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apartment living with children?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
DH and I are working at becoming debt free within 5-10 years and are going to be selling our house in order to help us reach our goal, but aren't sure what the next step for us should be. We are debating between buying a house in a small town within 1 hr commuting distance to his work, or getting a small place near his work so we can sell one or both of our vehicles (which both have loans on them).

We have 2 children, 11mo & 2.5 years, and will have more when we have more. Anywhooo... after seeing the small house thread, and the one about the tiny apartment (by Divine, I think?) & her inspiring photos, I'm really wondering if that could be an option with 2+ children, and if it would be worth it to consider buying a relatively small 2-3 bedroom apartment for the next 5ish years. We have a girl & a boy so may not want them sharing a room if we stay for long...or have more kids. And we only co-sleep with the youngest until the next comes along.

I'd love to hear from others who live in an apartment with children. Do you like it? Would you chose it over a house if it is financially the smartest thing to do? How do you make sure they get enough outdoor time if you live in a 4 seasons climate with long winters (Calgary, AB)?

We currently have a 4 level split with a huge (high maintenance yard) and I've got 3 raised gardens. I'd miss gardening!

We're doing major decluttering but know we'd have a long ways to go before moving into a small place. I love the concept of a cozy tiny place that we can't fill with clutter, but don't know what the reality of apartment living with kids would be like since we haven't lived in one since we were DINKS.

Thanks all!
Shellie
post #2 of 25

I've Done It

We lived in an apartment for a short time. We had three children when we did it. They were 5, 3.5 and 1.

We were in a large complex and I did not like that the parking was in an underground garage so far from the apartment. It was difficult to negotiate loading and unloading the car without leaving children alone, particularly if some or all of the kids had fallen asleep in the car. I would not choose an apartment like that again.

I would definitely find a place that had laundry in the apartment. That makes things a lot easier. We had a washer and dryer off our kitchen when we were in the apartment and I really appreciated it.

DH and I are pretty anti-commute. We are car free now. We live a ten minute walk from DH's work. I would definitely opt for the downsized living and reduced commute option! I would not trade the time and money it saves for the extra living space.

We lived for a year in a suburban house with a huge yard. It was close to DH's work, but maintaining the yard was a pain. Although we've had very limited outdoor space living in cities, the kids are fine.

Our kids liked the balcony in the apartment and enjoyed the common space that the apartment complex had. When we had a townhouse our yard was about 18 x 22 feet and our kids were just as happy there as with the giant yard DH had to mow at the house. If you're in an apartment I would just make sure you had some place to go and play nearby... like a shared area or a park.

DH and I grew up in a town where it was scandalous to make a child live in an apartment or a condo. The rate home ownership was well over 80%. It was a bit of an epiphany for us that decent people with healthy children lived in apartments.

When you have a number of kids in a small space you certainly need to be mindful of the amount of stuff you have, but I actually think that it a good thing.
post #3 of 25
We lived in an appartment from the time DD1 was born until she was 2yrs. We were very mindful of the amount of toys she had. Toys were rotated in a rubbermaid tote, one tote out of toys the other up on the top shelf of her closet, every few weeks rotate. It made life easy and old toys seem "new".

Her clothing was also an issue as we were given hand-me-downs and also wanted to keep any clothing she out grew for future children. I kept current clothing out and other clothing in vaccume "space" bags. They fit under our master bed.


---I have more to add but DH just got home from work.
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
I think financially it could be really worth it for us, even after maintenance fees, also we think the challenge of living that minimally could be fun (or hell.. Haha!), and my dh LOVEs the idea of not having a big house and yard to Reno & maintain... But no yard at all is a hard thing to imagine for our kids. At 2.5 my ds can play in our yard while I do laundry by the back door and I'll miss that, and he might miss having a yard too. How do you keep your energetic toddlers happy in a tiny space with no yard? And keep your sanity? I guess I'll be able to spend more time out with them since I won't have to be inside cleaning every day.
post #5 of 25
post #6 of 25
We are living in an apartment, for now it is helping us meet financial goals, but it's not where I want to stay for the rest of my life. That about sums it up.

Part of its affordability is that we compared cost per square foot between apartments. We needed lower cost and more space (not minimalists), and didn't need brand-new carpeting or fancy finishes. So now we have over 1200 square feet of someone else's crappy beige carpet for our children to potty train on.

You might check to see if there are any community garden spaces around where you're thinking of living.

If you're going to keep having children, you probably should look for a three bedroom apartment. Some places limit the number of people per bedroom to about 2, give or take a newborn.
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses. We would only be considering a condo/apartment because it would help meet our financial goals. Although my husband also likes the fact that he'd have to put less time into keeping it up than he does in a house.

We think we'd rent first to see if we are ok in that small of a space, and if so we'd look at buying. We've lived in small spaces before but that was pre-children (although once we were in a tiny basement suite with 3 adults, 3 dogs & a bunch of cats....I'd never do that again!).

The house we've owned for about 6 years now is a 1700 sf four level split with a huge front and back yard, and a detached 2 car garage. The square footage doesn't include the basement and may not include the walk out level...we're not sure on that. We NEED to downsize. I'll miss the sunniness of the place though, with vaulted ceilings and white walls it's quite bright and airy.

I'm ok without a garden, but I'd love to grow greens in a window box if that's a possibility in where we end up. We realized that we could look at a condo type unit that is on the ground floor that leads out to green space. That would help a lot for raising kids, I think, even though it won't be our own yard.

I'm loving everyones comments....please keep them coming if anyone else can give advice!!!
post #8 of 25
I don't know what your town is like size wise but I have lived in 3 apts with one child from the age of 3 to 6. I only lived in 4 plexs. It just happened that way but it was wonderful. They all had yard we could use as our own as far as playing goes and they all had a garage for storage and such.

I agree that laundry in your apt is a must with kids! I only had one place where I had to pay for laundry and I hated it. I loved living in apartments but for some dumb reason it is more socially acceptable to have a house when you have kids and I followed the crowd and bought.

Have fun in your money saving adventure! I would love to go back to the simple life of apt living!
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShellieC View Post

I'm ok without a garden, but I'd love to grow greens in a window box if that's a possibility in where we end up. We realized that we could look at a condo type unit that is on the ground floor that leads out to green space. That would help a lot for raising kids, I think, even though it won't be our own yard.

I'm loving everyones comments....please keep them coming if anyone else can give advice!!!
Try to find a condo with a couple of south facing windows. I can grow quite a lot on mine.

The ground floor unit is a very very good idea - the sound of toddlers running about overhead can cause a lot of problems with neighbors.

The drawback is that, at least around here, three bedroom condos/apartments are like hen's teeth - very scarce indeed. If you can find one, go for it!
post #10 of 25
We sold our big 2000+ sqft 4/2 house and downsized to a 2/2 second floor apartment. We have a soon-to-be 4 year old and a small elderly dog. We downsized to get out our house and to be debt-free. We plan on buying our forever home sometime in the next 5-6 years after DH retires from the military (not in this town though). We live in the Southern U.S., so while not cold, there are a good 6-7 months out of the year that it is really hot and not comfortable to be outside, Hot and humid and buggy! We have a 2 bed/2 bath, 1100-1200 sq ft, we also rent a small garage to hold our boat (row), bikes, etc.

My thoughts:

Cons:

Getting groceries upstairs by myself is tough, esp if dd falls asleep in the car. We live on the second floor because we wanted the "sun room" model and it only comes on the second floor.

Sounds/Smells:
We often hear our neighbors and they often hear us. I can smell the cigarette inside my house from the people downstairs who smoke on their porch. My next door neighbor smokes in his balcony and I can smell it drift in the front door when he's out there. I am constantly worried about the dog barking when I leave the house, or dd stomping/jumping/running around the house (the lady who lives below us works night shift ) I limit the amount of children who can come visit because of the noise issue.

Control over pesticides:
We have no control over the amount of pesticides and what not they spray all over the outside of the apartments. Who knows what they sprayed in here before we moved in.

Carpet:
Apartment carpet sucks, it's gross and does not stay clean.

Kids/Playmates:
There are not as many kids for dd to play with in an apt complex. Most of the people who live here are childless.

Dog:
Walking the dog at night, when dh is at work and dd is sleeping. Worried about dog barking too.


PROS:

We have a swimming pool to use and this is how we cope with the heat in the hot months. We utilize the pool for the bulk of our "outdoors" time in the hot season. This was the NUMBER 1 reason we chose an apartment rather than rent a small house.

We don't have to mow a lawn or maintain the property. But then this has its drawbacks (pesticides, etc.)

We're saving a lot of money, more than if we had stayed in our house. This is by far the biggest motivator to put up with all the cons.

We keep clutter and "stuff" to a minimum here.


Advice:

Get a ground floor apartment, have in-house laundry, have a park/trails close by. Have a plan for getting sleeping kids indoors along w/bags of groceries ,etc.
post #11 of 25
DS and I just moved from a three bedroom house with a huge yard, and into a two-bedroom downtown apartment.
I LOVE it. Seriously, I'm so happy I made this move.
The house was in a small town where I was working, so it made sense at the time. I'm headed to grad school this month, and I though about commuting in (the drive can be one hour in rush hour, which is basically when I'd be commuting). So I could spend 10 hours per week in a car in order for DS to have a yard, or I could go for a central apartment.
I agonized for a while about whether or not it would be good for DS to be in an apartment, and I started a couple of threads about it and got really great responses. I'll try to dig them up for you. (ETA: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...1211057&page=2)
I think for me, the clincher was realizing that commuting makes people really, really miserable. Here's a great article about it: http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/03/commuting.php
"A person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office."
DS and I found a great little affordable, central apartment, and the bike ride from home to his daycare to my grad school is less than 10 minutes. It's just great. And the best part is the apartment that I found. It's super cute and it's built with all the apartments facing on to this wonderfully maintained, grassy courtyard, with a patio area and barbecue grill. So DS still has this great yard to play in.
Also, I have come to realize that I despise home and yard maintenance. It's just not in my personality. Seriously, it makes me really unhappy. I love knowing that if something breaks, I can call the apartment manager and it'll get fixed. I love that my utility bills and going to be about one quarter of what they used to be. I love that somebody else keeps the yard beautiful. And I have some really pretty potted plants, which is about all I want to take care of.
Oh, and I also really enjoy being in the city center, with access to all that it entails. And it's great for DS too -- there's the children's museum (free every wednesday night), there's a ton of amazing parks and pools, all kinds of fun stuff. I enjoyed three years of living in a small town well enough, but I like living in the city a lot better.
As far as actual tips go, I would say:
--The complex really should have an on-site laundry. Ideally the unit would have washer/dryer connections, though I know that is really rare in some regions.
--It's really great if it has outdoor common spaces. Again, I know this varies by region. Super common here in hot Texas, where all the apartments open into the outdoors, less common up north, where the apartments face indoors into hallways. If you can't find one with common areas, look for one within a five or ten minute walk to a park.
--With young kids, I think bottom floor is best, unless you're right in the urban core and it looks onto a super busy street. It's a lot easier knowing there's no neighbor below us to get cranky if DS is jumping off the furniture.
--Trust your gut about whether or not the place feels safe. Ideally, check it out during the nighttime as well as the daytime.
--Make sure you're not in an urban desert, surrounded by big streets that you can't safely cross. Prioritize a complex that is walkable to things that you need everyday, like shopping, parks, coffeeshops, what have you.
--Splurge on some pretty planters. You can grow a lot that way.
--Look for one with designated parking one site or very close. Again, varies by region, but it's a big plus having a parking spot close to your door.
--As you're selecting a complex, keep an eye on how much storage space it has. Some have tons of closets, some don't.
--And I would say, finally, look for an apartment that you like. Some apartments are nasty, dark, ugly little holes. Some are really great spaces. It's worth a little bit of money to find a space that makes you happy. My apartment is really pretty and homey and full of sunlight. It doesn't feel at all like a sacrifice to live here.

Anyway, good luck, and I bet your kids will be happier with an extra ten hours of daddy a week, rather than barely seeing a guy who walks in totally frustrated after an hour long commute.
post #12 of 25
Great post MamaJen!
post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the great posts, everyone, and for the link MamaJen. It was very helpful to read and I saw another Calgary AB poster in there.
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShellieC View Post
I think financially it could be really worth it for us, even after maintenance fees, also we think the challenge of living that minimally could be fun (or hell.. Haha!), and my dh LOVEs the idea of not having a big house and yard to Reno & maintain... But no yard at all is a hard thing to imagine for our kids. At 2.5 my ds can play in our yard while I do laundry by the back door and I'll miss that, and he might miss having a yard too. How do you keep your energetic toddlers happy in a tiny space with no yard? And keep your sanity? I guess I'll be able to spend more time out with them since I won't have to be inside cleaning every day.
We live in a two bedroom apartment with my 2.5 year old and I'm due with my second anytime now. We would LOVE a place with a small yard, but this Vancouver so the cost is astronomical. What works for me is going out every morning. We walk to the park to play or go to the library story time, etc. Rain or shine there's outdoor play time every day. Afternoons are naptime/quiet time. Now that it's summer and light out we'll often go out and play in the courtyard of our building after nap. We live in a really kid-friendly co-op so there's often other kids around. In the winter we'll often stay in and listen to music, play, or visit a neighbor before getting dinner ready -- if there's time.

I find it essential for out sanity to have a routine that gets us out of the apartment every day. It's just too small to be in here all the time. The up side is that we live in a vibrant neighborhood with tons of activities within walking distance. As much as I would love a house with a yard, I wouldn't leave my neighborhood to get it!
post #15 of 25
my husband, ds and i live in a one-bedroom apartment here in wellington, nz. we live just off a little green space (that is rather shabby), and our apartment (which is part of an old house) has a tiny hard (east facing mostly--so in the shade from 2 on in the winter and 5 on in the summer).

our kitchen is actually very large, and so we will be putting in an herb planter in front of the window where i can have a tiny garden and grow a few herbs. i'm excited about it. it's a north facing window, so we get sun in there all day until it goes behind the hill (which is about 20-30 minutes before it goes down.

we use the little yard a bit (for compost currently, though i plan on clearing it and planting it out this spring, perhaps just using more pallet-hacked planters! LOL), and the garden and footpaths around it frequently (DS likes to go with DH on his "hawk walks!" which is when they explore that area), and we go to playgroups/dates twice a week, and to the park at least twice a week, and to an open space for a hike once a week (unless we are zonked, in which case we go to the park again, where DS runs around and we sit and watch). if we are really zonked and the weather is particularly yucky, we go to a cool place that is cafe for parents and indoor play area for kiddos. yeah, seriously, very nice.

here are the great things about (renting) an apartment:

1. if you keep it simple, it is simply to keep clean (that is, minimize your stuff);

2. it is very low maintenance, because if anything breaks or we have any problems (including with our neighbors) we tell the landlord and he deals with it right away, no extra cost to us;

3. the price of renting and utilities is considerably lower than owning, so we can live comfortably, well within our means, and definitely get out of debt (i have school loans, and that is our remaining debt);

4. it's comfortable and cozy, so we definitely have closeness;

5. we can be car free, and our commute to work is a 7 minute walk (if you can be close to where your DH works, you might be able to consolidate to one, decent used car, in which case you have one for travel/etc, if you want one).

there are probably others, but i can't think of them off the top of my head.

it's worth a try for a bit--try three months in a rental, see if you like it, and then you can move on if you don't.
post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by marimara View Post
We sold our big 2000+ sqft 4/2 house and downsized to a 2/2 second floor apartment. We have a soon-to-be 4 year old and a small elderly dog. We downsized to get out our house and to be debt-free. We plan on buying our forever home sometime in the next 5-6 years after DH retires from the military (not in this town though). We live in the Southern U.S., so while not cold, there are a good 6-7 months out of the year that it is really hot and not comfortable to be outside, Hot and humid and buggy! We have a 2 bed/2 bath, 1100-1200 sq ft, we also rent a small garage to hold our boat (row), bikes, etc.

My thoughts:

Cons:

Getting groceries upstairs by myself is tough, esp if dd falls asleep in the car. We live on the second floor because we wanted the "sun room" model and it only comes on the second floor.

Sounds/Smells:
We often hear our neighbors and they often hear us. I can smell the cigarette inside my house from the people downstairs who smoke on their porch. My next door neighbor smokes in his balcony and I can smell it drift in the front door when he's out there. I am constantly worried about the dog barking when I leave the house, or dd stomping/jumping/running around the house (the lady who lives below us works night shift ) I limit the amount of children who can come visit because of the noise issue.

Control over pesticides:
We have no control over the amount of pesticides and what not they spray all over the outside of the apartments. Who knows what they sprayed in here before we moved in.

Carpet:
Apartment carpet sucks, it's gross and does not stay clean.

Kids/Playmates:
There are not as many kids for dd to play with in an apt complex. Most of the people who live here are childless.

Dog:
Walking the dog at night, when dh is at work and dd is sleeping. Worried about dog barking too.


PROS:

We have a swimming pool to use and this is how we cope with the heat in the hot months. We utilize the pool for the bulk of our "outdoors" time in the hot season. This was the NUMBER 1 reason we chose an apartment rather than rent a small house.

We don't have to mow a lawn or maintain the property. But then this has its drawbacks (pesticides, etc.)

We're saving a lot of money, more than if we had stayed in our house. This is by far the biggest motivator to put up with all the cons.

We keep clutter and "stuff" to a minimum here.


Advice:

Get a ground floor apartment, have in-house laundry, have a park/trails close by. Have a plan for getting sleeping kids indoors along w/bags of groceries ,etc.



agreed. we just downsized from a 3/2 w/ a 2 car garage, huge yard, tons of utilities etc. we are in a 1/1 now with our two kids. we got a ground floor, live right off a green belt/next to a park, have laundry etc. the only thing that sucks is the parking situation. we are a bit far but it is fine since we did great on everything else.
post #17 of 25
Reading all of this makes me feel so much better! My family and I two girls ages 5 and 12 need to move into an apartment. It makes me very upset, but we have no choice at this time. I am so glad I read this, and I now know that there are other families going through what my Husband and I are going through!
post #18 of 25
We live in a one-bedroom apartment with our baby. Our main reason for choosing an apartment is financial, but we love that apartments are also so environmentally friendly. And we think that living in an apartment, rather than a house, dramatically reduces our stress and increases our free time.
post #19 of 25
Totally doable and not the worse way to live as a family.
I have to agree with the others about the first floor apartment. I had stairs with my newborn and every trip out of the house was hellish. Balancing groceries, baby bag, baby....Oy! Never want to do that again.
Also the laundry in the apartment, well that is really nice.

My other complaint is loud neighbors. I am not super confrontational so I usually end up just fuming with anger for the college dude down below who plays his music way to loud after 10.
I also was pretty concerned about keeping my baby quiet. However, if you had a first floor this might not be as much of an issue.

Someone mentioned pesticide control. Yeah, not being able to control that stinks. As well as bugs. Lots of people and no one controlling cleanliness equals bugs. Even though they ( apt community) spray for them like crazy.

The pool and gym is a great plus if you can find a place that has this. I always feel very safe in an apartment, compared to a house.

Good luck mama!
post #20 of 25
Very doable.
I lived in a 1br with my dd and dh till dd was 4.5 yrs then Lived in 2br till dd was 10yrs.
Lived in 2br for 6m with 2 kids.
Should be moving over seas where apartments will be out main option.

Oldest dd and I wish we were back in an apartment.

Wanted to add, living in a house doesn't get you away from noisy neighbors or even the stink of pesticides
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