[Photo borrowed from Ana White‘s awesome DIY website. Ours doesn’t look exactly like this because we own more than six shirts.]
There are hundreds of perks to living in Southern California. It’s sunny 99% of the time. There’s rarely any humidity. Mosquitos? Don’t really have ’em. Beaches? Got lots of ’em. Disneyland? Oh yeah, that’s just up the road.
Some days I feel like we’ve won the lottery in getting to live here. In the first few months after we’d moved, I’d be looking out the window and Daryl would ask what was on my mind.
“We actually live here,” I’d say. “I’m so happy!” After a winter of -30 temperatures, putting a toddler into a snowsuit multiple times a day, and trudging in from the cold with snow-encrusted boots and a frozen nose, California felt like the promised land.
Unsurprisingly, lots of people want to live here. Which means the one truly major drawback to life in SoCal is that it’s really expensive. Not Manhattan-expensive, but pretty darn close.
My husband and I work in ministry, which means we will never make big bucks. We love what we do and I’m not complaining at all, but being in ministry in high-rent southern California does mean that we have to be a little bit creative with our living space.
When we found out we were expecting Baby #2, we talked briefly about moving out of our two-bedroom townhouse, but the rent increase between two bedrooms and three bedrooms in Orange County is nuts. Plus, who wants to add the stress of a move into the nine months before welcoming a whole new human into the family?
So instead of moving, we got creative.
Inspired by blogs like Apartment Therapy, we decided to turn our master bedroom’s “walk-in” closet (it was advertised as this, but it’s really more of a “take-one-step-in-and-then-turn-around” closet!) into a nursery.
Of course, this posed a series of challenges all its own. For example, where would our clothes go? Could a crib fit? How could we put in a changing table?
Daryl’s first solution was just to get rid of his clothes entirely.
“I don’t need clothes,” he said.
Since deciding to be nudists would probably get us barred from ministry (also: COLD!), I thought up another solution.
“I’m going to build us an external closet!” I said. Daryl looked dubious but, luckily for me, was in the throes of the final chapter of his dissertation, and thus didn’t have the energy to try to stop me or warn me that I am not, you know, handy with tools. [In hindsight, I should have totally milked this opportunity of him being distracted and agreeable and gotten us a puppy. Next time.]
After some searching, I found this one. Classic. Simple. It could be built with less than $100 worth of supplies from Home Depot. If I bought pre-cut lumber, I’d only need a hammer, a saw, and a screw gun, all of which we already had.
I built the closet in a day and a half and it was so much fun. Half the fun was watching the Home Depot guys chuckle with what I can only guess was a combination of admiration and “she’ll-totally-be-back-in-an-hour-asking-for-help” glee when I loaded all that lumber onto a giant flatbed with a pregnant belly and preschooler in tow. The other half was watching Daryl’s face when he walked into our bedroom, saw the half-finished external closet, and realized we could actually make this whole thing work.
In the tiny nursery/closet we added bins up top on the shelves (Target ftw!). The giraffe print is from Limitation Free’s Etsy shop. We bought a used Pottery Barn changing station on Craigslist for $25 and screwed it into the chest-high shelf. Some dear friends from church surprised us with a mini-crib (available through Amazon) that fit perfectly into the closet’s side space.
It’s not a perfect Pinterest-w0rthy nursery with all the accoutrements. There’s no glider for nursing, no extra space for toys. But can I put our baby down for a nap where it’s dark and quiet? Yep. Can my husband change a diaper in the middle of the night without waking me up? For sure. Is it cheery and fun? You bet.
The nursery also makes me feel proud. It’s easy to solve problems if there’s a lot of money to throw at them. When there is less, there is a bigger challenge of creativity. I love those sorts of challenges, and the huge payoff of making something beautiful happen when the initial problem seemed insurmountable.
Our baby has a room of its own! We still have a closet, of sorts. We didn’t have to disrupt our preschooler by adding a crying baby to his little room.
Also: I got to play with power tools.
We really don’t need as much space as we might think, especially in climates where going outside every day is easy.
Now all this nursery needs is a baby!
Do you live in a small space? What have you done to make it work for you?