When I purchased my first place the year after I graduated college, I never imaged it would become the home I would briefly share with my husband as newlyweds or with two under two upon moving back to our home town, much less most recently as our family of five awaited the completion of our family home. This small place (and by small, I mean about 500 square feet with one bedroom and bath) is only blocks from the epicenter of the Crescent City. These days, exactly how much space our family needs is relative. Sometimes it depends on the time of the year, the day, or what is exactly going on in our family’s lives. If you asked those in my parent’s generation, they would even think a 2,000 square foot home is too small for a family of five. But from my perspective, especially considering I am an architect, layout and organization plays a huge factor on how much space you truly need. If you asked my husband, he might say otherwise, but honestly, if we really had to, we could manage living in a small space for a longer period of time, especially while the older two were in school most of the day. So, as our renovation lingered longer than anticipated and into the start of a new school year, and suddenly having the condo tenant-free, it made sense to move into our little place in the city until it was time for our final move.
How our family made it work in a small space
To make the transition smooth, I hyped up the condo and explained the many adventures that lay ahead. I packed the family as if we were heading on a long vacation along with their favorite bowls, cups, stuffed animals, swim suits and books. Luckily, the unit is fully furnished and the only additional furniture we had to bring was a toddler mattress, an infant play pen, and of course, my computer station. I created the adventure into a toddler’s dream. I also wished I had adult witnesses around when my oldest would say, “I LOVvvvve the condo!” And who wouldn’t?! Regular swim dates with their daddy, play dates at the Riverwalk, Children’s Museum and Convention Center, barbecues a few times a week with a city view, outings to Mardi Gras World, the Aquarium and Insectarium, and breakfast at Cafe Du’ Monde were just a few of our adventures.
We really made a case for living in the city, and I was reliving my Chicago experience. I even had tourist stop and ask to take pictures, which I quickly responded “No, please,” having one strapped across my chest while pushing the other two in a double stroller through the city streets. Their favorite adventure consisted of getting treated to Cane’s lemonade while watching the ships and barges go by as they played at The RiverWalk playground. The older two already knew how to say Mississippi in one breath, so I felt in the process they were learning about their hometown. There was even the, unfortunately, memorable fifteen minute tantrum “I want to go to the Riverwalkkkkkkk” from the backseat on our way to makin’ groceries.
What I have learned about living in a small space with little ones
- Organization is key.
- We did a lot of fun things together as a family outside our “home.” Also, walking from one place to another served as our form of exercise.
- Is your tired toddler resisting nap time? Place him in the stroller and stroll over the brick pavers that line out city streets. It worked every. single. time. Within a nano second, I had a sleeping toddler.
- Small stackable washer and dryer units are grossly underdesigned for a family of 5.
- You never know how much “stuff” you really don’t need in life until you downsize – even if it is for a small period of time.
- I rotated a new box of toys every few days. When an older toy has been resurrected from storage, it’s like Christmas all over again.
- Smaller square footage = less time cleaning. I truly felt I had more quality time to spend with our kids talking, playing and engaging with them because the household duties were eliminated by more than half.
- Lower utility bills. Enough said.