4 Tips for Living Small

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We moved into our condo last April. We downsized from a 1625 square foot condo with three bedrooms, three baths and a one-car garage into a 985 square foot condo with two bedrooms and two baths and no garage. It was a change we needed to make but after pulling the trigger I wondered to myself if I had been overly optimistic as I struggled with telling the movers where to put the abundance of stuff we had. We’ve lived here for about 15 months now so I felt it was time for an update on our experience so far after downsizing so drastically and a few tips I’ve discovered along the way to optimizing small space living.

Purge and then Purge Again

We started purging before we even put our old condo on the market because my realtor told me it would help our condo look even more spacious than it was and because the less we had to move, the less it would cost to move. We sold our old condo before finding a new place so we ended up putting the majority of our furniture and belongings in a friend’s basement until we could find a new place. Five months later as the moving company was bringing everything into our new place I realized we were far from being done with the purging process. Fifteen months after moving in, we still have too much furniture and I need to make some decisions on what to sell and what to keep.

Clean off your Counters

I am horrible about this and it’s a constant process that I have to be mindful of. My kitchen table is rarely used for eating but often used as a gathering spot for the mail and coupons and my journal and planner. It really does make a huge difference, and especially when you live in a small space, when you keep your surface tops cleared. It makes your space look larger, cleaner, and more organized. This goes for your kitchen and bath counter tops, your kitchen table, your desk, etc.

Modify to Suit Your Lifestyle

As I mentioned earlier, this move was a major downsize for our family. We moved down from three bedrooms to two. I still have two kids and at 19 and 21 years old there was no way they were going to agree to share a room and the rooms weren’t large enough for that anyway. At least one kid (I know, I keep saying kids and technically they’re adults but they’ll always be my kids) will be living away at college for the majority of the year but they both need their own space when they are home so we decided to convert the dining room to an unofficial bedroom. Although my current plan is to stay in the condo long-term, I didn’t want to do anything that would destroy my resale value if I did decide to sell down the road and I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on a renovation. Our solution was to drywall the entrance from the room to the kitchen and then we added a barn door between the room and the living room. There’s no closet but we bought a freestanding closet organizer from Target so he had some room for seasonal hanging clothes and out of season hanging clothes are stored in my bedroom walk-in closet. My tentative plan is to use this space as a home office once Michael graduates from college and moves out. If I decide to sell the place down the road we would most likely market it as an office space but it wouldn’t be too expensive to convert it back to a dining room if the buyers wanted to go that route.

Furniture Considerations

Living in smaller spaces means you sometimes have to get a bit creative with furniture purchases and placement. Nothing drives me crazier than watching Tiny House Hunters and someone whines that they don’t think their king-sized bed will fit and why can’t they have a huge refrigerator and room for their drum set? Ummm…did you forget you’re looking at a tiny home dummy??

There are several things we do to maximize our limited space:

All three of us have platform beds that don’t require box springs.

We have a small sectional with movable parts that allows for different seating patterns.

My youngest son put his small dresser inside his closet so that he could have room for a small desk in his bedroom.

I have a large mirror placed over my sofa in the living room that creates the illusion of more space.

Our condo has a washer and dryer in a closet in the hall bathroom. The washer and dryer are space savers so we have to be content doing smaller loads but that’s a sacrifice I made when choosing a smaller space.

Storage ottomans are also a great furniture piece for your living space. You can use them for extra seating and storage and they come in many attractive designs and colors to match your decor.

Living small is a conscious choice we made; well truthfully, I made the choice and my sons were just good sports about it. If I hit the Mega Millions jackpot this week will I stay here? Probably not, but for now it’s a good fit for us. We’re in a fabulous neighborhood, we have a free community pool to use in the summer, and I don’t worry about having enough money to pay the mortgage. Sometimes I wish I had a slightly larger place so I could have more friends over but sometimes I’m really happy with the coziness of our place and I feel we communicate more as a family because we are in tighter quarters. Owning a larger place with larger bills would mean I have to work a lot more hours to pay for it and it just doesn’t make any sense to me to be house poor and spending all your hours at work to pay for a house you no longer have the time to enjoy.


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