Learning to Live Small: Part II

Learning to Live Small: Part II

Sarah Coffey
Jan 21, 2009

For those dealing with downsizing, the change can be stressful. In our first post on the topic, we rounded up our favorite examples of families, couples, and single people living in small spaces. This time around, we're listening to 9 people who've downsized and shared their stories in their own words. Despite budget challenges and the difficulty of paring down, all of them ended up happy in their small homes. Through the process, they've learned that living with less can sometimes mean living better...

From Jenny and Clove: "We essentially downsized (1100 in SF to 500 sq ft in NYC) to devote ourselves to our art. Though our space was a wreck, and our budget, a shoestring, we were determined not to settle. We wanted New York & San Francisco, indoor and outdoor, upscale apartment & artistic freedom...Being an artist requires perseverance, energy and ingenuity, qualities that allowed us to re-use, re-purpose, and re-invent ordinary materials in order to create an extraordinary space."

Dee Williams on why she moved from a 1,500 sf house to an 84 sf cabin: "A simpler life, more time, more money. I don't have a mortgage. I don't have a big utility bill. Being able to offer money to my family if they need it, (and to) my friends if they need it. Right now this is where I want to be!" (Photos: America at Home)

Dave, who downsized from a 1200 to 900 square foot apartment, says: "I found myself trolloping around my old place in Andersonville all by myself and decided that it was silly to have so much unused space. I would also wander around late at night dusting things with my nightshirt...not a healthy situation. With the help of a fantastic AT blurb, I managed to sell almost everything on Craigslist (although I could not find a buyer for my old Latrine chair) and started over for the new flat."

Sharon Kastrinos, who downsized with her husband from 1,800 square feet to just 150 square feet says: "There's a tremendous burden that's off your shoulders. Small is OK, and it might even be better." Her husband, Bill, now designs tiny Tortoise Shell Homes.

Andrea on her 650 sf apartment: "Last fall I became an empty-nester, sold the large, suburban colonial in Baltimore and headed up to New York and graduate school. I brought with me only what I thought I would need to live alone for the first time in my life. I shed an awful lot of stuff along the way! It is incredibly liberating to pare down, not to mention much easier to stay organized, keep the place clean and tidy, and really savor those things I chose to keep."

Mark and Katie decided to tour the country in a tiny T@B Trailer with their dog, Mister. Mister had no trouble adjusting: "When we lived in the apartment he didn't get to see us very much, and he only went outside a few times a day. On the trip, he gets to experience our adventures with us. He's getting a lot more attention and a lot more exercise now. When it's time for bed he cuddles up extra hard with us, as if to say 'Thanks for including me.'"

From Susannah and Jeff: "We moved from a 2,000 sq ft house in South Carolina to a 550 sq ft condo in the Southside of Chicago and wanted to keep most of our stuff! Small can be beautiful and functional, but it requires a lot of planning. Our furniture comes from a variety of sources: craigslist, garage sales, ebay, thrift and consignment stores. We wait until the right piece comes along - desperation and instant gratification are expensive! We believe that imagination is more important than bank account and try to live below our means."

From Melissa and Matt: "Our style is really based on what the space will allow. This (550 sf) apartment presents design challenges that other apartments have not. Our style seems to evolve out of those challenges. Some things that never change are the sentimental objects that remind us of friends and family, our travels and good times. Trying to make those things fit into the space we're living in usually dictates the overall aesthetic."

From Gregory and Em: "The (626 sf) studio is a direct extension of our personalities, lifestyle and interests, and has really taught us to live better with less...an especially notable accomplishment considering our bibliophilia and propensity for collecting. Patience is a virtue when transforming a space. Both of us believe in waiting for the right piece for the right price, rather than rushing into purchases that we might regret later. Live by the dogma: buy less, buy better and buy only what you love."

The Janssen Family moved from a 382 sf apartment into a 200 sf RV. Sara says, "I love that we are in such close quarters…our family life thrives because there is no where to "get away" from each other. We are in constant conversation. It's also great that we can see Bella no matter where she is playing...and that we are so involved in her life. I also love that we can completely open the RV up and have fresh air blowing through…or decide to eat outside whenever we want. There is nothing better than falling to sleep hearing the raindrops pitter patting on the roof…or waking up to the sun and breeze streaming in the windows."

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