Last year, we moved from a 1200 sq ft condo to a 900 sq ft house in an effort to acquire more outdoor space. While I do feel incredibly lucky that we nabbed a much sought-after home with outdoor space in the school district we want to be in, I’d be lying if I said living in 900 sq ft with 4 people is a walk in the park for us. Kaare and I are both the type of people who love the city life (which for us means small spaces) yet we find comfort in things. Especially when those things are a giant art table and loads of art supplies that make our a 6-year-old happier than I will ever be. We’re not slobs, but we laughed a little when we read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — which for the record, I did read and acted on my learnings, but TBH shoes and bags bring me A LOT of joy. We both have two conflicting sides of our personalities — the side that loves a small home by the beach and the side that longs for a closet that can hold more than 6 pairs of shoes. <—- Not a typo our ‘master’ closet is ridiculously small. We’ve never lived in a large space. 1200 sq ft was a huge to us and we referred to it as ‘the mansion’, yet this small house has presented some challenges (see above comment about the closet which has an accessible width of 24 inches) and with any good challenges comes growth right? So from having a baby in our 6oo sq ft apartment in SF to squeezing a family of 4 in 900 sq ft, there’s a few small lifestyle changes we’ve adopted that have helped us make this space work…
1.) Stack things up. You probably don’t want to create ceiling high stack anywhere in your space, but look for furniture and storage units that make use of the space you do have: vertical space. I really like this which adds storage space to our bathroom. It’s narrow, but can hold a lot of stuff in an organized way thanks to the seven shallow drawers.
2.) Utilize wall space. Walls can make great storage units or work spaces. We like this book shelf for the kids room which keeps all their book organized and off the floor. The one thing I wish is that I hung it in a place they can reach it, but I don’t mind being the one to get their books down whenever they want to read. I do think keeping it out of their reach keeps the clutter down. That being said, I’ll probably be moving it closer to to the floor soon.
3.) Keep clutter out. Kaare and I clean up a little bit each day and do a major clean once a week. I usually get my tidying done in the evening after the kids are asleep. For the kids, I have a rule that whatever toys or clothes are left out of it’s place for 24 hours go to charity. It’s a little extreme and sometimes I actually just hide said toy or garment vs donate it (especially if it’s new), but it helps the kids learn to keep things tidy. Everything needs to have a space.
4.) Throw ‘no-gift’ birthdays. Maybe it’s because we live near kids/families with a similar space constraints, but I think the ‘no-gift birthdays’ are growing in popularity. Some people suggest a charity to donate to in lieu of a gift or do what we did last year for Harlowe and request a drawing or picture from each guest. Requesting art resulted in some epically cute photos and drawings of Harlowe and her friends that we will cherish for years where I am certain any toys and clothes would be forgotten about shortly there after.
5.) Embrace multiple-purpose pieces. Furniture, counter space, even closets will have multiple-uses. The kid’s closet is both a space for their clothes and is Gunnar’s changing room since he’s still in diapers. I have a dresser in the closet with a changing pad and diapers/wipes on top. That makes less space for clothes so I do #2 and hang Harlowe’s dresses on the wall with something like this.
6.) Keep colors light. One of the first things we did when we moved in top this smaller space was to get rid of a lot of stuff, most notable for us was our beloved, dark gray, bohemian bed and invest in a blonde wood platform bed. Using light colors always makes spaces seem larger. We also traded in our beddings for white linens vs patterned ones. It helped!
7.) Get outside. While we moved to a smaller house for the added outdoor space, we still find it necessary to get out of the house often. I work from home which can get claustrophobic with the kids here so we go to the park at least once day, usually twice. On the weekends we are always out exploring LA as a family which helps us both have more space but also make a lot of memories!
Bonus tip: have a sense of humor! It can be frustrating when you want to take a shower, but someone is using the bathroom. It can seem like, no matter where I am the kids want to be RIGHT there with me. I love that they are always near, but sometimes you just need to open the fridge without hitting someone in the head. The best advice I have about that, is just to laugh. It won’t last forever – soon (if they’re like I was as a teen) they’ll want to be nowhere near me, so I embrace it now and try to laugh when we trip over each other.