Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan knows a thing or two about living in confined quarters. As co-founder of the home-design site ApartmentTherapy.com, he's seen his fair share of fashionably inventive small spaces—enough, in fact, to round them all up into a new book, Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces.
But in addition, there was a period of time when Gillingham-Ryan, his wife and their then-newborn baby girl, lived in a 265-square-foot apartment in New York City's West Village. (Two-hundred and sixty-five square feet!) Though they've since upgraded roughly 500 feet, Gillingham-Ryan, known to fans as one part interior designer, one part life coach, still lives by those lessons he learned in his first small space.
Here, Gillingham-Ryan talks to iVillage about organized living with children, his favorite places to shop and how you can make a house—or even a room—a home.
How did you and your wife mange to live comfortably in 265 feet with a newborn?
Part of it was that we didn't have a lot of toys. We really kept her toys to a minimum. She generally likes to play with what we're playing with anyway, and to have just a few things that she really can focus on is a healthier way for her to play anyway.
What's your advice for not letting a child's things take over the home?
My solution is to support the parents' sanity. With most of the stuff your child gets, you didn't ask for it and you didn't buy it, it's given to you. When you receive a gift for your child, thank that person for the gift, and having done that, dispense of the gift. That's what we do with our daughter. A lot of the things she never sees. We give it to Housing Works. We do the same thing with ourselves. Especially if you're living in a small space, you have to be much more highly edited.
Is it unreasonable to think you can keep a clean home with children?
Children have to make a mess, the question is, how much do you give them to make a mess with? Really keep the options highly edited and very fused, so when they do what they do, it's much easier to put away and you can do it quickly. So have a little storage where you can see everything and keep refreshing the toys every month or so. Children live in the moment, so stuff that's a month old is years old in their minds.
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