Like many couples, when we decided to start a family we wondered how long we could stay in our one bedroom apartment. We know we aren’t alone with the average cost of a single-family home in many North American cities well out of reach of the middle-class. It wasn’t an easy decision, as both my husband and I had envisioned raising kids in a house the way we were brought up, but so far, we’ve stayed put with our now 2.5 year old and we’re not bursting at the seams just yet. Here are some things to think about when considering minimalist living with kids.
How will you do it?
There are loads of solutions! I’ve seen closets converted into nurseries, gorgeous sofa-beds, or the easiest and cheapest solution of all – bed sharing or co-sleeping. I’m a light sleeper so I knew bed sharing would be out of the question and we decided to set up our son’s nursery in our den.
Thanks to professional help, we managed to fit storage, a full-size crib, seating and a changing area in what is basically the size of a walk-in closet. This worked well for the first year as it allowed us to stay in our bedroom and occasionally take turns napping when he was waking up often at night.
As our son grew into a toddler we made the decision to invest in a murphy bed and move him into our bedroom and move ourselves into the main room. By doing so, we were able to save 50 square feet of valuable floor space for our very active little dude!
Babyproofing at this stage was a breeze, as there were no stairs to gate and only three cabinet doors to lock. Our baby-proofing budget was about $25.
Our murphy bed, the work horse of our minimalist living lifestyle, doubles as our dining table during the day, which also forces us to actually make the bed… something I have a love/hate relationship with at 6:00 a.m.
Our den became our office/hobby room.
Now that our main room doubles as a bedroom, we have faced the biggest downside of living small: we never get to sleep in, ever. Fortunately, our son is (finally) a good sleeper, but there has been times I have fantasized about checking into a hotel just so I can *just this once* sleep-in until 7:30 a.m. My husband has the amazing ability to sleep even while we are in the kitchen a few feet away from his head, but I’m less lucky.
Living small means taking de-cluttering to the next level
There’s nothing like having to make room for a new human to re-evaluate your stuff. This is relatively easy for newborns (aside from finding room for a stroller), but sooner than you think you’ll need to be making room for toys and puzzles and other forms of toddler entertainment.
Without a doubt, minimizing our possessions has been the biggest challenge of living small, but it’s also the thing that I love the most. Because we have to be selective about what we bring in we’ve managed to largely avoid being overrun with plastic playthings. Whatever isn’t being used anymore gets donated or sold. We have found our community toy lending library tremendously helpful, and we also benefit from a shared playground in our complex, where families often leave “big toys” they are willing to share (e.g. ride-on cars, walkers). This has helped not just our finances, but also our environmental impact.
And while a small space gets cluttered more quickly, it is also faster to clean. I can vacuum our whole apartment from one plug, which is a magical thing.
The best parts of minimalist living with a kid
Our tiny home allows for a tiny commute, so we get more family time and less time on the road. I am close enough to walk to work, which means I get some valuable alone time and exercise. A smaller mortgage also means less financial stress and more flexibility for employment options. We have room in our budget to travel and visit family that lives far away and don’t need to worry about unexpected maintenance expenses.
More than anything, I love having my little guy close to me, especially when I remind myself that he is getting older and the days he actually wants to be close to me are numbered. Yes, there are times when I crave more privacy but I’ve been told that it is a generally universal experience that no mothers get to pee alone, regardless of the size of their homes.