Apartment Living with Kids: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Some Background

Good news… we moved to Atlanta last year and are loving our newly adopted city! That’s very true, but the full story is that the move was at times rocky and required serious change management. The biggest change by far has been the move from living in a traditional single-family home in the ‘burbs to a high rise apartment building in the city center.

When we couldn’t find a house before our move date, we agreed that moving into an apartment rental and continuing our home search was the best move. I’m a suburban girl through and through, so I I had some questions about what life in an apartment would be like with two young kids. Would the baby’s crying bother the neighbors? How would I get eight bags of groceries from the parking garage to our apartment while toting a toddler? Would my kids try jumping from the balcony????

Like any good mama with questions, I turned to Google. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find the article I was looking for. You know, the one that would give the good, the bad and the ugly of apartment living with young kids?  Since it wasn’t out there, I vowed if I ever launched this blog, it would be one of the first posts I write. So here goes….

The good news is that that I love apartment living and it seems to be working well for our entire family. We’ve downsized and simplified. My husband has always been pretty minimalist, but this lifestyle really agrees with me too. Plus, our weekends are no longer filled with house maintenance chores so we spend more time together as a family just hanging out. Below is a lot more detail on what changed for us and things that I would have loved to know before making the move to an apartment.

The Good of Apartment Living

Forced Downsizing

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of minimalist living for a long time. I’ve read seemingly every book and blog on the topic. My husband and I are both super-organized, but it still felt like we had too much stuff. Moving into a much smaller space meant we had to pare down our belongings A LOT more. So I eagerly traded cabinets full of dishes for exactly 12 plates, 6 bowls, 12 glasses, 6 mugs, and one set of silverware. We now have a fraction of the stuff and it’s GREAT! We could still stand to lean out a few things, but on the whole, I feel freer and lighter.

Worry-free Repairs and Low Maintenance

Less square footage means less to clean and a rental means little to maintain. Now, when something breaks, I put in a handy maintenance request and it’s fixed within 24 hours. Leaking fridge or broken door handle? No problem – call maintenance. Even better, I don’t even have to be home for them to make a repair. With a house, there was always more maintenance to think about. Between leaf removal, gutter cleaning, chimney sweeping, pest prevention, frozen pipes in the winter and gardening in the spring, the list of stuff to do seemed endless. I’m not complaining and I’ll gladly move into another house, but I appreciate the respite from those chores for now.

Interesting Neighbors

Since I didn’t know many people when we moved to Atlanta, I welcomed the easy connections with our new neighbors. I even met a few fellow moms with similar aged kids. The icing on the cake was when a family with a same-age daughter moved in down the hall. The girls spend most days running back and forth between our apartments which is so fun to watch.

Great Amenities and Common Spaces

One of the reasons we love our particular building are the amenities like a fitness center, pool and clubhouse. Having these spaces has increased our efficiency (woohoo for a 2 minute commute to the gym). Plus, they give us places to go when the kids get stir-crazy indoors. Some days, we bake a quick batch of cookies and deliver them to the maintenance staff or take crayons and paper to the apartment library just for a change of scenery. Even an act as simple as going downstairs to check the mail can fill up 20 minutes of a cranky toddler’s afternoon and I’m all for it.

 

 

The Bad and the Ugly of Apartment Living

Life in an apartment building hasn’t been without its downsides though.

Furniture Fit

A lot of our traditional furniture, art and antique pieces didn’t fit (literally and design-wise) into our new space. Some of our larger house-size was also too big for the apartment’s freight elevator and our new front door. We avoided problems by getting a floor plan and taking lots of measurements before we moved and putting the too-big things in storage.

3am Fire Alarms

Have you ever had to wake two kids and a dog at 3am to evacuate down 12 flights of stairs? And then walk back up again since the elevators were still out of service after the fire alarm? Maybe, but I bet you didn’t have to do it again at 4am that same night after said children were fully back to sleep again! That was us a few weeks ago. False alarms and elevator outages just come with the territory. Thankfully, we anticipated this, so we only considered apartments on lower floors and practice evacuation drills occasionally. Yeah, we’re those people.

Standard Issue Décor

Many apartment building use builder-grade fixtures and fittings throughout, which is fine if you’re not too fussed about interior design. I wanted a look that was more in line with my personal style, so I made a few changes to make our space cozier and maximize the limited storage. Before we moved in, we replaced a few light fixtures, painted the bedrooms and added some built-in shelving in the kid’s rooms and laundry room. Nothing major, but these little changes make it feel more like home for me.

Interesting Neighbors

I know that I have “interesting neighbors” on my good list, but this time, I really mean “interesting” neighbors. Just like in a house, you don’t get to choose your neighbors. The difference in an apartment is that with the close proximity, it’s harder to avoid them. What kinds of neighbors you ask? Well, there’s the neighbor that doesn’t wear shoes in the lobby (ever) or the aspiring rapper that shot a music video poolside on a Saturday afternoon. All fun times!

Noise

Everyone knows that barking dogs and loud music are typical nuisances in an apartment building. I also know we have little room to complain since, try as I might, it’s hard to stop a toddler from dropping blocks on the wooden floor at 7am on a Saturday morning. Unwanted noise is just another hazard of apartment living. We just do our best to be considerate of our fellow neighbors and hope they’ll do the same.

Smoking (and Other Smells)

Despite being a smoke-free building, I picked my toddler up from his afternoon nap to find his entire room smelled like marijuana. To be fair, he did eat all his dinner that night so there is that! More commonly, though, there are smells like burning food or someone forgetting to take the garbage out before they left for vacation.

Lugging Groceries is a Pain

Getting a few bags of groceries plus drycleaning and a toddler from the parking garage to our apartment is a headache. Doable, but unnecessarily annoying. Instead, I’ve become a huge fan of online grocery delivery.

Lack of Guest Space

The biggest thing we gave up in the move to an apartment was having a dedicated office and guest room. We love having our out-of-town relatives and friends stay with us, so we bought a daybed with a pull-out trundle for our son’s room. When visitors come, the kids bunk together in one room and guests stay in the other. It’s not perfect, but it works.

No Private Outdoor Space

In an abundance of caution, we don’t let the kids out on our balcony. I don’t worry they’ll leap off anymore, but I also don’t feel safe with them banging against the railings. So when they need fresh air, it we get in the car and drive to a park. As a side note, our apartment didn’t have locks on the balcony doors, so we had to request child-proof locks be installed.

Holidays Are a Little Different

Holidays in an apartment are different than we’re used to. We can’t host Thanksgiving for 20 anymore, or decorate our house with a bazillion Christmas lights. These changes don’t diminish the holiday joy, though. We’ve just become more flexible and creative in how we think about them. For example, since our building doesn’t really do much for Halloween, we were grateful when friends invited us to join them. If they hadn’t, my plan was to drive to a nearby neighborhood and trick or treat there. For Christmas, we decorate inside instead of out and love surprising the apartment staff with gift cards and homemade treats. It’s all about improvising.

Dog Walking Takes More Time

We have a dog, which means gathering up the kids several times a day, rain or shine, for walks. With kids in tow, it averages 11 minutes roundtrip per walk, 4-6 times per day. Occasionally, the kids grumble about this, but I remind them that it’s part of caring for a pet. (I don’t remind them that our dog requires a whole lot less care than they do and doesn’t talk back.) P.S.- someone asked if I walk the dog at night while the kids are sleeping and the answer is a big “no”. There was at least one time that a fire alarm prevented me from getting upstairs to our apartment (my husband was inside with the kids). I can’t imagine the panic if they were in the apartment alone when that happened. It’s just not worth the risk.

The Bottom Line

The “bad and the ugly” list above is definitely longer, but I want to be real about what apartment living. Interestingly, these minor irritations don’t outweigh the overall simpler life we’ve found in an apartment, at least for me. Overall, it is a really positive transition for our family and I’m not in a huge hurry to live in a house again.

Those are the biggest things I wish I knew before moving into an apartment with kids.  Knowing them beforehand wouldn’t have changed our decision to move into an apartment, but I think I might have stressed just a bit less.

Anyone else live in an apartment with kids? What do you like/dislike about it?

 

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