By Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch
Adrian Crook, a videogame design consultant, lives in a 1,050-square-foot condominium unit in downtown Vancouver with his five kids who range in age from 5 to 10 years old.
The apartment is a two-bedroom unit converted to a three-bedroom with two bathrooms. Crook, who is 41 years old, has chronicled his lifestyle on his blog 5kids1condo for more than three years. He knew staying in the apartment was the right decision, even if it seemed heretical at the time, he said. He has often heard kids can’t live in apartments because they don’t provide enough space — and that parents need to expand their living arrangements after just one child.
To compare, the average new home in the U.S. is 2,687 square feet, which is 1,000 square feet larger than it was in 1973, according to Washington, D.C.–based think tank American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. The average household size in 2015 was 2.5 people.
Crook rents his unit, and helped form Abundant Housing Vancouver, a group dedicated to fighting for more housing options in his area. The vacancy rate for rental apartments in Vancouver was 0.7% in November, according to Georgia Straight , a weekly Canadian paper. Meanwhile, if he were to buy the apartment, the price would be at least $1 million, he said.
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“My generation, we have a lower standard of living than our parents,” he said. “And our kids will have a lower standard of living than we will.”
Here are five ways to consolidate (and downsize) your life:
Get rid of the car
It’s less expensive, and safer, for the kids to take the bus 10 miles to school as opposed to a car, Crook said (their school is closer to their mom’s place, but he and his ex-wife split their time with the kids equally). He’s not wrong: Car accidents are a leading cause of death for children under 13 years old, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an Arlington, Va.–based nonprofit funded by auto insurers, though the number of deaths of children younger than 13 from these accidents has declined since 1975 . On a lighter note, walking around is healthier than driving, and urban kids tend to have more options than in the suburbs, Crook said. A carless household might become the norm within 25 years, with more people sharing vehicles, as well as using car services such as Uber and Lyft, Wall Street Journal car columnist Dan Neil argues .
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Ditch the ‘American Dream’
Unfortunately, some people have to ditch the “American Dream” of owning a home because of rising home prices and mortgage rates, and growing lender expectations of potential borrowers’ credit scores. In Canada, Crook thinks his lifestyle teaches kids an important lesson. Plus, not everyone wants to own a home, including Crook — even though rent is also rising, renting is a good choice for people who want to be free to move around more easily for jobs or adventure .
Live a minimalist lifestyle
Minimalism is a necessity in tight quarters. “It’s freeing not owning a lot of stuff because you can devote mental capacity to other things,” Crook said. In her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” author Marie Kondo writes that people can get rid of the majority of their stuff by categorizing it, placing the entirety of one category on the floor, putting back only what you need and thanking what you don’t want any more for its service. And there’s another hot debate these days that could lead to a more minimalist lifestyle: what’s better — buying stuff or experiences?
Make your rooms and furniture multifunctional
Crook’s rooms and furniture have multiple functions. For example, the boys have a triple bunk bed, and Crook’s bed can be used as a desk during the day. The dining table has bench seating, which can hold up to 10 people. There’s a pull-out sofa that converts to a bed when someone wants to sleep over. Part of the allure of getting durable furniture and seeing furniture as consumable goods means not getting upset if a table gets scratched or something gets ruined when the kids play, he said. “I like nice things, but I also like not stressing about whether it will be trashed by my 4-year-old,” he said.
Learn to get along
Kids don’t always get along well with their siblings, but when they live in relatively tight quarters, they adjust, he said. “There’s a degree of empathy you have to develop for what other people need,” Crook said. So when one person is doing his homework on the dinner table, a sibling might need to go to another room to play a game, especially a loud one. “They don’t get along all of the time but with this proximity they have to work their stuff out more quickly than if they could run away and hide on another floor,” he said. And when people criticize him by saying children need their privacy, Crook responds that today many adult children also live with their parents into their 30s.