The Joys of Living Small

Inspired by tiny house blogs, small apartments, Instagram accounts, Pinterest, and the captivating documentary film Tiny, my own fascination with the tiny house movement took hold. When Victor and I were looking for our first home, we were exploring the route of building (or buying) a tiny house of our very own. We explored locations in the Netherlands, and even met with Dimka Wentzel who had built his own tiny house. The problem? The tiny house movement hasn’t really taken off in this tiny country, and administratively this would mean our home wouldn’t be recognised as a legal abode – kind of crap in a place where your very existence revolves around having a registered address. However it seems things are changing and I recently read about Marjolein who has been given to the go ahead by the council of Alkmaar for her own tiny home (also built by Dimka).

After much contemplation we actually ended up buying a 46m² space in the home of small apartments: Amsterdam (read about the process here). Whilst not being a tiny house, it is certainly somewhere on the spectrum of living small. And so I bring you this not-so-tiny article encapsulating some of the great things about living in a small space.

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Living the small life in our small living room. Image credit: Ellen Witt

Pay less

From your mortgage (or rent) to energy bills, living in a smaller space is going to cost you less. Whilst living in the centre of Amsterdam might not be the cheapest option, at this point in our lives we realised we still wanted to be in the city – but by opting for small apartments we were able to keep our costs down as much as possible. Interest rates are super low at the moment (2016), so it made sense for us to buy (if you’ve seen rental prices in Amsterdam you’ll understand), and by finding a place that needed renovating we knew we could add value. What does all this mean? For us it means more leftover pennies to spend on the shit that really matters – travel and experiences. We still have to pay out every month but with a tiny house you can actually make yourself mortgage-free if you have some capital to invest from the start. Estimates suggest they can cost anything between $15,000 to $80,000 (depending on things like materials and whether you build it yourself or not) – quite a big difference from your average bricks and mortar purchase.

Spend less on crap you don’t need

I’ve never been a big spender when it comes to “stuff” – parting with a big wad of cash for something that I could potentially break or lose (both very much a reality for a clumsy oaf like me) makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Part of the thing with having a big home is that you feel the need to fill it with furniture and other useless paraphernalia to prevent it from feeling like a soulless void. Now we live in a small space, everything we have bought has been well thought out. If we don’t need it, we don’t buy it – simple! My love for secondhand shopping used to lead me to purchasing all sorts of weird and wonderful bits and bobs, but since buying the apartment I only sought out things we actually needed like a sofa (€75 from a secondhand shop!!!), and stopped with the extras when we had enough decoration to make the place feel like home. Again, this means more cash to spend on little weekend jaunts around Europe and bigger trips.

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Our compact space has everything we need

Say goodbye to clutter

There is nothing better that opening a cupboard without the contents spilling out onto the floor/ your head. Ok, perhaps there are lots of things better than that… but you get the picture. We’ve had to be really strict on what we keep, which means no drawers full of, quite frankly, god knows what (everyone knows that drawer)! Everything has its place: I know exactly where to find everything from my camera charger to my gloves – and it’s bloody wonderful, especially in winter… or when I need to charge my camera. Even my wardrobe is the most organised it has ever been – nothing is screwed up in the back of a drawer gathering dust. The same rule we have for “house stuff” applies to clothing: if we don’t need it, we don’t buy it. I now share a small amount of hanging space with Victor, plus a few storage boxes of my own and it’s more than enough. Having less space and a more streamlined setup, means I can focus my energy on more exciting things than trying to find a bra in the morning.

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Our small bedroom where everything has its place

Do less Cleaning

I’ll never forget the day I figured out that I could plug in the vacuum cleaner in our hallway and get around the whole apartment without having to replug it in somewhere. WHAT. A DAY! But seriously, unless you’re one of those fortuitous humans who finds housework relaxing (I somewhat envy those people), small apartments ROCK. Between us, we can blitz the entire place in no time and move on to something far more rock ‘n roll (that’s if you count reading a book or going on a bike ride as rock ‘n roll).

Have fun finding clever space saving solutions

Whilst furnishing our house, we really had to think about everything we purchased. Where would it fit? What would its function be? One challenge was finding a wardrobe for our small bedroom. In the end we thought a giant wooden box would likely dominate the room, and opted for a handmade wooden clothes rail. Yes, we have to keep it tidy as everything is on display, but we really love how little space it takes up. We even hung a plant from the end and clipped a bedside lamp to it – bonus space saving points all round. As a rule, we prefer to buy most of our furniture from vintage and secondhand shops (it’s generally cheaper and lasts longer), but when it comes to space saving solutions Ikea is a pretty good place to start for small apartments. For our tiny, awkwardly spaced kitchen we opted for an Ikea set-up and we are delighted with the result. It was a challenge to fit in all the appliances, have enough storage, and create ample workspace — but with a bit of imagination we made it work.

space saving kitchen

No need for a knife drawer…

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Small kitchen, plenty of workspace

…but there’s only the two of you!

Yes, that’s true. At the moment there is just the two of us (Dr. Evil and Mini Me style), and we are about as prepared for kids as the UK was for Brexit….I knew I could get a Brexit dig into this blog sooner or later. We have no illusions that if a mini Claire/ Victor came along somewhere in the distant future things might change, but we’re optimistic our little home could still work for a while. In our 46m² space we even have a spare room, and it’s not one of those guest rooms overflowing with all the crap we don’t have anywhere else to put – it’s pure unadulterated extra space. This extra space can even house two extra adults (when the super-space-saving Ikea bed is folded out), a desk and a clever little Ikea hanging rail!

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Our little spare room with handy under bed storage

Do you live in a small space or even a tiny house? Or perhaps you’re thinking of downsizing and looking at small apartments? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Alternatively you can get in touch via my contact page.

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