FEATURE: 5 KIDS 1 CONDO

Have you heard of the blog 5 Kids 1 Condo?

I hadn’t until yesterday and yes… it’s exactly how it sounds. Crazy right?!
 Well… not really. For Adrian Crook it’s a way of life.

His motto: ” Downsize your life, upsize your happiness.” 

I’d say his kids look pretty darn happy.

5 Kids 1 Condo

 Photo Cred: 5 Kids 1 Condo

 When I read about Adrian’s lifestyle I felt intrigued to reach out to him. I find his way of living so extremely interesting and truly inspiring. You can read our interview below:

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1) Why minimize space in your home to maximize your happiness?
 Minimizing space means less space (and things in that space) to maintain. Not very many of us want to spend our lives cleaning or maintaining “things” as opposed to spending time with loved ones. Condo life means I have fewer material things to worry about keeping up. As a society, we spend a lot of time talking about how on our death bed we won’t wish we’d spent more time at the office, but we also won’t wish we spent more time cleaning the house, repairing the gutters, mowing the lawn, fixing a dent in the new car, retrieving stuff from our storage unit, and so forth. Those are the quotidian things that distract us from being present in life. Our kids just want us around and paying attention as much as possible. It occurred to me just yesterday watching my kids with my dad that one of the big reasons kids love grandparents is that grandparents are fully focused on the kids, and not all the rest of the nonsense that consumes those of us in our thirties and forties trying to maintain a household and all the stuff that orbits it. Hopefully I’ll achieve that level of grandparent-like single mindedness at some point. 😉

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2) Ok… 5 kids in a condo! Doesn’t that get cramped? How do you make it work?
 Yes, of course it gets cramped! That’s also part of the point. The close proximity breeds cohesion as a family unit, while also teaching us the need to share, to respect each other’s things, to respect our neighbours and so forth. I remember several years ago I was a far worse dad, in terms of being able to integrate with my kids. I was away so much for work that I wasn’t acclimated to them, so their energy and their needs felt like too much for me to handle. Of course there are still good and bad days in that regard, but our physical closeness in the condo means that we’re all far better acclimated to each other, so what now feels normal and relaxing to us might still feel like being dropped at the top of Mount Everest for someone less used to lots of kids. To my mind, it’s absolutely essential for parents to integrate themselves with kids in this manner – putting nannies or floors in between you and your kids just makes it harder to relate to them when you do spend time together.

3) Do you have any tips for people looking for a ‘walkable’ community?
Not everyone needs as much walkability as we need. A friend of mine who lives in the suburbs told me the other day that the couple blocks around their condo contain most of what they need on a daily basis and his wife simply walks everywhere. That type of mixed use development, a popular urbanism term here in Vancouver, is often enough to satisfy most of our grocery, bank, coffee, sort of needs. Just look for dense, mixed use spaces. Look at the Walk Score (https://www.walkscore.com/) for them. Think about how you spend your time and what you need to be close to. If you can move close to your work, provided your work is somewhere you wouldn’t mind living, then do that. Happiness levels are inversely proportional to time spend behind the wheel.

4) What is your best organizational tip for living in a small space? I mean, you’d have to be organized!
 We are pretty organized. There are several keys to making a small space feel large. In my experience, they are:
  • Maximize floor space: If you don’t need a coffee table, get rid of it. If you can wall-mount your TV instead of having a big AV stand, do it. If one sectional sofa offers as much seating as a loveseat and three chairs, get the sectional and free up floor space. Floor space is king when there are kids involved as they still want to romp around, even in small spaces.
  • Don’t block windows: Let as much natural light in as possible. Avoid putting a large couch, or TV unit, or headboard, etc in front of a window. If you do have to, keep the item low (i.e. the chaise portion of a sectional). Small and dark does not feel nice to live in.
  • Constantly move stuff out: We frequently make trips to the Family Resource Centre, where we donate items our family no longer needs to families who can’t afford those things in the first place! Not only is this a great lesson for the kids in how we help those who are less fortunate, but it’s imperative if we want to keep our own space livable. Our only available storage is an in-suite storage unit that has so little in it that we’ve converted it to an art room for the kids. They get so much use out of that… there’s no amount of “things” that would be worth hoarding at the expense of that room, for instance.
  • Use vertical storage: We bought one of those IKEA 5×5 bookcases and the versatility of that means that all the kids toys, our books, the Xbox 360, stereo speakers, cameras and other electronics, files, and so forth all end up in it. And it looks great. That one addition freed up so much space and clutter from the rest of the apartment. Use vertical surfaces over horizontal ones as much as possible to maintain floor space.
  • Avoid high structures: We’re fortunate to live in a place with high ceilings, so it will tolerate some tall structures (like the aforementioned book shelf, or the boys triple bunk) better than a lower ceiling place would. But adding tall skinny structures to a small place will close it in – especially if they are dark wood or black.
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5) List your favourite things about living in a condo as opposed to a house:
My favourite things about condo living:
  • We walk everywhere. One term that’s been coined to describe some suburban environments is “obesogenic” – which means a place that promotes excessive weight gain, by over-reliance on cars, primarily. Walking everywhere downtown is not only the easiest way to get around, but it’s precisely the type of ambient exercise we need more of as we get older (and that kids these days often don’t get enough of, with screen time the way it is). The kids and I will often walk 5-10km a day, which would be unheard of in suburban environments.
  • Closeness to cool stuff: Not a day goes by where we don’t comment on how easy it is to access all the best things in the city, for adults and kids alike. A block away is the main library. Numerous public plazas, live event venues, kids places, parks, and so forth. If there’s something cool happening in Vancouver, chances are it’s only a few blocks away from where we live. That’s pretty tough to beat. Having lived across a bridge before, I know that even a 20 minute drive downtown is often enough to kibosh a fun evening out, especially when you’re tired after a long day of work and commuting. So being right next door to everything fun means you’re way more likely to “pop out” for an hour or two, when you might not otherwise.
  • Lighter footprint: We have less stuff and we use less resources than a house would. Our utilities bill comes to about $35/month, for instance. In my former life as a suburban house dweller, I recall some months where that bill would be 10 times as much as that. I love that we consume less than most two person households, let alone other seven person homes. As a society I think we have a resource problem. Depending on your perspective, either over-population or over-sconsumption is the root cause. With five kids, clearly I don’t believe over-population is the issue, so I figure it’s my responsibility to show my kids how we can live with less – and be happy about it!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Adrian. All the best!
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With this time of year being the perfect time for spring cleaning maybe Adrian can inspire you (like he did for me) to donate a few more things this year. Do you really need that extra toaster?

Tune in this Thursday for my DIY Faux Brick Wall Post.

Jackie xo

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