Sweet Small Spaces: how I fit my entire life into 425 square feet

You know the reference—City Mouse and Country Mouse. I’ve always wondered why there was never a Suburban Mouse, a sort of in between the extremes mouse. That’s really irrelevant, but still.

I am 123% (at least) the City Mouse in that little duo. Absolutely without a doubt. I love being near all of the hustle and bustle and surrounded by an endless line up of languages and cultures and walking always and most importantly being in close proximity to lots and lots of excellent coffee shops and brunch spots. I do actually like the lights and the night life and the noise. I’ve never really loved still or quiet, so those suburban streets are not for me. And while I can be down for an escape to the quaint countryside, I’m not looking to cozy up with the chickens 100 miles from civilization any time soon.

So let’s start there and clear the air. If you’re a Country or Suburban Mouse, this may be a little tough for you to get your head around. But, fresh perspective is never a bad thing and I do think there will be little useful treasures that every sort of mouse can scurry away with.

Yep, I do that city thing. Pay the unbelievable amount of money for the unbelievably small space. Because for me it’s all about location. Location Location Location. And that’s something that City Mice just have to come to peace with if they’re going to continue city living. It’s something I’ve had to reconcile. I could of course have a lot more space for what I’m paying, but in a location I wouldn’t love as much. For me, the trade off is well worth it. Today I’m going to share with you how I’ve learned to live my life in small spaces and a few tips and tricks if you’re trying to do the same. Maybe you’ll never live in a space this tiny, but I’m sure we’ve all encountered tiny spaces that we’re not sure how to work with—this is for you too!

Tips for Finding Your Space in the CityI’ve done this quite a few times and what I’ve learned is universal for anyone in the market to make a new space home. You have to decide what is non negotiable and where you can—and will—compromise. Very rarely will any space have everything just as we like it exactly where we want it to be for just the right price. Almost always we’ll have to prioritize and discern wants from needs and what is and isn’t worth the extra $$$. Here’s what my lists look like:

Non Negotiable: (NEEDS)-Pet Friendly

-Little to no monthly pet rent

-Closet space

Capitol Hill Neighborhood

-Easy and abundant bus routes

-Everyday essentials in walking distance

-Within budget (like I’ll still be able to eat and not penny pinch every month)

Negotiables (WANTS):

-Workout Room

-Rooftop Common Area

-Washer and Dryer in unit


-Higher than ground level

The list will look different for all of us, but it’s what we’ve got to start with. Don’t budge on the needs and when the wants are there too, consider them cherries on top.

Now—what to do with 425 square feet.

Look. I wasn’t thrilled about the studio life. I wanted a one bedroom. It’s never fun to have your bed just chilling in the living room. For me that was a compromise I was willing to make in the end for location and financial stability. So in the words of Tim Gunn, I’m making it work. Here are my three keys to doing so:

1. Specific Spaces
This one is not unique to tiny living, but it makes all the difference any time space is limited. Not only does it sway me from bringing things home that I know don’t have a space for, it also keeps clutter to a minimum (which is essential for this neat freak.) One of the worst parts of cleaning up is not knowing where to put things—that’s why we avoid it right!? I find that if I intentionally create space for everything then keeping up with it becomes so much simpler. Why would I let it sit on the table when I know exactly where it goes?

2. Extra Space
But how!? You have so little square footage to begin with, how on earth do you have any extra or left over!? I’m sure that’s what your thinking. This is a hard and fast rule for me. I never want to open a closet or drawer or cupboard and see it filled to capacity—or worse experience an explosion of sorts every time I open it. This is true for a couple of reasons. #1 I’m going to avoid cleaning because it’s a project just to open the storage spaces. #2 I have no room to grow or invite anything new into my home because I don’t even have space for what I already have. I think it’s easy to shove things away and let clutter accumulate behind closed doors—that out of sight out of mind philosophy can seem appealing. I disagree wholeheartedly. This is why the piles of clothes and papers build up in your open spaces, because the closed Obed can’t house them. I have a whole section of my closet with no clothes hanging (though this hasn’t always been the case) I have extra shelf space and clear bins, and an extra shelf in my kitchen cabinets.

Let me rabbit trail here for a second...

This does take discipline. It takes saying no more often than saying yes and a constant revaluation of what is actually essential verses what we think is essential. I can tell you though, coming home to a clean and organized space and not being drowned by things I think I need is absolutely worth the hard work and discipline. And like anything worthwhile (exercising and eating healthy and all those sorts of things) it becomes second nature and you’ll look back and wonder how you ever lived any other way. And I can tell you, you’ll be surprised by how much you don’t miss and the things you learn to live without.

Just for fun—current items I live without that people can hardly believe: TV + Microwave

Go ahead and gasp. Now onto...

3. Practical Pieces
Small spaces require lots of practicality and creativity which is why I tend to love them! They challenge me! There are certain things you need, but it takes creativity in order to not fill every (very precious) square inch of the place. I was really intentional about choosing pieces that served double duties Like a great (affordable) IKEA sofa that serves several purposes. It seats a decent amount of people, converts to a queen size bed for guests, and has a lounge that doubles as a storage space for all of my bedding and linens. I also have benches that I’ve doubled as book shelves and I arranged the closet to house my dressers so they don’t take up living space.

Look. I get it. Small spaces are not everyone’s thing. That’s fine. But here are a couple of takeaways I think can benefit everyone. Living in a small space has forced me to only own what I love and to only invest in things that I truly love from the very beginning. I really can’t fill it up or it will suffocate me. This teeny tiny space has taught me discipline and it’s taught me humility. That I am blessed to have a roof over my head and a warm bed to fall asleep in each night--that those things are more than enough and more than so many have. It’s taught me, once again, that home is not about a space but more about what you fill the space with--love and laughter and authenticity and warmth. It’s about opening up your space, big or small, and inviting people in to share it with you. I’ve come to love all of the square feet I’ve ever lived in and especially this extra teeny tiny one. I hope that today you can come to love whatever space you might call your own.

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