In the video below, I take you through a short tour of our tiny apartment and explain some of the hacks that helped us to live in such a small space. Read the full story below the video. Thanks for watching!
What Is Tiny?
As you might already know, there’s a whole movement about tiny houses. Really tiny houses.
The Tiny House Movement is a new cultural phenomenon in the US and around the world, in which ordinary people downsize their living space. By a lot. In the Tiny House Movement scope of the word, tiny generally means less than 200 square feet.
For the average American, fitting all the basic amenities of a house into a space smaller than the average bedroom is insane, but somehow people in the Tiny House Movement are able to do it.
Our apartment isn’t tiny by Tiny House standards, but to most people, it’s pretty damn small. Some might even say “cramped.”
At just over 450 square feet, it’s a little over double the average size of a tiny house, but substantially smaller than the average American dwelling.
Why We Made the Move
Searching for an alternative to our 1,000 square foot loft (a true yuppie habitat), we were completely taken by surprise with this apartment.
We liked the space and the location, but we loved the price and the money we would save on rent.
There were also cute details that we really liked about the tiny apartment, and the size made it easy to personalize the space; changing paint colors and installing shelves and wall storage was quick. Despite the startling amount of downsizing we would have to do, we were confident we could make it work.
Our space is different from a typical tiny house not only in that it’s about twice the size, but that it’s not a design planned specifically for tiny living. It’s simply a small apartment and because it’s the basement unit in a much larger house, there are a lot of elements about it that feel particularly slapdash, with a lot of quirks in the design that can be difficult to work with.
One such quirk is size of the bedroom compared with the other room, which is a kitchen and a tiny all-purpose living area. The two rooms are about the same size, but in the bedroom this resulted in a lot of space we don’t really use, and space in the other room that feels crowded.
That would never happen in a tiny house, where the bedroom is usually a loft and only allows room for a mattress. In a tiny house, every inch is planned to be completely utilitarian.
We don’t have that luxury here.
How We Made it Work
Clutter is a small space’s worst enemy, and without a lot of space for storage, fighting it can seem impossible. Here are the hacks we used to make living in a tiny apartment not just tolerable, but comfortable.
Use Vertical Space
Free up surface area on the floor, counter tops and tables wherever and whenever possible.
Wall racks are the BOMB. Seriously.
The Grundtal system includes hanging containers to store things on the rack that can’t easily be hung like utensils, and even spices and bottles. Wall racks also take up less space than shelving by keeping items flush against the wall, while shelves just extend further into horizontal space because of their fixed depth.
Shelving isn’t necessarily bad, but if you want to use it, go higher. We did this in small nooks and crannies, and above our bed.
There are lots of ways to make wall racks, and other types of vertical storage look cute, and not just like an alternative to traditional storage. Peruse through the IKEA catalogue and see just how many ways they use vertical shelving and storage to organize small spaces.
Mirrors reflect light and create the illusion of doubled space. A regular wardrobe mirror like you would hang on the back of a closet door, can be oriented horizontally and hung on a wall at eye level to expand the room. This is also a lot cheaper than trying to find a larger, portrait size mirror, and I think the end result is more flattering and understated.
Furniture with Built-in Storage
Our coffee table slash dining table slash desk is a simple IKEA coffee table with 6 built-in cubbies underneath, great for storing notebooks, storage baskets for chords and tech stuff, and whatever else will fit.
Our bed is a simple platform bed with four drawers and 2 cubbies.
Our tiny loveseat sofa actually contains a pull-out sofa bed, in the off chance that we have overnight guests.
See a trend? If you have to have some furniture, make sure it’s really pulling its weight.
Get Creative With Furniture
We used the Kallax shelving units in our loft, but didn’t use these them as efficiently as we could have. We had a couple more units that we sold because they just wouldn’t fit in the new apartment, so the ones we kept we really maximize.
A smaller unit sits just outside the kitchen for dry good storage, and a larger unit stays in the living area for all other types of storage, books, important documents, organization, and the bottom shelves we use as shoe cubbies.
Smart purchases at IKEA are worth their weight in gold in tiny spaces. Because many of their furniture designs are more modern, you can get more creative with how you use pieces. On top of that, they’re magicians when it comes to smart storage options.
Downsize Your Material Life
Don’t feel constrained by furniture you think you need for your house. Besides a mattress to sleep on, and somewhere to sit and eat, everything else is up to you and what you actually want to do in your home.
I think this huge downsizing in the Tiny House Movement is a backlash against traditional American assumptions about homemaking. Assumptions about what a home should have, like multiple bedrooms or “formal” living and dining areas. This encourages conspicuous consumption, and the need to furnish and decorate (see, buy stuff) spaces that aren’t regularly used.
One thing I find particularly ridiculous is the trend of fitness equipment in the home. A treadmill, a stationary bike, sometimes a full set of weights for lifting; most of it barely used.
Just because you can buy a big house and fill it with all the things you used to have to go somewhere else to do isn’t necessarily convenience.
What Downsizing Really Means
One way we downsized was making concessions with the living area. Our couch and coffee table serve as both the living and eating space. We eat both meals together sitting on the couch, and work on our laptops the same way.
Sometimes when you make the choice to downsize in one area, it has a domino effect- letting you cut out a lot of unnecessary items, cut costs and make better habits.
Like how we also watch TV from a laptop. This has been great because we only use Netflix now, and don’t pay for a cable subscription (or waste time getting sucked into network television).
When you have less things, you don’t need as much furniture to store it in.
This is a large, but more subtle component of the Tiny House Movement: the idea that your material possessions are only the basics that you need on an average day, nothing more.
If you didn’t have as many clothes, and instead, subsisted off of a closet full of only your best basics and favorite pieces, would you need that dresser or all the closet space? An example that’s harder for many people I know is one of books: if you just had a Kindle, or a library card, instead of all those books, would you need that bookcase or all of those shelves?
Would We Change Anything?
Since we weren’t actually building our tiny apartment, we didn’t get a say in how the space was designed. The bedroom has way more space than it needs, and the living room needs more for the amount of use it gets. However, these are very minor complaints, and overall, we’ve completely adjusted to our space and how we use it.
If you’re on the fence about downsizing to a much smaller space, I can tell you that we have never regretted it for a second, and consider it one of the best decisions we ever made.
Do you live in a tiny space? What have you done to maximize your use of space and/or downsize? Let us know in the comments!