17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The grass is always greener...or is it...maybe?

2 bedrooms. 3 closets. And estimated 750 square feet. 3 kids under 5. 2 adults. 1 set of bunkbeds. 2 cribs. 1 queen. 1 glorified patio we call "front yard". It's a small space for a, relatively speaking, not-so-small family. So what do we do? We dream of what we call a house.

Sometimes I think I get caught up in the grass is always greener trap. My kids would be less irritating if we had a yard. The kitchen would be cleaner more often if we had a dishwasher. Saturdays would be less busy if we had a washer and dryer. The baby would sleep through the night if she had her own room.

But let's face it. A house simply can't solve all my woes. (Although just one of the above would be nice, right!?)Other people who have houses also have problems. My sister, living comfortably in a home in AZ called tonight. Her kids were hassling her and she was struggling with them just as she was trying to say her first "hello" to me. She was "laughing," and knowing my state here in NYC said, "Oh Katie, all this and we have a yard." Like, look at me, I've got it all and I'm still going batty!

I do honestly think there are some advantages to living in a little place--

1 bathroom, 1 mirror--come on! When we get around to it...cleaning is a snap!
Kids are never too far--easier to keep an eye and ear on.
Mopping and vacuuming is easy compared to the square footage of a house.
Free maintainance of the larger type problems thanks the the landlord.
4 loads of laundry at a laundromat all at once takes the time of one load in one at-home washer/dryer.
We keep organized--junk is out--no room for it.
Learning to live with less can't be bad for us or our kids--we don't have room for excessive bikes or large toys.
We are forced to go to the park, and thus, don't isolate ourselves in our home/yard.

I do also honestly think there must be advantages to living in a larger house--

Kids can play outside while I make dinner.
Space can reduce stress simply by spreading people (noise) out a little.
It's easier to visit people when you have a quiet street or driveway to park in. Packed street-parking is so uninviting.
Kids can play in the sprinkler all summer long--we don't have to go to the park for access to water.
Decorating the house is easier and more exciting since it's really yours.
A third room could help with issues of kids waking each other up.
A more spacious family or play room would help get energy out when winter keeps us in.

I guess as I've been contemplating all this lately, I'm realizing that I can have it good where ever I am. If I take care of my little plot of land here, my family can be happy. If I take advantage and appreciate all the benefits of living in a small space I can love it more and miss it when I'm gone. If I move into a bigger house I can really appreciate its luxuries but not go expecting 314 Bighouse Drive to solve all my daily struggles.

I would be curious to hear what you all have learned living in a small space or living in a larger space. Who has gone from one to the other, what have you learned? What are your favorites about living in a house--things I can realistically look forward to? What are ways you've found to make apartment living fun and more doable?

Thanks for reading my thoughts, I look forward to reading yours.


  • What I like about living small:
    I can stand in the middle of my apartment and turn in a circle and survery the state of my children and my home all at once. Whenever I visit my mom I am always losing things, b/c there are so many rooms and so many levels (2).

    I too enjoy that our junk simply cannot pile up, we must get rid of all our treasures. I like living on the third floor because I have built in exercise. If I had a house I would be cleaning constantly, not something I want to be doing all the time. And I would always be losing the baby...I already lose her in my small apt.

    But there are times when I think that the yard would be nice so that the kids could play, or a front stoop would be nice so that we could leave the house (sort of) after the kids were asleep.

    But you know me, I will probably be in an apt. for the next 15 years at least.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 8/28/2006 05:55:00 AM  

  • We did just move into a house after coveting them for a long time. The extra space is wonderful but it is a LOT more work, way more to clean that doesn't get clean, the yard work is amazing but we love it. We thought this would be a starter-home and we'd move to something bigger but I honestly can't picture moving into anything of any real size. Too much work. We look back on the condo days with fondness as we spend every weekend barely putting a dent in our yard-work. You can have good times wherever you are. Good luck and good attitude.
    posted by Anonymous daring one at 8/28/2006 08:31:00 AM  

  • DH and I moved to our tiny old NY apt after living in a 6000 sq foot home w. every ammenity our first year of marriage (not ours...we rented it from my mom who lived elsewhere by then and was trying to sell it). And you know what? I'd never go back to that house. It was SO much work. We wasted most of our Saturday trying to keep up with the house and yard. I also felt like I was living in a museum.

    Having kids in that NY apt, I often felt like maybe I wasn't giving them everything they needed to develop....probably since I had grown up in a house and had that mentality. Now that we have found a "happy medium" a 3-bed townhouse w. a small yard, I see how little having happy, well-adjusted kids has to do with the size of the space they live in....its all about your effort. Heck, 6 months in this place and a million backyard toys later, my boys still prefer the park.

    I have to say that moving into a place w. a dishwasher and washer/dryer felt like heaven. It IS easier....but easier isn't always better.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 8/28/2006 09:47:00 AM  

  • I agree that it just depends how you look at it. We lived for 4 years in a 1 bed apt while my hubby finished school and no dishwsher/garbage disp, laundry, and 1 bath. But we really did live simply and it was fine~
    I did get sick of lugging laundry up and down the stairs b/c we were on the second floor!

    I think any space is MUCH more about QUALITY than quantity. Too many suburban families get this "big house " dream in their heads and move into a humongous sprawler and then have to work night and day to afford it, let alone furnish the thing.

    I know I would much rather have smaller space filled with fewer NICE things that a huge house with lots of random stuff.

    I am in the biggest home we've ever had, and who knows,may ever have, and it IS hard. Most people wouldn't want the burden it is. But, it functions for me as a creative outlet, as I am a decorator and am constantly using my own spaces as an outlet for my creativity, and it is IMMENSELY fullfilling for me. Most people who get a tour of our house marvel at it, but then say "Oh, I don't think I would know where to start!" And unless this is their passion, it probably is NOT for them.
    I think if I did not do interior design and love it so much, or have enough $$ to pay for cleaning service, etc... I would go the high quality over high quantity environment.

    As far as being able to spread out, the big house is nice for that, and we do like having room when guests come over. The kids also have a 1000 sq ft play room upstairs in our finished attic. BUT guess what- it's still THEIR toys, and they get just as bored with them as anyone else's!

    Oh, and our kids do have to searh for a while to find me as we have 3 finished floors, but that's not always a bad thing ;) !
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 8/28/2006 10:12:00 AM  

  • I don't care what any of you say! My apartment is too freaking small and I cannot even wait to get into a house! Compact living be darned I want out!
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 8/28/2006 02:07:00 PM  

  • when we got into a house, the kids ran around the new space for a few weeks and then got bored with it. they were still bored with their toys and frequently climb around me instead of using the play room or patio as much as I'd hoped.

    But I'm sure you'll find laundry, adequate parking, and dishwasher to be all they're cracked up to be! It is so cool to load up the kids and gear in the safety of our own driveway- enabling the multiple trips I inevitably require. And maybe the baby would sleep better... maybe :)
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 8/28/2006 02:40:00 PM  

  • One good thing about apartment living is not having to do all the repairs yourself... just call the landlord!

    It's funny you post this because we are trying to get into a two bedroom aparment (yes, I covet people's homes, but I have to take it one step at a time). It seems that wherever you are there is always something MORE you want - well at least with me. We've looked at so many (expensive) apartments that I have to remind myself constantly to NOT "want want want" all the time... if only we could afford this, or that! UGH! It's exhausting to think that way. I'm just trying to keep my eye on the future, while trying to enjoy the things I have right now. I don't want to spend a lot of my time feeling unsatisfied with what I have. Besides, I don't know how I'll clean a house when I can barely find time to clean my 1 bedroom place! YIKES!

    I'm sure there are pros and cons to any living situation. Just try to find the humor in your big family/little apt. situation! Those are the stories you will tell one day when your kids are grown up and you all live in your big house.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 8/28/2006 03:19:00 PM  

  • I don't know how you fit that many people into 750 sqft! We have a 2 bed 1 bath 1050 sqft (dishwasher/washer/dryer etc . . .) and expecting our second kid I feel like it's going to be crowded.

    We're moving in a month and going to try and find a house to buy. I'm really excited about it. To have a yard. To be able to make multiple trips into the house with the groceries, or out of the house with kids and gear. But I don't know if it will be all I'm hoping for.

    I think your right about being happy where you are. Before we started this moving process I always told myself, well, when I have a house I'll keep it clean, because it will be mine. But in the last month or so I've realized that just because we buy a house isn't going to make me automatically want to do the dishes or keep up with the laundry or even vacuum once a day.

    I know it's going to be a lot of work, but I'm kind of looking forward to it. It's a new adventure, and we'll see how it goes.
    posted by Blogger Trivial Mom at 8/28/2006 04:12:00 PM  

  • I enjoyed many of the same things about our small NYC apts as others have mentioned: forced to declutter, not much to clean, landlord taking care of all problems.

    I will never miss the laundromat, trying to keep dd from stomping on the floor right above our sleeping landlord, or not having a yard.

    We rent a small house now which is a perfect transition for us. The landlord still fixes problems and a gardener is included in the rent - thank heavens! While I do wish the kids would play outside by themselves more, I enjoy having a backyard for myself. I love having a yard where I can relax, have impromtu picnics, and play with my kids. That is the thing I missed most while we were in NYC.

    There was a time when apartment living was more than okay for us and I think we made the best of it then, but it would be really hard to go back to that now.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/28/2006 04:35:00 PM  

  • Jen--Wow about the housing transitions. I do think, like you and Carrie, that a small house is a great way to get out of apartment life without overwhelming yourself.

    I've never heard how HARD keeping up a home can be. But oh, my brother and sister-in-law bought a house young and they were shocked about all the extra expenses. Garbage, water, taxes, etc. etc. That made me less jealous.

    I think we will love working in the yard. We really miss the outdoors of the great NW.

    Starfoxy--yeah! I've had that same exclamation run through me many-a-time. Hence my need to find peace with where I am since I ain't movin' yet! ;)

    Oh yeah--loading the kids in and out of the car. I didn't even GO there. We rent a space behind the houses in the alley. I have 2 dangerous corners to lug everyone around. I CAN'T WAIT to have no stairs and no corners--just a driveway. I had that in Boulder for a year in a townhouse with parking right at the end of the short sidewalk. So safe. So simple. LOVED it.

    Rachel h, can we come over and play?? :)

    Beth--I hear ya about the eternal wanting. We realized that while we were shopping around for blinds to replace our cheap curtains. (Never got any.) You can get cheap blinds, or nice blinds, or GREAT blinds. There's always a step up. Even with kitchen upgrades and all that--you can go on forever. So yeah, you have to be happy with what you have at some point.

    Trivial mom--good luck with the new baby and with your move. I hope you find a great house! I don't know how we all fit in here either. Bedrooms are definitely just for sleeping and storing toys--no room for playing in the kids room. I do feel proud of myself sometimes when I realize what I'm doing. It's really cool. Just like I feel proud when I can fly across the country with 3 kids and no husband. I am woman!

    Wow, how'd I get all riled up?
    posted by Blogger Katie at 8/28/2006 08:39:00 PM  

  • It seems to me that I'm always the last to comment. (and that I'm usually a thread-killer? Or maybe I'm just so late, nobody cares anymore...:) ).

    Well, out here in affordable housing world, things are a little different. People usually don't go from apartment/condo to houses, they go from small modest houses to are-you-freakin'-kidding-me? houses.

    We live in a modest 5 bedroom/3 bathroom home that was built in 1963 (which, unlike homes I've heard about it the East does NOT add to its charm). We have a nice walled-in backyard and a double carport, but we live on a busy street. Now most people would say that we have it pretty good (us included). I mean, we see ourselves living here for the next 50 years, raising our bazillion children. We enjoy our home and especially the neighborhood. But there are plenty of people that see our home as small. Piddle. Nothing. And compared to their homes, it really is...

    The goal for most "on the rise", becoming wealthy, having enough to build our own home people is usually this: A HUGE home with large rooms, libraries, parlors, bathrooms the size of my living room, walk-in closets (I would like one of those to be honest), quadruple car garages, huge kitchens with two ovens, new furniture, amazing patios, and a maid or three or four to go with it.

    I guess I always liked the philosophy of "moderation in all things" and try to apply it in all aspects of my life --and the housing issue works well with it, too. Why would one build a home like that for 3 or 4 people, when it can fit 19 or 20? Seems a little crazy and excessive to me...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 8/29/2006 07:59:00 AM  

  • Having gone from our 850 square foot 3-bedroom in NYC (one of those bedrooms being DH's office) to our 3,000 sf current home, I can tell you I still haven't made the transition. Yes, having the space for Max to run around in, having the yard to play in, the attached garage are all amazing. Dishwasher? Love it. Laundry? Who could ask for more.

    Cleaning 3 bathrooms? I hardly ever do it. Vaccuming? Umm.... sometimes. Mopping? Occasionally. Clutter? Yep. Crap? Everywhere. I lose Max at least once a day, and I still have a big empty room w/no furniture because I ran out of energy and $ to deal with it. All in all, I'm happy we made the move and I truly love the location and the feel of our home. I just wish sometimes that it was smaller or that it came with a cleaning service!!!! I know with time I'll fill it up, and with a little more self-discipline, maybe I'll get myself on a cleaning schedule.
    posted by Blogger marian at 8/29/2006 11:21:00 AM  

  • We just sold my "dream" home a year ago and I don't miss it. On the outside it was a cute spanish home in L.A. but on the inside it needed so much work and time. Not the ideal formula for a mom of two and her non-handy attorney husband.

    I love renting a house . The solution is a phone call away and doesn't deplete our savings.

    As for living in apartments old urban apartments, we bought a portable dishwasher for my sanity of craigslist. We also turned each or our large closets into a room. One became the baby's room and the other an office. We bought a wardrobe and were able to have a little more space. We also had a friend who built a set of bunk beds for her toddlers in a closet. It worked great and kept them from waking up the baby.
    posted by Blogger trimama at 8/29/2006 11:45:00 AM  

  • Cheryl, Libraries? Parlors? Wow! We took a trip out west and visited some friends who have families like ours. Each had a nice size (not HUGE though) brand new home with all the ammenities. I was surprised at the end of the trip how I was changing my "ideal" home. I like something unique--like the charm of these older NY homes (not 60's though!). I also, like you, don't desire the mansions. Oh, my sister in AZ said that her ward boundaries include the two types of homes you spoke of. People began in decent starter homes then "graduated" to these huge massive places. Eh, not really for me.

    Marian, love your comments. So funny. Who needs clean bathrooms anyway!?

    Tri mama and Carrie--so you don't mind renting huh? I keep hearing that buying is so smart and renting is throwing away money. So dh and I told ourselves that we have to buy next. But lately we've realized with the cost of homes we just may rent one. So you two are obviously ok with that too. I guess we just grow up hearing certain things over and over and forget to consider the alternatives.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 8/29/2006 05:33:00 PM  

  • Apartment dwelling:
    On the one hand:

    It takes an hour to clean the whole thing.

    You never lose your child, nor does he tumble down the stairs.

    Less space means cheaper furniture.

    Plumbing problems? Dude, I am SO calling the landlord.

    On the other hand:

    Cockroaches, we have cockroaches, will somebody please freak out about the cockroaches as much as I am? Oh, sorry, the next door neighbors in your building are complete and utter slobs.

    You have to walk up three flights of stairs with a baby and 12 bags of groceries because the elevator is broken.

    Laundry sucks.

    House living:
    On the one hand:

    There is no end to my joy of having a swing set in my backyard.

    There is NO end to my joy of having a garden.

    There is no end to my joy in living in a cul-de-sac where my kid can ride his bike with all the other kids around.

    A washer and dryer rocks.

    On the other hand:

    Plumbing problems? Dude, call and pay for a plumber. Or wait for your husband to fix it. Again. We've all been peeing in J's toilet for a week now.

    Oh, the people who lived here before were smokers? Have fun getting that smell out. Turns out you have to completely repaint and replace the carpet for that. Cha-ching!

    Oh, that hole in the roof from Hurricane Isabel? Yeah, ya gotta fix that, too.

    A beautiful lawn needs to be mowed. Once a week. In the humidity. Blech.

    So, there are pros and cons of each, and I have found, in all of our moves from basement trolls to real life home owners, that there is one thing that never goes away: somebody will always be living nicer than you. And getting caught up in that cycle of who has what kind of house, and what newest amenity is required in your home is, quite simply, evil. Americans are particularly bad about whining about their living conditions, no matter where we live. If you covet something somebody has now, that won't change once you get it. Somebody always has something nicer.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 8/30/2006 08:53:00 AM  

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