Home Tour: Living in a 2 bedroom apartment as a family of five

One of the many reasons we love our beautiful yet unaffordable city.

Wanna see what a two bedroom condo for a family of five looks like?

I’m sharing my home on the blog over the next little while inspired by the Design Mom series Living with Kids. No, I’m not a designer or artist as many of the parents featured in the Design Mom series are. This is a ‘real’ family home – not a design aficionados or style blogger’s. The kitchen and bathrooms are from 1994 and not in great shape. We’ve decided to put off renovating and focus paying our mortgage down faster and saving. Our home is focused on being simple and functional and my picture wall is a work in progress.

Living in a smaller home has been surprisingly easy for us. We’re very much used to this style of living with kid’s sharing bedrooms and rooms having a few purposes. There is no formal living room or precious kid-free area. I do discourage the kids from playing in our bedroom but even then, if my six year old wants to work on something without his little brothers sticking their hands into the mix, I’ll send him off to our bedroom for peace and quiet.

Our last home on the Isle of Man was roughly the same size as this one but spread over two floors and while there were some pros – kids rooms were away from the living room so no worries about noise waking them up – the con of treacherous Victorian stairs and having kids and babies way out of ear shot made me see that split level living wasn’t my favorite for this stage of life with little kids.

It’s more than enough this space. We’re actually using our 1100 square feet rather sloppily with the big master bedroom not getting a lot of use during the day and the office/den only being used for a few hours in the morning by me and then overnight as the baby’s room. You can see from the floor plan above that there is a lot of open floor space and we’ve made a conscious effort to have less furniture. There is room to move around and space to lay out long and complicated train tracks.


There is very little closet space in this home. One of the reasons I may have felt so crammed and frustrated with this home when our first son was young is that there is very little storage space. You can see the closets marked off in yellow on the floor plan. Hallway closet for coats and shoes, very small closet in the boy’s room, modest sized closet in the master bedroom and that’s it. We have a small room off the kitchen that the washing machine and dryer are in but it has a huge hinged door to it that opens inward. The laundry closet stores hand-me-downs and seasonal decorations, a shelving unit for household sundries like cleaning products and our suitcases. There isn’t room for much else. Unlike our almost 600 sq ft condo that we lived in prior to this home, there is no walk-in closet or condo storage locker to hide your stuff away to.

This condo looks and operates better with less furniture. Every room except the kitchen and bathrooms has at least one, sometimes two, walls that are floor to ceiling windows. Having furniture against a floor to ceiling window is not only awkward but it reduces the amount of natural light coming into the room. Natural light makes us happier and healthier condo dwellers. The floor to ceiling windows also make our rooms feel bigger than they are. If I lined the windows with dressers and furniture it would greatly reduce the enjoyment of living here.

The floor plan above and the photos I’ll share with you may not seem like much. I know for many families this is not a dream home. When we first moved in it wasn’t my dream home. The kitchen is very dated and claustrophobic. We don’t have a balcony. But a funny thing happened in the last few years: the real estate market went INSANE and I spent some time away from Vancouver.

Nothing about our home has actually changed but now, six and a half years after we moved into this condo, it is my dream home. I am so thankful we bought this home when we did: we couldn’t afford this unrenovated 1995 build two bedroom condo today. This humble little home in what is now one of the world’s most unaffordable cities to live in has increased in value by 45% since we bought it (30% of that in the last year alone). Yikes. Lucky we didn’t sell back in 2011.

After being away from this city and neighborhood I can appreciate what a wonderful place this is to live. Parks and the water and amenities and galleries and concerts and bike paths and friends and neighbors all right here in this small corner of the city. Not to mention the biggest one: family! We have a great life here.

More to come with photos of IKEA toddler bunk beds, an office that also works as a nursery and how we’re planning for a future with three teenagers in a small space.

P.S. If you are curious about simple city living with kids I listened to a great Tsh Oxenrider  The Simple Show podcast on the weekend featuring Kristen Kill: mom of 4, soon to be 5, in NYC. Her four kids share one bedroom and she has lots of great anecdotes about how they and their neighbors make small space living work.

Hello 2013


despite the poor quality this is my favourite photo from 2012

Reflecting on 2012 and gearing up for 2013 here. And trying to get a lot of long walks in as my due date approaches.

We grew in some areas and continued to cut back in others in 2012. Balance, right?

We moved into a bigger home. In April we moved out of our our little two bed flat, our first home on the island, and into a bigger three bed flat down the street.

Biggest reason for the move? I was struggling with the small closet like windowless kitchen in our first flat. It was challenging to safely cook while also keeping an eye on Henry.

Our new home has a modern kitchen with natural light plus an extra bedroom. We were hoping to add to our family and fortuitously the flat came furnished with a crib that converts to a toddler bed.

Adding to our family but not our stuff.

Any day now we’ll be a family of four.

Unlike my last pregnancy I have not spent this one buying random items off of daily deal sites or scouring the Internet for the perfect stroller. I’ve spent more time and energy going to prenatal yoga classes and enjoying these last months with our first born still being an only child. What little we did purchase for this baby was mostly second hand and we have been generously loaned the two most expensive items we needed: a glider/high back chair for nursing and a breast pump. I’ll need to pay it forward

Marked two years of car-free living.

November marked our second anniversary of living without a car. No car still makes sense for us and we continue to enjoy the health and financial benefits of not owning an automobile.

We’ve taken more cabs this fall because of bad weather and medical appointments that weren’t accessible by bus. Our transportation expenses have been higher but still nothing close to buying, maintaining, insuring and fueling a car. Interested to see how adding a new baby into the mix will affect our transportation wants and needs.

Continued to live debt-free and below our means.

Sometimes I wonder when or if we’ll slip up. I can’t help but think of Oprah rolling her wagon of fat on stage claiming she will never be overweight again. Will that be us ten years from now with credit cards racked up and applying for a line of credit for a vacation we obviously can’t afford?

I do know that two things help us with out finances tremendously: tracking all of our spending and trying to live with less stuff. We know where each penny or pence goes and we buy a lot less.

Simple Living Goals for 2013:

Take our budgeting to the next level. We’ve been using a reverse budget system for a year and a half. It’s worked to get us in the habit of tracking but we want to have a more in-depth budget, one that accounts for less frequent but larger expenses. We’ve laid out a plan and new system that starts this month. Wish us luck.

Avoid baby clutter. Still waiting on baby #2 but already keeping the clutter at bay. Decided against a double stroller for now. Borrowed our bigger items (thanks friends!). Bought some new to us baby clothing and nursing tops off of eBay. No nursery to decorate because the baby will room-in with us for a few months before sharing a room with Henry. So thankful we found simple living/minimalism before having a second child.

Personal Goals for 2013:

  • Run a half marathon. Last one was when Henry was 13 months.
  • Breastfeed for six months or more. This is my reminder that we will have a new small and needy person in our home and to keep my expectations and commitments realistic.
  • Read 24 books. Inspired by Natalie and her 52 books.
  • Finally learn how to crack an egg with one hand. This will be the year!
  • Self-publish a collection of non-fiction essays. Chickened out on this one in 2012.

These aren’t resolutions. I hate resolutions. They’re usually vague like “get in shape” or “spend less” and ditched by the end of January. I’ve done enough of that in my life.

Instead of resolutions I’m setting goals. Tangible goals that I can work towards and check off.

How was your 2012? What are you hoping for in this next year? If you are a blogger I’d love a link to any posts about your goals or resolutions for the coming year.

P.S. Great New Year’s ebook sale on for six more days. Five books, including titles from Tsh Oxenrider of Simple Mom and Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist, for $7.40 (75% off). I’ve read and can recommend Tsh and Joshua’s books and have heard good things about the other three.
BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

A Little Self Delusion Can Make For A Great Life

A little self delusion can make for a great life.

Someone said this to me recently and at first I was shaking my head.

No. Keeping your head in the clouds about looming realities is a terrible plan.

For the first few months of this pregnancy my husband and I talked about the tough times ahead. Our first baby was colicky and cried a lot and didn’t sleep well for a long, long time. Our first year as parents was both wonderful and stressful. I still look back on some of those nights and days and shudder. I had no idea I could function on so little sleep for so long.

As the weeks ticked by the conversation about impending change turned positive.

We’re going to have a quiet winter here on the island. I’m expecting to spend a lot of time in flannel pajamas. My husband is taking two weeks off work, my mother will be visiting for a week and we’re going to get some housekeeping help for at least the first six weeks.

Is it ridiculous that I’ve added ‘download classic novels to Kindle to read while nursing’ to my ‘get done before baby arrives’ list? I keep having this vision of myself with a sleeping baby on me as I read Jane Eyre. I see Henry playing peacefully with his train set, or flipping through a book, his sibling snoozing in a rocker, as I take a cat nap on the couch.

A bit of delusion can be a good thing.

A touch of it. Enough to keep your spirits up in the face of something daunting. Enough to quell fears and create a positive vision for the future even if that vision is unlikely to happen.

I’m using this same technique to stay positive when people tell me:

Once your son is in school he’ll be begging for all the toys his friends have.

When your child is older you’ll have to get a car to go to football(soccer) practice and such.

It won’t be practical to live in an apartment with older children.

Maybe all of those things are true. Maybe we’ll be in a big house with two cars and my son will have a cell phone when he’s eight. Maybe.

Maybe I’m kidding myself if I think I can keep these low/no gift birthday parties up.

But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe a touch of delusion is why I haven’t given up on living with less stuff.

I can see I’m delusional about a few more things. I’m entering my fourth year of being out of the traditional work force.

Yet, I still think that if I need to or want to in the future I’ll be able to find a job that I like and that was at least equal in pay, skill required and seniority to the one I left when I had my son.

So I’m not shaking my head now. I’m nodding.

Yes, a little self delusion can make for a great life.

I May Be Boring But I’m Not Bored

Twenty year-old me would think my current life is heinously boring.

Mostly stay-at-home mom, living in a small town on an island and I work part-time for myself making a teeny tiny fraction of my previous salary.

Fame and fortune haven’t found me.

I’m not training for anything exciting like an Ironman and I haven’t tested myself at a new sport in a few years.

I read a lot of nonfiction and couldn’t name a current top ten single.

Meal plans excite me. So does my son willingly brushing his teeth. I’m content with and fascinated by things I once thought mundane like having a family no-spend day once a week.

I’m okay with being boring. But being boring does not mean I am bored. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was truly bored.

While a much younger me would think my current life was boring, that younger me was also bored at times. I’d be out of books to read, have no money for movies and no energy to do much because I was training three times a day. If I was lucky enough to have cable I would spend the afternoon flipping through channels just killing time until the next workout. I was ‘living the dream’ trying to make it to the Olympics but I was, in fact, sometimes bored.

Today: not bored. The life of a mostly stay-at-home-mother might sound boring, and yes, it is filled with a lot of mundane and repetitive tasks, but for me at least, I’m never bored. It’s a good thing.

Boredom often lead me to buy things I didn’t really need. Some people buy things because they’re under stress or feeling bad. I bought for those reasons but I also bought things because I was bored.

Shopping was a way to fill time and feel like something had happened.

One thing I’ve found through simplifying my possessions is an appreciation for the mundane aspects of my life. SimpleMom wrote about living a good story, even when your story includes a lot of diapers, dishes and a like clockwork tantrum before dinner.

But what does it look like to live out a good, relevant, gets-me-up-in-the-morning Story when it still just feels like…. regular life?

– Tsh Oxenrider

My life is regular and sometimes quite boring to the outside eye. That’s okay.

I’m the one living it.

If I can appreciate the simple things in my life, if I can enjoy them, that’s what matters. So I’ll be here, washing my dishes with some frugal flowers on the windowsill, tweaking next week’s meal plan so I can buy what’s on sale and when the weather is better than expected, skipping the library story time for the park.

I may be boring but I am not bored. And the difference between the two has lead me to spend less, save more and enjoy the my life as it is right now.

Do you feel like your life looks boring from the outside? What about from the inside? Please note, this does not mean I don’t get bored with some of my repetitive tasks like mopping out the bottom of our fridge every week from the condensation build up.

Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

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