6 things no one tells you about downsizing from a house to a studio apartment

In early 2015 I sold my 2,200 sq. foot home (4 bed/4 bath) and moved into a 1000 sq. ft apartment for 10 months, and then into a 450 sq. foot studio, where I now live with my partner. I traded a lot of space and 2 hours a day spent commuting for a tiny space and a 5 minute commute. Monthly expenses stayed about the same.

This post is part of an on-going series in which I blather on about what it’s like to trade a house in the suburbs for a city apartment. 

I’m just over halfway through my 450 sq. foot studio’s 12-month lease, and I’ve learned a lot about compact living in my time here. Here are 6 of the downsides I’ve found in downsizing from a house to a tiny apartment.

1. You will fight “daily clutter” every day, no matter how much crap you got rid of before moving in

Don’t believe all the cutesy blog articles featuring quaint, stylish studios – those people stuffed all their day to day living debris away and off-camera. (Half the “studios” you see on Pinterest are really mid-size apartments, too.)

Living generates clutter: mail, packaging, dirty dishes, worn clothes, pajamas, jackets, shoes, bags, trash. Living also requires clutter, to some extent: tissue boxes, wastebaskets, your keys, purse, etc where you can reach them, etc.

No matter how disciplined I am, these things inevitably end up on the floor, counters, or draped over what limited furniture I have – even if only temporarily. It doesn’t take more than a few dishes to clutter up my little bit of kitchen countertop space, and tossing a few outfits on the floor junks the place up pretty quickly.

2. Horizontal “drop space” is at a premium

Kind of related to #1 – if you were used to having a table or a counter to just drop stuff onto when you come in the door, you probably won’t have that luxury in a tiny apartment. The only place to drop mail is the same few square feet of kitchen counter that I also want to use to prepare food and set my keys down (along with my sunglasses, keys, purse, lunch bag, etc). I’ve put many things on the floor for lack of countertop space, it’s really rather uncivilized but in a small place, you make sacrifices.

3. My bed is full of crumbs

I don’t have a sofa or a dining table. Going into this experiment, I thought a bed and a sofa were almost redundant pieces of furniture and I could get by with just a bed. But now my bed is my everything: it’s my sofa, my laundry folding table, where I type blog articles, and yes… where I eat my meals (on a TV tray next to the bed). No matter how well I make the bed, there’s always a few on my comforter that invariably end up inside the sheets. Yuck.

4. Chores pile up just as fast, if not faster, in a tiny space

In my house, I could safely procrastinate on many chores. It’s not like putting off chores for a few extra days prevented me from doing things like, sleeping on my bed because laundry is piled up on it. With four toilets to use, toilet cleaning took 4x longer to do but could be put off 4x longer.

Here in the studio, garbage goes out daily (and recycling almost as often). The toilet looks grungy in a week, and the few horizontal surfaces I do have get wiped down every other day or so. Since the laundry machine is small, I do small, frequent laundry loads as opposed to four giant ones every weekend.

On the bright side, vacuuming takes about 20 minutes (mostly because I have to move stuff around so much to do it) instead of the hour it used to take to do my whole house.

5. I got rid of everything when I moved and regret some of it

Inspired by countless people getting rid of seemingly everything they owned, I hauled a dozen car-loads of stuff to the local Goodwill and thought I’d never look back. For the most part, that’s how it went down: most of these things I can’t remember and don’t miss. A good decluttering is rarely a bad thing.

But there are a few things I regret giving away. Sentimental things, mostly – gifts, things with more stories than usefulness, and stuff I thought I was done with but now have a sudden need for. Some of them can’t be replaced, and that sucks. Some things can be replaced, and it’s painful to re-buy things I just gave away a year ago.

6. There really is nowhere to store extra stuff

The best solution I found was to get a bedframe that allowed for under-bed storage, among other creative solutions: one of my kitchen cabinets is actually where I keep the books I still own, my bookshelf holds winter blankets, and I stacked storage bins in one of my small closets instead of hanging any clothes in it (folded clothes take much less space than hanging clothes, so this is where out of season stuff goes).

But, honestly, a lot of the stuff I don’t want to get rid of is over at a friend’s house, and he’s eager for me to come get it soon.

But it was still worth it!

This isn’t to say I regret downsizing. I don’t miss the yard work at all, nor the 2 hours a day I spent on the bus commuting. Getting rid of everything and selling the place was a great way to declutter and refocus. Many things I owned simply because I had space for them, not because I was making use of them.

As an added bonus, when I make my next move (to a larger place), the new place will feel cavernous!


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