When we first brought our baby home from the hospital to our 750 square foot apartment, moving to the suburbs seemed like the best idea in the world. I felt like we could never escape the crying baby, toys on the floor, or each other. But with a change in mentality and a little creativity, we’ve come to enjoy small space living. Our son makes things a little more complicated but we’re proud that we make it work. Every day living in the city is a lesson to be learned and an adventure to be had, and one day, if we decide to move, I know we’ll be better for having shared this experience together. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from living with a baby in 750 square feet:
Get out at least once a day
When you live in a space as small as we do, fresh air, physical activity, and a little routine can help alleviate feelings of cabin fever. And, of course, the baby will love it. In my experience, getting out of the house at least once a day is the easiest way to get back to ‘normal’ and clear the fog that can settle in during the first few weeks with a new baby. Getting out doesn’t have to be a big deal, either. Even a trip to the post office or walk down the block counts. I like to fire up a podcast and do a walking tour of the beautiful houses in my neighborhood.
Find (or create) a community
You know that saying “it takes a village”? That exists for a reason. I’ve become an expert on the resources my community has to offer. Libraries, parks, beaches, and indoor play spaces have all kinds of toys, puzzles, games, and books and are a great way to socialize with other parents and kids, which makes me feel less alone.
My favorite thing about communal spaces, however, is the opportunity to teach my baby important life skills. I’ll be proud when my child is able to ask a librarian for a book recommendation or say “thank-you” to a courteous barista, and I consider it a gift that he gets to cross paths with people from all walks of life every day.
Re-think the meaning of storage
A huge gripe I have about living in a small space is the lack of storage. And I won’t lie, there are days I feel like I’m losing the battle against mess, laundry, and excess stuff. Naturally, we’ve adopted a few minimalist philosophies over the years, my favorite being to “love or lose” the items I would normally keep tucked away in boxes. Instead of complaining about the lack of storage and binge-buying IKEA shelves (guilty), we buy and keep less. If we choose to keep something, we make a point to love it. Those hiking boots and that red faux fur coat can’t bring you joy if they are collecting dust waiting for someday. Unless it’s a Birkin bag, consumer goods aren’t investments, and the less stuff you have, the more you’ll be inspired to use and wear what you do own.
Think outside the box
Baby gear and toys will eat up space in your home no matter where you live. And while there are some items very worth investing in – like a lightweight, easy to fold, stroller system – you don’t need half the things on those “must-have” registry lists. If you take the time to look, you can find alternatives that fit your space and lifestyle. A gorgeous wicker basket can double as a toy bin, yoga mats under a trendy rug works perfectly as a foam mat, and a dresser makes an ideal changing table.
Prioritize experiences over things
Not having room for “stuff” is a blessing in disguise with little kids. I firmly believe a trip to the aquarium, a ride on a train, a visit to the local bakery, or even walking past the mechanic shop on our block is better than any toy I can give him. The memories and photos are all the souvenirs I need. For holidays and birthdays, I ask for these types of gifts instead of toys.
Leave room for you
One of the most important rules in our house is that the baby and his toys get put away when he goes down for bed. We don’t have to be on mom and dad duty 24/7, but if the toys are in view, it can feel that way. It’s a chore to put away everything all the time, but when we do, we suddenly have space to do the things we want like paint, bake, play board games, or read.
Lay it all on the table
Because there aren’t very many places to hide in our apartment, there is no such thing as “ignoring it.” This applies to mess, laundry, and toys, of course, but also to fights, frustrations, and mood swings. In our house, everything is everyone’s business. Although there are times when taking a breather or a night off is necessary, for the most part, small-space living has taught us how to communicate our need and to fight fairly. I hope that our son will learn from our example and know when and how to talk about his feelings, dreams, and needs.