Minimalists also need space in a pandemic


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For years, Erin Boyle wrote about life in a small apartment on her blog: “Reading tea leaves“In detail, she created creative and gentle ways for her, her husband James Casey and their two children, Faye (6) and Silas (3), to create a one-bedroom bedroom in Brooklyn Heights with an area of ​​approximately 500 square feet.

One post described the production of old wooden crates sliding drawers under the bed with ropes and felt pads.

“We moved into that apartment when I was pregnant with Faye,” said Mrs. Boyle, 36, who previously lived with Mr. Casey, 39, in a 240-square-foot studio apartment (including a storage loft where to lay a bed). “Even after Silas was born, he didn’t feel overcrowded.” It was very feasible. “

The arrival of the third child, Calder, in February, complicated matters because the bedroom was not large enough to comfortably accommodate a bunk bed for older children and Calder’s mini cot. But Mrs. Boyle thinks they would probably still be in the apartment if it weren’t for the coronavirus, which forced them to take it to the next level this fall.

“We both work from home for six months without caring for a child – that’s what happened,” she said. “We were all on top of each other.” It was okay to come home to a small space, but still be there without another outlet? By the end of July, we really started looking. “

Mr. Casey, a fellow laboratory director at Barnard College, taught distant biology classes from the apartment. Mrs. Boyle tried to work and breastfeed her newborn without accidentally appearing during a Zoom call. Faye did a distant kindergarten, and Silas was a normal, energetic three-year-old boy.

The problem of living as a family of five in a small one bedroom was not a lot of things – Mrs. Boyle is clearly against the mess – but a challenge to so many people trying to do so many things in two rooms, especially when one of those rooms was a 7-by-12-foot bedroom. usually occupied by a bunk bed. Mr. Casey and Mrs. Boyle left the bed in the main living area and worked at the dining table; instead of a sofa, they have a bench the size of a sofa that Mrs. Boyle upholstered.

“The expectations of the children were so high,” said Mrs. Boyle. “It was like, ‘Keep calm and calm down with color for two hours while Dad teaches this class.'”

The summer and the reopening of the playgrounds provided some relief, but Mrs. Boyle and Mr. Casey knew that by the time the fall was coming, they would be desperate, if not for more space, at least for a few more walls.

“We didn’t have a checklist, like we needed a bigger bedroom or office.” It was just a small thing – we need more space for everything, “she said.

They found him on Craigslist after a short, intense hunt: a two-bedroom, two-bedroom railroad floor in Carroll’s Garden in Brooklyn, brownstone. They moved in on September 1 after finding someone – a woman who plans to live alone – to take over their old contract.


$ 3,200 | Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Their children: Faye Casey, 6; Silas Boyle, 3; Calder Boyle, 9 months
Cast: Mrs. Boyle is the author of the Reading My Tea Leaves lifestyle blog; Mr. Casey is a fellow director of the biology department at Barnard College.
Why they stay in New York: “People in New York always get this question!” “People in other places don’t ask why they stay,” Mrs. Boyle said. “It’s for the same reasons that someone wants to stay anywhere – to be close to family, friends, jobs.” (Until recently, Mrs. Boyle’s sister also lived in the city.)
Morning crouch Their two older children liked to sit on their new crouch in the morning. “We’re only one year up,” Mrs. Boyle said. “It’s beautiful to see them from the window of our new place.” It is a big difference. “
Mess: “I really don’t like being in a mess, so I have no impulse to fill more space with things,” Mrs. Boyle said. “Kids are magpies and they like to collect little things.” But they are used to getting rid of things. I’m part of a local Buy Nothing group; when they finish, they say, “You can post it on Buy Nothing.”

Although the family tried to enlarge their footage from the square when upgrading from one bedroom, the general assumption that a family of five should move to something larger than two bedrooms was part of what made their search difficult.

“We’ve seen a lot of apartments we’ve never heard of,” Mrs. Boyle said. “I felt like I was showing up with three kids to look at a one- or two-bedroom apartment, raised eyebrows.”

The rent of $ 3,200 per month is an increase from the $ 2,775 they paid for their last seat. It was enough of an impact that Mrs. Boyle used her father as a guarantor, but it still seems like a better solution than would have been possible before the pandemic. “Before this spring and summer, moving to a larger area never felt financially possible,” said Mrs Boyle. “Looks like a lot of places opened up and went out on the market.”

The new apartment has several special features. There was no dishwasher and the stove, Mrs Boyle believes, is from the 1950s. “I’m still trying to figure out how to cook.” I burned so much garlic, “she said. “I think what’s interesting about New York real estate is that there’s no longer waiting to find the perfect place. You have to resign a month in advance and then go for it.”

But the key was to almost double the space and close several doors in principle.

“Balancing work and childcare and paying attention to what feels like enough attention is now quite impossible for both of them, regardless of space,” Mr Casey said. “Yet the ability to close the door between me and the rest of the family – and the ability to do business with Erin to do the same – has made a huge difference.”

Children have a large “real” bedroom with street views in the apartment. From the side of this room is a kind of anteroom, about seven by nine feet, which Mr. Casey and Mrs. Boyle use as an office; they built a permanent table using pipes and a piece of wood. The children’s bedroom connects the interconnecting room, which the couple uses as a bedroom, with the main living area and the kitchen at the back of the apartment.

“The new place is very spacious.” I love the feeling of space, some empty space, “said Mrs. Boyle. “It was nice watching just our seven-month crawl.” Previously, every time she went, she was under the bed very quickly. “

But for someone who has written extensively about life in a small space, will life in a not so small space present any problems? Mrs. Boyle doesn’t think so.

“It was just a space I lived in,” she said, explaining that she had seen her last apartment as part of the reality of life in New York, which she had accepted, but never as an identity. “New York real estate is expensive.” You may be interested in sustainability, frugality and minimalism and not be defined by living in a small space. “

In addition, although it seems enormous, she added, 800 square feet is still quite small by many people’s standards.


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