10 Purchases to Make Condo Kid Life Easy

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a bit of a minimalist. It’s this sense of minimalism that might make you think I’ve been robbed if you come over and check out my place. But despite my minimalism, I still hanker for the odd physical item. So I’ve put together a short list of some of the items I found to be most helpful in navigating condo life with a big family.

These are items that help me scale or help me make multiple uses out of the same space. They’re also items that motivate kids to do things they might not otherwise do, like clean, or save me from having to repeatedly encourage kids to do something they never seem to do on their own.

Hopefully you’ll find this list as useful as I found these things on it. These aren’t referral or affiliate links I’m not getting paid to post this I just wanted to pass along some stuff I found helpful in the hopes that they help others.

Convertible bed
I’ve written about our beds a lot – whether it’s the Murphy bed / desk combo in my bedroom that lets me work when not sleeping, or the girls’ bunk bed that converts to a desk on the bottom to give them a place to study during the day. In small spaces, bedrooms that convert to multiple uses are key and furniture like Murphy Beds and convertible bunks enable that.

The lower bunk on the girls' bed converts to a table and bench combo during the day.

The lower bunk on the girls’ bed converts to a table and bench combo during the day.

Headphones
Headphones can be for you or they can be for kids, but whoever they’re for, the benefit is felt by all the other residents of the condo just as much as they benefit the listener. They can be wired in the case of kids where you probably don’t want to get to high-tech lest they just ruin it. Or they can be a nice pair of Bose wireless headphones that you use to listen to a show while roaming the kitchen preparing dinner.

Rolling Cart
You might not have seen this one before because I haven’t posted it on the blog. I bought a 2×2 IKEA book case and drilled casters onto the bottom. Then I put a pretty sweet 40″ TV, Bose Sound Base and Playstation 4 on it. The result is a rolling a AV cart, not unlike what you used to have in your elementary school, but way better.

So at night after the kids are done playing games on the cart in their room, I wheel it into my room and binge watch Netflix in bed. This means one TV setup can do double duty saving, me floor space and giving us the flexibility to move it to the area where it’s most needed.

This cart is topped by a pretty sizeable TV and a great sounding Bose sound base. Games and movies are amazing on it.

This cart is topped by a pretty sizeable TV and a great sounding Bose sound base. Games and movies are amazing on it.

Bedroom Door Lock
Depending on how active your sex life is this may not be as necessary as I think it is, but being able to lock your bedroom door is pretty darn important to most adults.

USB Charging Hub
We’ve set up a hub in our kitchen that amalgamates all the devices that require charging into one small area. A five-port USB charger is part of why we can pack so many devices in to a small area. At last count, we had four computers, five phones and two tablets in an area not much bigger than 1′ x 1′ x 1′.

Benches
Benches are a great form of scalable seating. Kids can also climb into a bench from behind without having to pull it out (no chair-scraping-on-floor sound!), or without having to ask others at the table to move. You can cram three kids on a bench, two kids and an adult, two adults and two kids – it accepts all sorts of configurations that simple chairs wouldn’t.

Lots of kids and an adult, crammed around the table thanks to benches.

Lots of kids and an adult, crammed around the table thanks to benches.

Oversized Cleaning “Toothbrush”
Making cleaning fun is something I frequently strive for, so that asking my kids to do chores is less of a chore to me. Whether it’s a Nifty Nabber to encourage kids to pick up garbage while we were walking around the city, or this item – an oversized electric cleaning brush that lets my kids clean the grout and tile in the bathrooms. Its inevitable that one of them will want to do this every time I break it out.

Weekly Planner Whiteboard
I use a days of the week whiteboard mounted in our hallway to write up all the things were going to be doing as a family in the week. This lets the kids – at least the ones who can read – to get a good overview of what’s coming up. Most helpfully, it prevents a lot of those, “What are we doing today?” questions that I got asked a lot before I bought this. Kids don’t have calendars like we do, so without this they have little idea what’s in store for them, day-to-day.

The green glass dry erase board on the left (between the whiteboard and corkboard) is in the hallway - a high viz area to put weekly plans in.

The green glass dry erase board on the left (between the whiteboard and corkboard) is in the hallway – a high viz area to put weekly plans in.

Self-Closing Door Hinges
“Close the door!” was something I yelled a lot before I bought these. The kids would play in their rooms, running in and out, and invariably leave their doors open. If we were trying to have an adult conversation the living room, the result was a lot of noise pollution. These $15 hinges bought from a local hardware store automatically spring-close a door, gently enough that nobody gets hurt in the process, but forcefully enough to keep all the noise trapped inside.

If I knew then what I know now about how valuable these hinges have been, I would easily have paid $500 each for them.

Hand Vac
Hand vacuum cleaners are another one of those things that make cleaning fun. They’re small enough to be used by kids as young as two years old. Which means that pretty much every one of our kids can be assigned the duty of cleaning up the Cheerios from from under the table after breakfast. My kids still have fun using this hand vac, and it’s a lot easier for them to drag this small guy out to vacuum popcorn kernels off their bedroom carpet, rather than lugging the full size vacuum cleaner around every single time.

Give the hand vac to a small kid so they can get to those hard-to-reach places!

Give the hand vac to a small kid so they can get to those hard-to-reach places!

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Adrian Crook is a father of five living in beautiful downtown Vancouver, Canada. When he's not mobbed by his brood, he runs a successful videogame design consulting business.
  • David

    Thanks for sharing your experience here. I’m in a similar situation albeit with 2 kids. Where did you buy the Murphy bed / desk combo?

    • Bought it from a local place, Instant Bedrooms, here in Yaletown.

  • Jordan St.Germaine

    That’s a really nice Article. Well done!

  • Aileen d’Entremont Mauro

    4 kids, 2 adults, a dog and a cat here in a 1,200 square foot home. We’re in the midst of changing everything around so everyone has a small space of their own. You’ve helped renewed my hope that we can do this. :D

    • Holy! Well done! You must be making great use of your space. I’d love to see some photos.

      • Aileen d’Entremont Mauro

        Will do!

  • LinePainter

    This is the way urban families should be living, not only for sustainability, but to increase the vitality and vibrancy of cities. Also, I would imagine that such families become more cohesive and co-operative, two traits that help society function. This is a wonderful example and a lovely story!

  • Law Abiding Citizen

    You and your family are really living like a Royal Family you are…..
    Keep it up Adrian

  • Mac

    Have you thought of a projector for your room? You can mount it on the ceiling, use the wall as a screen and they come with their own speaker. There are even LED ones now that barely use any power.

    • Thought about it, but not sure it would work as well. Half the opposing wall (from my bed) is a window, so I’d need a screen to go with it. Begins to get a little too custom for a renter.