Finding a place to rent post-divorce and post-bankruptcy with three children and a cat was nearly impossible. With my credit in shambles, no one was interested in leasing to me. My indispensable realtor finally found a guy who would consider us, though the apartment size was less than ideal.
I had no other option. Not only did I offer a much larger than usual deposit to offset my credit history, I also submitted a personal letter to the prospective landlord explaining my challenging situation and providing key financial information to prove my solid work history.
He finally agreed.
So a few weeks ago the boys, cat, and I moved from a spacious multi-level, three-bedroom home to a teeny, tiny apartment on the second floor of a house. Though it has been an adjustment for all of us, I think it is working out well. Living in tight quarters is bringing us closer together literally and figuratively and helping us to define what is important as a family. Best of all, our new home is forcing me to be a better parent, too. Here is why.
1. Recognizing what we need
In an effort to save money, I moved most of our belongings myself during my lunch hour each day over a span of a few weeks. But once we were officially in the apartment, it was quite obvious we had too much stuff and I started filling boxes again, only to deposit them on the front lawn for the taking. I realized how much unnecessary stuff we possessed. Together we began making decisions about what we really need in order to exist. I finally let go of personal items I have been clinging to like my wedding dress. I have plenty of pictures of the wedding—what I do not have is space for mementos.
2. Sharing our memories
Speaking of pictures, in our old place all of our photo albums were stored away in closets. With little room in our new place, however, I decided to make the albums accessible on shelves in what I refer to as our all-purpose room. To my surprise, the kids are having a blast regularly browsing through the albums and asking questions about my relationship with their father before they were born, as well my many adventures from years long past. The oldest child especially loves to look at the wedding album that I previously insisted must remain in the sealed box it came in over a decade ago. Some of the loved ones in those photos are already gone and others will be leaving this world soon. It makes much more sense for the kids to learn everything they can in this precious time. Who needs a pristine wedding album full of people no one remembers?
3. Being together more
Yes, we definitely have less space and privacy, but so far we are enjoying each other more than ever. Having one all-purpose room forces us to engage with each other and talk a lot more. This room is where we watch our only television, play games on our sole computer, and eat our meals together at our mini table. And since the kitchen is just a few feet away, I hear and see everything when I am cooking dinner, packing lunches, and washing dishes. Most importantly to me, there is zero chance anyone is watching or playing anything inappropriate.
4. Learning to tread lightly
Living above other tenants forces us all to be on our best behavior and to be considerate of others. We must be especially conscious of our noise. Admittedly this is a good thing for me as someone who probably yells a little bit more than I should. Living in a rental is forcing me to be more patient and a little less crazy. Who is not a better parent when outsiders are listening?
5. Starting fresh
Now that we are finally settled in our new home, I feel like I am moving forward with my life. It has been over two years since the divorce and much longer since we separated, yet living in a house that my ex and I owned jointly felt like I was in limbo. Though I have had closets bigger than my current bedroom, I love it no less. I have splashed turquoise and orange all over the room and my precious art collection fills every space on the walls. I feel at peace in my new, sacred, albeit slightly tacky space.
And finally, the best thing about living in our small abode is… drumroll please…
6. Cleaning less
I spent hours each week moving from room to room in our house cleaning. And ironically, I was often cleaning rooms that were hardly used. Now it takes me minutes to put the entire apartment back together each day. And less housework translates into more time spent doing important things with the kids or God forbid…even relaxing.
Did I ever expect to be living in such a small place with three kids and a cat at this juncture of my life? Certainly not. I am finding it surprisingly good for our family, though. Gratitude to the landlord who took a chance on three kids, a cat, and this mama.
I love our teeny, tiny new home.