Lessons on Sharing a Tiny Apartment

Our New York City adventure was sure to come with many interesting living arrangements. For the last four months we have lived in a teeny 100 sq foot apartment with a lofted bed. I apprehensively agreed to this home because of Rob’s excitement at trying out something similar to the tiny house craze that is sweeping the world. I’d be lying if I didn't admit that I too was excited to experience living in a place so minuscule. Having a skylight that let in a lot of natural light and having a great story to tell our family and friends was definitely another perk. Not to mention how cozy it would be during the cold winter months. I’m really big on snuggling. Living in The Mouse House (so called by us because of its size, not because of any furry roommates) has presented us with some interesting challenges and compelled us to find some creative solutions. Here are the four main challenges we had to solve for:

1- Storage or lack thereof

First, we had to conjure a closet where none existed. After a failed attempt at installing an Ikea hanging system on the wall, we looked to the unused space under the stairs that lead to our bed. Using adjustable length rods to create a lip on the back of the stairs, we arranged colorful hangers in a rainbow array so that the exposed closet also served as vibrant decoration.

Living Area/Closet

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After unpacking most of our things, we were left with several orphaned curios and homeless odds and ends that lacked an appropriate space. Avoiding the cluttered put-random-junk-on-a-bookshelf look, we hid the knick knacks away in decorative black boxes that were stored on top of our kitchen cabinets. Things like Rob’s ties, our extra medicine and our important files had a home that kept surfaces clear and was pleasing to the eye.

2- Privacy and Alone Time

No matter how much you love your partner or roommate, spending 24/7 with them will wear on your relationship and according to my sister, slowly kill your soul.  Doing things separately is just as important as doing things together. Alone time for me is simply taking a nap or watching my silly TV shows. I was worried that without having a separate room to retreat to that I would start to feel suffocated and cranky. This particular challenge wasn’t as big of a deal as I had imagined partly because we talked about it at length before moving into the space. The result was that we naturally would do things separately and outside of the house which allowed the other person to have the place to themselves. When we were both home, our headphones provided retreat into our own separate worlds. We quickly achieved a good balance of doing things together and doing our own things.

View from the front door to the window

View from the window to the front door

3- Lingering Smells

This challenge was not something we could have foreseen unless we had lived in a space this small before. Having the kitchen in the same area as where you hang out and sleep meant smelling pork chops or salmon or garlic for hours after we cooked. It also meant that any weird smells in the building’s old pipes inundated the whole place and there was no escaping it. The area under our kitchen sink constantly smells like rotten fish no matter how much we clean and our bathroom inexplicably smells like sauteed onions. These scents don’t bother Rob, but I’m hypersensitive to smells. Our solution was to have loads of candles on hand to mask the smell. Our favorite is Voluspa Goji Tarocco Orange. We used this one for special occasions because they are a bit pricey and can go quickly if you are keeping them lit for hours on end, every day. We kept vanilla scented tea lights nested in coffee beans lit while we were home almost every day. They are cheaper so we had multiple little bowls all over the apartment to mask the smells in each area of the house.

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4- Entertaining

I love sharing our space with friends and having them over for drinks, dinners, or parties. I had thought this would be the biggest sacrifice I would have to make living in such a small apartment. I thought wrong. I couldn’t keep my party planning side at bay for long and almost immediately after moving in I had a couple of parties planned. Asking our guests to sit on the couch and hold their plates in their laps didn’t seem like a particularly comfortable option. Finding a way to get a dining table into the apartment was a high priority. I remembered seeing a picnic table last time we were at a park and decided that paired with a few floor pillows were the perfect solution to being able to host dinner parties at our place. We bought Table in a Bag and large colorful floor pillows and have hosted five dinner parties in the four months that we’ve lived here!

Even with these challenges, living in our little Mouse House was a very special adventure and we are leaving with a lot of memories. Like the time Rob cooked chicken from his floor pillow in the living room or how our tiny Christmas tree lit up the whole space in a magical glow. Our next space is significantly bigger with two bedrooms and an office. We are very excited to be able to spread out though we wonder if we will feel like caged animals being freed into the wild. Will we be able to take advantage of all the space right away or will we live mainly in the smallest room because that is all we’ve known for four months?

Stay tuned.