5 Kids in One-Bedroom Apartment- Unearthing Space and Its Impact

There’s a Vancouver divorced dad-blogger who blogs about life in downtown Vancouver with his 5 children in a 1,000 sq. ft. rental condo. In fact, he probably lives just few blocks from us.

Well, it’s admirable he has some of his growing children in bunk beds.  And the kids are only with him for 2 weeks each time, every 2 weeks, in shared child custody arrangements with his ex-wife.

Climbing playground mountain in downtown Vancouver among condos. Many young families do live with children in highrise condos. David Lam Park. Vancouver, BC 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Our Big Family:  Full-Time Living and Keeping Sane
Unlike this blogger-father who seems to effectively self-promote this lifestyle, via local media outlets, it was different for us in some ways.  My mother, a full-time housewife was probably trying to maintain her sanity and energy with 5 of us underfoot in our 1 bedroom apartment in a southern Ontario city, while my father worked as restaurant cook.  Our apartment would have been smaller than his Vancouver chic 1,000 sq. ft. apartment.

Unlike the blogger-dad, she didn’t speak English.  She could only voice her frustration to my father who would listen but was somewhat helpless.  Occasionally my mother chatted with other Chinese-speaking mothers in our Ontario small city, 100 km. west of Toronto.

Child Innocence Highlights Poverty
I recall, the restaurant owner’s wife was babysitting us when mother had to tend to my father who was in the hospital after a fall.  She asked me where we slept.  As the eldest, representing my frolicking younger siblings,  I answered logically for an 8 yr. old:  on the living room floor.  It was obvious. My parents kept baby in bedroom with them while rest of us klunked out on foam pads unrolled for the night.

Needless to say, my mother was not pleased when I told her this. Shame of poverty was real for my parents.  But how could I have denied the obvious truth?

Flying high on a shared swing. Public playground among recent midrise condo buildings. Bridgeland neighbourhood. Calgary AB 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Less Toys, Other Ways to Imagine, Live
The Vancouver dad-blogger promotes some advantages of raising children in small space  — children learn to share,  the family learns to acquire only things absolutely essential.  He points out his children have very few toys (though I wondered what was at his ex-wife’s home).  We also grew up with one large cardboard box full of toys.  We had 2 dolls.  I don’t recall playing much with our doll.  It was blonde with hard curly hair and a vaguely Heidi-Austrian like dress.

Outdoors we made up people out of sticks and stones for their twig-outline pretend house on the pavement.

House with 1 Bathroom: 6 Kids and Coping
When I was 10 years old,  we moved into my parents’ first house  — 3 bedrooms for now, 6 children. A den and living room were converted permanently into additional 2 bedrooms.  Our dining room was a family table in the kitchen where mother prepared food also before it was cleared to set table for 8 people at dinner.  We had 1 bathroom.  As a teen,  I had phone conversations in the bathroom for extra privacy because we didn’t have any phone cord outlets installed in our bedrooms. We could only afford 1 landline.  iPhone didn’t exist nor the Internet in the 1970’s.

Showing visitors Vancouver abode. Photo by J.Chong

My Adult Space Needs and Impact on Habits
Yes, a baby sibling learned to sleep with muffled rumble of older siblings playing outside the bedroom door.  I used to marvel how much baby brother and later youngest baby sister, could doze off angelically through it all.  But then, I too learned to sleep through the night when newborn cried for milk and attention.

To this day, I have a moderate tolerance to work with some noise and conversation floating around me in an open work office environment.  During my first year away from home, living off-campus at university, I found my 2 bedroom apartment with my room-mate just too hollow and quiet. I missed the hubbub of a large, bustling family.   It took 2 weeks before I revelled in the peace for quiet study.

Part of children’s play apparatus. Grange Park, Toronto ON 2017. Photo by J.Chong

Enough Space to Live for Many Years
For the past 30 years, I’ve always lived in approximately a 770 sq. ft. 1-bedroom condo.  First solo and then later, shared with Jack. Though it’s abit more complicated for table set-up when I do art, it works.

There’s enough space for 2 computers, clothing, art supplies and books –with the latter slowly being whittled down as I donate a couple volumes to the local library to sell or place in nearby Free library cubby hole birdhouse in the neighbourhood.  Digital personal photos are god-send.

It is more liberating to worry about less physical assets because there’s less space.  People talk about physical exercise running up and down stairs in house. Well, for me, it’s living near a park and services within walking distance.

I appreciate the dad-blogger hopes his children will learn to move out and find a place to live once they earn money or similar as a adults.

How much personal living space do you need long term?

Children, families and others cycling Arbutus converted bike-rail trail. Vancouver BC 2017. Photo by J.Chong
Children playing with zipline in playground by Science Centre, downtown Vancouver BC 2017. Photo by J.Chong

*Feature photo on left-hand side taken at East Village neighbourhood. Downtown Calgary, 2017.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Mabel Kwong says:

    Sounds like your family made the most of what you had living under one roof. Did sound crowded but that was the way it is. When I was growing up in Malaysia, my family moved around there quite a bit. For a stretch we had our own house and I had my own room with my own toys. Other times we shared a house with my uncle and grandma and like you slept on foam beds. It was crowded, noisy and we shared everything from the kitchen to the shower and even the TV – we had no internet back then.

    I love my personal space these days and can only share a place with the right person. Don’t miss the cramped conditions or the noise, and more space and solitude helps me think and keep calm so much better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      We like our peace..to blog. 🙂 However I do easily work side by side with my partner. We just get individually lost in our own thoughts. Thankfully we share similar music choices so we don’t need ear buds.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Space is a very interesting study. Yes, immigrants in particular have made do amazingly in tight quarters. I can relate from my childhood. From a different angle, I’ve been cleaning and organizing (purging!!) and have made so much more room in the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Ah, unlike you have to chisel away on purging. Living in smaller quarters forces me to buy less. When there are family changes that too (and sometimes sadly) results suddenly too much space.


  3. Lani says:

    Well, I’ve blogged about this, so I understand contemplating how much space we need. The great thing about growing up in Hawaii was that we’d almost always play outside.

    As an expat, I’ve learned to live with less. We are currently in our smallest apartment yet (and prior to this we were in a small compact space). In some ways it’s a lesson in learning to live with less and in other ways, I’d like to find a nice balance. For example, right now, we don’t have a kitchen, we’re living very local-like, but since I enjoy cooking, I want a kitchen again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Eating out all the time, would be disastrous for me, health-wise. No doubt, the novelty of eating out daily for many weeks, starts to wear off (for me). After multi-week vacation, I’m glad to do some cooking. So any possibility for a kitchen, ie. next year?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        God, I hope so. Living without a kitchen is not fun. Yeah, I’ve always been a eat at home and eat out person, not really imbalanced either way.

        But I’ve been doing research on how to get by without one – like getting a slow cooker – and making many meals that way. We’ll see how it goes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Slow cooker looks like a great option …for relief. 🙂 There are of course some limited meals to make by using rice cooker –marinated meat slices cooked inside the rice. I used to break an egg to cook on top of the rice itself.


          1. Lani says:

            Yes. Good idea. Baby steps!


  4. As the oldest of six, this rang a few bells for me… 🔔🔔🔔😊


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