“I feel like we hit a wall around the time Charlotte was born,” Ms. Moore said. But in addition to their apartment being lovely, it is rent-stabilized. When they moved in the rent was $1,300 a month; it is now $1,654.
In Brooklyn, they looked in Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, but found only slightly more space in the same price range. For about a day, they considered the suburbs. They abandoned the search after they saw an apartment in Bushwick with the bathroom in the hall that rented for $1,700 a month, $200 more than they were paying at the time. It drove home, Ms. Moore said, “that’s what you got if you didn’t want to pay more — a bathroom in the hall.”
“When we thought about what we wanted, which was more space in Brooklyn, ultimately it came down to someone would have to make more money,” she said. Her husband did not want to leave his job as a public defender and Ms. Moore, who has worked part-time since Charlotte was born, wasn’t willing to work full-time. Her son, Hudson, came along a few years later.
“I chose being with my kids,” she said. “And I was O.K. with staying here because I knew we’d have to move to get more space and I didn’t want to move. The question is: Can you make the space work?”
The couple addressed the apartment’s constraints by eschewing bulky items like a highchair, crib or stroller. She carried the children until they were old enough to walk, occasionally resorting to a laundry cart. Longer excursions are made on a cargo bike. The only real difficulty, Ms. Moore said, was when Hudson developed a proclivity for wandering when he was between 18 months and 2½.
These days, Ms. Moore and the children share the two closets in the bedroom quite comfortably, thanks to their pared-down wardrobes and the Marie Kondo folding technique, which mainly seems to involve intricately folded clothing standing upright rather than lying flat. While Ms. Moore does not subscribe to all the recommendations of the Japanese decluttering guru, she said that Ms. Kondo’s method saves so much space they don’t need dressers.
“I always think, ‘How many clothes do you need?’ Because everyone wears the same outfit all the time anyway,” she said. “There’s some statistic that 80 percent of our clothes go unused most of the time.”
While not a clotheshorse, Ms. Moore does admit to a fondness for pottery and plants — there are 42 plants in the apartment — and to occasionally being tempted by furniture.
“Sometimes I see a cool bench and I’m like, ‘I want this, but I know it won’t fit,’” she said. “But then I think about how I’m making those choices. I could work full-time, or move out of the city or move to the South Bronx.”
The children sleep in the bedroom, taking turns between the double bed and the futon, while Ms. Moore stays on a futon in the living room. She reclaims the bed on nights when the children stay with their father. The cats avoid the bunny, Foo; though uncaged, he rarely leaves the vicinity of his food and litter box.
Possessions are kept to a minimum: Charlotte, now 8, has a shelf of dolls; Hudson, now 5, a shelf of toys, and the children share a shelf of books. As Charlotte explained, “I used to have a box with Barbies in it, but I never played with it, so Mommy feng shui’d them.”
Ms. Moore acknowledged that their setup isn’t for everyone. “Some people, living in such a small space would make them feel claustrophobic,” she said. “And maybe at some point, this won’t work for us anymore.
“It’s different for different people. Especially because it’s not just about the space, it’s about the stuff. People need a lot more space to put their stuff in. There’s this idea that if you can get more space, you’ve won.”
“The American dream,” Charlotte interjected.
“Part of it is I can’t afford more space, but part of it is I would rather own fewer things and love everything I own,” Ms. Moore said. “This is what works for me.”