When my husband and I bought our first home a few years ago, we both worked full-time jobs and prioritised location over size. We liked the idea of strolling into the city after work in summers or on weekends, but getting a garage within our budget meant we had to buy just at the cusp of Christchurch’s CBD at the time.
At the time, it was perfect: a short commute to work, quick to clean, saved on parking for events in Hagley or the city, motivating backdrop of the Botanic gardens for staying active. However, once we found out we were pregnant with our fist child, it felt like something fundamental in our needs switched. We had no garden to play in! Where would all the baby gear go? How would we throw Birthday parties? Where will we put a trampoline?
We were on the hunt for another place quickly, but over and over it just felt like a step down from our existing home. In most cases, it meant going from double glazing to single glazing, an older kitchen, losing a bathroom all for the sake of gaining a proper garden, larger living areas and slightly better school zones.
While nannying in Sweden and Spain I worked with families who lived great lifestyles in apartments with small children, but now living in a culture where it’s not the social norm changed my perception about what’s best for my family. Though after a few months with a baby in our small townhouse, I’ve realised that all the reasons why we bought our home are still completely relevant for our new life as a family with a small child. It’s not the Kiwi dream of living in a detached home with a spacious garden (which is really great, by the way) but the home works for us right now. Here are the pros and cons for us as a family living in our townhouse.
Small Townhouse – Pros
- Location. As a full-time mum, living in walking distance to libraries, a summer paddling pool and rivers with ducks has been a lifesaver.
- Quick clean. A smaller space means less cleaning, and vacuuming the whole house from a single power socket is a huge bonus.
- Modern build. Living in a new townhouse means less square meters, but the design is efficient, warm and thorough.
- Minimalism. A limited space means that purchasing non-essentials is off the table. Work out equipment, baby play gear and other bulky items marketed for in-home use aren’t even options, which keeps money in the bank. Being careful consumers is good for the planet & our wallet. Also, we spend less time organising things and more time having fun.
- Lower waste. Living close to bulk bin stores, a roastery and the local butchery means we are able to use reusable containers for food, creating less waste with single-use plastics.
- Gardening. With little more than a courtyard, weeding is done in a couple of hours and there is no grass to mow. We have a playground and park around the block from our house where we can enjoy freshly mowed lawns on a sunny day, but don’t need to worry about the upkeep ourselves.
- Public Spaces. Because our living area is small, we get out as much as possible, to gardens, parks, libraries, playgrounds and museums. I’m thankful to enjoy a city that invests in the development of children.
- Continual decluttering. Not having bulk storage space around the house or spare rooms means every item that stops being useful makes its way onto TradeMe or to the Op Shop. I love knowing what is actually in my house and for the most part knowing where it is.
Small Townhouse – Cons
- Limited guests. For our housewarming I threw a winter solstice warmer and invited way too many people, and we had fun, but it was pretty uncomfortable trying to move around. Knowledge is power, and since I have only planned small gatherings with only a few select friends at a time, which actually means spending less on feeding crowds and more intimate conversations. This does mean getting creative with Birthday parties or other gatherings off-site, but so far it’s been manageable and doesn’t effect everyday life.
- Single car garage. A double garage would be a dream, but with only a handful of frosty mornings each winter, it hasn’t been a deal-breaker for staying where we are.
- Limited storage. While we have enough space for the essentials, we do keep a little bit of camping gear offsite, which is a bit of a hassle at times.
Overall, I’m very thankful to have a home and to live in such a great city, and despite my initial reactions when starting a family of feeling like we had made a mistake, I am loving our location and small home. It supports our community-focused lifestyle and our growing awareness in sustainability.