Secrets of Living Large In A Small Apartment

A TALL, SNOW-COVERED, OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS TREE IS THE RIGHT SOLUTION WHEN YOU LIVE IN A SMALL, INDOOR APARTMENT.

I’m making some progress on downsizing and simplifying my lifestyle. Two years ago, I moved from a large apartment in a pricey suburban neighborhood to a small apartment in a rural/seasonal resort area three hours from the cities.

I gave away a lot of stuff, and moved what was left helter-skelter into a one-room apartment. It has two windows in front and a door and screened porch in back. Cross-ventilation!

Rent is reasonable and includes all utilities. Priceless amenities are a quiet street that ends at the marsh; a parking space; a small fenced yard, with nothing but woods beyond; cable TV and high-speed internet service.

One-Room Apartment “Before” Pictures

CLUTTER GONE WILD.

CLUTTER ALL AROUND.

A COMPLETE GALLEY KITCHEN. EVEN A FIRE EXTINGUISHER, IN CASE I TRY TO COOK.

My neighborhood is an enclave of quiet affluence. Within sight, across the water, is a resort that can be rowdy in summer and a ghost town in winter. I might be the poorest church mouse on the block, but not the only one living on a tight budget. A few of the houses are little more than old beach cottages, but most are medium-size, modern homes with that suburban look. Some of the more spacious houses have million-dollar waterfront views. Within a short walk are two grand, waterfront homes that must be worth . . . I can’t even guess. One of them is a modern mansion.

No Extra Charge For Natural Beauty

THE MARSH IN WINTER. VISIBLE BY WALKING DOWN THE STREET. NATURAL BEAUTY AND PUBLIC SPACES ARE IMPORTANT AND USUALLY FREE.

But I digress. This post is not about living large in a mansion. Anyone could do that. And it’s not about living large in your car or a tent, which would be more of a challenge than I’m up to. We’re talking about a modest and attainable goal of living large in a small apartment. (If your apartment has a separate living room and bedroom, with a walk-in closet . . . well, that doesn’t qualify as small).

If It’s Big Enough For A Cat . . .

SAFE AT HOME. LOLA IS PERFECTLY CONTENT IN A SMALL APARTMENT.

My challenges with living large in a one-room apartment are the same ones I would have in a big house. Fundamentally, I have no “nesting instinct.” Plus, I’m disorganized. The only kind of order that comes naturally to me is “Robert’s Rules of Order.” For everyday life, the nesting instinct is more useful than Robert’s Rules.

My Rules Of Order

Here are Hayden’s Rules of Order for one-room apartment living:

  • Pay the rent on time. Otherwise, you will be living in your car.
  • I’ve got to get organized, and it can’t be forever put off until tomorrow. Two years is long enough.
  • A place for everything. Everything in its place. Efficient use of what little storage space you have is essential if you live in one room and you own more than one “thing.” One-room apartments generally don’t have wine cellars, garages, or attics. Not even walk-in closets. Drawers, shelves and hooks are essential. (The easiest kind of hook is a nail in the wall, but some landlords frown on this method.)
  • Furniture. Less is better. Replace all large pieces of furniture with small. I’ve replaced the sofa with a chair, and the double bed with a single bed. (It helps if you have the lifestyle of a monk). A toaster is better than a toaster-oven; a good radio/CD player is better than a complicated stereo system; a laptop is better than a desktop.)
  • You can break the small-furniture rule once. I still have the same medium-sized dining room table as when I lived in more spacious apartments. The table is clunky and dominates my one-room apartment. But it’s an all-purpose table. It serves as dining room table, kitchen table, and desk. I need a certain amount of surface area to be organized, whether the task is paying the bills or making soup.
  • Experiment. Find a way to make the furniture fit. I’m on the third rearrangement of my furniture. After two years, you get tired of playing “furniture checkers.”  Furniture checkers is a game in which you have to move one chair and jump over at least one other “thing” in order to get to your goal. There must be a way to arrange this furniture efficiently! I will have to find it by trial and error, since I have no interior design skills.

HOME OFFICE OF THE ConsterNation BLOGGING EMPIRE. SOMETIMES ALSO USED AS A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS.

Clutter Is My Enemy

I’ve saved the most important secret of living large for last. As you can plainly see from the photos, I need to reduce clutter.

People sometimes criticize me for having too much “stuff.” I’ve gotten rid of enormous amounts of stuff, but I still have too much. Other people have their stuff all over the basement, the garage, the attic, the walk-in closet, the guest room. And that’s not all. Homeowners often rent a storage space for their extra stuff. Why don’t they simply give it away or sell it on eBay?

Everything I own is inside my one-room apartment, or inside my car, which is parked in the driveway. And there’s a limit to how much clutter I can hide in the trunk of the car.

To sum up, I need to get organized and reduce clutter. That’s not too much to ask. I call this challenge “My Apartment Project.” Two years is long enough to put it off. What you see here are the “before” pictures. Coming soon will be the “after” pictures. Wish me luck and stay tuned.

If you have any helpful tips on one-room apartment living, they would be welcome under “comments” below.

— John Hayden