We share our one-bedroom apartment with our baby and we like it this way

Guest post by Mary B.
If this crib is going to be in our bedroom, it's going to look cool.

My husband and I were usually met with three or four questions after we announced that I was pregnant. From the benign “When are you due?” and “What are you having?” to the rude “Was it planned?” and a fourth question was posed: “When are you moving?”

We were living in a one-bedroom apartment that was part of a larger family-oriented student living complex. And we’re still living there today. Sure, space is tight at times, and we’re always dreaming of a bigger home, but we like it. The complex is owned by the university, which means STUFF WORKS. After dealing with slumlords during our undergraduate degrees, knowing that the stove would be hot and the fridge would be cold and that toadstools weren’t growing in the bathroom was a Very Big Deal. We like the neighbourhood, as it has a good mix of renters and owners, a nice international population, and was within walking distance to the YMCA, public library, parks, and other important things. And the price is right — and price is key when adding another member to your family.

But people expected us to move. Jason and I had gone off the script, so to speak: we graduated and then got married, but neither of us had started our “real” jobs. Jason worked in sales, and I was just finishing my Bachelor of Education program. What were we doing pregnant? How were we possibly going to raise a child in a one bedroom apartment? Didn’t we know we needed a house and a yard and a deep freeze and a washer-dryer combo?

(Okay, I would like a washer-dryer combo. But I am willing to wait.)

We had already renewed our lease by the time I had a positive pregnancy test in hand, and I didn’t want to be bothered finding a subletter, or apartment hunting for the bigger place we apparently had to have, and hey: I like this place. So a little creative organization was in order, and we would figure things out as needed. My husband loves an organizational challenge, I am a continuous purger of stuff, and both of us are used to improvisation thanks to a few years of working in the theatre. Let’s do this thing.

We started by figuring out what was bothering us about the apartment — basically, what needed to change before baby arrived. Our most common complaints were dry air, not enough lighting in the living room, and a lack of storage in the bathroom. A few Sears gift cards bought us a humidifier, and we watched online sales and Craigslist/Kijiji for floor lamps and one of those over-the-toilet bathroom organizer things. Okay, good. We had taken care of our needs. But what would the baby need?

Portable playspaces are AWESOME!

What would the baby need, indeed. Everyone will tell you their “must-have” list — from family members to strangers on the internet. Gift registries? You need everything from birth to age two, and you need it now… apparently. At the very basic level, our baby would need a place to sleep, clothes to wear, milk from my breasts, and diapers for pee and poo. Everything else would come on its own time. That meant we pissed off a lot of family members by refusing to register for gifts, but instead prepared a document explaining what we wanted and why. Exersaucer? No thanks, it’s too big and bulky. Folding Go-Pod? Yes please. I can’t say that anyone really paid any attention to the document, but it helped Jason and I suss out wants from needs, and allowed us to research the products that would best suit our livestyle.

Despite providing our wish-list and wish-list reasoning and spreading the word that gift cards would be great, we still were gifted with a lot of baby “stuff.” I get it — it’s way more fun to buy itty-bitty baby gifts than it is to buy a gift card. And we were really blown away by the generosity of friends and family. But our apartment looked like a mini Babies-R-Us once Georgia was born — an explosion of sweet florals and pastels once everyone received the all-important update “It’s a Girl!” We didn’t have room for it all, and we didn’t want or need it all. What to do?

Some things went into storage, either in large Tupperware bins, or to the basement of my parents’ house. Other gifts were sent to a family friend who had recently been asked to adopt her niece with very little time for preparation. But there was still more stuff — either we would have to rent a storage unit, or the stuff would have to go. This lead to some tough decisions: “But her nannie gave her that dolly!” “But that blankie is homemade!” Ultimately Jason and I decided that the act of giving was more important than keeping the object — and that once a gift is given, the giver no longer has a say about how the gift is used. This mindset allowed us to donate, sell, or pass things along, and helped us keep our sanity. It’s not always easy, but it works for us.

Georgia's book nook.

Once the issue of baby stuff was settled, we focused on the idea of “nooks not nursery.” I’ll admit it: Apartment Therapy, Pinterest, every parenting forum ever all made me long for a dedicated room for Georgia. I still dream of a room painted in Robin’s Egg blue, with bright and cheerful accents… someday, someday. But since a nursery wasn’t an option, I focused on what I had, and what I could do, and so we created baby spaces using the “nooks not nursery” motto.

The main nook was Georgia’s sleeping corner in our bedroom. Originally she slept in a wicker bassinet next to our bed, but at three months she moved into a crib. The transition to crib meant that our bedroom had to be re-organized, and one of my favourite pieces of furniture (an art-deco tall boy dresser) had to be put into our closet to make space for baby “stuff.” While I love having Georgia close by for night-nursing, I resented the presence of her baby stuff in my once fabulous room. Pastel blankies, sheets printed with ducks and ABCs, a Winnie the Pooh mobile… ugh. So not my style.

So I decided that Georgia’s nook was by extension my nook, and I was going to make the most of it. I covered the mobile in purple yarn and swapped the Pooh characters for jingle bells and a felted My Little Pony ornament. I put up art that was inspiring to me, yet still appropriate for a wee babe. Her sheets still annoy me, but I’m going to sew new ones once I find the right material (and the time).

The nursing nook!

Her other nooks are decorated in a similar fashion, and are spread throughout the apartment. Since I’m the one at home with Georgia, her space is my space, and I need it to be a place that makes me feel good and that reflects my personality. This will obviously change as Georgia develops her own sense of style, but for the meantime we have toys stored in an old Barbie box. Toiletries in a Beatles lunch tin. A fabulous Dr. Seuss-inspired wall-hanging above her change table/dresser. You may have noticed an emphasis on storage, and multi-function items. It’s pretty much mandatory in a small space.

Is it perfect? Is it my dream home? Far from it. But does it make me happy, and will it work for right now? Yes. I know we’ll have to make changes as Georgia grows, and I’m sure there will be a few grumpy relatives when it comes to gifts that have landed in the donation pile, but that’s okay. This is our first home as a family of three, and I’m pretty damn proud of it.

Comments on We share our one-bedroom apartment with our baby and we like it this way

  1. We had three children in a one-bedroom apartment … up until my twin daughters were 3 1/2 and my son was a year old. We then moved to a 2-bedroom, and all three children share the largest bedroom. And we plan on staying here. We used to get the “you guys are crazy” looks when we would tell people we had all of 5 of us in a one bedroom and still do when people find out that three children (not all of whom are the same gender! gasp!) will be sharing a bedroom as they grow up. I’m one of 5 children and my husband one of 6, and we both shared bedrooms with our siblings and grew up in incredibly tiny houses with what would seem to be very inadequate space for larger families by today’s standards. We didn’t feel it growing up, though, and I’m sure my children won’t either. And neither will your daughter. She will, however, remember the closeness and love. Space can be overrated sometimes. 🙂
    However, constant purging is a must. Ha!

    • The “same gender! gasp!” thing made me smile. While my family wasn’t very large, I still shared a bedroom with my younger brother for years before my older brother moved out & I took his room. Why are people so baffled at the idea of kids (and boys and girls together?!) sharing rooms?

  2. We’re in a 500 sq ft one-bedroom with a 5-month old, but we’re moving to a new state and a HOUSE (still in a city, but in a city neighborhood vs our current place downtown), and I am so excited. We are people of the stuff, people of the book (plural, and many), people of the save it for the next kid, etc. My wife is a grad student, and half of our current living room is her office. Many people can live well with less stuff, but personally, I am looking forward to having enough room for her jumperoo (which is a space hog but she adores it) AND her baby gym. Putting away everything immediately after using it so you can walk across the room is a drag for us.

  3. We made it with a one bedroom for over a year with my baby girl 🙂 we recently just got told we are having another on the way so we had to get a two bedroom but if we had to prob would have stayed in a one bedroom.

  4. Thanks for this post. We are currently trying for a baby and our families think we are at best insane and at worse negligent for choosing to remain in our 570 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment. In a gritty district downtown in a big city. On the sixth floor! With radiators! And no car!

    Happy to see it is workable, at the very least when they are teeny. (Though I will admit the radiators scare me sometimes too)

    My biggest fear is a gifted exersaucer. Our elevator only opens 22 inches. Not going to happen.

  5. pff my son is turning two this month and we still live in a one bedroom. I also got the ‘what is your plan’ speeches but we both decided to just go with the flow, get the very basics and nothing else. And surprise! We never felt we were missing anything. (the truth is he was born early and we had nothing bought or planned yet, but I was surprised how very little you actually need, despite to popular opinion)

    My son`s crib is against our bed with the front railing off. He sleeps there but mom or dad is just a roll away for comfort. It`s a great comprimse that works for us. I figure within the next year he’ll become independent enough to want his own space. We’ll just reorganize the living and dining rooms and make him a little corner.

    Kids really are content with just cuddles, laughs, a warm home etc. The rest is optional!

  6. These posts about small spaces are so inspiring! Although our house is a lot bigger than the apartments most commenters here have, we are still struggling with the idea of 2 babies sharing a room and figuring out where to put all the “stuff”. Must be time for a big purge!

  7. I like this article. It fits what I always have to remind everyone of which is that once we let go of “how it’s supposed to be” we can find our own ways to do things and ultimately happiness. One size does not fit all.
    We live in a 31′ Airstream, my husband, our 6yr old son, 2 dogs, and an aquarium. We each have our own little compartments for clothes and things. We all love it. But there is always the awkward moment when we say “we live in an Airstream” and the questions that follow or don’t follow but you know they want to ask.
    Weirdest thing is we own a house but choose this instead. We bought our house when I was expecting and later found that the neighborhood and schools weren’t what we wanted for our son. We just can’t sell it right now so there is sits.

  8. I love this article. We live in the S.F. bay area. We have an 18 month old in a 1 bedroom, 700 sq feet mobile home. My daughter was sleeping in a pack n play next to our bed until she figured out how to climb out. Now she’s in bed with us, until I figure something out. Right now I have most of her toys in a plastic storage box that fits perfectly into a little shelving unit that we have, with the shelf part removed. Because we are in a mobile home (which is long), I find that she has plenty of room to run around in the house. We also have a decent size yard and patio. I feel like the only reason we want to move is because of what people think. But, we’re fine for now. We pay far less rent than anything in the area so we have money to go do more things on the weekends, etc. Plus my parents live close and babysit so we can have a weekly date night. It works for us, for now at least…

  9. we made it work with one bedroom, one kid. now how in the world do you make it work with 2 kids and one room?!

  10. Thank you for posting this. I know it was a while back but this is the dilemma I am facing right now. Actually, after reading this- I am not feeling it as a dilemma anymore. I too, was sucked into the perfect little nursery board that I created on pinterest but see now that all it takes is a lot love not a lot of space to make a home.

    love!

    xox

  11. My little family of 3, husband, 7yo son &me, live in a 1 bedroom apartment. We have a queen and a twin in the bedroom, but most of the time the twin bed acts as a temporary storage for laundry or what not. My son and I usually sleep on the queen, and my husband usually falls asleep on the couch as he enjoys watching tv until he falls asleep(much later than my son and I). We do go out A LOT, and we have 3 sets of grandparents close by so our son gets to spend a lot of time family and he stays the night with the grandparents a couple times a month, so my husband and I do get a good amount of alone time :). I am definitely starting to get the itch that we need a two bedroom, but we can’t really afford it. But I can’t ignore this feeling that we are the only family in the world that lives this way, and we need to get a 2 bdrm asap. Can anyone relate? 🙂

  12. We also live in the SF Bay Area and have 3 kids in our 700 sq ft 2 bedroom rental house. It totally works! Our kids are 7 and 3 year old twins. Their bedroom definitely looks like an IKEA showroom. We have a lot of high shelves and bookcases where we can fit them. Clothes storage is hard as they all share one dresser but underbed boxes for sheets, pajamas and toys really help. We do have a yard but the winter is hard because it is muddy and cold in the rainy season. Our 7 year old recently drew a picture of the house we hope to have one day and he drew one bedroom for all 5 of us, and one more for his grandmother. So we are close in love as well as space ❤️

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