When we moved into our current loft, we had a dog.
One other entity who needed food and water and petting and walking and not much else. And like two idiots, we occasionally whined about having to take Arlo out.
HOW STUPID WE WERE.
Because that was easy. So, so easy.
Our loft, while lovely and wonderful and unique and non-traditional now contains two adults, two babies, one dog, and occasionally, one teenager.
A couple years ago a friend visited and asked if people in downtown LA had children. Well, more and more, I said, thinking of about two babies I'd seen in the past year. I always loved seeing kids in DTLA because to me that meant the neighborhood was truly evolving. Bars and restaurants are wonderful but when you start to see child residents that means things are gonna start to change.
But our friend looked baffled. People have kids in a loft? How?
While I was pregnant with Wee W I started reading Simplicity Parenting - Using the extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and loved the ideas. With everything that bombards us – all our stuff, all our electronics, stress and information and lack of time – Corey and I want to attempt to give S jr and Wee W as much peace and simplicity at home as possible.
Living in a loft demands this is a uniquely immediate way.
There are some built-in parameters that come with living in one big room (albeit, not that big). Here's a list, in no particular order, of ways we make this possible:
1. Constantly Paring Down Clothing
Right now, Wee W is blasting through clothing. I looked at her sleeping last night and thought WHO IS THIS GIANT. So this morning I went through all her clothing and filled a huge box with hand-me-downs.*
Given our small space, each kiddo has four small drawers for clothing. In two long cabinets that also double as window seating. DIY cushions, y'all!
(Those little washi tape marks on each drawer and door are for telling two bleary parents where to hold the magnet that releases the latch on the drawers so little fingers don't get squished.)
Four small drawers means a constant reassessment of what is actually worn and needed. I find myself reaching for the same items again and again, and as cute as some stuff is, it just never gets used. And then Wee W is suddenly too big for a lot of it.
S jr has slowed down in the growth department a bit, thank god. Though I anticipate a spurt soon. Even with larger sizes, we still keep everything to four drawers for him, too. Now that it's summer, shorts take up less room than pants and believe me, this makes a difference.
2. Culling Toys
Awhile back I bought a smallish white basket for S jr's toys with the pledge that if it didn't fit in the basket, we wouldn't put it out for him to play with. The basket is now home to his family of stuffed animals, and we've culled the other toys down to a few cars and some random items he's obsessed with. Right now, his main love is his little kitchen, which I finally bought after hemming and hawing over all manner of beautiful, wooden and expensive varieties. The wooden ones are cute but this one ended up being the winner for price, set up ease, size and usability. As much as I'm not a fan of plastic, I do see the merits for certain things. And S jr plays with it everyday, a lot. He will stir things in one of the little pots and offer me bites. I mean.
We use some Skiphop play mats to define the space, and what you see is the extent of S jr's toys.
Of course, many of the items he loves aren't toys. Boxes, containers, packing materials – often, I wonder why we even have toys. Kids almost always prefer actual items to the ones that are marketed to us.
3. Blackout Curtains
Up in The Nest, we all slumber quite contentedly, but with longer days it's become tricky putting babies to sleep when it's light out. Our loft has great rolling shades for the huge windows, but light still leaks in. And after they're in bed, while we still keep the lights on low, Corey and I prefer not to stumble around in total darkness.
Moondream blackout curtains to the rescue!
I love the big grommets and the length options. Turns out the 63" length is perfect for our subloft. We currently have three curtains running the length and I just purchased two more for the end. We used these brackets and curtain rods from IKEA and they work great. Thank you, Corey, for drilling and draining all the blood from your hand while doing so.
4. Outside Adventures
With two babies 9 1/2 months apart, it's rare that they overlap naps. We're in a lucky patch right now because they occasionally have one afternoon nap in common. S jr is down to just one nap, but Wee W takes three. Her first nap is mid-morning, right when S jr is revving his engines. So lately, Corey puts Wee W down for her nap and I take S jr out for his morning constitutional, a walk around the block that has led us to make friends with several shop owners. By the time we're back, Wee W has had a chance to get deeply into sleep, so then we usually rely on some:
5. Sesame Street / Winnie-the-Pooh
Thank the gods for Sesame Street classics on HBO Now. While I'm an early adopter of a lot of technology, I'm not a fan of the newest episodes of Sesame Street. Both Corey and I vastly prefer the old version (yup, I'm old) for its slower pace and less flashy elements. Because is it me or does a lot of children's programming hop around way too much? Like, way too many images and noises and hyper filler and it can be crazy-making. You can find some classic stuff on YouTube:
Initially (before two babies) I had these grand ideas about no screen time and blah blah blah. Well eff that. Putting S jr in front of some Sesame Street or Winnie-the-Pooh while we help Wee W or accomplish some task or just have 15 minutes of peace has literally saved us many, many times. And it's gotta be the original, 1975 Winnie-the-Pooh. The voice work is incredible. If you like, I can recite the entire film for you, from memory. I have seen it approximately 9 billion times. (And I had to link to the Wikipedia entry because it dubs Winnie-the-Pooh a "buddy musical comedy film" and that is hilarious.)
Gotta be 1975
Also, does anyone else feel strongly that this whole segment with Pooh getting "stuck" is really a long analogy for constipation??
6. White Noise Machines
We currently have three white noise machines in our loft. THREE. We were relying on the portable, battery-reliant variety, but they kept giving out at key moments which would lead me and Corey to scream-whisper at each other, followed by a clown piece involving the exchange of new batteries for old and unscrewing the backs of machines in the darkness, all as fast as humanly possible.
Finally, I wised up and got this. With over 11,000 reviews on Amazon, the vast majority of them glowing, I joined the flock and added to cart. So far, so golden. The thing rocks. I'm not a huge fan of white noise, but perhaps because this one uses an actual fan (that you can adjust two ways), the sound is less simulated, so feels better.
We use it at night, and also during naps. DTLA is many things, and noisy is often one of them. Helicopters, sirens, barking dogs, screaming people, house parties...it's the urban soundtrack. And while we're largely inured to it, sometimes it's a bit much. Like right now, there's a police helicopter is circling, presumably searching for some criminal. Ah, tax dollars at work. But hopefully, up in The Nest, that Marpac Dohm is working its magic.
Of course, there are also a million other little things we do, daily, to maintain a modicum of sanity. Right now, S jr is going through a lovely shrieking phase, as he tests the limits of both his vocal cords and everyone else's ability to withstand them. Poor Wee W is often right at his level when he lets loose and DEAR LORD IT'S QUITE LOUD. She gets this stunned look, as if to say The human voice should not be able to attain that pitch.
But it's a phase you just have to wait out, hoping and offering sacrifices to all gods that it will pass.
Back to saving space: the Antilop highchair, courtesy of the geniuses at IKEA. S jr started out in the Inglesina and it was great, but once he got a little older we wanted to be able to sit at the table together. And suddenly, Wee W was ready for a high chair, too, and bless 'em, the Antilop high chairs stack. And the thing is $19.99. I was obsessed with the Tripp Trapp by Stokk for ages (it's beautifully and thoughtfully designed) but since we fold and put away our own chairs when not in use, it was difficult to justify getting two pieces of permanent furniture that have a relatively large footprint. Also, expensive.
Living in DTLA, in a loft, with two babies, continues to be a unique challenge. Some days, I yearn for rooms with doors that I can go hide in. And it's very possible we'll eventually live in a more traditional space. But for now, Corey and I do our best to embrace our home, where every day, we watch our kiddos evolve, sometimes in great bounds. And it's those times, when S jr suddenly starts to run, or Wee W belly laughs in a new way, that I'm very very grateful that we're all in one big room.
* Speaking of hand-me-downs, special shout out to our friends Phil and Joanna whose daughter, A, is single-handedly clothing Wee W. And go check out Phil's incredible blog Angry Asian Man, which I've followed and loved for years.