When Kate and I moved into our Clintonville home nine years ago, the place seemed so big. We were moving into a three-bedroom house from a Delaware County rental that had two rooms total. Even after inheriting some well-loved furniture from friends and relatives, the new house still felt empty.

When Kate and I moved into our Clintonville home nine years ago, the place seemed so big. We were moving into a three-bedroom house from a Delaware County rental that had two rooms total. Even after inheriting some well-loved furniture from friends and relatives, the new house still felt empty.

Following in the footsteps of countless other young, house-poor couples with half-empty homes, we made our way to the closest Ikea, which, in those days, was a three-hour drive to Pittsburgh. We didn't have much of an eye for cohesive design aesthetics yet, but we did our best, packing my father-in-law's minivan with a couch, coffee table, bookshelves and two chairs, one of which we precariously strapped to the top of the van. I spent most of the drive home checking my rearview mirror and praying our new corduroy recliner wouldn't cause a 20-car pileup on I-70.

I still love living in Clintonville, and I still love our home. But it no longer feels big now that we're a family of four. Even after an extensive basement renovation, space is tight. This becomes especially true over the holidays, when generous relatives bestow enough gifts on our kids to last a decade. Every December, all the baskets and bins and closets begin rumbling with volcanic activity, eventually spewing forth in a violent, tripping-hazard eruption.

And so it was that Kate and I recently found ourselves en route to Ikea once again in search of space-saving designs at prices so cheap you almost forget that every piece will come in a cardboard box and require Allen wrenches, a master's degree in pictorial interpretation and a supernatural restraint for littering obscenities in front of your children. (Also those $1 cinnamon rolls are amazing.) The trip helped stymie the entropy; I'm hopeful we can keep the volcanoes dormant this year.

Accumulating possessions to the point we run out of space is a first-world problem if ever there was one. I'd bet that when our house was built in the 1940s, a family of five could have lived there quite comfortably (and probably did), even without Swedish furniture. A tendency toward American excess is part of the reason we've remained in our small home. I like that it makes us live more simply. I like that we're forced to get rid of stuff before our basement resembles an episode of Hoarders. I like that there's no wing to retreat to when family relationships become strained; arguments have to be resolved before long, because avoiding each other just isn't an option.

I grew up in small houses, and I'm sure that influences my thinking, too. As a kid, most of my friends had larger homes with huge rec rooms and un-shared bedrooms, but they often commented that they liked coming to my house because it felt cozy and homey - especially over the holidays, when my mom always had gingerbread cookies and spiced tea on hand for guests. My hope is that, with a little help from my Swedish friends every few years, my house can feel the same way.

-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer and a furniture-assembling, toy-purging dad.