How I Lost 300 Square Feet of Living Space But Still Have It All

published Sep 3, 2018
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(Image credit: Rebekah Hall)

Welcome to A Renter’s Diary! Over the next few weeks, we’ll follow Rebekah Hall as she and her boyfriend move from a home into a 800-square-foot apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas. From battling with the task of downsizing, to figuring out the quirks of the space, Hall will share all of the things you might forget or underestimate. This week she deals with the shock of how small 800 square feet really is:

I have had incredible luck as a renter. My college apartment was over 100 years old by the time I moved in, and while sometimes it showed its age, I spent three glorious years among hardwood floors, adorable built-ins, high ceilings, and a sunroom.

(Image credit: Rebekah Hall)

After my roommates and I decided to leave that space, I moved in with my boyfriend Art, staying in Columbia, Missouri, where he grew up. It was our first time living together, and our first time having complete control over the apartment search. Thanks to my love for Zillow and diligently browsing through available rentals, we landed a two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot single-family home on a corner lot with a fenced-in yard. It was surrounded by trees and had a driveway, a dishwasher, and a gas stove—all for $600 a month. I was in renter heaven!

We spent a great year there. I think living with a partner was made infinitely easier by having so much space: We had ample room to spread out and store our respective junk (though it gradually became collective junk). I had an entire space to decorate as I pleased, and I developed a love for interior design. We also were able to get a dog, a goal we’d had for a long time. Our black lab/German shepherd-mix Birdie, became the neurotic, affectionate third member of our family.

Rebekah and Birdie in the Columbia apartment (Image credit: Rebekah Hall)

But as our lease came to an end, we decided move to Little Rock, Arkansas, to be closer to my family. On the morning we left our little house on the corner, I stood in the front yard and cried. This was the first space that we had made ours, full of our first furniture and artwork we bought together and meals we cooked. It felt like shedding a skin to be leaving this home. It was necessary for our growth, but it also felt like we were losing a part of ourselves.

So at the end of May, we left and lived with my family for two months in our new city. This gave us a place to store all of our stuff (a surprising amount of stuff for two people and a dog), allowed us to save money as we looked for a new place, and let us catch our breath from a surprisingly emotional move.

Eventually we settled on a one-bedroom, 800-square-foot apartment in a historic neighborhood within view of the Capitol building. The apartment is charming—probably the most important quality I look for in a living space—with hardwood floors, original hexagon penny tile in the bathroom, and a beautiful archway into the kitchen space.

Though the apartment is aesthetically-pleasing, it’s a lot smaller than a house. We’re losing an important 300 square feet from our last home. I knew that when we signed the lease, but it really hit home when we were moving in. We realized we couldn’t bring along some of our favorite pieces that fit in the house like our large, round dining table handed down by family or the huge, beautiful coffee table from my college apartment. Not being able to have these comforts with us is frustrating, but we’ve found many small space solutions (stay tuned for some of my favorites!) and are making the most of our numerous large plastic storage bins, milk crates, and some cloth storage cubes that I bought from the dollar store.

I think some of this frustration is also a manifestation of the difficulty of leaving the large, incredible community of support and love that we had in Missouri. Change is hard, even this change we sought for ourselves. But there is joy in a clean slate, both in our new apartment and in my hometown, a city simultaneously new and old to me.

I’m excited to tackle projects in our new apartment, and I’m looking forward to finding solutions to small-space problems. It all feels like one big puzzle that we get endless attempts to solve.

Check back next week when Hall recounts her time doing that first post-move in shopping trip.