Amig@s, I’ve got great news to share: I’m four months pregnant!
What does that bit of good news have to do with a blog post about life in an apartment?
Well, pregnancy gets you thinking about all kinds of life questions, including housing.
Most friends and neighbors in my life circle (mid-30s, married with children, settled in their careers) share something in common: they live in a house with a yard and basement.
D. and I are the odd ones out. We (still) live in an apartment. In fact, D. has lived in an apartment most of his life, and I since 1998.
And, we love it!
Since we announced that we’re expecting our second child, we’re often asked if we’ll stay in our apartment or look for a bigger house. D. and I think about that question a lot and for now, we’ve decided to stay put and make our 1,000 square-foot apartment work for our growing family.
Here’s why we love apartment life:
Less to clean and maintain – Living in a 1,000 square-foot apartment, with just two bedrooms, two bathrooms and one living/cooking/eating space means less time spent cleaning and caring for our home. I spend maybe 30-45 minutes each day doing light cleaning (i.e., doing dishes, sweeping, tidying), and that saves me from having to spend hours on a Saturday morning up to my elbows in deep cleaning. Additionally, renting affords us the benefit of having a management company that takes care of cleaning the air filters, changing light bulbs, or repairing a broken dishwasher. Not having a lawn to mow or a yard to care for means that we can use our weekends to spend time together as a family and with friends.
Walkable – We live in the heart of downtown, in a residential neighborhood where we have both the bustle of city life and the quiet of a house-lined street. It’s awesome! There are lots of young families with children E.’s age who, because of the compact nature of our neighborhood, we see on a daily basis. And, although we have a car, I rarely use it during the week. In fact, I make a point not to use it. We have the luxury of living within walking distance of shops, restaurants, small businesses, and fun spots for children and families. There is a gorgeous park and playground across the street, which we visit twice a day. We are three minutes walking from the water, five minutes from the science center, ten from the aquarium, and 15 from the children’s museum. We’ve got our favorite bagel shop around the corner and my dry cleaners down the street.
Intentional, curated space – Having less space also means that D. and I must thoughtfully and seriously consider each. and. every. object. that moves into our apartment, whether it’s a toy for E. or a new piece of décor. Do we really need a dresser in our bedroom if we have a walk-in closet? Changing table or low shelves for toys in E.’s tiny nursery? (We ditched the changing table.) Since we moved in to our apartment a year and a half ago, we’ve had to play the balancing game of decorating for both function and style. The result: a living space that we love, that’s aesthetically appealing, and that’s functional, minimal and comfortable.
Experiences vs. Possessions – Since we don’t have a basement or a playroom or an extra pantry or a yard with a deck (which are all good in themselves, of course!), we’ve been fortunate enough to spend our money on experiences, like our month-long trip to Spain last September or memberships to local museums or date nights out just D. and me. Sure, I miss having a deck and grill in the summer, and there are times I wish E. had a giant playroom where she could run around, but in the end they just can’t compare (in my opinion) to living in the heart of the city.
Ours vs. Mine – This was a concept that, as an American, I never truly understood until I lived in Spain, a culture deeply marked by community and relational living. In Spain, most of the population lives in high-density urban settings. It’s common for a family of four to live in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. Social life (e.g., parties, dinners, playdates, general hang out, etc.) occurs outside the home: on a street bench, at the neighborhood park, or a local pub. “Ours.” Home is reserved for rest, family time, and self care. By contrast, the middle class norm in the United States is for a family, even as small as two people, to live in a single-family home with a yard, driveway, and basement. Social life more typically occurs at home. “Mine.”
This is not to say that one cultural perspective or way of life is better than the other. They’re simply different. And, the “ours” is the lifestyle that D. and I have chosen (at the expense of more space) for our family for now.
So, back to that whole pregnancy announcement at the beginning of the post. I’m due with bebé número dos in July 2016, and we plan to remain in our apartment until at least September, if not longer.
This will mean sacrifices, like getting rid of half our bedroom furniture, and converting E.’s closet into a place for the baby’s crib, and purging half our storage unit of some items I was really hoping to keep.
But, the recent Blizzard of 2016 that dropped 30 inches of snow on our city reminded me of how much I love city life in an apartment: our building’s management company plowed away the snow for us (thank you, God!) and we never once felt isolated because we were able to walk outside and immediately find tons of neighbors walking around the street and park.
Every family has different needs and priorities, and many of our friends have intentionally chosen to live in houses. I think what matters is that, wherever we live, we make the most of our space. What do you love about where you live? I’d love to hear from you!