the two girls who share rooms, and that makes it hard for the older one in the room – the babies get into EVERYTHING. I really feel badly for my 8yr old daughter, because our 3 yr old climbs and digs to get into stuff she is suppose to leave alone. I have started letting her keep her earrings and lip gloss in my bathroom so she has a little bit of hope that they won’t be lost or ruined. It was definitely easier when everyone was littler and I felt like it was still appropriate to have mixed-gender rooms. That way, the ones closest to the same age were together in a room. However, I have to say, they are absolutely lost if one of them spends the night at a friend’s house – they miss their partner.

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29 Corrie Anne August 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Oh boy! I was grew up in 3-bedroom house with 6 kids, but somehow never SHARED!! (the ones closest to my age were all boys, and we have QUITE the age gap). I imagine I would’ve been a Maude. I think you’ve made some good suggestions for helping her. I know my youngest sister is looking foward to having her own room when another brother goes off to college! :)

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30 sarahbclark! August 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm

my two boys share a room, but we have to put our 4 year old to sleep somewhere else because he tortures and annoys our 8 year old at night! we move him back to his bed after he falls asleep, which happens so much faster than if we have him start out in his own bed.

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31 Kim August 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Please Gabrielle, help me! I’ve been slowly trying to make my son’s room right for him. The bed has been my problem. I want to get rid of the skirt (so girly!) but you can see the box springs if I do. I don’t want to get rid of the box springs and I don’t want to sit the mattress on the floor. I’m soooo stuck! I love the bed in that pic you posted. That’s perfect! Do you know where I can find something like it?

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32 Janelle August 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Why not do what we’ve done with a couple beds? We just get a fitted sheet that is a color included in the room and cover the box spring with it.

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33 Patricia C. August 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

We’ve done that as well. The fitted sheet around the box spring looks great! But we’ve also done a simple bedskirt and I don’t think it looks girly at all.

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34 Sarah August 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

You could build your own platform bed for the kid too. Just take the measurements for the bed, have the hardware store cut to size the side pieces for you, add a cut to size piece of flat wood for the top and nail it all together. Then you can paint it gray with circles or whatever your little person wants it to be. My boys have plain black straight bedskirts and we’ve had no complaints.

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35 Kim August 4, 2011 at 6:01 am

I’ve thought about building our own. That’s a good idea. I’ve never even thought of sheets on the box springs. I didn’t mean to offend anyone about the bed skirt. I personally don’t care for them…not even in my room. The bed in my son’s room is the bed that was in the guest room…a queen size bed. He loves it so we’ve kept it, but I have a white skirt on it that I really don’t want for him. I love the look of this room pictured. It’s more what I’ve envisioned for my son’s room but haven’t been able to accomplish. Thanks for all of your suggestions!!

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36 Kim August 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Actually I love everything in that room…the pillows on the beds and that adorable alligator pillow on the floor!

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37 Andrea August 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I have 4 girls. 1 of them loves sharing and 2 of them really don’t. We have a small extra space that we call the guest room (which also doubles as a space for all sorts of stuff), but we have the girls take turns sleeping in the guest room, so they get a “vacation” from sharing a room. It works out really well for now– they each take a week in the guest room and then go back to their normal bed, and my daughter who likes sharing a room always has a buddy to sleep with.

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38 This girl loves to Talk August 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm

thank you for this post! and I LOVE all the comments. As a person who has four girls sharing a room in a place where most people only have one or two kids, people look at me like I’m commiting child abuse!

We’ve done 2×2 sharing, some alone, but mostly had three in a room and baby with us. but right now we have international exchange students so all four share.

sometimes I HAVE to do staggered bedtime (oh that giggling can drive me crazy) and occassionally someone will be told to go to sleep in mum and dad’s bed and then I move them but for the most part our girls love it. As we had to give the bed to the student 3 of the girls actually share two beds they pushed together to make a big one! and they love it. As it is winter here I said it was a good idea as they can keep eachother warm!!

this wont be forever and while they are young I am fine with it. I do hope to have a little larger house one day, but they will still have to share with one other. Their room is for sleeping. No toys, just books. I really liked Se7en’s idea! Plus I think it will be harder for the older kids to get up to mischief if they have younger siblings around to dob on them :)

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39 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. August 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

My two boys share a room 14 and 10. I wonder how long it will last. Great post here

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40 Catherine at Design Editor August 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm

We’ve got the twins sharing, since it’s the bigger bonus room and I thought if would be perfect for all of the “stuff” I knew they’d acquire. We have two other guest rooms, but I just turned one into my office so I hope they stay happy together for awhile!

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41 Erin B. August 3, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I have 4 boys and we have had various room arrangements over the years. Originally we had 3 bedrooms and the two oldest shared a room and the two youngest shared another. Later we had problems with the older two getting along, so we switched it up. Child 1 and Child 4 shared a room and Child 2 and Child 3 shared the other. This worked better for awhile and matched up our early birds and our night owls. Now we have only 2 bedrooms, so all 4 boys are in the same room with two sets of bunk beds in an L-formation against the walls. It’s a small room and not really an ideal situation, but we’ve been living this way for 2 years now. We chose our small house because we wanted the large yard (4 1/2 acres), so the kids have plenty of room to run around outside. Plus we have 2 living areas, so that gives a little space to get away from each other inside. One of our boys needs a little more space and would do well to have his own room. When he needs to get away from his brothers, he can come in our (mom and dad’s) room to read or just to hang out and have some privacy for awhile. It’s nice to have different ways to group people. Age/gender isn’t always the way that works best for everyone.

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42 Sarah August 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm

My kids have shared a room their whole (two to four year) life, but my four year old has been needing his own room for a while now. (The two year old is a serious antagonizer.) We live in a two bedroom apartment but are fortunate enough to have some relatively large closets, so I moved everyone’s hanging clothes to one closet and turned the other closet (in my room) into my two year old’s room. He loves being close to me at night and the four year old has the space he desperately needed. I got the idea from Oh Happy Day! (Here: http://ohhappyday.com/2010/06/moses-closet-part-ii/)

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43 Linnea July 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm

My little boy will sleep in our closet when he arrives this winter, too! Glad to know other parents who make space for their kids like this.

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44 Anna August 4, 2011 at 4:53 am

Thank you for posting this theme, I have number 2 arriving next month and plan to them both share once the baby is reasonably settled at night. There are some great ideas and great inspiration from everyone’s comments. I didn’t share with my sister, but my husband is one of 6 so they shared all the time, our expectations are quite different as you can imagine.

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45 Meg Grant August 5, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Anna, swimming in the same boat…my husband shared a room with his brother until they were teens but I was an only child. Our perspectives are very different, but it manages to balance out. My girls are 18 months apart and they have shared since my younger one was 9 months. There are studies that suggest the older child’s breathing patterns during sleep help to form the younger siblings’ patterns. As we all know, a three year old sleeps so much more soundly than a 10 month old! Congrats on number 2…

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46 Debi August 4, 2011 at 11:45 am

By brother’s family have a wonderful solution for their children who are now in college living at home and sharing a single bedroom. They custom built a sturdy bunk bed, then placed in in the middle of the room. They then used plywood or similar material and blocked off the upper bunk on one side and the lower on the other. So the kid with the upper bunk exposed had a large bulletin board type ‘wall’ on the lower part of the room, while the other side had a large space on the top, and a bed low to the ground. A small desk acted as both end table and study area. A large bookcase on the end of the bed was shared by both kids. They installed a curtain that extended from the bookcase to the wall, giving privacy to the sleeping/study areas. On the ‘shared’ wall (toward the end of the beds) they set up a large closet system similar to what you can do with Ikea shelves, etc. I wish I could share pictures, it’s more simple than it sounds. What was great is that each kid had privacy , but the space was used very efficiently to accomodate their basic needs– a place to sleep, study, dress. (Bonus? it’s not so comfy that they would want to stay forever! lol!)

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47 Bri (like the cheese) August 9, 2011 at 11:00 am

Does anyone have opposite-gender siblings sharing rooms? I need help designing a room that is relatively gender-neutral without being too boring or too childish, as my daughter’s room is about to be turned in to ‘the kids’ room’!

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48 Sarah August 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

My two kids share a bedroom, and we try and make their beds THEIRS. So much of being a sibling is learning to SHARE, so we let them have their beds and let them be all their own. So they have quilts, and pillows and animals that are theirs and only theirs:) Another thing that helps is that we hardly have any toys in their room, it’s just for sleeping, so it doesn’t get over crowded with toys and the squabbles that come forth from that. Then bed time is like a sleepover.

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49 Jackie January 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

I have 5 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment. We are moving this year lol. Oldest ds is almost 13 and has his own room (our old room). DD#1 is 8.5 yrs and shares her room with DS#2 and DS#3. She just got the top bunk! and the boys have the bottom bunk and the trundle on the floor. DD#2 (kid #5) is almost a yr and still is with us. Our bed is in the large diningroom, separated by floor to ceiling curtains and a large bookcase that acts as a wall. Our dressers are still in our old room that is currently DS#1′s room. When we move we will finally have a real bedroom! DS#1 will still have his own room (but probably the smallest since he doesn’t have to share). And DS#2 and DS#3 will share and DD#1 and DD#2 will share :) and toys go in the basement/playroom. Bedrooms are for sleeping/ studying/dressing. I’m sure we’ll have issues along the way but This is what we can do for now :)

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50 Sofie December 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I grew up sharing a room with my older sister (by four years). I loved it, we get along really well and she was always there just a few feet away to talk to. My 3 brothers shared an room that was attached to ours by a bathroom. They were 10, 8, and 6 years older than me, so their bedtime was later. I remember how frustrating it was to hear my siblings playing until 9 every night, while I was in bed at 8!

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