My Year-Long Experiment: Lessons Learned About Small Space Living

We moved this past week from our tiny 1000' apartment into a 2200' house. It was an unexpected journey due to the fact that we thought we would be building our next house, not buying. However the building plans had to be put on hold yet again; apparently even though you are qualified and all of your financials are in order, if the appraiser can't find a house like yours of equal value to compare it to, the deal will come to a halt. Our "unusual" house was just too unusual for the bank. With school starting soon for my little guys, we were running out of time, so we bought a house in the same neighborhood where we plan to build... apparently a few years down the road from now anyway.

So here we are again - our 10th move in 15 years and it's still not fun. Oh the redecorating and designing and dreaming is fun, but the packing and sweating and hauling while entertaining 2 little kids is not something I'd wish on anyone. My husband and I did it old school this time, too, electing not to rent a truck nor hire anyone for a move that was just down the street from our apartment. Let me tell you that it can be done. You are capable of a lot more than you think if you just try. We would fill our pickup truck and SUV with 2 car loads, then unpack, then take the kids for a swim or an ice cream, and then repeat. It was a long process but we are mostly settled and glad to be done with the heavy lifting.

The most interesting part of it all is realizing all the things that I missed living in a larger home and the things that I didn't. It's given me a great perspective on life that I believe I was meant to have, especially since I sympathize with my small space clients even more now. Here are the lessons I've learned about both big and small space living:

The Costs

Of course the rent and utilities are lower in a smaller space, so that was a big savings. But living in an apartment means you can't add energy efficient caulking to your windows or get a better AC unit, so you have to accept what your utility bills are without being able to lower them drastically. Plus our grocery bill tended to be a bit higher because we couldn't buy things in bulk like toilet paper or canned goods because there was no place to store them.

Lack of Nature

I didn't realize how much I would miss the outdoors until there was no grass nor plants to fiddle with. Yes, no yard work was lovely, but it was just so bland living inside so much. The lovely balcony I thought that we would sit out on at the apartment was used for a little bit, but soon abandoned after we realized every time we went out there we were overcome with cigarette smoke from the neighbors on all sides of us. Last night my husband and I took 2 chairs outside at 10pm and just sat on the back patio. We didn't hear anything, we didn't smell anything, and we just sat in the warm breeze and talked about our plans for the backyard. It's the small things. It was magical.


Every once in a while in our apartment I would find my 5 year old sitting in the bottom of his closet with a toy or a book. I couldn't stand the small space and asked him why he did it. He told me that he just needed some alone time and there was nowhere to go. It broke my heart to hear those words and I am so grateful that he now has more space to himself. I find myself now calling out to my boys if I can't hear them because they are on the other side of the house. I could always hear them at the apartment. No one could use the bathroom without alerting everyone to what you were doing. Now the new house echoes without rugs and curtains yet to soften the sounds and I often hear little feet running up and down our big entryway hall, just getting their energy out and enjoying the fact that they can breathe again.

My Feet Hurt, But In A Good Way

Living in a tiny place actually hurt my body. Seriously. It took maybe 15 steps to make it from one side of the apartment to the other and I really was not in the best shape of my life because of it. My kids were more sedentary, too, especially because the people living downstairs rightfully hated the noise of them jumping around. So we sat a lot, did much less physical activity indoors, and had to drive to hit up playgrounds more frequently. I could actually sit at the dining room table (in our kitchen) and reach the pantry without getting up if we needed something else for dinner - talk about lazy. Within 2 days of being in the new house I realized how much more walking we were doing (my feet hurt at first), how much the kids were running and jumping and laughing, and how much better they are sleeping at night with the physical activity. This move has been better for my whole family's health.

Oh, How I Missed My Garage

Tools, chairs for soccer practice, products I've purchased for clients, and all of those garage items will finally be back where they belong and out of my way. I am so happy about this! My solution for the last year was moving my things back and forth from the trunk of my car to the entryway when needed and I absolutely hated seeing all the mess when I opened my front door. It was so paralyzing to know that when I needed to visit clients, I had to empty my trunk to make room for items they might want to donate, then drop off their items, and then put my things back in my car again. What a never ending cycle. I am just dreaming about this weekend when I can set up the shelving units in my new garage, create zones for everything, and sort it all where it belongs. Ahh.

I Still Have Clutter?

We downsized a lot to get rid of things that didn't fit in our apartment, but we also stored some things off-site - a couch that wouldn't fit, china we didn't have room for, and all of our yard equipment and power tools. Now that it is all coming back in, I am surprised at what I was so desperate to keep last year. In particular, looking at the boxes of memorabilia, I am finally ready to let go of some of the things that seemed so precious in the past. When you haven't seen something in a full year, it makes you question if you really do need it. I am purposefully touching each thing I bring out and questioning if I want it in my new home.

Room Sizes Are Ridiculous

I absolutely adore having more space to roam, not hitting my hand on the wall when I turn over in bed, and feeling trapped in my closet. However, the size of our new master bedroom is just ridiculous. I'm not sure why builders these days make master bedrooms so large and I don't know what I am supposed to put in here furniture-wise. Our queen size bed and dresser look like doll furniture placed in the middle of a large conference room. What is the solution - buy two arm chairs that I will never sit in to fill up the bay window nook and make it look more finished? Put a desk there even though there are several other rooms where I could do that outside of my bedroom? Why do we need this much space?

I'm sure I will learn a lot more in the coming weeks about living in a large house again, both the good (cooking in the kitchen is fun again) and the bad (it takes forever to clean this place). For now I am going to keep plugging along at my projects and lists because that's my happy place and remember to file away these feelings in my brain of appreciation, perspective, and humility. Small space living was just not for me and my family but it was a priceless lesson learned, for which I will be forever grateful.

#experiences #downsizing #moving #pantry #newhome #stuff #smallspaces

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