9 ways to survive in a one-bedroom apartment with a kid
Property journalist Kirsten Craze shares what she learned from doing just that.
What to expect when you're expecting (if Instagram feeds and renovation TV were to dictate) is a grand family home with a dreamy designer nursery. It would be filled with monogrammed linen and inspirational-quote pillows tossed beside a mountain of plush toys in one corner and a $5,000 Scandinavian cot in the other. I'm not kidding – #nurserydecor has 2.2 million posts and counting.
Instead, in our one-bedroom apartment, we had a rented bassinet beside our bed and in lieu of a hi-tech nappy changing station we had a $10 blow-up IKEA mat on the kitchen island bench (far from food preparation, that goes without saying). Our baby was small and so were our living quarters, but we didn't need oodles of space. That decision saved us around $50,000 in just over two years.
I don't expect a medal for "minimalist mother of the year" because in many parts of the world, and in some Australian homes, this is actually just how it has to be. However, what I am trying to point out is that so many soon-to-be-parents (who do have choices) have such high expectations of what their post-baby home should be.
I've seen it so often in my decade-and-a-half as a property writer. A positive pregnancy test has couples frantically list their pint-sized inner city pad and head for the suburbs in search of the "Great Australian Dream" with a veranda out the front and a Hills Hoist out the back – plus a mammoth mortgage.
In order to set your new family up for a comfortable climb up the property ladder, it really does pay to make the big sacrifices early on. Spoiler alert: the colour palette of your little one's bedroom (or whether in fact they have their own room at all) in the first couple of years will be entirely irrelevant to them.
So we decided to bite the budget bullet and do what everyone was telling us not to do: stay in our one-bedroom apartment. Mum, dad, baby – and one very large cat – in 60 square metres.
Living in each other's pockets isn't easy, especially when one of you (me) works from home, but the experience brought us closer together (pun intended) and literally saved us thousands. Here's how we did it.
Kondo your condo
If you haven't heard of Marie Kondo yet – where have you been? Ok, so ditching everything that doesn't "spark joy" might not work for all of us, but she has a point. Do you really need ALL those shoes? Purging your place before baby arrives is essential, especially if you're living in a frugal footprint.
Learn from Grandma
Your Nanna and Pa got through the newborn phase just fine without the piles of plastic and gadgetry. Consider what you really need in terms of baby bits and bobs and tell anyone who'll listen to curb their enthusiasm for unnecessary gifts.
Make bedtime easier
Why wander bleary-eyed down the hall tripping over the cat a couple of times a night when you could have baby by your side? Even Red Nose Australia suggests sharing the same room as your baby during the first 6 to 12 months to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). A "mini" cot on wheels is a great solution for small spaces and it also means baby can be moved from room to room, depending on the time of day.
Simplify bath time
A full sized bathtub in a small apartment is a rarity and the kitchen sink isn't always an option, but there are other solutions for baby at bath time. Folding baby tubs are a great idea for tight spaces and can be hidden away or hung up to dry when not in use.
Downsize meal time
Once baby gets big enough for solids, forget the traditional high chair that takes up valuable floor real estate. Opt for a "clamp on" style chair that attaches to your table and "floats" without legs.
Find functional furniture
Existing in a small apartment is like playing a life-sized game of Tetris. Your furniture needs to do several jobs and fit perfectly into your footprint. As well as the classic sofa bed (a lifesaver when one parent needs a night off the baby shift), find a dining table that folds right down, get stackable chairs and look for storage nooks absolutely everywhere.
As much as cocooning yourself inside with a new baby feels inviting, getting out and about is essential for everyone in the family, especially when you are living on top of each other. With no big backyard to laze around in, you just might discover more about your neighbourhood and maybe meet some new people at the park.
Hang everything! A simple search online for vertical storage solutions and you'll quickly find that almost any wall or door (or even the dead space over the toilet) can be turned into a place to store "stuff". The good news is there are lots of options for renters who can't start drilling Scandinavian shelving systems to every surface.
Drown out noise
Using a white noise machine, or one of the numerous apps available for baby naps, not only helps get baby to sleep but also masks everyday noises coming from the rest of the apartment. That way mum and dad can watch a movie, or even make a business call just metres away from your sleeping bub.
Kirsten Craze is a freelance writer who has been digging deep into the world of property for more than 15 years. She has written about bricks and mortar (and all that comes with it) for some of Australia's most well-read publications from long form articles in the traditional print media to bite-sized portions for property apps. She's peeked behind the medicine cabinets in Australia's priciest homes, became a real estate agent in four days for a story and knows all about this year's Pantone Colour of the Year.
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