life in a tiny apartment.

July 10, 2017

Tip #153: Keep your fruit in plain sight.

For every week of June there was a bowl of cherries on the table that we call my desk. It might be shocking to know that there are two desks in our tiny home. Mine, a glorified potting table, turned dining table, and most recently called desk. And Faye’s, a child-sized table that she refers to as her desk when she’s in the mood to do a bit of work. In any single reference to the desk in our apartment, you can hear Faye asking whether we’re talking about mama’s desk or her own.

“Faye, can you grab the burp cloth from the desk?”

“My desk? Or jer desk?”



And off she tromps.

A bowl of fruit (and anything else) on my desk is within sight of our kitchen table, and our bed, and the bench that we call our couch. In other words, situate yourself just about anywhere in our apartment and you can see it. Its cherry-filled presence for the month of June made for an eventful bedtime hour. Before anyone could stop her, Faye would wriggle out from the middle of our bedtime tangle, run across the room, and retrieve a tiny fistful of cherries to share with the family. (Silas wanted a taste, she was sure of it.) 

She knows the answer, but she’d still cock her head at us.

“Got a pit?”

“Yup, careful!”

We had the exact exchange a million times over the course of the month.

Then, freeze.

“Go get your napkin.”

Faye would scamper off the bed and over to her highchair to grab her napkin, but not before the cherry juice rolled off her chin and spotted her pajamas. 

People want to know what’s it like to have two small kids in a one-bedroom apartment and the only answer I know how to give is that nearly everything—and everyone—is within sight, nearly all the time.


Cherries at my mom and dad’s house sit on the middle of the kitchen table. From upstairs, I can hear the wooden chair scrape against the kitchen floor while Faye folds herself over the table, lifts her toes skyward, and goes in for her prey. I send up a quiet prayer that her feet will find the chair again as she makes her descent.

At Grammy and Grandpa’s, cherry pits get spit out the back porch door. The goal is to reach as far as the herb garden, but pit spitting takes practice and lots fall short. They dot the stone stoop and press into the balls of your feet when you step onto them unawares. In this old house it’s the traces of everyone that you see. Cherry pits, and sand, and clipped grass that clung to wet feet as they streaked across the yard make trails to the youngest members of the family. You need to use different senses in this place to keep track of things. Ears perk up, listening for the creak of the screen door as it opens. The patter of tiny feet in an upstairs bedroom alert a parent to a toddler up from a late-afternoon nap. The cry of a once-sleeping baby goes unnoticed for a beat or two longer.


Back at home, once both kids are asleep and the door to their bedroom closed for the evening, there are a few hours when we can’t see them. I putter around the room, polishing away the traces of the day—the sand here’s from the playground, but there’s still plenty to sweep away.

When it’s finally time for me to turn out my own light, I check on both kids in their bedroom. They appear to be utterly unaware of each other, but for all I know it’s the sound of all those tiny breaths rising and falling that’s bringing them comfort and keeping them asleep in the middle of the night. I know better than to test the theory.

I lean in for a kiss. Everyone knows those baby cheeks smell like pure magic mixed with a bit of dried milk, but it’s a huff of those cherry cheeks that I’m after. As far as I’m concerned nothing’s half as good as the smell of a three-year-old in the summertime, sweaty, sandy, and with a hint of fruit lingering around the edges. 

This week, we traded cherries for plums, but the smell’s as sweet and the question’s still the same: “Got a pit?”

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 152, right this way.

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  • Reply Mary Kate July 10, 2017 at 10:37 am

    This is lovely. Have you ever considered writing fiction?

    And yes, I incorporate all fruit and some vegetables too into my decor. Invest in a few good wooden bowls or straw baskets, plop them on dining tables and end tables, and voila, lovely, edible decor + more room in the kitchen for other stuffs.

    I’m currently doing a kitchen reorganization in preparation for wedding gifts (so excited to finally have nice kitchen stuff!) and I had a few questions for you if you’re ever inclined to answer: where does one donate old plates, etc.? Also, how much food do you regularly keep in your place? We have a whole shelf dedicated to assorted canned goods, different kinds of flour, different kinds of oils I used once for a recipe … I’m the type not to throw food out ever (unless it goes bad of course) but do I really need six cans of chickpeas at all times?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 10:51 am

      Thanks! Thrift stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill usually warmly accept donations of home goods! In terms of food storage, we have one cabinet where we keep dry goods like dried beans, oatmeal, granola, flour, sugar, nuts, etc. I keep very little other packaged goods and we go grocery shopping several times a week. It means a lot of shopping, but it works for us!

      • Reply Mary Kate July 10, 2017 at 4:07 pm

        Ooh thanks.
        Ah yes, BK Heights, land of many grocery stores nearby. Now that I’m in Jersey we do BJs runs and Fresh Direct, which means more buying in bulk, and if we need anything at the last minute, it generally means going to the bodega. For now we store a good amount in the trunk of our car (haha) but that’s mostly toilet paper, wouldn’t want to store food in there.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

          Ha! I love the idea of a car trunk filled with toilet paper!

  • Reply Jennifer July 10, 2017 at 10:49 am

    What a beautiful little essay. We’re in the same rhythm here now–farmer’s market on Fridays, cherries and berries and stone fruit all week.

    I’m wondering, how did you go about getting both your kids to sleep in the same room? Does Silas ever wake Faye? As soon as our littlest is old enough I’d like to have her join big sister (they are 19 months apart) but I’m worried they will be too interested in each other and stay awake.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 10:54 am

      We really didn’t do anything special! We did start Silas in his crib a lot sooner than we did with Faye, though! They’ve been together in the room since Silas was 2.5 – 3 months or so and they really super rarely wake each other up, even if one of them does wake up and cry. It’s been basically a non-issue! Good luck!

  • Reply SEM July 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Your writing is poetic! Love your description of her leaning in for her ‘prey’. You make motherhood very enticing! ❤️

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply Oana July 10, 2017 at 10:56 am

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Loved the writing!!!!

  • Reply Judith July 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Lovely. Thank you!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      thank you!

  • Reply Miruska July 10, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Beautiful writing. I could imagine every moment, every sound, like I was in that old house looking in.

  • Reply April July 10, 2017 at 11:23 am

    What a sweet little story about young kids and summertime. Made me smile. I like your description of small living – that everything and everyone is always in sight. It really captures the experience.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      thanks so much! so glad to hear that!

  • Reply Emily July 10, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Love this. Such a beautiful essay to read.

  • Reply auberie July 10, 2017 at 11:33 am

    You write so beautifully, it was as if I was at your or your parent’s place!
    I love those posts 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 10, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      thanks so much! so glad to hear that!

  • Reply Floppo July 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Very beautifully written. If it were a letter or written by hand, I am sure your penmanship would be delightful! I am still waiting for another book of yours. I like very much the piece on María’s Sound of Music/trip to Italy of your book. I look forward to reading more in that style.

  • Reply Ninna Kiel Nielsen July 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I agree with every comment above, very beautiful! – and a personal thing: When you have become a grandmother, you get the chance to re-live all those moments! Lucky Me!

  • Reply Virginia July 10, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    I adore your writing. Your storytelling is so beautiful. Please write another book! I’ve devoured Simple Matters multiple times since purchasing it a little less than a year ago. Would love a Part II.

  • Reply Jersey July 10, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Another beautiful post Erin! Well done, you make motherhood sound so romantic.

  • Reply Marika July 10, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    So, so wonderful!

  • Reply Janean July 10, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Gorgeous. More please! 😉

  • Reply Janet July 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    How absolutely lovely! I could almost hear Faye and taste and smell the cherries.

  • Reply Sam July 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Love this – my one year old loves strawberries and I love that the smell lingers as she goes to bed. Much better than her two other fav foods, cheese and fish 😉

  • Reply Rebecca July 10, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    What a beautiful image filled essay. Thanks for slowing down to write it, and in turn, encouraging others to slow down and smell the cheeks…..I sure love kissing my toddler’s sunscreened juicy ones these days.

  • Reply La Shell July 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Awwwww. So precious! Love this series.

  • Reply kali July 10, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    So lovely! Made my day. I share a 300 square foot studio with my boyfriend and a five-month-old puppy so no fruit out for me, but I loved the lyrical quality of this essay.

  • Reply MA July 11, 2017 at 8:55 am

    What a lovely essay. Especially “my desk or jer desk?” And boy, cherries are the perfect fruit for little ones. Between getting the pit out of the fruit and trying to spit the pit the furthest – what could be better!

  • Reply Amanda K. July 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Ah, I’m allergic to (raw) cherries. Truly devastating, especially at this time of year.

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic July 12, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    I actually just finished eating a bag of cherries I bought a few days ago; they were so good. That’s one of the best things about summer: fresh fruit.

  • Reply Claire October 7, 2017 at 1:11 am

    This is such a beautiful piece, and I wanted to let you know how much it’s meant to me. My husband and I are contemplating the idea of starting a family of our own in a tiny apartment in Chicago. Your stories here show so poetically how the size of your space doesn’t limit the amount of love and joy it can be filled with. I’ve found such inspiration and comfort in your blog, thank you for sharing your writing!

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