Why having our family living in 730 square feet is our ideal scenario

Guestpost by Alissa on Aug 2nd

Alissa's a frequent contributor to Offbeat Mama, but WE get her for this post! If you want to see more of their space (just a titch more,) take a look at the family's photo shoot on Mama.

Alissa's husband Andrew and their daughter the day they installed their Murphy bed.

"Well you'll have to move, of course," a close friend said to me the other day when I brought up our next adoption. She said it so confidently that I hated to disagree. This is easily the number one thing that people who know us bring up when the conversation turns to kids. I'm not surprised, because when we were in the middle of our first adoption process people said the same thing, or something similar. The assumption was that we would move soon after baby came because, of course, you can't have a baby in a one bedroom — much less two kids!

I recently Googled "super small family living" looking for some inspiration, and ended up finding a post at Apartment Therapy featuring a 431-square-foot apartment in Paris that creatively and beautifully houses a family of four and their dog. Scrolling down into the comments I noticed that there were commenters who felt that while the apartment was gorgeous it was unfair to the children of the family to live there. A rather spirited debate then ensues in the comments about how much space is ethically required in order for children to thrive at home. I thought it was interesting, especially considering how I have come to feel about home-space and whether or not adding a child to our family automatically means moving to somewhere bigger.

Spoiler alert: it doesn't. In fact, that is something that we are very clear about — one kid or two, we are staying in our condo for at least the next five years. Let me explain.

First, it does not make financial sense to sell our home right now. I'm actually pretty happy about this, because it nixes the cultural pressures to find somewhere bigger to live. We bought our home literally moments before the real estate bubble burst. Luckily for us we are at the low end of the market, which always rebounds quicker and maintains value better than the higher end. But still, it would be foolish to attempt to sell now and would certainly result in a financial loss for us.

It's a lot easier to say no to cultural pressures to accumulate and consume when you literally have no place to put stuff.

Secondly, and more importantly, I have come to feel that living in a small space fits the values Andrew and I are trying to build into our family life. In fact our space holds us accountable to those values in a way that a larger home might not. One plus to our living space is we have minimal unused "stuff." It's a lot easier to say no to cultural pressures to accumulate and consume when you literally have no place to put stuff. This has allowed us to really question the things we feel we need or want and choose a few things that work for us. We have our excesses, mostly in the area of electronics and now J's toys, but they can only go so far, and be so big. Our home-space helps us remember this.

We've also discovered it's good for a family to share. While our home is technically a "one bedroom," in practice it's a no-bedroom. That is, we don't have any rooms that are only used for sleeping, or that belong only to one person. If another child joins us, he or she will share sleeping space with J, a space that is also a family living space… albeit one focused more on kids and kid-play. Andrew and I also share a sleeping space, a space that is also a family living space, albeit one focused more on adults and the functionality that adults need. There are parts of both rooms that "belong" to J and that "belong" to us, but we all live everywhere.

Immediate family aren't the only people we live with: even if we had the money and desire to up-size I don't think we would. Because we would be hard-pressed to find a house big enough for us and our neighbors to live in! If Andrew and I want to go out to dinner at the spur of the moment we just drop our baby monitor upstairs, and if J&K, our neighbors, want to do the same on a different night, they bring theirs down here. If someone needs help, is lonely, or has a kid who needs a change of scenery we're all just a couple feet away from each other. And our kids are growing up in this lovely community with other kiddos to play with and several sets of parents watching out for everyone.

Photos credit Jenny Jimenez. Used with permission!

Where we live matters; we chose to be here because we wanted this neighborhood close to the city, the ferry, parks, etc. Living small means that we can reduce our footprint in multiple ways — not only the footprint of our home but we can bus or walk instead of driving. This matters, and I want J to know this, and new baby too.

Do I feel some trepidation about four people in 730 square feet? Sometimes I do. Especially when I remember that Andrew will be working night shift for the next couple of years. But it's doable. In fact, for us, it's ideal.

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About Alissa

I write from the location of a white heterosexual married woman, adoptive mother, denizen of the Pacific Northwest, Anglo-Catholic Christian, seminary student, city-dweller, people-lover. And that is just a snapshot.