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600sqftandababy by Alison Mazurek - 2w ago

Handout of Kids’ Edited Closets beside a candle from a Dutch Life. Photos by Modern Nest Photography

This past weekend I spoke at a gathering at dear friend’s Petits Vilains’ pop up shop bout edited kids’ closets. I shared what I’ve learned over the years, needing to keep the kids’ clothes in our home to a minimum due to our limited space. I’ve also learned not to limit wardrobes so intensely that I am doing laundry all week long. It’s been a delicate balance but I think I’ve found the quantities that work for us. I compiled them into a list and added some tips and questions I ask myself before shopping or accepting hand-me-downs. I hope you find it helpful and would love feedback on it.

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600sqftandababy by Alison Mazurek - 2w ago

This is an updated post of a post I did in 2017… I still stand by these opinions and I have updated this list with links to my amazon shop (link here) as readers live all over and this is one central spot where things can be purchased*.

I always hesitate to claim that anything is minimalist, as I believe minimalism is so personal, but we live in a world where you are bombarded with baby products that you "need" and I believe that lack of space for baby gear is one of the main reasons people leave their small spaces. So instead of claiming this is a "minimalist" list of baby items, let's call it "edited". We don't need an overwhelming number of things for a new baby but there a few things that I have learned to rely on. Here is my edited list of baby gear and products that we used and loved for both babies. Anything I am listing here is an item that helped me stay in our small space with a baby and again with a baby and a toddler. There are so many choices out there and I haven't tried them all but this is what worked for us. Also, in putting together this post I re-read this post and find it to still be so true and relevant to those early newborn months with a toddler and our small space (here's the link in case you care to read). If you are expecting in a small space or just want to be more conscious about the baby items you allow into your space, I hope this list is helpful! And as always I highly recommend buying second hand whenever possible and sharing with friends. I have updated this list with links to my amazon shop (link here) as readers live all over and this is one central spot where things can be purchased*.

Firstly and most important are my sleep essentials, with one good sleeper and one light sleeper these are the items that helped both of them fall asleep without me:

1. Bassinet - A bassinet was a great option for us with a second baby in a small space as it allowed us to delay having a crib as long as possible. A bassinet let baby sleep near us for the first 4 months but was easy to move out of the way during the day. I also think a bassinet is a great option for a first baby in a small space to delay major decisions about cribs, or sleeping arrangements until everyone gets to know each other a bit better. Our beloved bassinet is the Monte Design Rockwell (link here) in white.

2. Mini Crib - I am a big fan of mini cribs for small spaces. Both kids have now slept in a mini crib; Theo until over 2 years old and Mae is currently in one at 16 months. Less bed and more space is always our priority and mini cribs help us get there. Our mini crib is discontinued but this Babyletto Origami is the replacement. I love that it fits regular pack n play sized sheets and mattresses and comes in a variety of colours (wish I got the white!) (more about mini cribs in this previous post Here’s a link to the Bloom Alma my second choice mini crib)

3. A Few Good Swaddles - I think you need 3-4 muslin swaddles for a variety of uses including blanket, swaddle, sun shade, burp cloth, rolled up head rest, emergency nursing cover etc. And I would recommend only having 3-4 that you love the colour and pattern of so you don't have to think before grabbing one. A few of my favourites are Pehr Designs, Little Unicorn, Modern Burlap, Aden and Anais (links here here and one thicker blanket here)

4. Ergo Cocoon - I know these don't work for everyone but both my babies loved being zipped up in their ergo cocoon (link here) and I loved that the swaddle didn't come loose while the slept, inevitably waking them up. I had 2 so one could go in the wash and used them for both babies until about 8 months old (I used the 3-12month size). 

5. Wubanub - while not the most beautiful of pacifiers both my babies loved them and I used them as comfort and sleep aids. Theo used one until 6 months when he gave it up on his own and Mae stopped at 15 months when we lost it. She spent a week upset until she eventually forgot. I know soothers are controversial for some people but for me they were a big help especially in those early sleepless months (link here).

6. Stokke Tripp Trapp - for small spaces or any space the beautifully designed Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair is a classic for good reason. I bought mine second hand and have used it for both kids. Mae was in it with the baby set (plastic only, no cushions I had to clean) as soon as she could sit up. It compliments my dining table and chairs. I wish I had actually gotten two Tripp Trapps when Mae moved to the highchair instead of putting Theo in a regular dining chair but I couldn't get Trevor on board. While an investment piece they have great re-sale value. I couldn't imagine life without ours.

7. Travel Crib - I add this to my essentials list as we are travellers and travel with our babies. I wish I had bought a Baby Bjorn Travel Crib the first time around instead of waiting. I would love to hear if there is a comparable travel crib anyone prefers. I bought ours second hand, and consider it vital for travel and camping. I have also heard many stories of this being used successfully as a full-time crib in smaller spaces!

8. Stroller - I did a ton of research on strollers before landing on the Bugaboo Bee (link here) with a wheeled board (link here) and have found it to be the best choice for us city living folks. While it has a few design flaws, like I wish it would fold up smaller and it doesn't take curbs well. The pros outweigh the cons for me. I love that I could use it from day one without a bassinet and has grown with our kids. I love that both kids fit on it comfortably but it barely takes up more space than an umbrella stroller. For our age split and small space it is the perfect stroller. The only other stroller I heavily considered was the Babyzen Yoyo (link here) for it's smaller footprint and tighter fold. In the end I decided against it due to the need for the additional bassinet in the early months. But I still think it is a great city option and would consider it if I had to do decide again.

9. Nuna Leaf - I kept our Nuna Leaf after Theo outgrew it (lending it out until Mae was born to avoid storing it!) and loved it for a second time. Most importantly and unplanned the high weight limit was the best part of the this chair. Nothing can be off limits in our space especially for a 3 year old having trouble adjusting to his new sister. I know if we had a flimsier or fragile baby chair it would not have survived (and I would not have survived regulating that all day). I do think a baby chair is critical to put your baby down sometimes. I also think the Baby Bjorn Bouncer (link here) is a great lightweight option for small spaces. 


10. Ring Sling - I used a ring sling for the first time with Mae and wish I had considered it with Theo. I loved so much about wearing her in the sling... she could see out more, fell asleep easily in it and seemed so happy to be worn. And the sling is light and small so it was easy to bring everywhere, just in case. I am a true convert and would recommend it highly. I had the Connexion Baby Ring Sling but unfortunately that small shop has since closed . Friends have also loved My Wild Bird.

11. Ergo Baby Carrier - I consider an Ergo Baby carrier (link here) a necessity especially as your baby grows into a toddler. Baby wearing is so helpful, whether it's a quick run to a store where you want to keep baby contained without the bulk of a stroller, for travel or getting out in nature. I have only used the original ergo so I can't speak to the 360 but the original carrier has been critical and I still use it weekly with a larger 16 month old. And I have tried many other brands before settling on the Ergo.

12. Changing Mat - I simplified our in home and diaper bag changing set up to just a portable Gathre leather micro mat for each and a container of wipes. I hide the mat, wipes and diapers in a canvas bin in the living room for easy access and change baby on the couch or the floor. A second mat is folded up small in the diaper bag. The system works wonderfully for us and would highly recommend this simple space saving option. I never felt I was missing out on a change table and was happy to not store a larger change pad. The gathre mats look great over a year later and are easy to clean.

13. Diaper Cream - While not technically gear I have edited many of the care products for babies out of our home and cling to a few crucial choices that serve multiple purposes and wanted to share. The overachiever by k'pure naturals is an all natural diaper cream that can be used for many topical skin treatments. I've used it on dry skin, chapped lips, scrapes and the little jar lasts so long. 

14. Nose Frida - I wouldn't have considered this an essential the first time around but second babies are constantly sick and being able to relieve some discomfort and help them breathe got this on the list (even as nauseating as the process is) (link here).

15. Baby Soap - I know soap seems odd to add but this Dr.Bronner's baby soap (link here) we use to wash bottles, our hands and anything touched by baby especially in those early months. You can water it down so the bottle lasts even longer. It's a real workhorse and all natural so you don't have to worry about it being safe for baby; you have enough to worry about.

16. Bottles - We went from having two cupboard shelves full of bottles with various sizes and nipples to having two ComoTomo bottles (link here for newborn, link here for 6-18 months) for the last year. I can't say enough about this bottle or how much Mae loves it and I loved the easy of cleaning and storing it. I always recommend it when friends are having trouble with their baby taking a bottle and preferring breast. The soft pliable design of the nipple and the body make it so unique, I never thought I would care this much about a bottle!

This post is completely my own opinions and is not sponsored in any way. I've added links for reference for most items. To add a few honourable mentions, I still swear by the Puj Tub Travel Tub for small apartment sinks and newborn bathing. And while I left it off the list, we used the Maxi Cosi Mico as our carseat for both kids and were really happy with it. I was also highly dependent on the My Brest Friend Pillow when nursing at home. Again here is the link to my amazon shop where you can find most of the items in one place under BABY.

If you have other products you couldn't live without feel free to leave a note below! 

* some of these links are affiliate links where 600sqftandababy receives a small commission if you purchase directly through these links. Thank you for supporting this small space.

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600sqftandababy by Alison Mazurek - 1M ago

Kid Art in a Small Space - Mae’s watercolour painting on the cover of the Recently Magazine I made of their art

I have finally taken my own advice and the advice of others and compiled photos of the kids’ artwork into a photo magazine. It wasn’t much effort and I’m so pleased with result. Sharing here in case you are drowning in drawings and art projects too!

The kids’ artwork has caused a bit of tension in our home as I am ruthless with recycling it after I have acknowledged and adequately shown interest in it. Trevor on the other hand is more attached to the kids’ art and I find it tucked in closets or hidden in boxes. I haven’t seen his office at work but I’ve heard it’s full of kids’ artwork that he rescued from the recycling bin!

I felt that I was losing the battle on the kids art. So something had to change and I decided to find a compromise.

Displaying Art

We don’t have many walls in our home but we have been hanging the more intricate artwork that the kids’ are especially proud of in their bedroom with washi tape. When Mae brings a new piece home from art class or Theo brings a piece from Kindergarten it goes up on the wall and the older pieces are recycled.

Photo Documentation of Kids’ Art

I have taken pictures of the kids’ art in the past but not with any purpose beyond documenting it or lifting a bit of guilt for how much I recycle. But I’ve lost track in the thousands of photos on my phone. So this time I was more intentional with documenting the art. I would paste each piece on the wall with washi tape and take a photo or two of the piece. Then I saved these photos in a specific “Art” folder in my phone. It was satisfying. I was able to declutter our small space and acknowledge the kids’ efforts at the same time.

Dealing with Kid Art in a Small Space: Theo’s Chameleon from a school project

A Magazine of Kid Art

I started telling the kids that I was making a book of their artwork. When they caught me recycling their drawing or painting I would remind them that I had already taken a picture of it for the book. This seemed to satisfy them. The promise of the book also got Trevor on board with recycling drawings and paintings that he had been hoarding in our small space (I still don’t know about his office ;) ).

It took a couple of months to fill the folder with the 50 photos needed to fill a Recently Magazine but I am thrilled with the result. It is now stacked with our other magazines on a shelf, barely taking up any space at all but is filled with beautiful and bright kid art that I can look at our share with the kids anytime. I hope this can be a new habit to continue to fill photo folders up until I have fifty photos and create a new magazine that captures their art at this moment in time.

I used Recently Magazine because I love them and It’s my photo printing company of choice. I love that I can do it all from my phone and I don’t have to spend time laying out the photos. I have a quarterly subscription and use it mostly for documenting trips. But you could accomplish the same idea using any number of photo printing companies like Artifact Uprising, Shutterfly, or Chat Books.

I know my decluttering to survive in our small space can be a bit cold or ruthless at times like with my constant recycling of kid artwork. My intentions are always to create a calm and inviting home that fosters creativity. I love that I now have a way in our space to display a bit of artwork in their room and as many art magazines as their little hands can make while still keeping our small space calm and decluttered.

Dealing with Kid Art in a Small Space: Theo’s art from school projects

A small stack of photo magazines with the Kid Art one on top (Shelf at our Entryway)



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I stumbled upon Jessica’s page recently and sent her a message almost immediately. I was instantly in love with her small, and smartly designed apartment (with built-ins!) that seemed filled with joy and records. Beyond her beautiful space and beautiful children, she brings a humour to small spaces that I think is sometimes missing (sometimes I can to be too earnest about it all! sometimes living small is just plain awkward and hilarious). Plus she used one of my favourite quotes by William Morris and gave us a new quote that might be a new favourite “we only need space in our hearts”. Thanks to Jessica for sharing her home and life with us here.


Intro…

My name is Jessica, I am 36 years old and raising a family in central London; I’m mostly at home with my baby right now, but I freelance as a stylist. I also sometimes teach art workshops for children as well as grown ups. 

Four years ago I set up @infant_art_club as a social media outreach to inspire and support parents to use galleries and museums more and expose their children to art and design as young as possible. My Instagram account promotes current exhibitions and occasional child-centered and focused gallery meets, which take place at various art spaces across London and further afield (ed. note: couldn’t love this idea more!).

Recently I set up a new Instagram account @small.solutions__ as a creative outlet while navigating living small in a city as a now family of five, I hope to make others feel like living small with a family is more than possible, while reminding myself that it can be done well!

Who do you share a home with?

My partner Steve and our 3 kids, aged 1, 5. the not so kid-like almost 17 year old and a very, very big record collection...


How big is your home and what is the layout?

I think our home would be considered pretty small by a lot of people’s standards, especially given the size of our family. We live in a 61 sqm (656 sqft), 2 bedroom flat on the 2nd floor of a refurbished Victorian mansion block in Clerkenwell, Central London. 

My eldest son has his own room (as a teenager I think it's important to have your own space and privacy) and my 5 year old has the other bedroom, which he’ll eventually share with the youngest. We're lucky with the layout of the main living space and last year, after sharing a room with our middle son for four and a half years (and by then a baby as well), we gave him his own room and created a sleeping area for us and the baby, using our vInyl collection as a wall. It was important to me to keep defined spaces and for us to still have a bedroom - even if it isn’t much bigger than the size of our double bed. I was very certain I didn’t want to feel like I was camping in my own home and have to make up a sofa bed every night or fold away bedding every morning. So far the set up is working really well thanks to some really clever carpentry work we employed to separate the one room into two. It was a little less straightforward than simply putting our bed in, as our tiny kitchen is also internal with an open hatch into the living room. We hired a joiner to make us some bi-folding shutters that we can close at night, or whenever we feel like. It really does feel like we have a little bedroom  without the need for any permanent structural work. 

Cozy “3rd bedroom” Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

Her son’s bedroom Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

Tell me about your choice to live small as a family. Was it a conscious decision or did it just evolve?

It just is what it is really, there wasn’t much choice involved as such. We rent from a social housing landlord, meaning we have subsidised rent prices but little choice about where we ended up living. I moved in as a young single parent when my eldest was 4 years old, luckily we mostly love where we live and it is affordable for us. London’s private rent prices are disgustingly high, I can understand the pressure/obsession people seem to have to own property.

How would you describe your home style? ex) modern, minimal,  bohemian, vintage?

I’d like to think that our home is unique to us, it definitely reflects our interest in music and modern and mid century art and design. I try my best to stay minimal with things like colour, and I do like to paint the walls white, letting our belongings take centre stage instead, but no matter how hard I try, I guess I’m more of a maximalist at heart. I think we prove that you can live in a small space and still enjoy collecting things and have stuff out on display without it feeling like the walls are closing in on you; there is a fine line though, I will admit. Perhaps it’s an art form!? Sometimes I get it wrong and have to reign it in a little. I live by the famous William Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  It makes sense to move things out as soon as they're no longer being used, especially as having kids means having lots of stuff is inevitable. Pay more and buy quality brands (second hand will do) or sought after vintage pieces and re-sell when you're done using them. 

Is there a piece of furniture or accessory that you couldn't live without that makes living in your space easier?

In the past year we got bespoke, floor to ceiling shelving made for the main bulk of our 10,000+ record collection, it has made so much difference having made to measure storage, the back of which forms our new ‘bed-room’ wall, I’m so pleased we did it.

The infamous record wall. Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

What is something you love about living small?

I absolutely love living in central London, it would be difficult to live elsewhere now I think. We are a walk or short bus ride from most places. I feel very lucky to have grown up in London and to now be raising my own children here, in a city with so many galleries, museums and culture right on our doorstep; most of it often free, to name just a few things.  

What is something you hate?

Probably the lack of alone time. I really notice how much I do miss it whenever I finally get some here or there, though from experience I know that this has a lot to do with being a parent to small children also! Bad moods are a lot harder to hide in in a small flat.

Household mess can be overwhelming if you haven’t kept on kept on top of it as well as you should. It’s best if you can tidy as you go and that doesn’t come that naturally to us unfortunately. Again, having young children creates a lot of housework, they’ll grow and before you know it you’ll be missing the mess...probably...

Although our block does have access to the roof, I would so love to have a little garden of our own and of course, a big kitchen is the dream I don’t often let myself have - haha!

View from the kitchen to the bedroom. Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

What are your best ways to beat the winter blues and keep from going crazy with kid(s) indoors?

We try and use all of the space we have and we often take turns taking the youngest out so that one of us can spend time at home, getting whatever done. I guess London’s parks and museums have become extensions of our home. Free public spaces such as parks and playgrounds, Tate Modern, the Southbank and the Barbican help to keep us sane on a weekly basis. At home we do a lot of building, modelling, playdough, colouring etc. - a lot of focussed activities, strict tidy-up rules apply to everyone of course!

Clever built-in storage and a cute baby. Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

Do you see yourself and your family staying in your small space for a long time?

So far we’ve been here 12 years in total - 6 years as 2 then 3, 5 years as 4 and a year now as a family of 5 and we’ve managed to adapt at each stage so I don’t see us moving any time soon. The latest changes we’ve made mean we can probably stay here indefinitely if we want to.

Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

I think Small Space-ers need to stick together and share all their best tricks. Do you have any storage or organizational tips you want to share? 


If you can afford it (or can save up like we did) go made to measure when it comes to storage. Adequate storage as well as hiding the clutter is definitely key to successful small living. Maximising your space and having uniform storage installed to fit your exact needs will make all the difference. It never ceases to amaze me how much more storage can be gained by replacing freestanding furniture. 

Having said that, do your research, it might be that storage systems such as those available from ikea will do the job just fine if planned well. Last year when we were expecting our youngest and preparing to give our little boy the bedroom we were sharing, we built ikea PAX wardrobes across an entire wall to house all of our’s and the kid’s clothing, bedding, toys and yet more records. We couldn’t afford fitted wardrobes and the beauty of ikea is how easy it will be to change as our needs change. We had our joiner build some sliding doors to cover it all up making them look bespoke from the outside but with a cheap and simple inside.

Another thing that I have mentioned previously, is our decision to have a specific laundry day once a week when we take our washed clothing to the laundrette to dry. We have no space for a tumble dryer (I also don't think that domestic dryers are all that good), doing this means we don't have to use up precious space at home with clothes horses full of dripping wet washing.


Only useful and beautiful items. Jessica Traylen of @small.solutions__

One of the reasons I started this blog was to have a positive space about living small with a family and hopefully have people let go of the shame associated with it. Thank you soooo much for being open with your beautiful home and life here. Is there anything you would want to say to someone who wants to stay in their small space with kids but are nervous or feeling external pressure not to?

This answer is probably going to be exactly the same to when I’ve spoken about the subject previously, but only because not much has changed for me...Living small as a family is definitely a challenge! It often isn’t a choice as such, let’s face it. I'm asked the same questions from people about our space, or lack of it...The inevitable: 'so when are you moving?' is incredibly assuming! I'll admit I've felt embarrassed about our living arrangements or allowed other's nosiness to make me feel inadequate somehow. 

However, I think that there are lots of positives to raising a family in a small home, a slightly greener footprint to start with. I love being so close with my children especially while they are so young, I couldn't imagine it any other way. It has definitely made us much more thoughtful about what we bring into our home, therefore there are potentially less expenses and waste. 

My partner and I used to have a little joke: that ‘you only need space in your heart'. 

Ha! There's definitely something to be said for that...but actually, the longer we’ve spent living like this, the more we’ve come to understand that you just need really good storage. ;-)

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Today I have a different sort of interview to share. Mandalyn of Sidewalkclub had the idea to write an article about toys in small spaces. So we both answered the same set of questions and I love seeing the similarities and differences between our answers. We live across the country from each other, Mandalyn in Chicago and us in Vancouver and have similarly aged children. I love Mandalyn and her famiy’s positive approach to city living with kids. She’s always inspiring me as she shares her everyday life on the subway with her boys or scooting around town. Funny how without meeting someone in real life you can feel less alone in your parenting choices by knowing them. Thanks for all you share Mandalyn!

How many children do you have and their ages?

I live in Chicago with my husband and 2 boys; Hugo is almost 6 and Toby is almost 2.

Where do you keep most of their playthings? Do you have a designated play space or playroom?

We don’t have enough space for a designated playroom, and even if we did I’d still keep some of their playthings in our main living space. I like being together, and I feel really strongly about having a home that feels warm, exciting, and beautiful to everyone who lives here—that includes the kids! We have toy crates on shelves in the main living room and keep the rest in their shared room: in the closet, under the bed, and some on display. 

Toy Storage and Organization in a Small Space. Mandalyn Renicker @mandalynrael

Do you have a limit on style or number of toys or do you give your children freedom in choosing and keeping their toys?

If I stop to think about it, I do have some ideals for our toy collection even though I don’t hold to it strictly. I prefer playthings that are durable and encourage imaginative play like wooden blocks, train tracks, cars, dress up clothes, and LEGO. The toys that only have one or two ways to be played with just don’t get as much love in our house! We regularly go through our toys and sort out the ones we’re ready to donate and I always let the boys have the final say on what to give away and what to keep. It’s a matter of respect for me; I wouldn’t want someone else rifling through my own things and deciding what I should purge!

Toy Storage and Organization in a Small Space. Mandalyn Renicker @mandalynrael

What’s one challenge in organization for your kids?

Living in a small space means even a small bit of clutter can make the whole space feel untidy. I try to keep things picked up and the biggest challenge is finding a way to organize toys that is both accessible for the boys and simple for them to help with cleanup. My mom used to say, “If there’s a place for everything, then we can put everything in it’s place,” and I think that’s such a good goal. If the kids know where the LEGOs belong, it’s no big deal to help put them away. We use bins or crates for "toy families” (blocks in one, cars in one, puzzles in one, etc.) and the bigger toys have a parking space in the cubby shelf in their room.

Toy Storage and Organization in a Small Space. @mandalynrael

What’s one victory or claim to fame in organization for your kids?

My oldest isn’t quite 6 yet but we already have a pretty good collection of LEGO (we like to build things together!). We store them in a shoe organizer that easily slides under the bed, and every time it shows up on Instagram people kind of freak out! It really is a good solution; we can keep the pieces organized by color and the zipper keeps the small pieces contained. My future claim to fame is turning a mid-size closet into an art nook so the kids can have a space to spread out with their supplies. But I’ll have to report back on that one!


Are there any toys in particular that have stood the test of time and earned a spot on your shelf?

Matchbox cars are so underrated. I always have one or two floating around in my bag for long bus rides, and they take so many forms of play at home too. We use masking tape to make roads on the wood floor, line them up by color on the couch or windowsill, and have regular downhill races. We were recently gifted a set of Magna-Tiles and they really do live up to the hype. It doesn’t take long before all of us are on the floor building skyscrapers!

Mandalyn and her boys in Chicago @sidewalkclub_

Check out Mandalyn’s beautiful photos on her page @mandalynrael and follow her inspiring project @sidewalkclub_ and https://sidewalkclub.com where she champions city living with kids.


For my answers….

How many children do you have and their ages?

We have two kids, Theo 5 .5 and Mae 2.5

Toy Storage and Organization in a Small space

Where do you keep most of their playthings? Do you have a designated play space or playroom?

We keep their play things in their shared bedroom. We have one tall shelving unit that holds some of their toys out in the open where they can see them along with some canvas and felt bins that corral toys. Of the 2 drawers in the shelving unit, one is for art supplies and the other holds pyjamas. We also have two large canvas bins on the floor of their room that hold the rest. Because our space is obviously small, their toys end up everywhere and anywhere. But at the end of the day the toys have a place to go back to.

Do you have a limit on style or number of toys or do you give your children freedom in choosing and keeping their toys?

We don’t limit the type of toys the kids have or want but we do limit the amount and sometimes the size. I am drawn to beautiful, minimal toys but I've come to understand that isn't what kids are drawn to. So I find having neutral pretty things to store their toys in is a good compromise for our shared space.

The kids are responsible for cleaning up their room (not to say it's not a battle many days). If they whine and complain or don't clean them up then I say that it must mean they have too many toys, if it's too difficult to clean them up. They know they need to clean up at least one area of the home before starting a new game or pulling out more toys.

What’s one challenge in organization for your kids?

Staying on top of the toy clutter in a small space can be overwhelming at times. I try to take note of when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed by toy clutter and then I know it’s time to review their toys and give away or donate some. In a small space it’s not hard to keep an eye out for what is played with and what is just dumped out and ignored.

Some just disappear for a while (a tote in the closet) and if they aren't asked after then I donate or give to friends. Others I just give away (without storing first) and deal with the potential consequences. Other times I involve the kids in the process. I think I have a good sense of what will be missed and what won’t. We haven’t had any major upsets about missing toys.

Toy Storage and Organization in a Small space

What’s one victory or claim to fame in organization for your kids?

Hmm I think that a victory we’ve had is that the kids, despite not having a playroom or even a large bedroom, have enough toys for imaginative play. Many of their toys fold away (like their playtent) or roll up (like the car mat) or store inside itself (like their dinosaur figurine volcano). They don’t have any big toys that you might see in typical playrooms but I think they have more than enough.

There’s also this funny little park a few blocks from our home where big plastic toys go to die. People from the neighborhood bring their old large and loud toys here and store them under the playground. The kids love playing with the slightly broken toys (push cars, doll strollers, tricycles) there and I don’t have to have them in our small space!

Another victory is that we keep the lego up high on a shelf and bring it down and use it on our leather gather mat. When it's time to clean up, we pool the lego in the middle of the mat and use it like a slide to send the lego back into the yellow boxes. Lego can be a bit of a nightmare in a small space so I'm happy that the kids can have the option to play but there are boundaries around it.

Toy Storage and Organization in a Small space

Are there any toys in particular that have stood the test of time and earned a spot on your shelf?

Magna Tiles or Tegu blocks
Play Tent
Lego
Dollhouse 

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Me and the kids for Mother Mag. All Photos by @modern_nest_photography

I was featured this week on Mother Mag, a site I greatly admire. I still can’t believe I was included in their Motherhood series, which I read religiously. Amy of Modern Nest Photography came to our home (all the way from Calgary!) to photograph me and the kids (Trevor was off the hook this time) at home. The behind the scenes was me frantically cleaning the house until it was spotless and then tidying behind the kids as they played, while also simultaneously trying to look calm, happy and not sweaty. Basically Amy is magic.

Then I disappeared to the coffee shop a few times over the next weekend to pour my heart into the questionnaire sent over from Mother Mag. I don’t think I’ve ever had to answer such in depth questions about my life or motherhood. It was an exercise like no other. I was really nervous the night before it was published as I felt I had laid it all out there for people to judge. I have been overwhelmed by the response. This is truly a beautiful community of kind and uplifting women (and a few men! 7% to be precise, ha). Thanks so much to new readers and old. People who DM me regularly with encouragement or just to share in what ways our lives and struggles and joys are similar.

Inspired Small and Minimal Living

I missed a couple things that I wanted to mention here. I forgot to mention @brownkids and @elimchu and @scandinavianstylist as inspirational small living/minimal/less is more accounts on Instagram that I love. I’m sure I’m forgetting more and I will share as they come to me.

Addressing Criticism and the Housing Market

Secondly, I am very lucky that I don’t get a lot of negative comments or trolls but the negative comments I get, usually have something to do with the housing market/crisis in Vancouver and whether I address it sufficiently. Housing in Vancouver is difficult and I don’t deny that it is challenging for most. It is challenging for us too and I know we are in a privileged position of owning property (albeit small property). But the housing market is out of my control and influence. What is in my control is how I feel about it and what I do for myself and my family. We are making the best of what could be seen as a difficult situation - 4 people in a one bedroom, who can’t necessarily afford a larger place. And we have found unexpected joy and contentment in living small in the city. We can choose to stay in this city or we could move to a more affordable city or a more rural location. If we stay I have to accept the circumstances that are out of my control. Being angry about it isn’t going to change it. And I don’t think spreading anger or discontent is going to help anyone else feel better about the housing market or their particular living situation. So I’m probably not going to address it again here. But I will continue to share our story, as I know feel confident that it helps others feel proud for living small, editing their possessions or buying less.

With that out of the way…. if you would like to read the article I’ve linked to it below and if you are new here because of it, thanks for being here!

MOTHER MAG - VANCOUVER MAMA ALISON MAZUREK ON RAISING TWO KIDS IN 600 SQUARE FEET

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Happy to share that we have a new Small Home tour! This one is all the way from Paris, France. Sophie of @nourish_paris shares her helpful reflections on living small. I love that her feedback is much more about the philosophy and mindset behind living small rather than the physical space. She even mentions “essentialism” which speaks to me much more than minimalism! I’ll let her describe her space and how it works for your family of 4 below…

Please tell us a little about you…

I’m Sophie, I’m originally from the south east of England but I moved to Paris when I was 21 as an au pair and have been here for nearly 8 years now. I’m married and have two sons, Arthur who’s three and a half and Fred, who is one. We still live in central Paris and love the area we live in. I’m the founder of Nourish Paris, which makes and delivers food packages to new mums and families in the Paris area.

How big is your home and what is the layout?

Our apartment is on the top floor of a building built in 1850. It’s 50m2 which I think is around 520 square feet. It’s unconventional in that the previous owner converted the entryway into the kitchen, which means that when you walk in, it’s directly into the kitchen and everything leads off from there. Our boys share the one bedroom and we have our large iron rung bed in the living room, along with everything else! We have one family bathroom that we all share and three tiny balconies (enough room to stand on, but not to sit out on!)

Tell me about your choice to live small as a family. Was it a conscious decision or did it just evolve?

At first it was out of necessity. We were young and didn’t have an income that meant we could afford something bigger. Paris is a pretty expensive city and small and cheap was our only option. However, now we’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t think I could live any other way. When we’re in my parents house or at my in-laws, I almost feel overwhelmed by the space. Now I enjoy the feeling that living purposefully small gives us - less to clean, less possessions, less opportunities for my kids to make mischief! But seriously I love that I can generally always see and hear my kids. They can close their bedroom door if they want to play quietly alone and at night they’re used to sleeping with the sounds of other people nearby. The “essentialism” that comes along with living small was originally difficult to adapt to, particularly for my husband who likes to keep sentimental items but we’re on a constant learning curve, really adapting to family life as our kids get bigger. Now I’ve read so much and learned so much from people I’ve followed since the beginning, I know the benefits of what we’re doing. For us and our health, our kids, the environment, everything points to this being the right choice for us.

Is it common for families to live small in Paris?

I’d say that it’s becoming more and more common for families, yes. The large apartments just aren’t coming up for sale and are really very expensive and out of the price range of lots of families. We’re on the smaller side of our friends but I don’t really know many people in apartments much bigger than 70-100m2 (approx 100 1000 square feet). I’m not sure that it’s become a movement of small space living as such because, well pretty much all the apartments here are tiny by American standards! People are used to living in close quarters here!

How would you describe your home style? ex) modern, minimal,  bohemian, vintage?

Oh I’m not sure! I sort of just worked with what we had and discovered my own style at the same time. I’d say that I try to be minimal but I’m too much of a random object collector for that. Plus the kids seem to accumulate clutter faster than I can donate it! Actually one of our new year's resolutions is to make the apartment look a little more purposefully decorated than thrown together. We’ve really just started understanding our own style and what we like so we’re excited about slowly improving the way our apartment looks and functions!


Is there a piece of furniture or accessory that you couldn't live without that makes living in your space easier?

A fold out dining table. I read something years ago from Erin Boyle on Reading My Tea leaves that really resonated with me - working out your family’s priorities is vital to small living. One of our priorities is cooking and eating together as a family, so I always wanted a super functional kitchen and dining table. We also have a kids sized table and chairs where both boys can sit and eat if I’m intending on eating later. Often they’ll sit there while I cook and do play doh or some painting or just play. It’s made our kitchen much more family friendly than it was and we all enjoy being in there. I also love our bed - we considered a Murphy Bed when we first moved in here as we have the perfect place for it, but in the end we decided to keep our huge iron rung bed and I’m so glad we did. We’re lucky to have a large(ish) living space and, although it takes up a lot of space, having a bed out all the time almost splits the room into living and sleeping areas. It’s certainly helped how I feel about the space and I love the way it looks.

What is something you love about living small?

The upkeep! Tiny spaces mean less work for everyone. I LOVE that it takes me half an hour to clean from top to bottom, an hour if I’m doing a really deep clean and changing sheets etc. I LOVE that our family works in a slightly different way to other families because we have to respect each other's spaces in a more intentional way. I like that my kids are growing up with an understanding of the value of things because we’re intentional about what we bring into our home. I like the way that we have a lot more free time because we don’t have a large property to maintain and the freedom that brings.

What is something you hate?

If I’m honest, sometimes I hate the noise. I am someone who likes silence and my own company. In this, I’m lucky that I work from home during the day while everyone else is at school, creche and work and can carve out my silent time then. When I worked full time in restaurants and offices, I really struggled with the noise levels at home when I couldn’t excuse myself to another room and wind down in the quiet. So I’d say noise levels and the constant struggle in finding places to hang out wet laundry in the winter!


What are your best ways to beat the winter blues and keep from going crazy with kid(s) indoors?

It’s tough but I have to admit that letting go of certain standards of behaviour helps. Jumping on the beds and couch is more acceptable than usual, throwing pillows around, “outside voices” - much to my dismay! We do also have a Wobbel board and another balance board, a fabric covered exercise ball and an indoor tent along with lots of cushions and blankets for fort making and active play. Winter is probably one of the hardest times of the year for us as a family but it’s more than manageable when you accept that the kids will be finding the long nights and being cooped up a bit difficult.


Do you see yourself and your family staying in your small space for a long time?

I think so. If we moved it would be for another bedroom, so another 10 - 20m2. We’re lucky that our space is so functional as lots of Parisian apartments are quite badly laid out - long corridors, lack of storage space and closets etc. I think if we intended on staying a lot longer I’d consider putting in some more storage options but overall I like the way we interact as a family in our small space.


I think Small Space-ers need to stick together and share all their best tricks. Do you have any storage or organizational tips you want to share? Not an organizational or storage tip but more of a mindset one. I think it’s important to forget everything that society tells you that you need as a family. It’s so easy to see the “normal” lives of those who live in larger spaces - they’re represented everywhere and a large living space is still seen as a marker of a successful life. We’re told having and raising children requires space, for children to have their own rooms, a play room, a family bathroom and a parent’s bathroom - that we need more and more things to fill our spaces. None of this is true.

Thanks so much for sharing your home here, Sophie. Your positive energy is contagious and made me feel refreshed about our own space.

If anyone else is interested in sharing their home here please send me a message.

Photos by @photosbyemilyd

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The kids in their small shared bedroom standing beside their wall bunk beds with their library carrying up the wall.

So we’ve been house hunting a bit lately. And it’s got me thinking about EVERYTHING. Oh and I should clarify, by house I mean 2 bedroom apartment hunting. And by hunting I mean casually looking and peeking in open houses to get an idea of what’s out there. After tossing around a bunch of ideas we are re-committed to staying in Vancouver and ideally in our neighbourhood (Mount Pleasant) but willing to go further east or west and further south. I love hearing about other people’s needs/wants when it comes to their home so I thought it would be fun to share ours here with the disclaimer that these are still all ideas and we may change our mind. We also may stay in this apartment for a few more years but thought our thought process for why and why not to move might be interesting to share. I know for me, when others breakdown why they love or don’t love their home and what they are missing, it can help highlight things I love or don’t love about my home or ways I might be taking things for granted.

I should also clarify that we are very comfortable in our place at the moment. We are at this sweet spot where the kids are sharing the bedroom and getting along (for the most part). But we are looking towards the next couple of years where it might start getting tight and privacy becomes more crucial.

Our Next Small Space?

I want to share our logic or philosophy for our next place as it may be a bit unexpected or strange to some. We aren’t looking for our forever home, we are looking for the next 5 years or so. We see each home as a stepping stone to meet our minimum needs at that time. I feel that conventional wisdom would say to find your forever home as soon as you become pregnant with your first baby. For us and the the expensive city we choose to live in… finding and owning our forever home isn’t a realistic option for us. Instead we are prioritizing other values over the traditional freestanding home with a backyard. We have already been able to stay in a one bedroom for much longer than any of us expected which helped us pay off more of our mortgage, travel often and find this amazing small space community ;). So for our next move we are looking for a 2 bedroom that checks off a few more boxes than our current place does. We hope to find a 2 bedroom so that eventually we could give each kid their own bedroom and we could still have our wall bed in the living room. We are also hoping for a little more room separation than 600 square feet currently offers. There’s so much we love about our current apartment but we think there will come a time when it doesn’t fulfill our growing family’s needs.

Here are the top loves of our current apartment:

High Ceilings
Lots of Natural Light
Open Floorplan
Ground Level Access
Small Green Space and Patio
Entry Way
Walkable Neighbourhood

What we don’t love:

Busy Street Corner
One Bedroom
Kitchen in the middle of the living space

Needs for our next place:

2nd bedroom
Lots of Natural Light
Wall space for wall bed
Quiet Street
Walkable City Neighbourhood

Wants for our next place:

High Ceilings
Outdoor Green Space
2nd bathroom/powder room
Close to parks

After sharing all this here we may instead decide to stay for 5 more years! Or we might move in a couple months. Regardless it all has me thinking about my love of small spaces and how much of my identity as a person and a mother is wrapped up in it but I think that is for another post, on another day. Thanks for letting me share! Would love to hear what you are looking for in your next place!


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Theo (5.5 years old) has started asking for stairs and a basement after seeing a few friends’ houses who have such things. And not once or twice but quite regularly. I stifled my first response which was to be upset or disappointed that he would want something other than our tiny home and instead asked questions about why these things were important to him. I pointed out all the great things about our space or his room like his cool bunk beds or the ladder or all his great toys. He was pretty adamant that none of those things equaled stairs.

So we’ve had a few conversations with him about what adding stairs to our home would mean for us. I explained that I pick him up from school most days and Dad comes home from work for dinner every night. In the city we live in, if we wanted a bigger home these are things we would need to give up because Mom and Dad would have to work more to pay for the stairs. He also loves going on vacation, especially to beaches and we explained we wouldn’t be able to do that either (or at least not as often as we currently do). We didn’t dismiss his request, we let him know that we would have to decide as a family what was most important to us and weigh what things we were willing to give up to get other things we really want. I recognize he is starting to assert some independence and request some privacy and I want to honour that. But I also think it’s our job as parents to ensure he is grateful for what we have. While we may not have a large home, we are still so privileged to live where and how we live.

He has also been making some adorable “Keep Out” signs for the kids bedroom where no adults are allowed (until he wants one of us to tuck him in to bed). But, he is still the kid who sits on my shoulders when I try and get any work done on my laptop. And he is always playing with and on top of his sister, even if there is another room he could be playing in and his own bunk to escape to.

What I am getting at is… his requests for space are more hypothetical than based in reality at this moment in time. I knew the day would come when the kids would ask for more space and I kind of figured it would be around kindergarten but I still found this moment a bit tough. But we are taking note of this change and starting to consider ways to offer him the space and privacy he will eventually need in this space or another future space, while above all trying to instil in both kids a sense of gratitude for what we have (phew… parenting is no joke!).

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In the far right corner you can see our hunky printer on the floor

I shared the other day about a disagreement my husband and I are having in our small space. We have an old, large printer that we used to store under our couch. When we updated our couch (post with details here) we lost our sneaky hiding place and it ended up in our living room staring at me everyday, mocking me with it’s bulk and relative uselessness. See, we don’t print very often. I honestly can’t remember the last time we needed to print something. Maybe it was a government form or a coupon, either way it’s not something we do often and does not bring ease or joy to our lives.

I was ready to get rid of it. Trevor on the other hand argued that it was a working printer and we did use it a few times a year so we should keep it. We tried to find a place for it. But our few closets were maxed out with no extra floor space in them and the printer was too deep and heavy to put up high in a closet. We were at a stalemate. So I shared our dilemma on Instagram… not to publicly shame Trevor (I swear!) but instead to share that just because we have lived small and cooperatively for a long time, we still come up against some “things” that we aren’t on the same page about. I’m sure everyone can relate. And this is not the first item we haven’t agreed on. With marriage in a small space I don’t think it’s any different than marriage in a larger space but I do think your differences or disagreements end up front and center. If we had a bigger space and we disagreed about what to do with the printer, we could put it in the spare room or the basement and carry on. In this case it was taking up space in our carefully styled living room and confronting us with it’s reality everyday.

After the overwhelming online support to donate the printer, Trevor and I had another discussion about why we were hanging on to the printer. In our relationship, Trevor does a lot of the late night runs to the drugstore, grocery store etc when we are in a panic or forgot something. Whereas I do more of the day to day kid management, cleaning etc (not to say he doesn’t do a lot day to day as well). In this case, he knew that if we got rid of the printer it would fall on him to run to the late night printers and print whatever we needed. So our compromise is that if we donate the printer (what I want), I agree to be responsible for the few times a year we need to print. My goal is to plan ahead and print what we need at my work but if there happens to be an emergency printing situation, we live in the city so finding a 24 hour printer won’t be difficult. We also live 2 blocks from the library where I am told you can print for 20 cents a page!

I donated the printer last week to the highly recommended Free Geek who accepts electronics donations and refurbishes them. I didn’t want to burden anyone else with an old printer that might break or run out of toner soon. I know that Free Geek could also responsibly recycle it if needed. Oh and I did receive a few great tips on new modern printers that are much smaller. At this moment in time we really don’t print very much so investing in a smaller printer doesn’t make sense for us.

This printer isn’t the first item that has led to a disagreement over what stays and goes in our space. And I know it won’t be the last. And while these tiffs make me a bit crazy it’s the way I know to get to the root of why we keep certain things and let others go. Our small space may keep our possessions lean but we are still so privileged and want for little. If there is something taking up precious square footage in our home that could be replaced with a rental or service or simply doing without, that is something I am into. And honestly, Trevor usually is too, we just aren’t always on the exact same page at the exact same moment but we can get there with a bit of communication.

Another angle of our printer in the living room. This wall is a work in progress and I have been playing around with art layouts. (note: speakers under the cabinet while ugly bring us much happiness as they play the music from our record player. I’d love to find a solution to hide them while still getting clear sound, or alternatively replace with a prettier speaker…. one day).

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