It's a funny thing what we, as adults see now when we look back on our childhoods. I grew up in a lovely, but not massive three bedroom house in the South East of England. All of my childhood memories in that house, where my parents still live, involve my mum and dad working their arses off to decorate, improve, maintain and make that house a beautiful, adapted home for our needs as a family. It never felt small or anything less than perfect to me. Now, when I return as an adult, the house seems huge, the up-keep of it overwhelming and never ending. I have far more comprehension of my parent's never ending demands to keep it tidy - letting standards go for a little while results in a whole day of playing catch-up. This is, of course, because I choose to live with my two small children and husband in an apartment approximately the size of my parent's living room.
I've spoken before about why we choose to do this and, yes, one of the biggest reasons is necessity. We need to live in central Paris for work and central Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world right now. We cannot afford anything bigger. However, SINCE we've been doing this, some reasons to continue have become clear - not least to do with our children. When I was pregnant we started to think about what children really need to thrive and, although it's still very much a work in process, we came to some different conclusions.
I've written before about how we don't have a bedroom. We sleep in our living room and have given the bedroom of our apartment to the boys. For someone else who does this, check out the wonderful Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. It's been an interesting experience, mostly when having guests over but we've only really found it problematic when I need to sleep in the mornings (my husband could sleep through the apocolypse!).
Fred currently sleeps next to us in the Chicco Next to Me Co-Sleeper but as of next month will move in with Arthur and share the bedroom with him. I really really think that shared rooms are so great for kids. I shared with my eldest brother for a while and my brothers shared a room until one of them moved out at eighteen. I like the idea of them having a camaraderie and a space that's theirs away from adult life.
We try to keep the space as simple as possible, rotate the toys out and available for them and easy to keep tidy and clean.
Something that takes up alot of space but I really love is our toddler size table and chairs in the kitchen. This was such a great addition to our home when we were really struggling with Arthur needing to have one of us close by (another advantage of a small space is, let's face it, that we're always close by!). With the table in the kitchen I can cook, Fred can be in his chair and Arthur can be playing or drawing at his table and we can be spending time together whilst doing our own things.
We try to keep the living room/bedroom space toy and kid stuff free. This is firstly because there's already so much of our life jammed in there and secondly because it's where we sleep - I like it to be as calm and clutter free as possible. We keep a play mat and baby-gym in there and that's about it.
We try and keep things as accessible as possible for Arthur around the home. He can help with dinner & chop vegetables at his table or he has a step to get up to the kitchen counters. His bathroom stuff is in a cupboard at his level and he can use his step to get to the sink.
Small living is constantly forcing us to redefine what we think of as necessary space. What do we need to have a satisfying home life? I don't think that having children means that you need to immediately move into a bigger space, or that you suddenly need more storage to store all the extra stuff that traditionally comes with having children. As with all things, a little shift in thinking, a movement in the right direction is all it takes.