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Minimalist Kids – New Small Space

Last week I told you about our Simple Living – Take 2 where we downsized again.  We went from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 1 bedroom apartment.  Many of you (rightly) asked about the kids.  We are a family of 4 living in a 1 bedroom apartment… that doesn’t work right?  How does this work for the minimalist kids?

Before I start I should say that we have grand dreams of downsizing again someday.  I would love to leave our 1 bedroom apartment to move into a camper, or move into backpacks and wander the world with my kids.  Not sure that will work soon, or ever, but that is a dream. This would really be minimalist kids.

Minimalist Kids

Because you hear from me and my perspective a lot I wanted to write this post to you introducing you to our minimalist apartment through my kids eyes.  We have two living spaces that go by the names of:

  • Living Room
  • Bedroom

Here is the living room area:

It goes the by the name living room but here is what it really is:

  • Living room
  • Game room
  • Dinning room
  • Puzzle room
  • Play room
  • Art room
  • Acting and dancing room
  • Kids night sleeping room
  • Daytime awake room
  • Lily’s nap-time room
  • Music room
  • …also in the last few days the rollerblading and scootering practice room

Here is an add-on to the living room that works as an:

  • entry
  • laundry sorting/ironing
  • art gallery
  • and overflow from other living room activities

The closet to the right is the kids toy, activity and homeschool closet.

The top shelf holds K’Nex, Lily’s sewing box, and the kids games.

The second shelf holds extra books, homeschool materials, and a craft box.

The third shelf (the first they can reach on their own) holds a basket for Barbies and dolls and Ian’s toy box (cars and such)

The bottom holds blocks and balls.  It did hold a keyboard until we went and purchased a full sized one last week for next school year.

(these aren’t really fancy pictures but hopefully it helps you get the idea)

The second room is the bedroom but it is much more as well:

  • reading room
  • office
  • extra homeschool station
  • family closet
  • sleeping room during the day
  • Ian’s nap-time room
  • parents sleeping room

 I love seeing them read!  Ian is a huge fan of Henry and Mudge books books.

This is also where we keep puzzles and my worship books.

With 33ish (or less) pieces of clothing for 4 of us, we fit quite well in one closet. This is the kids side:

I would love to say that it was neater, but we are still working on the habit of having the kids put their own cloths away.  The white organizer is for socks, underwear, swimsuits and PJ’s.

When we first decided to adopt minimalism we decided we need two separate spaces at anytime during the day:

  • two different places for adults/kids to sleep
  • place for quite play and for loud play
  • two separate places for the kids to work on school work (because they get distracted in the same room)
  • … two separate places to separate the kids when they are not getting along
  • place for adults to talk and a place for kids to play
  • place for sleeping (or napping) and a place for awake activities

As long as we had two separate spaces that could serve multiple functions then two spaces would be enough.

So far, this apartment (after about 2 weeks) has been great for this.  We cut down things before we moved so there is still lots of space in each room for running and jumping and spreading out toys on the floor.  This apartment, even though it is smaller, feels less cramped.  Before we had people under us and the kids couldn’t run and jump.  Now we don’t have anyone under us and they love it.

Square footage of the apartment they told us was over 700 sq feet, but when we measure wall to wall (and my husband is a construction guy) including the furnace room and all the bump outs we get just over 600 sq feet (so maybe 550ish sq feet living space).

So that is how we do it.  Minimalism is done different by different people and that is part of the beauty of it.  This is what works for us right now 🙂

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  1. Shelly Shelly

    We were temporarily in an apartment, and left a lot in a storage unit for several months. It was incredibly easy to give/donate/toss things when I realized how little we actually needed all of it! The house we’re in now is much smaller than the last and the involuntary test of space was a life-saver. The most amazing (and unexpected) benefit we found to the downsizing for us was that the kids lost a ton of toys. They played very little with what they had. We reduced to favorites/non-battery opperated items that were truly age appropriate (we had a lot of baby toys in the mix and didn’t even realize it), and now they play better and seem to be more calm with the less cluttered space.
    I’ve always had things well organized and kept things tidy every day. But there certainly is huge benefit to our kids having less things. I had no questions about your kids when you said “one bedroom.” I just smiled. 🙂
    I recently read my life’s motto simply put: Let your experience guide your expectations rather than your expectations directing your experience.
    We will miss out on some incredible experiences if we don’t push ourselves in ways we feel we need it. Sometimes that’s a little out of our own comfort zone (like us in the apartment) but it allows us to see certain dynamics of life we’d otherwise miss out on.
    By the way – you have beautiful children!

    • Yes! Thanks so much for sharing! Love your whole comment especially your life’s motto. Beautiful!

    • thanks Rosaleen. Good to meet you 🙂

  2. This is truly inspirational! I consider myself a minimalist (but not a radical one), we live (a family of 4) in a medium size 3-bedroom apartment and it is just perfect for us. We could live in a smaller space, I guess, but I don’t see myself living in a 1-bedroom apartment with the hubby and kids… Actually, my first apartment was a small 1-bedroom one, but was living alone back then, so it was perfect for me. I’m looking forward to reading more about your new living situation and how minimalism has helped you in this new journey. Great post!

    • Rita, I don’t really see myself as a radical minimalist either… though I can see how others might 🙂 It didn’t happen overnight and we never had this size as a goal just tried to stay on top of only owning what we wanted. Every time I go through stuff we find more and more to part with 🙂

  3. It’s funny how our society has gotten so caught up in making things bigger and having more.

    Many people have less living space than your apartment around the world and live quite comfortably. And many of us have more living space but it’s full of so much stuff that we feel cramped.

    I believe your kids are learning a valuable lesson about what is truly important in life. It would be neat to read some of their thoughts about your lifestyle – maybe an interview… hint 8=)

    • Bill. I had Lily write a post last fall. Maybe I can do that again. An interview might be even easier. Great idea 😉 They come up with the wackiest stuff.

      • I would like that too!

  4. Many other places in the world house entire families in a single multi-purpose room. I don’t know why anything even resembling minimalism in the States causes people to question “what about the kids?!” We downsized for a big move last year, and while our downsizing felt epic, we still had lots more than is really essential. And the number one question/concern was what about the kids’ toys. One mentor even slipped me $50 and said “the kids need toys.” It just made me chuckle, because they still have an abundance of toys they don’t even play with! Point is: good work. This post proves you have not neglected your kids in your attempting minimalism 🙂

    • Yes! I am always very concerned that people will think our kids are suffering. But they aren’t, they play and get board probably at the same rate as they did when they each had their own room full as well as a whole playroom. …the one thing they don’t do is spend all afternoon cleaning their room before they can go out and play with other kids. You are right, even in this country, there are places where families have to pack in together and share apartments. We are choosing the size we want right now and it is still lots more than so many people. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  5. Thank you for the tour! I really love how you broke your needs down into different kinds of spaces. We’re so stuck in the mindset of a bedroom for each person, and office, a living room, a play room, a dining room, and on and on and on… that something like this had never even occurred to me. Which is a little sad! It’s inspiring to see how you rethought your space and are making it work with your family 🙂

    • Thanks Erin 🙂

  6. This is totally inspiring!

    • thanks 🙂

  7. Aw, your kids are so cute! And I am officially following the blog now and am looking forward to your future posts. 🙂

    • thanks 🙂 So glad you are enjoying it!

  8. I spent 5 years of my childhood (age 10-15) in a 550 sq ft apt with my parents and 2 sisters. We livid a full life…. without much stuff! This apt did have 2 bedrooms so that is the only difference. Now I am raising 4 children in an 1800 sq ft house and it fluctuates between feeling cramped and huge…. depending on how much stuff we let in! We could drastically reduce our stuff! You have me thinking.

    • Good to meet you! Glad you liked it 🙂

  9. german-mama german-mama

    Hi Lorilee!

    I’m a german mum of 2 (planning nr.3) and we live in a two-bedroom-apartement of 80 sqare meters. I love your blog – your minimalist living I like the most! Your kind of living gives me inspiration to plan our living with 3 kids in our home. I think in the future we might need some more room, but in the moment – with 2 (or later 3) smaller kids (two kids in “kindergarten-age” now)it’s enough.

    How did you solve the ‘problem’ of two beds in the living-room – do the kids have bunkbeds or do they sleep on the couch?

    Thanks for all the insights!

    • Hi! Good to meet you 🙂

      We have a futon couch so it folds down to a double bed. I have a double bed fitted sheet I put over the whole mattress and then I made them little sheet beds out of a cotton fabric that they picked-Like little sleeping bags. Then they each have their own blankets. Because they are small they have plenty of space and don’t bother each other …though they do like to talk after we tell them it is time to go to bed. We put all the bedding in a storage space under the futon.

      This was the first plan we were going to try and so far it seems to be working pretty good. The second plan would be bunk beds if they decide they don’t want to be that close to each other later.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  10. Nicole Nicole

    How inspiring. Was it hard to find an apartment that would allow you to have one bedroom with 4 people? I would love to do this, but aren’t there policies or city zoning laws on the number of people per bedroom? I would love tips on how you found a place.

    • Nicole, I thought that too and that is why we were in a 2 bedroom first. Right now we are in an area that is only semi-city limits, it is in it for somethings and for some things not. Not sure on how it works but they had no problem with it.

  11. Your post has totally challenged me! Thanks so much for sharing your one-bedroom story…I’m slowly in the process of thinking “smaller,” yet I don’t know that we could be brave enough to go THAT small. It’s great that your family is on board with you.

    • we didn’t go This small right away. It has been a process 🙂 …both mentally and physically. It challenges the way we have always thought so sometimes it takes a while to wrap your mind around it. And every family is going to be different, this is just what works for us now.

  12. Shauna Shauna

    About a year and a half ago we downsized from a 4 bedroom house w/ a yard and detached apartment + large shed (like a 1/2 sized garage). We had lived there for 4 1/2 years and shared the space w/ occassional renters (in the apartment) + chickens/ducks/rabbits/1 dog (outside) & 5 cats (inside).
    We moved into a 28′ 1978 RV that my hubby gutted & remodeled prior to the transition.
    18 months into our new home, and we love it! We got rid of almost all of our stuff, with what’s left being what would fit into a med size storage unit (mostly tools or family heirlooms that we won’t get rid of). We are not mobile in our RV, we rent a space on 10 acres in the woods and love the location. We still have the rabbits, 2 dogs (outside) and 5 cats (inside).
    It sounds crazy & cramped, but as long as we stay on top of the accumulation of “stuff” that just seems to happen naturally, it’s very livable and enjoyable! We have a baby on the way, and anticipate her fitting right in to the mix.
    I think it would have been more challenging to transition from a larger place if we’d already had kids, and for anyone considering downsizing to an RV we would ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND that you make sure you purchase an RV w/ a separate bedroom in the back. Ours is a little old one with the kitchen/dining in the back, and the front is the living/bedroom with no separation other than the hallway…we’re looking to “upsize” to a 30′ model w/ a bedroom. :o)

    • Shauna, so good to meet you 🙂 That sounds great! We have dreamed of downsizing to a RV and traveling sometime, we just need to figure out how financially. RV’s are smaller but the space is so much more efficient.

  13. Jennifer G Jennifer G

    We currently live in a “large” mobile home. 1200 sq feet of living space with 4 “bedrooms”. My husband has a horribly long commute, but we have basically no rent on this place. I would love to downsize and move our family of 3 (soon to be 4) into a 1 bedroom apartment much closer to where he works. I figure we could put our boys in the bedroom, and get a nice but streamlined sofa sleeper for me & hubs for the living room. That way toys are confined to the bedroom and don’t clutter the living room. Thanks for showing us that not only that it can be done, but it can be done with happy kids 🙂

    • Jennifer, thanks for your comment 🙂

  14. Robo Robo

    Oh, how I long to live the simple life! My children are older (11 & 18) and love this fast paced, technology driven world we live in. I wish I had started sooner…I feel as if I’m in too deep now and my husband does not have my same desires at all. Guess I can just work on me and maybe have a small impact on my family. Looking forward to finding out more! Thanks so much for sharing your life with us!

  15. Kathy Kathy

    Thanks for the peek into your space. I’m impressed that you make it all fit into your space so well. My question is about clothing. You mention your husband does construction, how does he fit into the 33-ish clothing items? We train & show horses for our business (I also do horse show photography) so our wardrobe is difficult. We have clothes to get nasty daily at barn, nicer clothes to wear to horse shows or town, and a couple dress outfits for church. Multiply that times a family of 5 and it gets crowded. Most of our clothing is blue jean based so what starts as nice clothes becomes barn clothes as they wear out. Just wondering how your hubby fits work clothes & nicer clothes into such a small wardrobe?

    • Kathy, good question. We don’t count my husbands construction cloths in his 33 number because they are just for work. I counted them a bit like ‘work-out’ cloths. He wears pants for several days and has 5-6 work shirts to get through the working week. …. might be a bit different with horses.. they might be more dirty than my husbands trim carpentry 🙂 He has a basket of work and a basket of good in the closet. For the rest of us, some of our 33 items were more ‘play’ cloths and some were nicer.

      • Kathy Kathy

        Thanks for responding!! That makes sense then to count his work clothes like work-out clothes and lump them. We could probably manage counting like that. Some days with the horses are no different or dirty than kids going to school, other days we come home looking like we rolled in mud puddles…and probably did. :-). I do laundry almost daily so we manage pretty well on a lot less clothes than most people but all 3 closets in our house look like your one closet for 4 people so I’m really impressed with your closet! We can all go to a week-long show with only one duffle bag each and we survive so I think that tells me we could cut back more.

  16. Do you have room to have guest over?

    Also, how do you do it without a yard? I know people lives this way for sooo long before modern times, but they used to have much more outdoor space, which I could see myself doing.

    Thanks for the inspiring blog 🙂

    • Nicole, we are in China now, but I can answer for what we did back a few months ago. We didn’t have guests often, but we could turn our living room into a guest room. The couch was a double bed and if guests came the kids came and slept (camping style) in our room on the floor. Our apartment was in an awesome spot because we had a huge park right across the street to the south of us. We could cross the street and ride a (almost) 7 mile bike path and there was 2 parks all around a little lake. We still spent lots of time outside, but it was at this park, or other parks around the city 🙂

  17. Nagamma Nagamma

    A friend told me about your site and I love it! I am on the minimalist journey at the moment. I started it when I realized my “stuff” owned me instead of me owning my “stuff”! I am looking forward to more time for lifestyle and travel rather than spending hours on buying and maintaining “stuff”. It is great for stress reduction, relationships and reprioritizing your life. Way to go! Thanks for your inspiring blog…I will be visiting often!

  18. Amber Amber

    I love this idea! We live in a 2 bedroom garden apt, which is great bc we have no one under or above us & we still ‘have a yard’ but as we downsize, we’re realizing even this is too much space, even as a family of 4 going on 5. One whole room feels like a catch all for all the things were trying to get rid of. Did you have any problems with landlords not allowing so many in a one bedroom? As we’re looking to downsize it seems every one bedroom we look at automatically claims no more than 3 people…that was only allowed bc our son at the time was only 3 months old. Thanks for your awesome posts!

    • Amber, we ran into many apt complexes wanting 2 people per room but found one that didn’t mind. I don’t know if it is city rules, or where the rules come from. Keep checking if that is what you are looking for. Possibly smaller complexes or ones outside city limits are usually easier to deal with. Good luck!

  19. Vectra Vectra

    Omg thank you, I honestly feel like GOD meant for me I read this. “Is true what they say he does speak to you through other people” I have been stressing not knowing if a 1 bedroom will be okay for me and my child. Thinking I’m a bad mom for not Renting a 2 bedroom with your article you have reminded me that is not “the material” things that count. Thank you so much, thank you for this wonderful feeling of knowing That if you can make it with a bigger family so can I thank youand god bless you and your family.

    • you are very welcome! So glad God could use it 🙂

  20. Verity Verity

    Thanks for this article! I’ve been looking for a tour of a minimalist family space because I wanted to see what it looked like to pair down the kid stuff and the family stuff down to minimalist proportions. (You never find that. You just find tours of single people’s homes, and it makes you feel like as a parent, you are doomed to clutter.)

    This was very helpful. I was not even on to thinking about homeschool supplies and zones. I love the way you’ve crated two efficient spaces. That approach is very helpful!

  21. Su Su

    I just want to thank you. I am having to minimize, not by joice but by life circumstances. I’ve collected and lost a homeful of belongings a couple of times so when my family grew to 4 and I finally filled a home full of our treasures I never imagined having to get rid of most of it. We have gone from a 3 story duplex eventually to now a 2 bedroom trailor. I have riddled down our treasures to 1/4 of what they where and somehow we still don’t fit. I’ve bean despondent over the idea of the need to declutter even more. If you can happily exist in such a small space with 4 it must be possible for our little family as well. Thank you for giving me hope. Now to undertake the overwhelming task at hand.

  22. Andrea Andrea

    Please sign me up for your daily blot. I am reading your book on my kindle and loving it.

    • done, you should get a confirmation in your e-mail box. Once you confirm you will get updates 🙂

  23. Sidney Ford Sidney Ford

    Your website is just a blessing! I’m considering moving from a three-bedroom home I inherited (and grew up in) and wondered whether I could “make the leap” — despite the fact that I was happy in apartments previously. Thanks for your good work and the best to you and your family.

  24. Lea Lea

    This is an awesome perspective. We live in a one bedroom condo with a one year old and are hoping to have another soon. Our generation is a “bigger is better.” Thanks for your comments and ideas of how to make a small space work. I call it our humble abode. We are a cozy little family. 🙂

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