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Our Family Of 5 Lives In 850 Square Feet. Here's How We Organize Our Life.

Practicing a minimalist lifestyle in a two-bedroom condo has brought us closer together.

We’re a family of five living in an 850-square-foot condo in downtown Toronto. How did we get here?

Let’s begin in 2014, when my husband Kiran and I had our first child, Isha. Rather than buying a house — which would have cost us well over a $1 million and leave us living paycheque to paycheque servicing the mortgage — we opted for a smarter investment in a smaller space.

The author's family.
The author's family.

We bought a house-to-triplex conversion in Bloordale Village and took up residence in a 900-square-foot unit within. It had one bedroom, one bathroom and a shared laundry space. Our goal was to eventually convert the triplex into a single-family home when we needed it. As time passed, however, we realized that we enjoyed our compact lifestyle. A smaller unit was easy to maintain, gave us access to the city and was a short walk to restaurants, street festivals and parks.

We put off the renovation, rented out all three units in the triplex, and moved into a rented two-bedroom-plus-den condo in 2015. We had our second child, Kian, the next year. We adapted by turning the den into a nursery, but by then things were starting to feel a little cramped.

“The positives outweigh the negatives for our chosen lifestyle.”

That’s when Kiran came across “Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things on Netflix. It had an immediate and profound impact on us. We didn’t need more space — we needed less stuff. We started by purging old textbooks, garbage bags full of clothing, random kitchen gadgets and shoes. Little by little, the space opened up.

In 2018, when our third child, Josh, was born, we felt confident we didn’t need a bigger place to call home. Make no mistake — it’s definitely cozy in here — but the positives outweigh the negatives for our chosen lifestyle.

And you know what? After a full year as a family of five, we’re still not yearning for more floor space. Here are some ways we keep things organized and clutter-free.

Furniture and decor

We found it essential to avoid bulky furniture like a coffee table, wide shelving units or a three-piece sofa set. Instead, we went for condo-sized furniture found at stores like IKEA, BLVD Interiors and CB2.

Tall, narrow shelving units maximize storage space.
Tall, narrow shelving units maximize storage space.

Throughout the condo, we have pieces that stow easily — folding chairs hung behind bedroom doors, a large table with wheels that folds away — and don’t have a dedicated dining table, freeing up floor space.

As for decor, we try to keep things as simple as possible. We don’t have many decorative pieces and very few photographs. Using neutral colours helps the space look less cluttered.

Organization and storage

The crib, our beds and couch have storage spaces beneath them, fitting slim containers containing diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, baby wipes and travel essentials. Our ceilings hit 8.5 feet throughout, so we took advantage of this with tall, narrow shelving units and cabinets.

Slim organizers fit into storage spaces beneath most furniture.
Slim organizers fit into storage spaces beneath most furniture.

The back of every door in the condo also has some kind of over-the-door organizer to store things like our ironing table, cloth diapers, shoes and miscellaneous cords and chargers.

Every closet, storage cabinet, pantry and shelf contains clear containers, labelled baskets and bins for things like craft supplies, hats, tools, baby items, dry goods, shoes, toys, disposable plates, cups and cutlery.

Clothing and closets

In order for everything to fit in our closets, we created capsule wardrobes for each family member. Most of our clothing is basic and neutral, and can easily be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. We each have approximately 40 to 50 pieces of clothing and we’re working on reducing that number.

Clothing is organized to be easily mixed and matched.
Clothing is organized to be easily mixed and matched.

In the kids’ shared bedroom, we added a second rod to maximize their closet space and added labelled clothing dividers to give each garment a home. Our master bedroom is approximately 200 square feet, and a regular-sized dresser or chest of drawers would not fit. Instead, we repurposed slim shoe storage organizers to store clothing.

Morning routine and bathroom situation

The key to avoiding hectic mornings: two bathrooms. One has a shower and the other has a bathtub. Around 5:30 a.m., Kiran and I take our showers and prepare for the day before the kids are awake. We give our kids baths in the evening.

When the little ones do wake up, they take turns brushing their teeth in the master bedroom’s ensuite bathroom. They still need our help, so while one parent helps one child brush, the other parent helps the other child dress.

A hanging high chair is one less piece of furniture.
A hanging high chair is one less piece of furniture.

Meanwhile, Baby Josh is usually happily eating away in his hook-on high chair.

Saving and spending money

The great thing about living a more minimalist lifestyle is that you’ll waste less money on things that you don’t really need. We estimate we save approximately $300 to $500 a month on things like shoes, clothes and gadgets.

That said, we still spend a lot of money, we just choose to spend it differently. We gravitate toward experiences like vacations, restaurants and activities with the kids.

Even the bed has storage space underneath.
Even the bed has storage space underneath.

We’re also able to afford services that make our lives a lot easier. During my maternity leave, we were able to put Kian in full-time daycare. Daycare costs in Toronto range into the thousands every month, depending on a child’s age. We also have a housekeeper that helps us with laundry, cleaning and meal prep three evenings every week.

With a smaller mortgage compared to a full-sized Toronto house, we have been able to put our money to work for us. We now own several income properties.

The downsides

Since our children are still small and always want to be around us, they’re not craving their own space — yet. However, as they get older, I’m sure they’ll want more privacy.

Organization is a constant, but fun, battle.
Organization is a constant, but fun, battle.

The limited space means you have to consistently dedicate time to decluttering, and you have to be very organized in order to live comfortably. Luckily, I actually enjoy simplifying and organizing, and I’ve been able to apply these skills to Tiny and Tidy, where I teach others how to declutter their homes and get organized.

Lastly, we don’t have a large foyer or mudroom. When we’re all heading out the door in the morning, it can get a bit cramped when trying to put on our shoes and jackets at the same time.

We truly believe that our lifestyle has brought us closer together, allowing us to play and interact with each other more — if only because we can’t really escape one another.

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