Small Space Living - Or How We Live in a Two Bedroom Apartment with Two Kids

Monday, January 16, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.

When people think of small space living the image of the tiny houses that are so popular in HGTV-land come to mind. But most of us small space dwellers are not living in a custom made tiny house we have to ourselves on gorgeous property. The vast majority are living in apartments. Some of us are even crazy enough to do it with kids!

We have lived in apartments our entire marriage. Our first child was brought home to our first apartment - a one bedroom walk up in a building that didn't have laundry facilities. We made that work until our first child was almost two, and I was expecting our second child. Then we moved to a two bedroom apartment where our daughter was born, and where we currently live with our 4.5 year old and 2 year old.

Here's the lowdown on apartment living with kids!

What I like about it

It's easy to keep clean. It's not a big space so it only takes a few minutes each day to tidy.

It's convenient. I love not needing to have a car. If I had to buckle two kids into car seats and find parking (especially in the SF Bay Area) I feel like we would go on far less adventures. We currently are an easy walking distance from a grocery store, library, two parks, and our parish. We're right on a bus line so it's super fast to get downtown.

It forces creativity and thought about objects. I don't have all the space in the world, and that means I can't be a pack rat even if I wanted to be.

It's just big enough for our needs. I'm not forever cleaning rooms we never use and I don't need to use extra power to heat a large house.

What I could live without

Shared laundry facilities. If you've seen this post you might have figured out that I do not enjoy the shared laundry room situation. One of the things about apartment living is that a lot is dependent on neighbors having decent life skills. I don't enjoy having to stop the washer before actual flames appeared due to overstuffing the drum (smoking washing machines smell terrible FYI). Using quarters for every laundry load adds up too.

Tiny kitchen. I was in my second trimester with our daughter when we found this apartment, and so happy about finding a decently sized place, at a good rent, and in a decent location, I did not pay as much attention to the kitchen as I probably should have.
Ours is TINY. I mean really tiny. The entire thing is a three stride long shotgun kitchen, with an electric stovetop that looks straight out of the 70s (probably is from the 70s), and a less than standard size oven. We make it work, to an impressive degree I think, but never again on the electric stove or tiny oven.

How we have kids in this space without going crazy

So how to deal with all this plus kids?

1. LEAVE. Everyday. I really can't stress this enough. In an apartment there is no backyard, basement, or extra rooms to take a break from being in each other's faces all day. Sometime between 9 and 10am we will leave the house. Everyday. Sometimes to the library or a park or some other adventure. Sometimes we just wander around, going nowhere in particular. We don't come back until lunchtime, and by then everyone handles being back home in a much more pleasant manner.

2. Use the space thoughtfully. When you are home, think about structuring the use of your space. Maybe you make a cozy reading corner for story time. I have a spot on my couch where there are blankets, my oil diffuser, a table for my coffee, and my books where I write and have my downtime. Having these designated mini-areas helps prevent the I-live-in-a-hotel-room kind of feeling.

3. Toy purging and curating. Number one issue with space and kids - kid stuff. Especially toys and books, since they seem the most prone to exploding all over the house. Yes, there are some genius organizational potential to be found on Pinterest, but really the best option is to make sure what you have is what you want. 

4. Ground rules for noise and patio time. We are lucky enough to have a shared patio space with our next door neighbors, but I've made some ground rules for when the kids can be out there and for noise levels in general. Kids seem to like being up with the dawn, but there must be at least an attempt at keeping the noise level down until 9am. It helps that we start chores about 7:30 and lessons at 8:00. By the time we're ready for some bigger play it's normally about 9:00 anyway. By having the rule it's much easier to be consistent for the kids and considerate of our childless neighbors.

5. Tidy Times. We have a few set "tidy times" where everyone helps do a 5-10 minute pick up: before we leave in the morning, before nap, before dinner, and before bed. These are timed for a very important reason - they are all right before we leave the house or kids go down to sleep. Therefore your tidy time will pay off for longer than 20 minutes. Makes such a difference for feeling like it's worthwhile to clean!

6. Make it pretty. Especially if you're a stay at home mom or if you work from home. This is your everything space: your office, your rec room, your craft space, your school room, etc. You will spend a lot of time here, and you can't just go home at the end of the day. Make it pretty! Make it somewhere you *want* to be. For me this means adding photos (in frames), purging the space of clutter every so often, and rotating seasonal decorations.

7. Love on your neighborhood. For most of us apartment dwellers, we're here for a reason. Maybe you're saving for a house or maybe you are temporarily in an area. We are living in this apartment so we can live in a very walkable area - less than a block away from our parish, groceries, restaurants, and parks, and a short bike ride to the husband's work - so it only makes sense to take advantage of that proximity. Choosing to see the positives in the situation really helps to make apartment living more of an enjoyable state.

What are some of your small space living tips? Have you ever lived in a small space with kids?


  1. I completely agree that choosing to see the positives makes life more enjoyable! I have appreciated living in a smaller environment, and it's easy to revert to looking for a small apartment every time we move. However, with our large dogs, apartment living is not conducive to long-term dwelling for our family. But, where you live, and without large dogs, it makes perfect sense! We may consider a downsize if we are sent back to the D.C. area - to live in closer, in a smaller place, but with the convenience of public transportation and all the museums!

    1. Not being able to really have pets is a big draw back. Our lease would let us have a cat but my husband is allergic. :(
      John (the 4 year old) has been on a campaign to get a dog for a while now.

  2. We made in-apartment laundry one of our primary concerns back in our apartment days! I don't know how we would've managed all that diaper laundry otherwise ;) And the teeny tiny kitchen was tough, too, as were the loud footsteps from the upstairs neighbors... I still can't believe we had four kids in a two-bedroom! It wasn't for long, thankfully - two kids definitely worked better. I love all the positives you've found!

    1. I thank my lucky stars that we have good and affordable cloth diaper services in my area, or cloth diapering would be cost prohibitive when having to pay with quarters for every wash.

  3. Yes! We live in a 1-bedroom apartment with 3 kids right now. It can be crazyyyy! The bedroom is the kids' bedroom/playroom/living room. And the other room is a combined kitchen/dining room/playroom/office/our bedroom. It is COZY. I always need to be creative with our space. I'm always searching for a way to rearrange. Unfortunately, "pretty" is out the window lol. I love all your tips!

    1. Wow, Are you all home during the day too? I would love to hear your insights!

  4. Yep. Pregnant with #4, three boys sharing one 8'x9' bedroom, one bathroom for four potty users, a barely-kitchen, 800 square feet in total.

    We're getting ready to put our condo on the market and at last search for a real long-term place, but you know what? I'm almost afraid of bringing a baby home to a house! Here, I'm never further than 20 feet from a diaper or a sippy cup or an impending disaster that needs intervention. From the kitchen, I can't help but have sightlines into literally every space in the house except the shower. And there are no stairs here!

    Some may ask how a mom of 4-under-5 survives in a condo like ours, but I secretly wonder how I'll survive in anything else!

    (That said, we really need a yard more than I need to be within 20 feet of a diaper. And four kids will not fit in that bedroom any which way we do it, so.)

    1. Right?! I have never needed a baby monitor, except when we're visiting Texas, because I'm never more than a room away.
      Congrats on new baby! When are you due?

  5. We didn't get a house till our third was six months old, and I agree with everything you've said here. We went on lots and lots of walks, and took great advantage of the pool. It's also easy to make friends with so many people nearby and we spent a lot of time outside just hanging out. I wouldn't mind a bit going back to living in an apartment to be honest. Home maintenance is such a drag. The only thing I would miss is gardening, I think.

  6. I love this post! I second what you say about not having to take very long to clean. I love that doing any "big" cleaning task (cleaning the bathroom or kitchen, for example) just takes a handful of minutes, which is nice since that makes it a lot more doable with my rambunctious 7 month old always wanting to play with me (or nurse). I really like your idea about structuring space and making it pretty-I need to do this more, because I don't think I'm very intentional about my workspace or relaxation space.

    One of the biggest downsides is that the area where we live is a bit sketchy, so I don't feel the most comfortable walking around in the neighborhoods (plus, there's always quite a bit of broken glass on the sidewalks and streets), and there aren't any sidewalks or locations I can walk to aside from the gas station. Thankfully, our apartment complex has a couple grassy areas where people walk there dogs, so in nice weather I'll stick Peter on a towel to play so we can soak up some sunshine and we'll say "hi" to all the people who work at our apartment. I would really like to live in an area where I could at least walk somewhere (like the grocery store) so when we house-hunt (which we're planning to do soonish), we're going to try to find a place where I won't feel so penned in and isolated.

  7. Confession - our family lives in a small house - and I dream of it being bigger - or moving. I find leaving the house is a must - and I am bummed that it is just not set up right to have people over. I do remind myself though - a bigger house someday will be a lot more cleaning!

  8. I like your idea about tidy times. I think I shall have to institute that one here.. but what I've always wondered ever since I visited for the brunch, was how you got your two littles to sleep in the same room. Have you done a post on that already? Will you do one for me? ;)

    1. Hahaha, I suppose I could write one. I feel like the parenting side is just this concept again:
      There are a few handy tools too though. On the list now!


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