House Tour (Part 1: Rationalizations)

So back to our 900 square foot apartment, which sounds I know like an unlivable box to most people. I’ve found a strange inverse relationship between space and the people in the space in the five years since we moved here–the more people we add, the more conscious I become about spatial arrangement, organization, and cleanliness and the bigger and more pleasant the apartment feels to me. It probably seemed the smallest the morning after we moved in, when LG went to work and I crawled out of bed to survey a living room full of unpacked boxes and I started crying and wanted to go back to the giant living room of our Upper East Side one-bedroom. And then I started unpacking.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to manage life better in smaller confines. For instance, we used to use Smudgie’s room as an office/guest room/all purpose holding area for a lot of crap. Before he was born, we downsized our giant wooden desk that took up half that room to a tiny cabinet unit and we got rid of the spare bed and either donated, sold, or found new storage spaces in the apartment for the rest of the detritus that we were keeping in there. The result: a much more spacious feeling room! We did the same thing in the living space, swapping out an oversized chair for a smaller one and clunky end tables we happened to have lying around for carefully chosen, multi-functional ones.

During Smudgie’s little baby days, we had to tolerate a certain amount of obtrusive baby crap in our living area, like the swing and later the exersaucer. But now that we’re free of those, we seriously limit the number of toys he has. Everything he plays with fits in here:


and here:

Bella and toys

When we pick up the clutter at the end of the night and stick it the designated bins or chests, it really feels like an adult space, not a playroom that we’re begrudgingly allowed to enter to watch some tv. And we also almost never buy him new toys. Birthday/Christmas-time/Easter. Once in a very long while we’ll get him something small at a store. And his grandmothers tend to bring him things. But they know by now not to buy anything too big to fit in the bins…or it finds its way back to live at grandma’s house*.

The thing is, he really doesn’t need more toys. He reads books constantly and dances to the music on his iPod. He plays with brooms and pots and pans in the kitchen and helps with laundry and the dishwasher. We live one block away from an amazing playground and down the hill from an incredible park with a small zoo and we’ve got interesting things to look at and see every time we go outside. So we spend a lot of time outdoors, especially when he’s getting into monkey-climbing mode. While I sometimes feel guilty that he doesn’t have as much space as other kids do, no backyard to run around in or sandbox or water table of his own, I also recognize that he has a lot things other kids don’t have, too. So it works out okay.

That said, things will get tight when the new baby comes, I know that. We are a little nervous about making it all work with Smudgie getting bigger and soon expressing desires for specific toys and the baby needing so many accoutrements. But we’re not moving yet for a number of reasons. Which are!

-School/job. I estimate with baby complications I have 2-3 years before I finish my dissertation. And then I need to get a job. I’d love to continue to work in the city, but I might not get a job here, in which case we’d have to move near the suburb where I do get a job. The thought of potentially moving twice in quick succession seems needlessly troublesome, especially when LG has an amazing 20-minute door-to-door commute via public transportation right now.

– We own our apartment. If we rented, we’d for sure be looking for something new. But the rental market in Brooklyn is insane. And thanks to refinancing a few times, we now pay less in mortgage+monthly maintenance than we would in rent for a similar place, if we could even find one. As far as buying another place goes, forget it. The market is so hot right now, we’d make a killing selling our place. But we’d then have to blow it all on another probably over-valued apartment that we only planned to live in for a few years. Doesn’t make sense.

– Our neighborhood. We love where we live. We love the streets and the people and the parks and the restaurants and the amazing family-friendly activities going on all the time. We’re in a good elementary school zone. I don’t want to move out to the suburbs, rent some place for a few years, struggle to make friends and feel connected while writing a dissertation and raising babies and then have to do it all over again when it’s potentially time to move once more.

So those are our reasons for continuing to live in a place the size of a rabbit hutch that costs us a frightening amount per month. We’re willing to reevaluate after a year of living her as a family of four. Maybe by that point we’ll be ready to move on, whatever the inconveniences.

But in the meantime, we’ll be revamping our bedroom for baby-sharing purposes. Stay tuned for the exciting second part of the series!

* (We are considering getting a kitchen set that will live in his room forย Smudgie‘s birthday. I’m on the hunt for a small wooden set, so if anyone has ideas, let me know. Refrigerator not necessary).

[Edit: Sorry about the pictures! There was no technical malfunction. I pre-wrote this post and scheduled it to update on a certain day and then forgot to add the pictures in time. They’re there now. And you got a bonus Bella shot out of the deal!]


12 thoughts on “House Tour (Part 1: Rationalizations)

  1. What type of job are you looking for? If TT, are you guys willing to move out of state? Just curious because I’m in grad school for a humanities subject and know what the job market is like (i.e. not great, lol).

    • L, I’ll be looking for all kinds of jobs! TT (why not?), post-docs, and secondary schools. The later is probably where I’ll focus most of my attention. We don’t have much geographic flexibility thanks to LG’s job and need to stay in the NYC metro area as long as he’s working there, so I’m under no illusions as to the likelihood of my finding an awesome TT position in the most popular location in the country.

  2. Sigh. Yes. At least you seem to be more upbeat about it than me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Re. the kitchen set: Toy Space on 7th Ave in South Slope carries a little wooden one for about $100. Mira loves it. I’ll email soon!

  3. phew – whoa. 900 sq feet. Like Mandski’s place, I can only imagine the organization you have going on in your place with soon to be four people residing there! We’ve had to cut back and cut back at our place too and it’s much bigger (but it’s tiny compared to most of my friends out here in the burbs). I get a lot of “you’re not going to move with two kids in that tiny townhouse?”

    the pics aren’t showing up for me for some reason?

  4. It really is funny to me how differently people feel about the size of home that is needed. We seem to have become a society very concerned with our little kids having big house spaces! (When really they don’t even notice. Big bedrooms or tons of toys are not the keys to childhood happiness. Or adult happiness for that matter!) I’ve seen beautiful and functional 500sq foot spaces that contain families of four. You’ll make your place work! Also, you’re right, your kids will have meaningful experiences OUTSIDE of your home, you’ll feel happy being connected to your community and you won’t be stretching yourself to thin financially. All big wins in my book! As a fellow PhD candidate and mother I appreciate your practicality and positive outlook on your space!

  5. Hey at least you have 2 bedrooms! We were in a 1 bedroom until a month ago, and now we have a THREE bedroom, and it feels excessively enormous, even though it’s still a relatively small place and the individual rooms aren’t that big. (It also feels enormous because P still sleeps with us, so we have 2 unused bedrooms- ridiculous). And while I was in Sweden, I knew a couple (a postdoc and a graduate student) who had 2 daughters (5 and 1 yrs old) and lived in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment (but it was in an awesome location with super cheap rent, so they just COULDN’T give it up!). Babies really don’t take up that much room, and you’ll be fine for another 5 years if necessary, what with bunk beds and so forth. I’m looking forward to photos! The ones supposedly here don’t come through for me, either. No advice on the kitchen front– but good luck! I think Brio might have some affordable ones.

  6. All my adult life I’ve lived in teeny city studios and one bedrooms. When we first moved into our two-bedroom as a married couple it felt palatial (at 850 sq. feet). That was the apartment we brought baby home to and lived there until she was 16 months quite happily when we bought our first house – 1500 sq feet which is ENORMOUS to us, but teeny by some standards. Anyway, despite our extra space, I have exactly the same approach to toys and storage. I think after years of having to make the most of space, I can’t shake it. And I kinda love it. Of course baby boy in March is going to change everything and out will come the swing and the other bulky paraphernalia… but we’re not adding anything we didn’t have the first time round. And yes, the play kitchen is the one concession I made. I scored a gently used, very compact one from Plan Toys and it’s by far the favorite toy. (Can’t see the pics either on my end.)

  7. Where are the pictures!? We are pretty comfortable in our 700 sq feet. Cozy might be a better word for it. We turned our second bathroom into a half by using the tub there as major storage. The kids room is 8 X 10 – we are thinking bunk beds. We are in the same place with school/job though. Definitely staying here until we have our long term job situation known. I’m happy for a second boy because they can share toys easily. My request for family – if they must buy toys – is to buy trains or duplos, both of which fit nicely into a big box. Can’t wait to see the rest of the space.

  8. Wow, 900 square feet does sound small BUT I lived in something somewhat similar for two years while in Philly living and working and it’s not *that* small especially when you keep it neat and orderly as you do. I think the bigger your home is the more crap you begin to collect and accumulate for better but mainly for worse. This is all to say: you guys will make it work!

    Also, I wouldn’t move either. What I wouldn’t give to live in the city with H and B just for a *little* bit. Love city living and Charlotte definitely is NOT city living!

  9. I don’t know why I didn’t comment on this because I read it the day you posted and thought it was funny that we wrote sort of opposite posts at the same time. Honestly, your post made me think “I can do this! I just need to try harder!” because there are many things I love about where we live and about living in a big city. But I came down on the side of there just being too many sacrifices and I don’t WANT to keep having to try so hard to like where I live. I’m not sure I’m going to write on my blog where we’re moving yet, but since you asked on my post, I’ll leave the answer here safely here in your comments… We’re headed to Denver ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hey, no judgment from me. When you’re done, you’re done and that’s something every city person can understand. We’re not done yet. But I’m thinking we’ve got another 18 months in this place before we list it and then…who knows!

      Denver is awesome! My cousin lives there and seems to have a great, active life with her family. I can put you in touch with her if you are looking for local mom’s networks (she’s got 3 kids, youngest is a 1 year-old-boy).

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