Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of having a nursery. You might not want to give up a great studio or one bedroom apartment, albeit a tiny one, just because you are having a baby. But sometime in the wee hours of the night when your sciatica acts up you wonder, can I have it all — baby in a small apartment?
The answer is yes. Yes, only if you are willing to reconsider your small space. More than ever, especially with a baby, not every inch, but every centimeter counts.
Declutter and Organize
First thing to do is to throw out everything that you don’t use and don’t need. During the third trimester your nesting instinct kicks in. I remember watching on Oprah, Peter Walsh, the Declutter Organizer guru say that if you haven’t used something in two years it’s very likely you’re never going to use it. Get a couple of bins and label them as Must Keep, Give Away, Throw Out, and Maybe. Then with the help of a very pragmatic friend, begin the process. Even if you don’t have a baby in a small apartment, this is a great thing to do at least every five years, if not every year.
Once you’ve decluttered, it’s time to organize and do a very, very important thing… sit back and imagine. Imagine a baby in this small apartment. Look at catalogs, visit stores, take measurements and then come back home, tape swatches to the wall, a picture from a magazine and imagine. You or a caregiver will be spending a lot of time at home. The goal: how to decorate, design, move things around so the small space feels expansive, breathable and, yes, livable.
Think Multi-Functional Baby Furniture
When looking at baby furniture think out of the box, think multi-functional. Try never to get anything that will only have one use. But if you do, see if you can get it compact. For example, you’ll need a high chair, but in our apartment there was no room for one. So I got an Inglesina Fast Table Chair (about $50). Phil & Ted (also about $50) make a good one too. The baby sat at the table and always felt a part of the family meals, making transition to big boy/girl seating so much easier. For more multi-functional furniture, see this post.
Sharing Space with Baby in a Small Apartment
If you live in a one bedroom, you’ll have to make a decision with your spouse or partner if you want the baby sharing your sleep space for the next year and a half. However, know that once a toddler, you may have to give up your bedroom, so that you can have any adult life after 7pm or bed time, whichever comes sooner. A murphy bed in your living room these days is not as cheesy as it was in the ’70s.
If you live in a studio seriously consider installing a temporary wall room divider or a bookshelf divider to separate space. Even if you live in a rental, wall room dividers won’t damage walls and it can carve out the space your baby needs. Your baby can literally live in a space that fits a crib, a rocker and a small dresser. This works as well in a one bedroom with a large living room. I’ve seen it done a number of times in a city apartment. If you choose modern baby’s furniture with a minimal, sleep design it’s actually a very cozy space for you and your baby. This can work for a number of years, probably until your child is about five years old.
Shelves as Tiers on a Wall
As I mentioned in another post, think of your walls as tiers. Keep to a minimum shelves and bins that are at hands reach to your children. Then build shelves for the next tier up. Take as much off the floor as possible. Ceiling or wall lamps instead of floor or table lamps. Giant hooks for so many things. Shelves high up in your bathroom. Basically remember high and low shelves and keep the middle clear for pictures or nothing at all to create a feeling of expansiveness in a small space. See apartmenttherapy.com for more great small space design ideas.
There’s just one thing that I never thought about until one very, very wet spring when we ended up at home a lot. Suddenly our small apartment felt even smaller. I didn’t realize that living in a small space meant we spent a lot of time outdoors. That’s great. We go to various playgrounds every day. Museums and great events in the city. But that very wet spring I had a newborn and a toddler and it was just too much to leave the house. So what ended up happening? Declutter time, reorg time and redecorate time. And routine time. After a few days, I felt like a homeschool mom with play time, activity time, nap time all scheduled out so none of us could get bored.
Remember Your and Spouse’s Needs
Whatever you do, don’t forget your needs or those of your spouse or partner. It’s so easy to be consumed by baby. But remember to make room and time for the person who got you to this very special place into this very special family. You did it together. So there should be space and time to do things together while baby is napping and sleeping.