3 Important Lessons I Learned While Living in a Micro-Studio Apartment

published May 7, 2021
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I’d just landed my first full-time job as a college graduate, and needed to move to Seattle on a tight budget. Perhaps naively, I leased the first apartment I toured, because I was ready to stop commuting to the city three hours by bus every day.

That first apartment was a micro-studio. Also known as micro-apartments, micro-studios typically measure less than 350 square feet. They often consist of one bedroom/living area, a kitchenette, and a small bathroom with a shower stall. There may be a communal kitchen in the building and, if you’re lucky, a shared laundry facility. 

My micro-studio measured a whopping 175 square feet. It wasn’t fancy, but it represented my newfound independence. It was my first time living without outside help — no roommates, no parents, just me in the city. 

I ended up breaking my lease a month early because a persistent leak made the whole building smell of mildew, but I still cherish the lessons I learned from those eleven months. Here are my takeaways from life in a micro-studio.

Lesson #1: Clean as you go. 

I found it harder to keep my micro-studio clean than any other place I’ve ever lived. I’d winnowed my belongings down to the necessities (give or take a few party dresses), but even one day’s worth of mess made the whole room look like I hadn’t cleaned in weeks. My only sink was tiny, so unless I did the dishes after dinner, I had no space to brush my teeth that night.

I’ve always been a bit messy. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’m Monica Geller’s worst nightmare. I couldn’t handle the disarray in such a small space, so I finally got intentional about cleaning.

Instead of letting chores wait for the weekend, I tackled messes one-by-one as they occurred. It was annoying at first, but worth the effort. I live in a bigger home now, but I still wash my dishes every night, and I’m careful about keeping messes contained.

Lesson #2: Be intentional about self-care. 

Self-care isn’t just a buzzword used to sell you candles. It doesn’t have to be a long soak in a bathtub (which I didn’t have) or cooking a fancy meal (I only had a microwave!). It’s a bummer when you can’t relax the way you like, but I found new ways to unwind that I still use today. My self-care became more about grounding myself. I started taking barre classes in exchange for cleaning up around the studio two nights a week. It got me moving and gave me a place to make friends. 

I also made my small space cozy with soft throw blankets and aromatherapy candles. When I felt too cooped up, I’d take a walk downtown and explore my neighborhood. I always felt better when I returned home.

Lesson #3: Make the most of whatever life stage you’re in. 

I found joy in that micro-studio. It’s a temporary living arrangement for most, a building populated mainly by travel nurses and graduate students. It was a safe place to retreat to after work, and it gave me time to plan and save for my next move. 

I chuckle thinking about the neighbor who kept a secret dog even though it was against the rules, the dryer that magically made clothes even wetter, and the countless microwave recipes I mastered in my kitchenette.

It wasn’t perfect, but that micro-studio served as my springboard into adulthood, and I’ll never forget the lessons it taught me.