If I had a dollar for all the jaw-dropping looks I’ve received when telling people my husband and I live in a 381-square-foot studio, I would be well on my way to becoming a millionaire. Responses such as “No, you’re kidding. Really?” and “But, how?” are the most common.
Yet for us, the lack of square footage isn’t so much a big deal. We prefer it actually, as it’s been all we’ve known since tying the knot three years ago. In fact, we recently downsized from a 400-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn to an even smaller studio across the country in San Francisco. Oh, the joys of city living!
While living in tight quarters can most definitely have its challenges — think: one-too-many pet peeves, dollhouse-sized closets, and lack of personal space — this journey of close contact has been the core strengthener to our marriage. And, as far-fetched as it might seem, I owe all the happiness my husband and I have shared together over these last few years to our teeny-tiny abode.
Before you completely write me off as crazy, please allow me to explain how we have made our relationship thrive despite the lack of space.
1. With no room for mind-reading, open communication is a must!
When we first moved in together, it didn’t take long for us to realize the key to keeping a happy and healthy relationship would be through communication. And lots of it. With such a tiny space, we were forced to drop any personal guards and be, well, ourselves — 100% vulnerable. By acknowledging the fact that neither one of us were mind-readers, we had no choice but to vocalize upfront our wants, needs, and annoyances. Because let’s face it – so many of the quirks we used to find cute quickly spiraled into irritating pet-peeves.
As you can probably imagine, honest communication has become our best navigator through any murky waters of conflict. It has saved us so much time, energy, and unnecessary headaches, as well as prevented a slew of misunderstanding and confusion. But I’d be lying if I said we have never had any hiccups along the way, because as we’ve all heard before, marriage is by no means an easy road to trek down.
Yet the beauty of living in a small space is that when an argument does surface, and you have no extra rooms to escape to and mull over the negativity, you are forced to work through it, right then and there, in that present moment. I can’t help but giggle when I reflect on all our many tiffs. I usually storm off to our claustrophobic closet, while my husband usually finds refuge in the small front corner we call our kitchen. With nowhere to go but outside, it usually doesn’t take long before we meet back up at the table, ready to hash out any tension and combat the not-so-good vibes.
2. “Respect” is our tiny home’s theme song.
Let’s face it: lack of personal space is inevitable when it comes to living with another person in any cramped quarters. But that’s where we rely heavily on our mighty friend called respect. Beyond personal space, we have recognized and accepted the importance of respecting each other’s needs throughout our entire home.
For example, I am a tad bit much messier than my husband. While I don’t mind leaving a few dishes in the sink or clothes on the floor, he would rather tidy up as we go throughout our day. Being mindful of that, I am more conscious of the clutter I accumulate, which makes for less frustration all around, and certainly assists in keeping the space more manageable to maintain, both physically and mentally. With less stuff around for distraction, our minds can freely breathe, making for an overall happier environment to call home.
With everyday respect for each other, tensions are more likely to stay low, creating extra room for positivity. We have found it extremely helpful to cling onto those good vibes and take our “living” outside. I mean, just because you live in a studio — or any other cramped space — doesn’t mean your bedroom must collide with your living room. To switch up our everyday routines, we often picnic in nearby parks for dinner, catch up on city benches, and unwind from the long workdays by strolling through streets in different neighborhoods. And the best part? All these activities are free!
3. Always make room for gratitude.
We all know maintaining any kind of space with another individual takes teamwork, and by living in such tight quarters, even the smallest gestures of appreciation can go a long way. For instance, a simple “Thank you for taking out the trash,” or “No dishes to wash? Ah, you’re the best!” can serve as the ultimate mood-booster. Compliments, praises, and words of encouragement make the world of difference, and for us, these simple words have strengthened our partnership.
Although my husband and I sometimes fantasize about the day when our bed won’t play a double role as our couch, or when we’ll have a dishwasher, ceiling fan, and our very own washer & dryer — big luxuries when it comes to city living! — for now, we choose to embrace the coziness and cherish all the memories made in our mini casa. It may lack in space, but it certainly overflows with happiness, and I couldn’t be more grateful.