*This is a guest post from Julia Ubbenga of Rich in What Matters.
Lately I’ve been happily fielding a not-so-surprising question: “Why are you raising your family in a 1,000-square-foot apartment?”
Well, actually, the question usually sounds more like, “Aren’t you looking for a house?”
While we certainly could be house hunting if we wanted, the truth is, we don’t have the desire. We did the live-in-a-house thing for three years before moving to our current apartment. And we aren’t in a hurry to get back to that lifestyle.
Yes, we realize it’s a bit countercultural. In the US, 80% of the population prefers to live in a single family home, while only 70% actually do. Meanwhile, apartment and condo living is preferred by only 8% of the population, yet 17% of Americans do live in an apartment or condo.
In European countries apartment living is more common. In Spain, for example, 65% of the population lives in apartments.
Clearly, choosing an apartment over a home is not the “American norm.” So why do we love being in that 8%? What’s the draw to apartment living?
Here are five reasons our family is pro-apartment-living:
Apartment living is a simpler way of living. For us this translates to a happier, lower-stress life. We’ve figured out what matters most to us, and simpler living lets us focus on these things.
Instead of spending our weekends fixing things around the home or mowing a yard, we can both take our kids to the park and the pool. We can relax more and even nap more (yes!) without thinking about things that need done around the home.
It’s not lazy living – our lives are very full – it’s just intentional living that focuses on what we believe matters. Some people may love fixing up their home, and that’s great. It’s just not how we feel called to spend our gift of time.
2. Less stuff
A smaller space simply can’t fit a lot of material things in it. It’s minimalist by design. This forces us to edit our lives constantly by making decisions about what stays in our home.
If we let clutter pile up, we quickly lose living space. We’re not tempted to buy more furniture or other “toys” because we just don’t have a spot for them. When new things do come into our home, other things have to leave. We know the feel of “enough” in our home and our smaller space helps us keep this balance.
Connection, for me, is invaluable – connection to God first, then to my family and to myself. With less home to care for, family time, prayer and self-care become a daily theme, not a side note.
Our apartment’s smaller space also allows our family to be more present to one another. This leads to more connection and more shared experiences with our two daughters. We talk more, play more and just do more together because we’re closer together in proximity (although our place is big enough to still allow breathing room when needed).
Being a stay-at-home-mom can have moments that feel isolating at times. An adult conversation can be a very welcome thing during a day spent taking care of kiddos and a home. Our apartment complex has a great sense of community with wonderful neighbors. Many of the people who live here are retired, so someone is always around during the day.
If I’m feeling isolated, we take a stroll to the clubhouse and hang out for a while. Residents love our girls and some have become like adopted grandparents. The memories they share are almost always about family and experiences – not stuff. Hearing stories from their lives reminds me to slow down and keep a big-picture perspective.
5. Financial flexibility
Apartment living helps us shape our spending around the lifestyle we feel most called to. Our family values relationships, traveling, health, and generosity. If our finances were going toward home projects and repairs, then we wouldn’t be able to focus on those values.
For us, the trade-offs make sense. We’d rather travel to see family out of state, multiple times a year, than have to save up for a new roof. We’d rather have frequent date nights than redo our flooring. We’d rather eat organic, real foods than repair our basement’s foundation. We’d rather give to charities and our church than renovate our kitchen.
We realize that apartment living isn’t for everyone. But for us, a minimalist lifestyle in a 1,000-square-foot apartment leads to more joy, more fulfillment, and more family togetherness. And it’s teaching our daughters some valuable lessons.
As our girls observe our family’s lifestyle, my hope is they will realize that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing or live the way everyone else lives to be happy. Just live in a way that prioritizes what matters, and the rest will fall into place.
Julia Ubbenga lives in her Kansas City apartment home with her husband and two lively young daughters. You can read more of her writing about minimalism, simplicity, and intentional living on her blog at www.richinwhatmatters.com or you can connect with her on her Instagram and Facebook.