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Life in 900 Square Feet

02/17/2014

Belle

Fewer possessions has meant more time spent with Sabine.

Fewer possessions has meant more time spent with Sabine.

For some this will seem like a hilarious post. 900 square feet is huge compared to many big-city dwellers. 900 square feet for two adults who grew up in suburban homes with lots of room for all this crap is a big deal.

For the newbies here, the Professor and I moved to NYC in August with a 7-week old Sabine and three very feisty cats. Leading up to that we sold, are you ready for this, more than $7,000 in crap. Lots and lots of crap. Part of that was an old car, but the rest was piles of things. We also gave away and donated even more things. Furniture, kitchen items, decorations, hobbies, tools, long-neglected camping gear and more went so we could fit comfortable into our new space (i.e. not be featured in next year’s season of Hoarders).

I was really nervous about moving from a three bedroom, two story house with full basement and two bathrooms to a tiny, two bedroom one bath apartment. The Professor and I are big, loud people with big, loud cats and a small but loud baby. I also really can’t stand living in a disorganized space so making organization happen in 900 square feet was quite a task.

The first two months here I worked daily to organize the space. The Professor installed four IKEA PAX wardrobes and I systematically organized our possessions to fit best. While still a work in progress, I feel that the place is about as situated as it will get for the immediate future, sans installing shelving in Sabine’s closet. 

There are some things about small living that have really surprised and delighted me and I thought I would share them with you all for your enjoyment/amusement and my memory so we can look back and remember why staying small is so important.

  • Small spaces are WAY easier to clean. This is my No. 1 favorite thing about living in a small space. It is so, ridiculously easy to keep clean. Mommy friends coming over for a spontaneous play date? Not a problem! I need an hour to get the entire place in order.
  • Things that I used to rarely clean now get cleaned regularly. Things like baseboards and doors used to only get cleaned once, maybe twice a year. Now all I need is 10 minutes, a roll of paper towels and a bottle of my homemade cleaner and all the doors and baseboards are dust-free. Now that there is only one bathroom my toilet actually gets cleaned once a week. Like the entire toilet, ladies, not just the bowl or the lid. Even the bottom where all that dust and hair collect. It’s crazy! If it is time for a good deep-clean, the Professor and I can get it done together in under two hours, even with Sabine hanging out.
  • It forces you to think long and hard before buying something new. Right now I have a new toy for Sabine in my Amazon shopping cart but before we acquire it I need to get rid of her play-mat from the tiny baby days. Each purchase has to be thought through now that there is limited space.
  • It forces you to get rid of things you don’t need. Currently my closet is pretty packed with clothing I never wear. I am embarking on a major career shift that will take me out of the corporate setting and allow me to wear gym clothes to work. I am thrilled with the change and ready to part with my old clothing.  Once out of my closet, I will have the space for the exercise equipment I will need for my new career.
  • You learn how to coexist better. This is an odd discovery for me. In Kentucky I had my own craft room where I would escape whenever the Professor was annoying me. Living here, though, there really is nowhere to hide and it has forced us to confront one another about challenges and struggles more often. Has it always been pretty? Lord no, but we have addressed things that I otherwise would have let stew for months. I think it is a healthier way to live.
  • You spend less money. When you have less space for stuff you buy less stuff, which means you can live comfortably on a lot less. I don’t buy clothing on a whim anymore. He does not buy tools on a whim anymore. Why? Because there is nowhere to put it. The trade? We spend less so I can stay home with Sabine longer. Everyone wins.
  • Everything in your home has purpose and meaning / form and function. The process of purging our possessions meant everything was carefully assessed – did we need a shop-vac or did we need a big box fan. Did we need two crock pots and no stock pot, or one crock pot and a stock pot? Suddenly everything had  to be a “multi-tasker.” In our new home there is very little that does not serve us regularly and serve more than one function.
  • Less time spent dealing with our possessions means more time spent with one another. I spend less time cleaning, organizing and caring for our stuff and more time caring for my baby. It’s a pretty simple concept that still surprises me.

What about you. In what ways do you live minimally? Do you aspire to live with less? Would you consider living in a smaller home or do you think we are kind of crazy? :)

* For those who are curious, we chose the shop-vac for major cleanups and the event we have a water leak and decided one crock pot and one stock pot would serve our culinary needs best. So far we have not been disappointed!

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6 Comments

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  1. Lisa #
    February 17, 2014

    We live in a little less than 800 square feet in Los Angeles, and we’re expecting our first baby in 8 weeks. We used to use our second bedroom as a giant closet but we embarked on a purge like you in order to convert it to a nursery. It’s been tough to get rid of stuff but feels so good! It’s funny, my hubby and I have always lived in a small space and I never thought much about it, but we do spend all our time at home together. We only have one tv, because we have a no tv in the bedroom rule, so we always compromise on what to watch. I do think it’s good for a relationship, now that you mentioned it!

  2. February 17, 2014

    Oh wow, my life has just gone the opposite way! We moved from 1000 sq feet to 2800 just 2 months ago to prepare for the arrival of our first baby. While it’s great having a yard for our two dogs and a dedicated office and guest room, it’s been expensive to furnish, is exhausting to clean, and just going up and down the stairs is a work out when u r carrying 30 extra pounds! My goal is not to fall into the trap of junk collecting (very hard for me) and remember that more space may require a few more things, but clutter does not make a happy home!

  3. jak #
    February 18, 2014

    LOVE this post:) so glad it is going well in the new space. have you painted that accent wall yet???

    we have ~1500 sq ft. probably feels huge compared to 900, but it feels small to us with 70 and 100 lb dogs, baby, an occasional stepdaughter or two, and our never-ending remodeling projects that keep at least 1 room out of commission for months at a time (careers keep getting in the way of DIY lifestyle, go figure).

    i think this much space is about right for us. but you are 100% correct – it takes commitment to not acquiring too much crap. and it feels SO GOOD to hurl something into a dumpster or pass it along to a friend. so therapeutic. i know i could do better though… i would love to see a post about your very specific tips for making small space work!!! i think i could stand to learn a lot (please??? :) )

  4. February 18, 2014

    You make such great points! We are starting to feel cramped in our “starter home” now that we have 18 mon old quads. Yet, we really can make do without upsizing. I love the policy of only getting new things when something else goes. But the hubs often disagrees. If we stay here, maybe he can let go of a few things to alleviate the cramping.

  5. February 18, 2014

    I am currently in a smaller house but building a bigger house and we haven’t downsized as such just tried to fit all of our bigger crap in a smaller house. It’s driving me CRAZY. There are definite advantages like the cleaning and we definitely don’t have lots of toys for Molly because we don’t have the room and frankly she doesn’t play with toys anyway she prefers to be outside and play with the tupperware drawer…….but for me I miss simple things like a table, a decent kitchen, a bath, storage, space, storage!!

  6. February 20, 2014

    We live in an 1100 square foot condo with 2 kids – 2 bedrooms. Would love some small living advice! We never want to move!

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