Did you miss part 1 of this series? I talked about 12 tricks for small-space homeschooling. Yes, you can teach in an apartment!
My attitude towards “stuff” and homeschooling has shifted pretty far since I was a student. I was homeschooled in a ranch-style house with an open-plan living area, a library and craft/school room, a fenced yard, and wilderness lands just across the street that led to a canyon overlooking the Rio Grande. It wasn’t a mansion, but we had plenty of room to work with and basically all the books.
Then I moved to the greater DC area and discovered apartment living.
Suddenly, I couldn’t buy and keep every book I ever read, or intended to read, or thought the girls might need for college someday. This was a difficult transition. Jonathan and I declared book-buying austerity measures and tried to prune. I got rid of some books in our first married condo…more, in the next apartment…then some more at the next place. You get the picture. I think Jonathan and I are finally down to about half the books we brought into our marriage (not counting newly acquired board and picture books), and we’re only just starting to buy some again. Now I actually like all the books we own.
My top ten attitude adjustments:
1. Stuff is temporary, but people are eternal. This is a precise theological position. Most of my stuff is not that special. I like it, but it’s okay to use it up, wear it out, and give it away. Some stuff is special and we will treat it carefully, OR ELSE—like the child’s rocking chair that my grandpa made out of the wooden crate my parents used when they shipped their things back from the tropics. But even the little rocker will break eventually, after a lifetime or two or three. What is eternal at my house is the people who live here. THIS IS WHY WE EDUCATE THEM. I have no patience for people who think their daughters aren’t worth educating. What, she doesn’t have a soul? (Sorry, hobby horse.)
2. I have to pick up and put away constantly. It’s what I do. I will probably have to do this for the rest of my natural life, even though I’m pretty sure cleaning is not my spiritual gift. I am not reconciled to this yet.
3. My apartment is finite. No closet goes disorganized for very long because I need that space. My girls love it when I create empty areas, and they immediately move in and take possession, usually toting a little lamp and paper and scissors with them. Then I reassess how badly I wanted that half a closet. Oh well.
4. I actually return the things I borrow, for the most part. Ahem. They cannot hide and will be returned!
5. Financial discipline is a necessary (but really useful) evil. Vacuum salesmen will never succeed if you can say no to a toddler, and saying no to a toddler is a breeze if you can say no to yourself. I’ve found “But where would I put it?” to be valuable armor against my own impulse shopping.
6. I’m a better housekeeper. No, seriously, I guarantee that I’ll do dishes today, because we’re out of counter space and spoons, and I cannot go anywhere until someone (hopefully not me) decides to wash my travel coffee mug.
7. A small house builds community. This is a little counterintuitive, but when someone invites me into their small or untidy place, it tells me that they trust me and want me underfoot, and furthermore, it reassures me that my house doesn’t have to be big, perfectly clean, or decorated by a designer. I’m still kind of insecure about this, and I don’t even want a big house until I can afford a maid and lawn-mowing boy, but the feeling is there. So I appreciate my fellow apartment dwellers and creative messy friends.
8. It’s made me a better gift-giver. I now take into account whether the recipient will want another kitty figurine, or whether they might really prefer, I don’t know, a bag of nice coffee.
9. I love a good clothes swap. I get my friends’ girls’ hand-me-downs, and they get mine. I save a few special clothes, but because of our storage shortage, I feel the freedom to pass along our not-quite-holey leggings. This took a lot of practice, people. Tiny clothes are so cute and they yell, “Keep me! Keep me!”
10. This is why you can have nice things. You can’t have everything, right? So choose the good stuff! The Anthropologie word is “curate.” I curate my house like an Anthro store, not a crowded Kohl’s, and my space is (becoming) pleasant and full of good things. There, it’s Biblical.
There are some benefits to small-space living, but most of them seem to be character and housekeeping growth on my part. I prefer Latin to scrubbing, so this is not the kind of growth I would have chosen—just like you don’t pray for patience, because you’ll definitely get opportunities to practice it! But it’s turning out pretty good.
Anybody else have great small-space stories? Share!
Photo Credit: All photos by Carolyn Bales.
 But not only with stuff from an Anthro store. That would not be budget-friendly.