How to live in a 20 sq metre, one room (studio) flat with two (sometimes three) adults and a toddler while one of them is working and the other is trying to avoid taking up daytime alcoholism as a hobby.
Get a routine. – If at 7 am daddy sits at his desk with his computer, that means daddy may as well have gone in to an office. You can stop by for quick kisses, but don’t try and chat all day. This goes for little kids and for fully grown ones too.
Have a dedicated work space. – This ties in with the above, but having an area which you can go to which is only used for work (even if it’s tiny) really helps to mentally set everyone in and out of work modes.
Get out of the house. – If there is one worker and one non-worker, you’ll inevitably need some time off from each other. Hell, the non-worker may just need something to DO. Don’t be afraid to go and explore on your own. Be safe while you’re doing it, but maybe take the kid to the local playground, or even make a quick run to the market. Go to one which is different from the one you know and get to know the area better. That’s the whole point!
Enjoy your time together. – You have the opportunity to do things like eat lunches and go on breaks together. Do it! Don’t do working lunches; shut down your computer, sit down, and talk. If you don’t have anything to talk about, watch an episode of Orange is the New Black or something. ANYTHING. Just do it together.
Bartering works. – It doesn’t matter who brings home the bacon or who changed the baby last or who’s turn it is to cook. Every once in a while you’re just not going to have it in you right then. That’s cool. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. Just remember when the time comes to pay your due…nobody likes a welcher.
Tidiness has never been more important. – The flat which we were staying in was literally one large, square room with two doors: one going into the hallway and one going into a 4′ x 8′ bathroom (relatively spacious). There was a single wardrobe, a desk, two chairs, a countertop for cooking, a tv and stand, and a bed. There was just literally no place for us to put most of our stuff. Some of it ended up stacked neatly in a corner.
As a result, we had to make certain absolutely every day (all day) that we were keeping things neat. Take something out? Put it back. Then. Right then. Otherwise in no time flat the entire place looked like an episode of hoarders and we were at each other’s throats, being antsy.
Get a hobby. – Mighty meant to include this in a previous post, but even if it had been included there, it would have been said again here: one of the ways that we kept sane was to keep interested. Interested in each other, but also in our own things. Mighty loves his photography, which I’m sure you know by now. Charming is no slouch at writing or whisky drinking. It’s a match made in heaven.
Make the place your home – A hard part of traveling is never feeling like you’re at “home”. Which, obviously, you’re not. But to avoid that hotel feeling Mighty lets Charming nest in the new place right away. The act of “moving in” helps to claim the spaces as your own and serves as a good way to get to know the quirks of any new room. Hang up clothing, find a place for the baby’s toys, decide where you’re going to set up the “office” and “lounge” and “dining” areas (even if it they’re all the same place, establish a spot for the non-used items to be cleared away to). We sometimes need to move around the furniture or relocated books and knicknacks to higher (read: Captain proof) spots and it helps to snap a quick picture of the before so that you can ensure things get back where the owner had them when it’s time to check out.
You have too much stuff. WAY TOO MUCH – Not to be all Zen about such things, because lord knows we love our toys and gadgets and books and shoes, but even now, living as we do out of two suitcases, two carry-ons and a diaper bag we are constantly finding stuff we could simply do without. Not to say that it isn’t stuff that we use necessarily, just stuff that could be done away with and life would continue smoothly on. When we think about the two storage units full of furniture and dishes and clothing and just…STUFF it’s a bit terrifying. What are we going to DO with all that STUFF? Sure, having a machine for every operation in the kitchen is amazing, but I just made coffee in a frying pan and lived to tell the tale. Sure, it’s great to be able to open the closet and be paralyzed by choices, but it’s a whole lot easier to only have to fold three pairs of pants.
Your kid has way too much stuff too. When we were packing out of our house in Colorado, there were at least a dozen good sized boxes of toys and whatnot for The Cap’n. Here, he’s got one gallon sized ziplock full of small toys and you know what? He still spends most of his time playing with the pots and pans from the kitchen. As parents we’ve been conditioned to buy every shiny new toy that all the other parents are buying so that our own special snowflake never feels less loved. But kids? Well, the old adage is true; they’d rather play with the box it came in. Save yourself an hours worth of cleaning up every night and limit the number of things that you’re buying for your child. Creativity comes from boredom after all.
Shop Small – A teeny tiny (not kidding, the largest kitchen we’ve had thus far has been the size of a broom closet) spaces mean you’re going to go to the market a lot. That’s fine – good even – it gives the non-worker a chance to get out of the house and practice the local language, as well as giving you the opportunity to try out a wider variety of food….or throw it away if you buy something that you find you just can’t stomach. Charming is a shopping cart creeper and it works out pretty brilliantly. Because we stay in residential rather than tourist areas, the markets are frequented by locals. Pick someone whose cart contains things you’re already buying or who is dragging around a child of a similar age and peek at what else they’re buying. Just try not to get too addicted to something, (Like Mighty and his Haribo BiCool candies) because you’re not likely to find it in your next destination and bringing along six pounds of candy is going to make your luggage too heavy to check.
Finally, be prepared to know every single word to every single song in every single Disney movie – Who are we kidding? It’ll be one or maybe two movies and you’ll hear them in your sleep. We’re not big users of the electronic babysitter, but some mornings the only way to keep the Captain from losing his mind is to load up one of his two preferred titles on the iPad. Mighty was able to load a few movies onto an iPad so that they can be watched offline, which helps keep the baby from hogging all the bandwidth and means that we’re never more than a click from Lilo & Stitch. A small space means that when he’s watching, so are we though. Keeping the volume as low as possible, angling the screen away from the worker-bee, turning it off when the baby loses interest, and starting from where the movie stopped rather than always restarting it from the beginning helps keep you from losing your OWN mind.