Creating Space for a Toddler in 590 Sq Ft

Our original plan for our 590 sq ft apartment allowed for a baby (if you’re catching up, see the floorplan here); it’s why we moved and what we planned for. Initially a bassinet on our bedroom window sill and a changing mat on top of a chest of drawers was all the dedicated space our tiny baby required. At four months old, Campbell transitioned into his cot and slept each night in his own room. Honestly, we could have stayed in our 440 sq ft space until he was 6 months or so, if push came to shove (but I’m so glad we did our move pre-baby). Six months in, more complexities presented themselves: eating solid food, rolling and then crawling. Having planned for and existed in 590 sq ft for over a year now with our baby, I think it’s been a pretty easy transition and we love our small space. A toddler, though…a toddler is a whole new ballgame.

Campbell took his first steps a couple weeks after his first birthday. So exciting! We are currently existing in a false sense of calm, as he has reverted back to crawling at a furious speed. We know it’s now a matter of weeks or even days until we’ve got a full on walker on our hands, and then our space is going to change once again. At time of publication Campbell is now a walking all over the place and even more adorable and precocious than before. Hello little toddler!

We have no plans to move into a large place anytime soon, so we’re going to need to adapt our space to Campbell’s evolving needs and capabilities. Here’s where we’re at:

Accessible Toy Storage

We got a bit tired of our two overflowing baskets of toys a few months ago and decided some dedicated toy storage was in order. Without many options for location, we measured the little sliver of floor between our sofa and Campbell’s bedroom door, and chose a unit from Ikea (Eket series). Campbell has already figured out the touch-latch and happily digs around to find his toys.

A Life Shift 20170917e
Campbell’s toy zone – everything is contained to this one area in the living room.

Creativity Zone

I hate throwing things away that seem like they could be useful. There was a sample piece of sticky-backed chalkboard material at my office in a pile to get chucked. I just couldn’t let it go. The roll sat under my desk for months waiting for the right idea. It finally came to me! With limited walls and surfaces in our space, Campbell is soon going to need his own space to draw and be creative…why not adapt the kitchen island for that. We installed the chalkboard material (similar to this one) on the back panel and I think it looks fantastic. Campbell’s artwork will essentially be out of sight and out of mind most of the time, but also perfectly accessible to him whenever the urge to scribble hits.

The final installation of chalk surface on the back panel of our kitchen island.
Campbell is more interested in eating the chalk than drawing, unfortunately!


We are taking a very casual approach to child-proofing. Of course we want Campbell to be safe, but I’m not keen on covering our house in foam edging for the next year. We have no stairs, so he’s in no real danger, and basically we’ve secured a few areas to prevent breakables from getting smashed. Other than that, we’ve moved things out of reach or taught him not to touch things. In the kitchen we purchased bins to corral dishes and containers. Pots, pans, etc are still fair game. Campbell took no time to figure out how to open the bins, so we secure the doors with bulldog clips. Out TV unit has sliding doors that Campbell became obsessed with, and was forever pulling out our stacks of books. That’s now secured with a bulldog clip too – mostly to save our sanity. We keep the doors to the bathroom closed, a system I know will only work until he can unlatch a door. Don’t worry – we’ve covered the electrical outlets too! Other than that, our entire house is fair game for exploring for now. I’m sure that will change again when he figure out how to climb.

Out high-tech system for keeping Campbell out of the TV unit…a bulldog clip on the track to prevent the door from sliding.
The two plastic bins in the island keep kitchen items contained and secure.

Grow Into & Grow Out of System

Without a nice built-in closet, I find it a bit challenging to keep to track of Campbell’s clothes, especially as we have a variety of items for him to grow in to. It seems challenging to keep everything inventoried so I know what will fit in various seasons and what the holes in his wardrobe are. As I typically try to shop for Campbell is Canada or Australia when we travel (because prices are significantly cheaper) I need to be organized in advance.

Here’s our system:

  1. Clothes that fit are kept in his dresser drawers.
  2. Periodically (every few months) I assess what fits and what’s getting to small. We transition where necessary.
  3. Before a trip I photograph his little wardrobe by season so I know what he has and what colours everything is so I can ensure a reasonably coordinated wardrobe.
  4. Clothes that are for future seasons are in one Ikea Skubb bin in his little closet.
  5. Clothes that are outgrown are in another bin.
Campbell’s fall / winter wardrobe laid out prior to our August trip to Vancouver.
The two white bins in Campbell’s closet keep our system organized.
Campbell’s drawer of clothes at maximum capacity. It’s time for a cull!

Seasonal clothes are tough because there’s a decent chance of travel at any time to any season. So far I’ve focused on dressing Campbell for Hong Kong weather, with a few warm weather outfits in the background for cooler Hong Kong winter in case we travel somewhere warm. Other than that, if specific items are required for a trip I will buy them as we go.


Campbell’s learning how to wave goodbye. So are we. If something is no longer serving its purpose, it’s out the door. It either gets taken back to Canada for storage, donated or passed on to other families to use. Easy!

I would love to hear other ways families have transitioned their home for a baby to a toddler!


This post was written for inclusion in the October collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Little Bungalow– “Creating Outdoor Spaces…Help!!!” : Anxiety-inducing photos of my front, back and side yards

Justice Pirate– “I’m So Spaced Out!” : Learn about experimentation and the importance of having a little more space than the average person might imagine; in fact, use your imagination more and embrace the space!

The Streamlined Life– “Creating Space in a Small Home” : Can you add more space to a small house without increasing the square footage? Let’s just say it’s easier than you think.

Tiny Ass Camper– “Creating Space” : How less physical space has created more space for things that matter.

Fourth & West– “Margins” : Creating space in a busy life.

9 thoughts on “Creating Space for a Toddler in 590 Sq Ft

  1. I too have a fairly recent baby turned toddler. She’s 21 months old and we moved from our 795 square foot bungalow to an 1177 square foot bungalow when she was about 16 months. The move was totally unrelated to her, but it was so great to be able to shop for a new house with a toddler/child in mind, rather than a baby. We looked for an open layout as our old house was pretty compartmentalized and so hard to keep an eye on her. I didn’t do any “proofing” of the house either — we live here, too, and I don’t want to go through a bunch of steps to open my cupboards! Great to see how you’ve converted your space for your growing boy.


    1. It’s refreshing to hear you have a similar approach to toddler-proofing. I feel like he’s going to encounter everything in the world eventually, so why not start setting reasonable boundaries early. Here in Hong Kong I find some people can be VERY cautious (ie setting up a foam pen in their living room) and only letting their baby play in there. It seems absurd to me…


  2. I just found your blog.

    I’ll definitely follow, because I grew up in Hong Kong so living in small spaces is familiar to me! We lived in Causeway Bay in the 1980s, and I went to South Island School (then in Eastern Hospital Road, but relocated while I was there to Aberdeen, where it still is). HK is an amazing place – cherish every moment you’re there – it will change your whole life 🙂


    1. Happy to have you following along, Lee! You’re right – Hong Kong is an amazing place. Have you been back since you were little growing up here?


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