One night in March, after a relentless apartment search, with the market plateaued and the only real solution left was leaving our beloved neighborhood, we met with our realtor, Steve, and signed a lease to a garden level-brownstone apartment. Our landlords were warm and welcoming, and the apartment had this old-school charm and all these weird quirks that appealed to the Brooklynite in me.
Truthfully, I had become disenchanted with all the new builds in our area, promising us an easier way of life in half the square footage. Granted, the pickings were slim considering that we were two freelancers under 30, with two kids too. Despite a few upsets and places that slipped through our fingers, this one worked in all the ways we needed it to work. It took some reframing, but such is the life of a New Yorker. We realized a few things were of great importance and some things just weren’t that important at all.
Here are 8 lessons in downsizing (or upsizing as we like to say).
1. Our children did not need separate bedrooms or even a large bedroom. They needed a space for sleeping, reading, and a bit of play.
2. We did need a good-sized living room. I was taken aback by the lack of living space in all the new builds. Emphasis was on swanky appliances and massive kitchens, and none on the living room. Which, obviously, is for living. (This also plays into number one: I realized that my children spend 90 percent of their time in the living room.)
3. I need an open style kitchen. After spending years in a little closet kitchen tucked away in our hallway, away from my children, I noticed how cooking often felt like it took me away from the kids. instead of involving them. When viewing apartments, I would first check the living room, then the kitchen. I didn’t need a dishwasher or a stainless steel fridge; I needed to see my children while I cooked. It was like I had some revelation. Cooking has been a dream these past few months!
4. Speaking of rooms, you can actually make rooms. That’s where we are in New York right now. There are actual, reputable, and amazing companies that come in and create rooms with fancy walls and windows and sliding doors. When faced with a one bedroom as large as both of our previous two bedrooms combined, we enlisted a company to make us two beautiful, functional rooms out of the one.
5. Less is more. That’s what people say, but we are truly feeling it. It felt like we’d been paring down for years; yet when it was time to pack, we still had plenty of purging to do. When moving, I highly suggest evaluating and taking stock of what you have in your space. We realized that after four years collecting stuff in one place, there was plenty we just didn’t love anymore. And if you don’t love it, leave it.
6. Layout. Layout. Layout. We don’t know the exact square footage of our current apartment in comparison to our old apartment, but it feels bigger (though we often doubt that it is). This is because of layout. An apartment doesn’t need to be large; downsizing can be upsizing with the right arrangement.
7. A backyard (or any outdoor space) is invaluable. Finding an apartment in New York City with a yard is like finding a needle in a haystack. And maybe that combination alone made our search more difficult. But I was hell bent on find outdoor space. I knew that no mater the size, if the kids and I have a space to just walk out and enjoy every morning and evening outdoors, it changes our entire city experience. I need fresh air in the morning, and having an oasis that is just mine and theirs, uninterrupted and away from the noise has become our safe haven.
8. The grass isn’t always greener. Quite literally. New York is all about appreciation and perspective, and often we can get caught up in what we think we need, and what he or she has. We don’t know how long we will be in this space, but we are learning as our kids grow, what works and what doesn’t and how important it is to step back and appreciate what is ours while we have it.
We are so happy here, cooking, creating, and dreaming in Clinton Hill. Coincidently, as the ink dried on our lease, my mother-in-law sent my this article by The New York Times, neighbors and strangers, living it up and living small.