Thanks For the Train Table, But My Kid Lives in an Apartment

Our family of four lives in a three-bedroom apartment in New York City. The kids share a bedroom and the “third bedroom” is a dining room that has been transformed into a playroom (a rare luxury in these parts). I am engaged in a perpetual war against Addy and Zack’s toys, trying to contain them in these two rooms in a configuration that doesn’t resemble a garbage dump.  See exhibit A for evidence of my failure:


Two weeks ago, both my mother and my sister-in-law called me while holiday shopping. “Do you think Zack wants Legos?”, “How about a real workbench with a full set of tools and screws?” I had to veto it all. “Nothing big.” I said, “Nothing that comes with a million pieces, nothing that resembles anything they already have.” I needed to defend the small amount of grown up space we still have in our home. More importantly, the more puzzles, pegs, beads, squinkies, legos and 50-piece wooden food sets that accumulate, the closer I get to seeking professional help for the undiagnosed OCD that keeps me up until 1:00 AM organizing it all. The bottom line is that until we live in a house in the suburbs with a hoarders-inspired, kids-only basement, I will be the Grinch who stole Hanukkah. Accordingly, I have developed a list of a few of the top holiday gifts for preschoolers who live in apartments. Grandmas and Grandpas, take note.

Real Deal Gift Ideas…

Tickets to the Fresh Beat Band Concert

They’re small. We throw them in the garbage when we’re done with them. Most important, I can never figure out when they go on sale until I’m a month too late and only the crappy seats are left, so I need someone else to take over this job anyway.

Disney DVDs

They’re easy to store and they double as a free two-hour babysitter when I want to take a nap.

Gifts for Those on a Budget…

A Box of Cookies

There’s nothing that gets little kids more excited than giving them a box of cookies. What’s great is that they are perfectly satisfied when you give them just one. What’s even better is that they believe you when you tell them there are no cookies left in the box the next day because they finished them all.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is like the supporting actress who steals the show from the leading lady, the bread that you fill up on at a restaurant and then have no room left for dinner. No matter what amazing toy is protected by its cushy little buttons, kids always just want to play with the bubble wrap. It provides hours of entertainment and can be dumped with a clean conscience once it’s deflated. What more could a little apartment dweller’s mom ask for?

Gifts I Can Only Dream About…

Live-in Housekeeper

A perfect gift for a toddler, a live-in housekeeper will provide one more adult in the apartment who will bend to their every whiny command. As an added bonus, when grandma inevitably ignores your request to nix the fifty-piece puzzle books that constantly spill out all over the floor, a live-in housekeeper will help keep your sanity better than lithium. Where’s she going to sleep? Hell, if she really cleans up every day, she can take my side of the bed and I’ll sleep standing up in the closet.

A Storage Unit

For a mere $100/month, you can bring joy to the heart of a little one by bringing the coveted basement full of toys to the NYC apartment. So what if it’s just a 3’ x 3’ x 3’ metal cage? Who cares if I stuff it so full of exersaucers, baby swings and singing puppy dogs that if a kid actually took anything out of it, it would trigger a deadly avalanche? Big deal if the sub cellar where it’s located is also a rat tenement? I could get rid of TWENTY SEVEN CUBIC FEET of toys! Definitely worth the risks.

Ambien-Laced Brownies

Total non-sequitur. It’s 10:41 PM right now. Why the hell is Zack still up in his bed whispering to his team of stuffed animals? Either this kid needs some Ambien-laced brownies for Hanukkah or I do so I can go to sleep and stop staring at his beady, glowing eyes in the damn monitor.

Be Warned…

Ignore the aforementioned banned gift characteristics and your present will land on the re-gift shelf. The re-gift shelf is a thing of beauty. It emits rays of sunshine every time I crack open the closet door as if it was a direct invention of God him(her?it?)self. Entry to the re-gift shelf means there is one less toy messing up my living room and there is one less gift I have to buy for someone else. So actually, I beg you, please forget everything I said in this post and just give my kids something I can guiltlessly pass on to someone else.

Share your ideas!  What are some serious or funny ideal gifts for the space challenged?


134 thoughts on “Thanks For the Train Table, But My Kid Lives in an Apartment

  1. tollroad

    Your house looks like mine did a few years ago. My kids are older, 11 now 15. The Legos and dolls get replaced with baseball equipment and electronics. I must admit I like being able to put things away. Good luck. I enjoy your blog.


  2. cantueso

    In Japan, where space is probably more of a problem than even in NY, they use the ceiling to have more room at least for cats: walking room: beams across the ceiling. There were also beams up the wall for the cats to get to the ceiling and swings attached to the beams. It was in a US journal of interior design where I saw this. There could also be some safety net under the beams.

  3. houseofbedlam

    We live in a house and I still don’t want all the cr-p! Your OCD will not leave you once you move to the burbs – there will just be more things to organize in a bigger space! (can you tell I miss the city???)

    Like your blog – made me laugh as I remembered living in a one-bedroom with 3 kids and a dog. Days I fondly miss….surprisingly!

  4. Pingback: Good Reads « keepingupwiththejoneses67

  5. Wind Inspired

    Great post!
    Hi – I’m a mom of 4 (8, 11, 12, 14) and 2 years ago we left our stuff (enough stuff that filled a 6 bedroom 3500 sq ft house) in storage and moved to a 3 bedroom apartment on the beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It has been an amazing lesson in simplifying. We focus more on events and classes as gifts rather than things. we accumulate books on kindles rather than stock bookshelves, we go out and live life more because there is less to clean and care for. In about 5 months we will be reunited with life back in the US and our stuff – I intend to get rid of tons and find a good balance between stark and too much.
    PS – when my kids were littles, my rule for gift givers: nothing plastic and nothing alive.

    1. Jill Post author

      Wow! What an amazing thing to do! My husband and I definitely dream about doing something like that one day. It sounds like it really gets you to focus on what is truly important and meaningful in life. So wonderful!!

  6. pollyw

    We have 6 kiddos under 10 years old and our house constantly looks like it has exploded. I loved your solutions, especially about the housekeeper — send her our way when she’s done.

    And you’re right about giving a box of cookies. One time we were low on funds and one of the birthday gifts to my 6 year old was a bag of double bubble — just for him. You would have thought we gave him a trip to Disneyworld. He loved being the keeper of the gum and having his big sisters ask him for a piece.

    My rule about gifts (for a while anyway) was that they had to come in one piece if possible. It didn’t last long…

    Thank you for the post…I could relate to so much of it!!


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