Our Relationship With Our Spaces

clutter, downsizing, holistic organizer, travel12 Comments

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largeOn a recent trip to New York City I was reminded of how differently people tend to relate to their spaces out there than we do here in the Middle of the Midwest, USA. This in turn led me to review the different sizes and types of spaces I’ve lived in through the years and over the course of 23 moves between ages 18-31. Many of those were quite small spaces, and some of them were quite large.

I have become a fan of the website AirBnB.com for locating places to stay on my out of town trips. For my trip to NYC I was able to rent a room in an apartment that was only two blocks from the venue I was working at for about half the price of a hotel in the area. It was made clear in the advert that the place was small, but I knew this was part of the “New York City Experience”.

The apartment itself was (I estimate) about 300 square feet in total – two bedrooms, a kitchen and the tiniest bathroom I have ever seen. One night after a long day at my workshop, I took it upon myself to measure the size of the bedroom I was staying in (yes a true professional organizer at heart). A whopping 56 square feet (just slightly larger than a double-sized bed)! I have to say, this is probably the smallest space I have ever lived in, although the dorm room I lived in while studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh is a close second – no more than 75 square feet of space, but plenty of room to sleep, study, and even a small sink for washing up.

For how small the NYC apartment space was, the owner had really made good use of the space. One of the key traits of the apartment was it had high ceilings – at least 10-12 feet high by my estimation. In the second room (the one I wasn’t staying in) he had lofted the bed and made the upper portion of the room his bedroom and the lower portion the living room. In my experience with small spaces, one of the absolute keys to making it work is using as much of the vertical space as possible.

Many people tend to think that more space will solve their clutter and organizing problems. In some cases this is true, but in many cases it only makes the problem worse – more space to fill, more stuff to buy. The owner of this apartment loved his small space and said the smallness of it actually helped him keep the clutter to a minimum.

In my current home, we have about 1400 square feet of inside space, just over 1000 of that is finished living space. Our home was built in the 1950’s, and the way people lived back then was quite different from how we live now. Although I can’t say I would want to maintain a space much bigger than this, I do feel that the way the home is designed could be better to fit better with our lifestyle.

The size of our home is comparable with many of the other homes in our neighborhood, but the majority of new homes being built in our area are quite a bit larger than ours is. Most people I’ve come into contact with couldn’t imagine raising kids in a home this small – many of our young family neighbors have moved on to bigger homes after their little ones reached a couple years old or so. However, when I briefly stayed with a family in Peterborough, England, their home was about the same size or smaller as my current home, and they were raising children there – and they were planning to stay in this small home indefinitely. It really is all about perspective.

What’s the smallest space you’ve ever lived in? I’d love to hear about your small space living in the comments below!

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  • I’m pretty lucky, I guess, because I’ve never lived in a small space. My living room and bedroom in my rental apartment are larger than the ones in any of the homes I’ve owned. Even when I lived in residence at university, my room was spacious. On the other hand, I look at the monster houses they’re building today and ask myself, “Who needs all that? And who wants to heat it and clean it?”

  • TracyKPierce

    That is definitely one of my reasons for not wanting a bigger space – maintenance!

  • Tracy, I’ve only lived in a space larger than 1200 square feet once in my 15-years of being out on my own. And, honestly, it really was a struggle to take care of it. 900-1000 square feet is a perfect size for me, my husband, dog, and cat. For me it’s more about the location of the home than the size.

    I was reminded of how little space we actually need to be happy when my husband and I went to the Dominican Republic. We visited a family of six who lives in a modest two bedroom home. They had a few pieces of furniture, a few sets of dishes, and one tube TV. Below is a photo of their kitchen. I don’t suggest we become minimalists, but strive for a nice balance – whatever that balance looks like to each person/family.

    Great post, Tracy! It was fun to hear about your experience in the Big Apple and I have bookmarked the AirBn.B website for future reference.

  • Ellen Delap

    So true! A bigger space does not solve the problems of clutter. It is defining what you want to use the space for that helps the most, then storing the tools to do that. Less is definitely more in living the life you choose.

  • TracyKPierce

    Thanks for sharing, Tiffany! Yes, I am definitely struck by how little we actually need versus how much we THINK we need. I lived in a large, about 2000 square foot, apartment for a couple years. Despite the fact that I had very little stuff at that time, it still was a challenge to keep clean. It’s wonderful when we can each come in line with what really serves us best space-wise!

  • TracyKPierce

    I totally agree with you, Ellen! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jill Robson

    So true Tracy, I had a lady come up to me at a resent trade show, she had a small home and didn’t want a larger one, just ideas to make it more efficient. I think we need to see the space we have and how we can use it better, rather than focus on the space we don’t have.

  • TracyKPierce

    I totally agree, Jill, thanks for sharing!

  • Jill Robson

    You are welcome.

  • Anna

    I’m not sure how big our current home is; it’s definitely the biggest apartment I’ve lived in, but I don’t think it’s bigger than 800 sq ft. It’s a good size for the three of us right now. We’re looking into moving closer to where my husband works sometime in the next year or so, but we don’t necessarily want a bigger place. If we end up in a bigger home, that’s fine, but we’re not going to worry too much about it. The smallest place I’ve ever lived in was probably around 300 sq. ft., and was a studio apartment my roommate in university and I rented for a semester. The kitchen was smaller than our bathroom.

  • TracyKPierce

    Thanks for sharing, Anna! It really is amazing how we can use our smaller spaces to their fuller potential and find that they really are big enough.