4 Things My Tiny Apartment Taught Me

published Apr 11, 2018
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Call me a freak, but I always thought it would be fun to live in a really small apartment. Like, not prison-cell small, but small-by-American-standards small. When I moved to New York City, I got my wish: a perfect little studio apartment, blessed with an unbeatable location in downtown Manhattan, and exactly zero closets. It’s been wonderful, occasionally challenging, and I’ve learned a lot. We shape our homes, but they also shape us, and living in a small space magnifies these impacts. Here are a couple of hard-fought lessons, and other sweet things I’ve picked up along the way.

It’s OK to get rid of stuff.

As the deeply sentimental daughter of a mother who saved absolutely everything, I am really, really bad at getting rid of stuff. I have a hard time even getting rid of boxes. This is a real challenge when your whole apartment is 250 square feet, and you have no closets. At times it’s been painful, but I’ve had to learn to be selective about my belongings, and along the way I’ve learned that it is not so bad. In fact, it is strangely freeing. That book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for forever that you just might read someday? You might feel a teeny pang of sadness when you drop it off at Goodwill, but your apartment, and your life, will be thankful—and have more room for books you might actually finish.

Putting things away can actually be really satisfying.

Back when I lived in a much larger house, my coming-home routine was something like this: walk in the door, gradually shed coat and bag and shoes while walking through living room. And this was fine, because I had plenty of floor space and an extra couch that I used most of the time just to put my purse on. But now, my apartment is so teeny that if I were to do this, there would be stuff strewn all the way to the bed, and no floor space left at all. So I’ve developed a little routine. Like Mr. Rogers, I pause inside the door, and take off my shoes, and coat, and hat, and carefully put them away in their designated spots. It may sound fussy, but it’s become a sweet little ritual that I cherish. Keeping things neat can be its own weird, small joy.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Cozy parties are the best parties.

I never thought I could have a dinner party in my tiny apartment, and then when I did was alarmed when I invited ten people and ten actually showed up, because I only had seats for eight. But you know what? In my small apartment, ten people felt like a truly rollicking party—the kind with shoulder-rubbing happy chaos that would require many, many more people in more square feet.

You might need a lot less space than you think.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, I find myself draped over my couch, surveying my (very small) domain. And I feel satisfied, looking around, and I feel like my home fits me just right. Far from feeling cramped, it is exactly the right size, a little personal-sized apartment personally sized for me. Do I sometimes wish I had more closets (or any closets at all?). Sure. Do I occasionally dream about having more storage space? Absolutely. But for now, at this particular moment in my life, this little apartment is exactly the space I need.