4 Things I Learned After My First Month of Small-Space Living
We’re back with the final installment of A Renter’s Diary! We’ve followed Rebekah Hall in her first month moving from a single family home into a 800-square-foot apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas. She’s had to figure out how to downsize and work around the quirks of the space. Last week, Hall shared how she shopped around her apartment (and her parents’ home) for no-cost kitchen storage solutions. For her last diary entry, she reflects on all she’s learned this month.
We’ve officially been living in our new apartment for a month. Every box we’ve unpacked since moving in has felt like a gift to our current selves from the people who packed up that house in Missouri.
My boyfriend said that moving feels disorienting because it’s intensely un-personal: You move to an unfamiliar space and for awhile you aren’t able to see or touch your favorite things. There is nothing to tether your space to you. I think he’s onto something.
When we first moved in, I had moments where I looked around our new apartment and felt a sudden combination of sadness and a deep nostalgia for the house we left in Columbia, Missouri—both the house itself and the environment we created within it. But as soon as I realized I had ample time to ease into my new home and learn the space, it got easier to be more gentle with myself. Instead of hurrying to hang all my art, I’m waiting. I am using a patience I did not know I possessed. I’m giving myself the time to get to know our new walls and corners, spots where the afternoon sun hits just right. I’m lingering on all the pieces we’ve lovingly collected, and waiting to figure out the exact right spot for each of them.
Now that our boxes are open and emptied, I feel see myself in my space again. With my things hung, shelved, and carefully arranged, it’s finally starting to feel like home.
That being said, everything isn’t the way I’d like it to be, yet. But I’ve found that I recognize my apartment’s particular quirks better than I would have if I had rushed to settle in—and now I can more thoughtfully work around them. Here, the four most surprising things I found about my apartment—and how I made these off-putting things feel more like home.
1. Our walls are finicky
Our last house had mostly drywall and some plaster, which allowed us to save heavier pieces for walls with studs to support them. In our new apartment, we’re working with all plaster walls. We discovered this the hard way when we tried to hammer a nail into the wall to hang our first piece up and heard the distinctive clatter of plaster crumbling into the space behind our wall. Thankfully, my dad let us borrow his ancient electric drill (and a bounty of extension cords), and we’ve been screwing into the plaster with a drywall screw instead. It’s a little more work, but it will ensure more secure hanging and won’t risk harming the lath that holds the plaster in place.
2. Some spaces need more brightening than others
Because we only have one closet in our house, we keep a coat rack near the front door. It looks particularly blah and dark since there are a lot of coats on it. I wanted a pop of color there, but I couldn’t put a framed piece behind the rack because the coats would have blocked it. After about twp weeks of staring at the spot, I finally took one of my scarfs and tacked it behind the coat rack.
Another dark spot? My bookshelf, which was weirdly filled with books with covers of various shades. After three weeks, I unpacked all of our books and decided that if I arranged them in a pleasing, delicious gradient from cream to dark, it would act as a piece of artwork all by itself.
3. There is such a thing as the “right” piece
Working within the restrictions of a much smaller space than our previous home has helped us hang onto less junk and be more realistic about what we love. It has also introduced new pieces into our home I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. We measured the large, round dining table we had in our last house and realized it would absolutely dominate our small kitchen/dining space. So, after a few days of mourning and some coordination with my parents, we brought over the much smaller, square kitchen table that I ate at as a kid, which had been collecting dust in my parents’ living room. Turns out, it fits perfectly in the corner of our dining nook, and I love it even more than that larger dining room table because it just fits so seamlessly. It’s also more intimate—the wood is a warmer hue, and the smaller dimensions mean my boyfriend and I have to sit a little closer to each other when we eat.
4. We need to be on top of our cleanliness
While our smaller, not-as-functional kitchen sink is annoying to use, it also means we have to clean up and put away our dishes right after we use them. And if there are a few stray clothes on the floor, our room looks like it’s a big mess—so we’ve been better about hanging up clothes or actually putting them in our hamper. On the flip-side, in our former house, it would take me an entire afternoon to sweep, mop, and wipe down the surfaces. In our new place, I can complete all of these tasks in half the time. So while I’m cleaning more often, I’m not cleaning more.
I’m still learning my new space, and I know getting it the way I want it to be will mean rearranging until the cows come home. It’s been so helpful to adjust to our new space while also adjusting to life in this city. I believe we will call this charming apartment home for quite a while, and I fall more in love with this space—and the new person I am within it—every day. Thanks so much for following along with me!