We are 19 months into sharing our 650 square foot, one bedroom apartment with our baby - err, toddler. In truth, I didn't think our shared bedroom situation would last much beyond six months. But those first six months came and went just as fast as the next six did, and the six after that. It goes by so fast. Damn the cliches.
My doubts about sharing our bedroom were purely fear based. Since before Emmie was even born I've had the tendency to project what I thought sharing our bedroom with a nine month old/one year old/eighteen month old, would be like. We'll feel too cramped! Nobody will sleep! There's no way! I'll lose my mind!
But my preconceived expectations of what things should look like (like many other things parenting related) have been shattered again and again. I continue to be humbled, stretched, and surprised by what our family is capable of. And the lesson I keep learning is: you adapt. Everything feels new and foreign and hard until, well, it doesn't. You get familiar, find your groove, settle into a rhythm, and before you know it, the thing that once felt impossible now just feels normal. If parenting has taught me anything so far, it's flexibility. Because change is a heck of a lot more constant than ever.
Since writing about sharing our bedroom with Emmie at six months, we detached our co-sleeper setup, got rid of some furniture, and slightly rearranged our bedroom, leaving more floorspace for book reading, bed climbing, and general toddler hoopla.
We still sneak into bed mostly unnoticed and (usually) all sleep through the night. For attempts to sleep train, night wean, or simply relax in our own space, Luke and I sleep in the living room - sometimes on an air mattress, sometimes on deconstructed couch cushions. Although Luke has the uncanny ability to sleep soundly almost anywhere, I remind him that these are, indeed, temporary solutions.
Lately we've been considering how to make our space work better, more indefinitely. Maybe building some sort of wall or divider to essentially turn our one bedroom into two. Maybe giving the bedroom entirely to Emmie and trading our temporary digs in the living room for something more long-term like a wall bed. We plan to start with a simple bedroom rearrange by distancing our bed from Emmie's crib in hopes of some healthy distance and protecting those precious zzz's.
Choosing to live small sometimes feels frustrating, even embarrassing. Perhaps because it is so uncommon in our culture, or because it can feel like we're lacking in some way, or because the grass is always greener. I occasionally feel the need to defend our living small decision, but then realize the only person I'm really defending it to is myself. It's been my own journey from resistance to acceptance to, dare I say, excitement.
I thought we would move so many times within the past year - when Emmie became mobile, when she turned one, when Luke got a new job, by the end of summer. I kept thinking we would reach our end, that by my arbitrary deadlines we'd be clawing at the walls (and each other) for more space. But to my surprise, once again, that hasn't happened yet.
Though we are now more financially able to move to a bigger place, and though desires for our own bedroom still exist, it just doesn't make sense for us right now. Finances that would go towards higher rent can instead be put towards financial freedom, family travel, and saving for our future. What started out as a necessary means for financial survival (when I quit my job to stay home with Emmie, and when Luke made a big career transition) has turned into a way of conscious living that transcends budget. A way of living we hope to carry with us no matter how many square feet we live in.
When Emmie was born, we had two sets of friends nearby who also brought newborns home to their one bedroom apartments. One set of new parents converted their laundry closet into a nursery nook, while the other carved out a corner of their bedroom. We each learned in different ways how to bring a baby into the folds of our lives and spaces.
Since then, those friends have moved into different homes, in different neighborhoods, with separate bedrooms for their babies. But regardless of space, I am aware that there can still be frustratingly sticky doors and squeaky floors and the occasional need to tip-toe around - a great reminder that more space won't necessarily fix all of my problems.
When I find myself complaining, even coveting, for more, I try to remember that this is the lifestyle we are choosing. To live simply where we are, with what we have. It's certainly not always easy, and sometimes feels like we're just surviving, but what new parent doesn't feel that way? When I actually take stock of what we have, I realize we have all we need - plenty of room to live our daily lives, chase our giggling toddler around, and grow as a family focusing on what matters.
I hope to share much more about our journey, but for now, here are a few other small living inspirations: