Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Dennis and Cherry with three of their four kids, in their two bedroom apartment. Photo by Joshua Huston

Where we live: Small space, big family

6 people, 3 pets in 925 square feet keeps this family close

When Dennis, Cherry, and their eldest son moved into a two-bedroom apartment in 2014, it was the perfect size for them. More than nine years later, the family has grown to six people — plus two dogs, and one axolotl. Despite that exponential growth, they’re thriving in that same small space.

Tight quarters, these parents say, have fostered flexibility and strong family bonds. The 925-square-foot apartment in Renton was supposed to be a temporary arrangement while Cherry pursued an associate degree in nursing, which she earned in 2020. Now, Cherry is working toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and that means the family is staying put.

Sleeping Arrangements 

As of this writing, Cherry and Dennis, who asked to keep their last name private, were co-sleeping with 2 ½-year-old Ayvree, who had a few more weeks sharing the bed with just mom and dad before the arrival of baby #4 in February. Older brothers Aydenn (11) and Aaisic (8) share the second bedroom, though Aaisic is also reluctant to leave his parents’ room.

“He’s been struggling the most, so we went to IKEA and said, ‘Let’s just look. If having your own bed makes you excited and want to sleep in your room versus sharing a bed, let’s do that,’” Dennis says.

The family left IKEA with a loft bed that they tucked Aydenn’s bed underneath to maximize space. They decorated the bottom area with lights to create a cozy cave-like feeling.

Though Aaisic loves the new setup, preteen Aydenn is beginning to need more space and independence from his brothers. His parents are sympathetic and try to give him alone time while being realistic about what is doable in their space.

The day-to-day of living small

Cherry says, “I feel like [being in a small space] keeps us really close as a family. Yeah, we fight, but we understand each other. This is their norm.”

Still, as kids do, Aaisic and Aydenn observe and compare their lives with their peers. For example, when classmates were swapping stories about the “Elf on the Shelf,” a Christmas tradition where an elf is hidden in different spots in a house all through December, Dennis and Cherry’s kids wondered if the elf only visited houses and not small apartments like there’s. Though the parents assured their children the elf visits both styles of home, adding that their family simply celebrates Christmas in other ways, Cherry admits, “It breaks our hearts.” 

In terms of the day-to-day, navigating life in a two-bedroom apartment — which doubles as an office space for Dennis, an operations manager who works several days from home — requires constantly juggling needs, organizing spaces, and being flexible.

“My workspace is super messy and not ideal, but it works,” Dennis says. “We have a little gate up, so Ayvree and the dog don’t go in my space.” His workspace ends up as a dumping ground for things that need to be kept safe.

The endless search for space efficiency 

The family has a coveted garage, which gives them a secure parking spot near their unit and extra storage space. They can now move items out of the apartment, but they’ve also accumulated things that they previously didn’t have space for.

In February, when the new baby’s arrival was around the corner, the family went into full nesting mode, reorganizing closets to make space for everything that comes with having a newborn. The boys were tasked with organizing their toys and purging clothes. “I want to reorganize things,” said Dennis. “To be more efficient with the space, trying to find better storage solutions —”

 “— which will only last for a little bit before the boys will destroy it,” Cherry finished the thought.

Facing the challenges

Cherry and Dennis say there are a lot of challenges for a large family living in a tight space, but they are quick to list the benefits as well. Renting an apartment is more convenient and affordable than purchasing a house. It has given them financial flexibility to afford sports and extracurricular activities for their kids, as well as outings and vacations.

“Also, if something breaks, someone else fixes it,” Dennis says. “I hear [from] our friends who are homeowners and have issues with their plumbing or foundation. I don’t want to deal with that yet.”

And they are not alone in facing the challenges. A family nearby includes five people sharing a small apartment. The two families have grown closer over recent years, helping each other with needs like school pickups. Most recently, when Cherry and Dennis’ dryer broke, the other family offered the use of their dryer — and even folded the laundry. The apartment manager also gave Cherry and Dennis access to the dryer in an empty apartment.

“It’s little gestures like that that have gotten us through,” Cherry says.  

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About the Author

Melody Ip

Melody Ip has been an avid writer since she got her first diary at the age of 5. Today, she is a freelance copy editor and writer, in addition to being the copy chief for Mochi Magazine. She loves the trees and rain of the Pacific Northwest, still sends handwritten letters, and always has at least five books on her nightstand.