Big City, Small Living: Thriving in a Minimalist Space
With careful consideration, urban condo living can work for anyone.
Making the most of a small, urban living space is all about great organization. From innovative storage solutions to dual-purpose furniture, you need to be thoughtful about every inch of space.
Now imagine you have five children. Do you give up all of the walkability and highly desirable amenities that come with city living and move to the ‘burbs? Or do you eschew the idea entirely and adapt to the Vancouver real estate market?
What if we told you that modern families are doing just that? Adrian Crook, single father of five and author of the blog 5 Kids 1 Condo, spoke to us about some of the ways he makes 1,000 square feet work for six people.
Looking around a modern condo, it may be difficult to imagine keeping it well-organized. Modern living has become synonymous with the accumulation of objects, and while it’s tempting to invest in sleek storage units, professional organizers like Marie Kondo (author of the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) are encouraging us to reconsider holding onto extra things.
This mantra matches how Crook lives. “I think it probably takes more critical analysis on a regular basis,” says Crook, “When we had a house in North Van, we only owned it for a few years, but it filled up very quickly to the point where you’re lining your shed or your garage with stuff that you never even really use.”
While it’s certainly easier to ignore the accumulation of superfluous stuff in a house than a condo, small spaces aren’t impervious. “You’re constantly having to re-evaluate something’s utility,” admits Crook, “whether it’s a toy that kids don’t play with anymore and it should be donated, or if it’s an appliance sitting on the counter and taking up valuable space.”
If you’re constantly taking stock of what you have rather than simply putting it away, then you’re only left with the task of keeping things organized. “It’s about being efficient about things that aren’t used 24 hours a day and don’t need to remain in one physical spot,” says Crook.
Using the City as Part of Your Home
With minimal square footage at home, the city becomes a big part of your day-to-day life—and the Crook family takes full advantage of this. Car-share memberships with companies such as Evo, transit passes and bicycles replace the need for a minivan.
The Vancouver Public Library provides a change of environment for the kids to read or play their video games. And even though their condo doesn’t allow pets, Part Time Pooch—a local service that pairs dogs that need to be walked with dog-less city folks—helps fill the space left by not having a family pet.
“Outside of North America, what we are doing in this condo is the norm, and people don’t think it’s bizarre to raise even multiple generations, beyond just kids and the parents, in a single condo,” he says.
Tips and Tricks
When asked what advice he would share based on years of successfully sharing roughly 1,000 square feet with his five kids, Crook advises seeking out “transferrable furniture and just keeping clutter to a minimum.”
Another key tip involves “reusing certain spaces for separate day and night purposes,” says Crook, referring to spaces like his bedroom, which doubles as an office thanks to a Murphy bed/desk. And finally, “prioritizing the living room as the big open space, versus bedrooms being smaller spaces.”
This thoughtfulness also extends to protecting your condo against unforeseen issues, such as the cost of repairs and replacing stolen, water- or fire-damaged items. In British Columbia, many condo stratas have insurance policies that cover the building—including the common areas, or liability claims against the strata—but not the owners and their property.
With condo-specific insurance plans from BCAA, you can protect your belongings, insure any improvements you’ve made to the unit and rest assured knowing that your condo is covered while you’re out enjoying everything Vancouver has to offer.
By making use of space-saving storage solutions, protecting your assets, getting outside and taking advantage of the city’s amenities, it’s possible to not only live, but thrive in a small urban space. With condos and townhomes quickly replacing traditional detached homes in many major cities, it’s worth considering how you and your family could make this minimalist lifestyle work.