Living Small in the City: Tips for Coping Without Outdoor Space

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Living without outdoor space is the tough trade-off so many of us make in exchange for urban dwelling. Lack of outdoor space isn't always a bad thing: if you're unable to care for a yard, are made nervous by the combination of small children and balconies, or generally dislike fresh air and sunshine, you're in luck. For everyone else, lack of outdoor space can be a real bummer when spring rolls around and there's nowhere to enjoy it.

I've lived without outdoor space for most of a decade, here are a few of the ways I've learned to cope:

  1. Plants help. It can be lots of plants, or just one or two tucked in a window ledge, either way having a bit of greenery adds a sense of life and lightness to a home. Plus, you can name them, which for some reason gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
  2. Open the windows! I was raised in the suburbs in a home with central air-conditioning which, in Texas, saw a lot of use. For anyone who isn't aware, you do not open the windows when the AC is running. My parents would be happy to give you a lesson on electricity bills and why we are not paying to air condition the sidewalk, if anyone is interested. I can assure you they perfected this particular lesson while my brother and I were growing up! It took some time for me to adjust to the non-central AC lifestyle, but now that I have I can attest to the benefits of letting in a spring breeze. It freshens your home and lets you enjoy the season, no outdoor space necessary.
  3. Change out window coverings. Swapping heavy curtains for sheers in warmer months helps bring the outside in. I'm always amazed by how much more I notice the world outside my windows when they're not framed with heavier curtains.
  4. Actually go outside whenever you get the chance. Sit on the patio when you go out for dinner. Take a walk or go to the park. You can bring a picnic, and even a portable grill and supplies, just be sure it's allowed before leaving home. My favorite thing to do in warmer months is to take a long walk along the East River and grab some fruit or a coffee to enjoy on the way back. Yes, coffee is my sports drink of choice, really it's my any time drink of choice, and no, I do not think it's weird (I write while sipping today's third cup of coffee). The point is, just get outside, it doesn't have to be private and decked out in your own personal outdoor furniture to be enjoyable.
  5. Never let the opportunity to use someone else's outdoor space pass you by. A bit shameless, I know, but if you have friends or family that have ever been without outdoor space of their own, they completely understand your need to go stand on their balcony for a minute or two. I always insist on drinking my coffee (coffee again!) on my parents' back porch when I'm visiting, even if the weather isn't quite perfect.

Overall, I've found that my near ten years of living without outdoor space has given me a greater appreciation for fresh air and for being outside. I would never have described myself as an outdoorsy kind of person, but I've started to recognize that for someone without outdoor space at home the only instances when I'm spending time outside are the fun times. Without the burden of caring for a lawn, or worrying about a freak rainstorm ruining my outdoor cushions, I'm completely free to simply enjoy!

(Image credits: Jess Watson)