An Ode to Small Spaces

avenue a
Exhibit A: my old apartment building in all its grungy East Village glory

I have a weird habit that lingers from my New York days:  whenever I walk into a space— classroom, office, museum, doesn’t matter where— I mentally convert it into a living space. How would I arrange it, where would I store my items, how would I make this a home? 

Homes have been on my mind recently, mostly because we’re in the process of building a house. (yay!) It’s amazing how quickly expectations get out of hand. Never mind that we made do for years with no closets, tiny showers, ugly fixtures, and popcorn ceilings— or that I once shared an 8×10 room with a roommate and thought nothing of it— I want my vision to come to life! Obviously, that’s not always attainable. Nor is it edifying. In my case, I’m trying to keep things in perspective and make cuts where they’re necessary.

The thing is, my husband and I eventually long to move to an urban location and thus, probably a {very} small home/ apartment. The thought of relinquishing precious counter and closet space is intimidating, but for me at least, there are advantages to city life that make the sacrifices of a smaller dwelling space oh-so-worth-it. In the meantime, I keep trying to train myself to not get too comfortable with all of the conveniences of suburban living.

Our plan to go from suburban-to-urban and home-to-apartment seems pretty backwards to most people. In general, people tend to aspire to have more space. I get it! There are a lot of obvious benefits to having a large home; it’s easier to keep organized, hosting becomes a breeze, and you have options at your disposal. But as the old adage goes, bigger isn’t always better. Having lived in a variety of living spaces in all shapes and sizes, I can think of a number of reasons why sticking to a small space can be a blessing in disguise;


1.) You can’t amass stuff

When you’re short on space, every purchase from a can of soup to a piece of furniture is evaluated with “do I really have room for this?” I’m a kitchen junkie, but my lack of kitchen storage has prevented me from many purchases because it just isn’t worth the space it takes up. And do you know what? I’m probably better off.

With the recent uptick of minimalist living, more people are starting to see a benefit to having less. Cutting out material possessions has a way of making life simpler.

2.) More togetherness

I love the idea of my home being physically conducive to closeness. Shared bedrooms and fewer nooks and crannies to escape to mean that the family will likely spend more time together. What’s the point of having a home if you can’t share it with the ones you love?

3.) Getting out is easier

When you are limited by space, suddenly the idea of putting forth the effort required to schlepp ourself and your child(re) to say, the zoo becomes a lot more appealing. Going outside or to the park to play is a no-brainer.

4.) Less housework/ upkeep

It took me about 2 hours to thoroughly clean my NY apartment top to bottom. In a larger house, I could easily spend 2 hours cleaning each and every day and still not have a perfectly clean home! Not only is it less work to clean a smaller space, there’s also more incentive to keep tidy; a sink full of dirty dishes is much more of a hindrance when space is precious.


Most importantly, I can’t ever think of a time when having a larger amount of space has increased my level of happiness. I have fond memories of cooking meals with friends in kitchens where we had no counter space to spare, late night chats in that cramped shared 8×10 bedroom, and sprucing up my quirky German home.

At the end of the day, it’s not the size of the space that matters, but how you live in it.

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