June 24, 2014

on room-sharing with a toddler...

Room sharing with a toddler | yourwishcake.com
This is definitely one of those things I can file under the things I never thought I'd do category of my life. When I was younger, and I was looking ahead to what life would hold for me, I had more than a few expectations. By thirty, I was sure I'd have a few kids, a home, a zip code closer to my parents. And as we all know, reality often ends up being a bit different than those expectations you always have for the way your life will look. Not that reality is worse…it's just different. And sometimes unexpected. But you have to learn to roll with it, right?

I never thought my husband and I would be room-sharing with an almost-three-year-old little girl. But we live in a very expensive part of the country (Southern California) and in order for me to stay at home with Eisley, we are on one income. This is where we lived before we were a family of three, and we just never left. Back before we had our daughter, we had a grown-up conversation about how once we were pregnant, we would obviously have to move to a bigger place. How could a family of three live comfortably in a 1-bedroom duplex? Surely it would be cramped and frustrating and completely illogical.

Well, time passed, along came Eisley, and we had another grown-up conversation about how once she was walking, we would obviously have to move to a bigger place. A child needs their own room and a yard to run around in, don't they? Surely it would be difficult and irresponsible and we'd be bursting at the seams by then.

More time passed, Eisley started walking and running and causing the typical toddler mayhem within the walls of our place, and we again had that grown-up conversation about how we really needed to look for a bigger place. But then we realized that all we ever really did was talk about how we needed a bigger place, but did we really? Weren't we making it work—quite happily even—for nearly three years?

I think one of my main frustrations hasn't even been the actual living in a small place as a family of three. It has been that I feel so alone when I look around at so many other people who have more. It's hard not to compare and feel less-than and dissatisfied when many people at my place in life have what I always (thought I) wanted and needed.

I cling tightly to the people I know who are also living with less. Friends with a 1-year-old daughter who are living with their parents until they can save up for a place of their own. Friends who at one point had two kids in a one-bedroom apartment while they searched for a home they could rent that they loved and weren't just settling on. 

room sharing with a toddler | yourwishcake.com
That's why I'm writing this post. Because I know there are people out there in small spaces—either by choice or out of necessity—and I want to encourage them to love where they live. And to also show people that it can totally work. You don't actually need as much as so many people tell you. I promise.

I thought I'd share how we have made it work for us, and share a couple photos of our cozy bedroom, as well. I have grown to absolutely love our bedroom, and I know it will be bittersweet when we do someday move to a larger place and Eisley has her own room!

room sharing with a toddler | yourwishcake.com
Looking into our bedroom from the doorway, this is the view. Compared to some 1-bedrooms in this area, our bedroom is huge. We are able to fit our queen-size bed, a small nightstand, a changing table/dresser (it used to have a changing pad on top), a crib, a small trashcan, and our laundry bag into this one room. And, all things considered, we don't feel cramped at all. We were so lucky that this hand-me-down crib fit snugly on this part of the wall—right next to the heater, with only about an inch of space between the door when it is opened. Perfect! The photo at the very top of this post shows how the wall is decorated above her crib (pompoms and paper doily banners equal happiness, for sure!). And you can't see it from this angle, but there is a small trashcan and our laundry bag in the corner of the room, to the right of the dresser.

I'm sure some people may be curious about when we will transition her to a toddler bed, and my answer to that is…not until we absolutely have to. I think it would be difficult trying to get her to stay in her bed when we're only a few feet away. She hasn't tried to climb out of the crib yet, and she still fits in it just fine, so we're just going to make it last as long as we can.

Storage-wise, we keep 2 large bins under her crib that we bought from Ikea, and they hold extra linens, toys, and a few other random things. Because I don't have an exceptionally large wardrobe, all my clothes fit into 2 of the drawers in the changing table/dresser and 1/2 of our closet. Jay's clothes are in the other half of the closet, as well as in some built-in drawers right outside our room. Eisley's clothes (as mentioned in a previous post) fit inside a cabinet above the built-in drawers.

room sharing with a toddler | yourwishcake.com
This is our side of the room, and we never make our bed completely, so I decided not to do it for the photo. (You're welcome. I think.) 

Sleep-wise, we do just fine. It took Eisley a long, long time to sleep through the night (we're talking 17 months), which I think was due to both the room-sharing and also extended breastfeeding. But now that she's older she's a fantastic sleeper, never wakes during the night, and almost always even sleeps through Jay's alarm in the morning.

Obviously, at a certain point we will need to have more space. My husband and I have definitely had more of those grown-up conversations lately. We are hoping our family will grow at some point in the next year, and although I have already figured out in my head how we could add a newborn into our living space, I think logically we would really need another bedroom.

Still, I'm so, so grateful for what this experience has offered me. I never anticipated being someone who would not only survive, but enjoy sharing a room with a toddler…yet here I am. Being challenged to live with less has been something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It has given me a much better perspective on what "less" even is—especially when we compare it to other parts of the world, or other times in history. Our "less" is so much more than many people could even dream of, so having my eyes opened to that fact is something that has definitely changed me and my expectations.

It's also nice to realize that something I always thought would be impossible or a really big deal is actually totally possible and not a big deal at all. It's so normal for us now, and I don't even really think about it being different from what other people have until I get all swoony over beautifully decorated nurseries on Pinterest. (I should really stay off Pinterest.)

I'd love to hear from anyone else who is making it work in a small space! Although I don't look down on anyone who has a large home and room to roam (especially when you live in a less-expensive part of the country), it feels good to band together with other people who are living with less, and encouraging people who may also be in the same situation someday down the road.

Further reading: thoughts on home


  1. When we first got pregnant I was desperately wanting to move and have our own space, but the more I thought about it (and our rent would jump up a lot for a 2-bedroom... Nashville rent is not as bad as Cali rent, but it still seems spiked, especially where we live, which is not at all glamorous), it seemed financially smart to stay and of course, babies don't NEED a room of their own.

    I actually felt better once I noticed another couple in our building (only one bedrooms) bringing home a baby (and s/he's still there!) and also ANOTHER couple having TWO kids (which blows my mind) in a one bedroom.

    From everything I've read on forums, most people don't even use their kids' rooms until well into the toddler years. A lot of families co-sleep, so it seemed silly to worry about not having a room when it seems these days it's just to be decorated and never used. I know that's not every case, but it's several that I've seen!

    My most concern is sleeping with a baby in the room, but I figure I'll get used to it and miss her whenever we do move (whenever that will be, who knows!).

  2. We are currently rocking a 650 sq ft historic loft in a small town in Oregon Wine Country. There are some days when it sounds just as glamorous as that, and some days when it feels like I live in a creaky, old closet. Being that we bought a "starter home" when we were first married and tried for 4 years to sell it, overwhelmed by the financial and time obligation, I expected to be absolutely thrilled about our downsize.

    And really, I mostly am. But I am in a bit of a different place than I was at 22, and sometimes feel like all I want to do is be "settled."

    Like you though, I really have relished the lesson of learning to love and be content where you are. It's such an important skill and I think it will only enable us to find and wait for the perfect living situation to come along when we are ready to buy again.

    Great post. :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Apartment Therapy is always inspiring when it comes to small space living. :)

    Your duplex always looks so homey! Whenever you do move, I bet you'll appreciate the space so much more after going through this phase.

  4. First of all, I haven't clicked over to your blog from my reader in a while and I like the new header :)

    I really love how you guys make your living space work. Without getting too cliche, it really shows that a lot of things we think are going to be way too hard aren't really that bad. I live in a super cheap area of the country (Buffalo, NY), so I don't have the same exact challenges — but at the same time, I'm not exactly rolling in it and can find myself comparing to other people's situations in the same way. No matter what, I'm still happy and healthy and those are the things that matter, right? :)

  5. Thanks for this. I'm currently in a 2 bedroom small cottage that I share with my boyfriend and with his 5 year old son, though only part time at this point. In our discussions about having a baby in the near future, I always start to freak out about space. For me, it's not just the stuff that a baby has, but also my personal privacy. I'm lucky that we have a big finished basement that my guy and his son frequently use for playtime, but I worry about the walls starting to close in on me too, but this gives me hope! Plus having a smaller space makes me more mindful- of what I bring into the house, where/how things get used, and of course, less to clean ( which I loathe, so that's good).

  6. I love how you are making what you have work for you, and keeping it beautiful too!

  7. Giiiiiiiiiirl, your eye for detail and d├ęcor is amazing. Your space doesn't feel lacking at all, and I love the vibe. Don't let those judgies get you, bc I think you're doing it right.

  8. The cost of living in Houston is really good, so we do have a decent-sized home. It's really more than we need though, and sometimes I wish we could downsize (and downsize our mortgage). Both kids sleep in our bed anyway! They share a room and we really just use it for storage and sometimes playing. More space means more room to accumulate junk, so I have to stay on top of the decluttering and simplifying. I love your room and how you've made it functional and so pretty!

  9. We've been in a few situations like this, and although it was never perfect, it worked for us and our family. We've also discussed that if we had to move back to a one bedroom,the children would share the master and we would have a murphy bed (folded up into the wall) for us in the living area.

  10. I totally hear you on feeling bad that you don't have that large house with the pretty nursery. I live in a basement apartment (New York is VERY expensive) with my husband and 19 month old so I understand completely! She actually stayed in the same room with us until she was 10 months old and our bedroom is teeny tiny! I learned that if you have to do anything you can make it work! Thanks for sharing :)

  11. I love how organised your space is, and how you've made it work for you. That's always a challenge no matter the size of space you live in. After 8 years of renting in every dang expensive city (LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, and now in New Zealand) we finally purchased our first home - which is still so small compared to everyone else's place it seems. We love our small space, it's got everything we need and it works for us. I think you could always use more space, but it's better to use the space well, then just add more. I feel you, Southern California isn't the cheapest of places to live, but it sure does have sunshine and lovely views.

  12. We've been living in a 1000 square foot condo for 4.5 years. There are 4 of us in our family now. My husband, myself and our two boys who are 1 and 3. They share a room because I run my business from home (www.lovesimplymade.ca if you want to check it out). Where we are feeling cramped is in terms of outdoor space. We are in a third floor walk-up and let me tell you, all those stairs with 2 kids is a nightmare. But we bought it when we were newly married and needed somewhere to start. We are right on the cusp of a big move. Waiting on a mortgage preapproval and we've been working all month to prepare to list our home. It's bittersweet. I will miss these walls that we brought two children home to and watched their first shaky steps, rocked fussy babies in the night, did countless crafts and activities. We've laughed and we've cried here. I'm sad to be moving, but excited too to put down roots. I'm not looking for any more indoor space necessarily, but a better layout and a yard are on my must-haves list. <3 Love your blog, thanks for sharing this! You're so right, many times our expectations exceed the reality, but thankfully there are happy surprises along the way when we realize how little we really need to be happy ;)

  13. I loved this post. Thanks for sharing!

  14. This is such a wonderful, sweet and inspiring post. I've always kind of loved that you three live in your little duplex and it's so perfect and nested (in my opinion) and looks like a home. I actually owned a 3-bedroom house in Texas which was WAY too much space, and I knew it, and recently moved to SF where we downsized to a 1-bedroom for the two of us and our mutt (who is large, but not a toddler). Actually, living overseas prepared me to live in a smaller space without a dishwasher or washer / dryer and, after returning to the US, I found myself actually craving less space. I like our small apartment. It feels more comfortable to me. And you're right, we don't "need" much to be happy.
    xx Abby a geek tragedy

  15. I've been following you since before your sweet girl was born and you're one of the only mothers I still read about. I really appreciate everything you share, and you constantly inspire me. We recently found out we couldn't afford to move from our smallish home- we have two boys, 1.5 & 2.5, and "not enough" bedrooms or storage spaces, blah blah blah. Once we realized we would have to stay put for awhile, we started loving our house more, and trying to solve problems that we used to brush off, assuming they'd be solved when we traded up. I'm falling in love with making it work, and there is something special about staying as long as we can in the place we first became parents.

    Basically, thank you for sharing, and making it lovely and beautiful and cool to thrive in a small space.

  16. Living with my in-laws for over a year definitely made me realize that you don't need as much space as you thought you did and it also helps me to be thankful for the space we have now. Your home is so cozy and inviting.

  17. I think you made the best of your living situation and a small space. It's freeing to realize that maybe less is more :)

  18. Thanks for posting. I think it is AWESOME that you are staying home with your daughter. Your place is so cute too!


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