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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.