How Living in a Tiny Apartment Made Me Happier and Saner

published Apr 14, 2015
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(Image credit: Stephanie)

In Houston I had a house that was almost 1,000 square feet, with two patios and a balcony off the bedroom and a washer and dryer and more closets than I knew what to do with. And then I sold it, and got rid of almost everything I owned, and moved into a 260 square foot apartment in Manhattan, the smallest place I’ve ever lived since I lived in a college dorm. And you know what? I’m a lot happier.

I first tried out small space living in the apartment that I rented for a few weeks in Paris, where I discovered, to my surprise and delight, that being able to get from the couch into bed without touching the floor actually contributed a great deal to my happiness. My Paris apartment wasn’t grand or ornate, like a lot of the places I admired on design blogs, neither did it have a great view, like some of the apartments I was lucky enough to photograph while I was there.

But its smallness was a comfort to me. It felt like a little cocoon, a place to retreat from all the things that had been worrying me and enjoy being unapologetically alone. So when I started looking for apartments in New York, I was actually looking for a really small place. I’m sure my broker thought I was crazy when I told her that some of the apartments she showed me were ‘too big’. But this being New York, I did eventually find an apartment tiny enough to meet my needs: a little place tucked away on the fifth floor, with enough room for a bed and a desk and a couch and not much else.

And I love this little place in a way that I’ve never loved any other place that I’ve lived. I love that I can stand in one place and reach everything in the kitchen at the same time. I love that when I’m ready to go to bed, bed is only ever a few steps away. But more than that I love the simplicity of small space living. I thought getting rid of most of my stuff would be hard, and it was, but now that I’m past that I’m experiencing something that I never felt before: the lightness and surprising joy of having only as much as you need.

I realized that we think a lot about the things we demand from our houses, but not so much about the things our houses demand from us. My Houston house always felt a little empty, like maybe I needed more furniture, or more people, or more something to fill it up. I loved that place too, and I will miss the dinner parties and game nights and cookouts that I had there. But when I was alone my Houston house always fit me a little loosely, whereas my New York apartment fits me just right. I don’t feel pressured to buy more stuff or entertain all the time to justify living here. It feels like the perfect place for where I am in life right now.

Maybe someday I’ll outgrow my 260 square feet. Maybe someday I’ll have an apartment with room for more than one pair of sneakers, or an actual closet. But for now, I couldn’t be happier about living little.

Re-edited from a post originally published 4.14.15-NT