The original title for this post was “How to Survive as a Stay at Home Mom of a One Car Family in a Tiny Apartment with no Dishwasher”.
That’s catchy, right?
If any of that made you cringe or nod your head in understanding, let me tell you about my life right now. I am a stay at home mom with a one year old daughter, I run a daycare and watch 3 other kids part time. We went down to one car when our 2nd car died on the side of the highway 6 months ago. We live in the 2nd story of a big farmhouse in a 2 bedroom apartment that has no laundry facilities and no dishwasher. And there are days when any one of those things (let alone all of them at once) make me want to scream.
By the grace of God I am learning to love my crazy and cramped life. Let me share with you some practical tips for if you ever find yourself in my shoes.
- Keep it clean.
There is nothing as depressing as living in a tiny space that is dirty and cluttered. It makes you feel like a failure. Like the clutter will eventually cover your floor and the children and you’ll be cast in that Hoarders show on TV. RESIST THE DEPRESSION. Pick one thing or spot and clean it. If that means the countertop or the toys or the kitchen table, just do one place. It makes you immediately feel better. Then keep going! Living in 5 clean rooms sure beats 5 messy ones.
- Prioritize kitchen gadgets & counter space
I have two tiny counter spaces. One has a dish drainer and one used to house my bread machine and toaster. I just bought myself a coffeemaker and rearranged everything to give it the top priority spot of honor. This serves two purposes: first, to look inviting and give me wonderful hot coffee every day, and second, to discourage me from allowing dirty dishes to pile in front of it. It helps me keep my promise to wash dishes every time the dish pan is full, which in turn keeps me sane without a dishwasher.
- Get outside & rearrange occasionally
If you stay at home and your family only has one car, you go a little stir crazy. Especially in an apartment out in the country with no stores or friends in walking distance. The best remedies for that are to get yourself outside as much as possible just to breath some different air, and let yourself rearrange some furniture. My kitchen rehaul made me love the space all over again, and I just did some moving around in our living room too. Rearranging gives you a new perspective. And when you are home as often as you are, you need to love it. Take some time to think about how your space works and how your family uses it. We ended up switching around our living and bedrooms last year because we realized it just works better that way. The biggest priorities are to get rid of unused items and find a home for everything else.
- Keep play spaces out of high traffic areas
Duh, right? It took me months to realize that if I moved the toys to the far side of our living room they wouldn’t obstruct the doorway. Sometimes you miss the most obvious things! Try looking at your space as if you were an interior designer. Leave your preconceived dislike of the space at the door and think about what would make it flow better. Think about what pieces of furniture you aren’t using or what weird spots aren’t being utilized.
- When you have the car, GET OUT.
Sometimes I don’t think my husband realizes how much I need to get out of this house. Don’t be afraid to leave him on his own for dinner and go visit a friend or even just drive to a park or the store. I am guilty of getting angry about times I can’t use the car when there were 6 other nights that week it sat unused from 4pm-6am. If you need to get out, GO.
- Like your husband
No matter how big or small your house is, liking the person you live there with makes it 100x better. Marriage has stages and seasons, and all relationships have ups and downs, but if you can strive for a place where you enjoy each other’s company it will make any other circumstance much more bearable.
- Use your kitchen
One of the most welcoming things that I have found is to be baking fresh bread or have soup simmering in the crock pot. I LOVE being in my kitchen when there is yumminess on the stove or in the oven. If you don’t want to make anything right now, try lighting a candle. A great smelling home is welcoming and friendly, no matter what size it is or how bored you are of it.
- Invite people over!
When your house is pretty and clean, invite some friends over for coffee. Plan a Bible study or a crafting day, depending on their interests. I bet every one of your friends has projects they need to finish and this may give them an excuse to do it. If you have artsy friends you can ask their opinion on rearranging, or you can forget about your house for awhile and just live your life.
- Become a DIYer
Do you like Pinterest? Go search for apartment living, small kitchens or DIY decor. You can deck out your tiny space on the cheap and maybe find solutions for the areas that were stumping you. There is something soothing about breaking out the power tools and attacking a project that has been sitting for a long time. Install that coat rack! Hang those pictures! Flip that Craigslist freebie!
- Be intentionally content
It is so easy to dream away your days by wishing you had a bigger house, another car, more money or a different set of circumstances. By utilizing these tips you can learn to be content in the home you have right now, even with the flaws. Contentment is all about trusting God in your current circumstances, and trust is all about how much control you are willing to give him in your life.
Maybe someday we will have a house with a laundry room and a yard. Maybe someday we will get another car again. Maybe someday a magic box will clean my dishes for me. Until then, I choose to believe that washing dishes is therapeutic & I do it with a smile.