life in a tiny apartment.

March 20, 2013

Tip #56: Overnight guests: permission to say no?

In previous apartments, James and I had a futon that could accomodate two guests quite comfortably. In North Carolina and again in Rhode Island, we had loads of overnight visitors. I loved setting up our futon: adding fresh sheets, smoothing a blanket across the foot of the mattress and shouting goodnight from our bedroom after we’d turned out the lights. In the morning, it was pancakes from James and jazz on the radio and coffee while everyone took turns showering. Since we’ve never had a distinct guest room, I always preferred to fold up the futon during the day and set it back up at night. It’s a little extra work, but it meant space for raucous games of trivial pursuit and other nerdities. I like to think that we hosted some pretty stellar sleepovers.

Hosting overnight guests in our current apartment is a whole different ballgame. In fact, I’ll admit that in almost two years of living in New York City, we’ve only done it once. Yes, you read that correctly. Did I mention that our guest was my sister?

The largest swath of unoccupied floor space in our apartment measures just under 6′ x 6′. If we moved our small telephone table and blocked the entrance to the bathroom, that’s enough space to just barely squeeze a double air mattress. Where guests would put their bags or coats or, even, their toothbrushes is a bit more of a mystery.

I’m honestly a little embarrassed about our lack of hospitality when it comes to offering a warm place to spend the night in the city that never sleeps. The problem is that I’m not sure that inviting folks to sleep in our tiny apartment would really be enjoyable for anyone. For now, I think my best tip for truly tiny apartment dwellers is to give yourself permission to explain that you don’t have the space overnight guests.

What do you guys think? Do you invite guests to stay in your tiny spaces? Or do you make like I do, and suggest a good find on airbnb?

PS. We’re back to that time of year when there’s a sun patch on the floor in the afternoon. Time change, I love you.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Rebecca March 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    We're in an about 500 sq ft apt right now, and I feel like it's soooo tiny. We've had guests once, it was my mom, sis, and bro. Aaaand, they were uncomfortable to say the least. My brother tossed and turned on the loveseat all night. hah.

    • Reply Erin March 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Sleeping on a love seat is the worst! I always think I can do it, but half way through the night, I end up on the floor instead!

  • Reply Chloe Moon March 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I once invited my friend & her boyfriend to stay on our couch because we are in a one-room studio and it was so awkward and weird. I still had no idea her bf's feet were that smelly and it was cramped and let's just say it was a one time deal. But then one time only she stayed and it was fine! I think I will only limit it to one person in small spaces!! =)

    Ergo – Blog

    • Reply Erin March 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Oh no! Smelly feet in a small apartment are no fun!

  • Reply Tidy-Up Gal March 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I'm probably overthinking it, but I'd love for my guests to be super comfortable and if I can't make that happen then I'd rather say no. Most times they say they don't mind, but I do! I mind for them!

  • Reply jodi March 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Agreed. Unless it's summertime and friends can enjoy camping out in our yard or on the beach, 400 sq ft is a little too close for comfort. It took me years to accept this though, and to figure out how to politely offer other suggestions.

    • Reply Erin March 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      Backyard camping sounds so fun–I haven't done that since I was a kid!

  • Reply Lauren Ashley March 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    We're in a similar situation. We don't have a futon, so guest have to sleep on the sofa – which creates a one guest at a time limit unfortunately. Mostly just my mom comes up and actually stays with us, so I guess it works out. I dream of the day when we'll have an actual guest room …

  • Reply annton beate Schmidt March 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I can totally relate to this post. being a guest and having a guest should be something happy, nice & easy. when there is so limitted space, you will enjoy your visitors more, by sleeping separately and meeting relaxed, as often as possible.

  • Reply Ros March 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    In our current apartment, having houseguests is a lot of fun – we have a separate office that we basically squeeze a mattress into, which is separate from our standard living space.

    In our last apartment, we had houseguests frequently (my husband's friends have an absolutely lovely habit of arriving with 2 hours notice), and it was never pleasant – there wasn't space, they and their things were underfoot all. the. time, and having to step over sleeping bodies to get to the front door to go to work is just not a great start to the day. (Note: this may have been the last-minute BS and resentment, to be fair.)

    Conclusion: space to host is a requirement for my mental health.

    • Reply Erin March 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      oh dear! stepping over sleeping bodies is always something of a dance, isn't it?

  • Reply taste area March 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Did you paint that nightstand? If so, what color did you use? Thanks

  • Reply March 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I think it's fine to're looking out for everyone's well-being!

  • Reply Faith March 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I think it's perfectly fine to decline and suggest other options. It depends on the personality of your guest, too! We have one friend in particular who could fall asleep anywhere, so we always let him stay on our couch. Haha.

  • Reply sarah e. March 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I usually just make it clear to people that I really don't have space. If it's a girlfriend or when my Mom or sister come to visit they share the bed with me but that's obviously not optimal for everyone. My couch is slightly bigger than a love seat but not a full sized couch and I'm probably the only person small enough to curl up and sleep on it. If I can, I'll find them a place to stay with another friend or offer some suggestions.

  • Reply Cozy Little House March 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    But I SO love your tiny space! Been looking for my own.

  • Reply thenerdykatie March 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    We get kinda forced into it. We give up our room & crash on couches, chairs, wherever we can find a spot when family comes to town. Even though after last time I offered to pay for a hotel lol.

    • Reply Erin March 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      It's so tough to say no!

  • Reply Kari March 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Just say no!

  • Reply ashley faye March 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    i agree, its very difficult to have guests in a small space. i have a really hard time saying no, and think since moving to nyc i've had most overnight guests that when i lived in spacious homes. i have been better lately about people staying over, although it still happens 2-3x a month. it must feel so nice to know your space is just your own.

    our roommate moved out and now we have a two bedroom, which makes this a lot easier.

  • Reply Katie Ann March 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    One of my favorite moments in the day is during sunrise. A golden patch finds her way through our kitchen window and illuminates the wall directly opposite. I am so with you on the time change.

    As far as overnight guests go, my husband and I don't have much extra space either; my sister is visiting next weekend so we'll see how everything goes. I'm sure she'll be okay with the couch..


  • Reply Anna March 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I think you're totally justified into saying no! You're obviously not inhospitable…wanting everyone (including yourselves!) to have the best experience possible is the key I think.

  • Reply Debs March 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Sadly, the last airbnb in NYC stay brought bedbugs home to Florida!

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic March 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I don't really have any place for guests to sleep, because my bed takes up a most of the room in my studio; I'm not sleeping on the floor so that the guest can take the bed, and I don't want to share the bed either. Anyway, I doubt that any guest would last the night in my apartment, mainly because my loud, annoying, wannabe musician, drunk, partying neighbors would prevent them from sleeping.

  • Reply J+H @ Beyond The Stoop March 20, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    we have guests all the time, and our jersey city place is 450 sf. our bedroom is just under 7×8, which puts much of the normal living space split evenly between the kitchen and the living room. so, though it's cramped because we once stuffed 5 extra people in our living room to sleep, as long as you could tip toe into the kitchen, you still had space.

    250 sf is pushing it though… only REALLY good friends would get the pleasure of staying with us if we were in your situation 😉

  • Reply Mary De Bastos March 21, 2013 at 11:40 am

    when my husband and i first moved to scotland everybody wanted to come visit. which was great except they also wanted to stay at our place. we were their free vacation. we lived in a studio flat. a very tiny studio flat. there was only enough floor space for 1 single blow up mattress. the ones smaller than a twin bed. it was weird having them staring up at me when i was sleeping and trying to find a place to sit/stand. it got to feel like we were being used. they didn't care. of course they didn't care because they didn't have to pay for a hotel room and food. But, it was really uncomfortable.

    now, we send everyone to a hotel. some people have decided not to come since they couldn't stay at our place {Which is sad} but we just don't have the space.

    • Reply Erin March 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Oh, no! That sounds tough.

  • Reply lauren natalia March 22, 2013 at 2:57 am

    my boyfriend and i live in a 450 sq ft studio (with a loveseat, no couch). our friend stayed with us for a few nights this past summer (we warned him about the lack of space but didn't give him a firm "no" when he asked) and he slept in a sleeping bag under our kitchen table! never again.

  • Reply Little Miss Know-it-all March 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    For me, a bedsofa is a must so that I can have guests. Yes, there is less privacy in a small place but it's not like they're staying for weeks. People's expectations have risen so much, it's ridiculous. Surely a night or two in less-than-optimum conditions, for the sake of hospitality and friendship/family, should be doable. Actually, it seems to be very American to be all "eeww" about closeness. I just think of how small a Russian apartment is for a whole family and a more hospitable people there isn't…

  • Reply Tradlands March 23, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    For us, it depends on who is visiting. If it's a friend looking to travel on a dime, we always offer our pullout couch. San Francisco can be very expensive, so we try to help friends save money on lodging whenever possible. But when it's a couple we know looking for a getaway, we recommend airbnb options nearby. At our tiny SF apartment, having 2 excitable Jack Russell terriers trying to lick you awake at 6am might not feel like a vacation. 🙂

  • Reply justine March 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Funny story. Before I moved to New York, I contacted an old friend from high school to ask if I could stay with him while I visited the city. "Sure!" he said, "You can share my bed." "Geesh," I thought, "I know you had a crush on me in high school but that was 5 years ago." "That's Ok," I said. "I'm happy on the couch." The conversation went on and he mentioned sharing his bed again. "Get over it!" I thought. Of course, when I got to the apartment it was such a small studio that his couch WAS he bed! I had no choice but to share it with him. Luckily he was a perfect gentleman and his cat slept in between us.

    Long story short, there is such a thing as an apartment that is too small to allow for guests.

  • Reply Martha April 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I don't mind apartment guests for a night or two, as long as they're close friends or family. Unfortunately, my husband's family has a precedent of making everyone uncomfortable by staying in each other's living rooms for a week or more at a time, and to say no would create too much family drama. As someone who highly values alone time and personal space, I'm not looking forward to it.

  • Reply April 4, 2013 at 2:21 am

    Having lived in cities (NYC and DC) my entire adult life, I have always limited my house guests to visitors I truly love having as company and even then, only one at a time. I learned this the hard way (and it's the subject of an upcoming blog post!).

    My Brooklyn apartment is ~500 sq feet well-configured into a one bedroom. Modern, sunny and I love it. But sharing the space for more than a night or two would make me crazy.

  • Reply Caitlin Kenney April 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I do say no to guests because of the size of my apartment, but my biggest struggle with this is that people who do not live in NYC just do not understand how very little space we have. They often seem really confused when I try to explain my limitations. I live in a studio apartment with a love seat and the most floor space I can get is about 2" x 6" and only if I shift the coffee table up against the love seat. But sometimes it's hard to explain that to people…they think your place must be small but they don't truly understand how small.

  • Reply Anonymous September 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Reading this made me feel so much better about my feelings of overnight guests! I am living in astoria right now w my boyfriend and have a one bedroom with a very small living room area. My boyfriend is french and his two friends stayed at our place for a week now (sharing a futon). They left to visit other cities in the US (THANK GOD) but will be back this weekend. They pleasantly left without unfolding the blankets/sheets, left my small futon a mess, spilled drinks on my favorite decorative pillow, left water bottles everywhere, candy wrappers in the fridge and left a clipped nail souvenir on my bathroom sink for me to clean. I unfortunately am going to have to speak to my boyfriend and tell him they will have to find a place for this weekend. There comes a point where guests are just ballsy and disrespectful. We are supposed to be getting more guest at the end of this month and in october, and i'm going to put my foot down and say no way. At least you and your husband are on the same page.

  • Reply anonym June 5, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Times are hard but people still need to travel at times and see family or friends. A lot of people are trying to save a dollar, which I am all for. Not up to subsidizing people that spent too much on RE and now are “playing Hotel” (air bnb). I live in a small apartment too, bachelor.
    Had a couple of house guests over and b/c we are all easygoing/mindful it was just fine. As saving space is a priority, they slept on queen sized air bed, kept a fan running for white noise and circulation.
    I had a curtain rod/light curtain running through the middle of the room to separate space at bed time. I suppose one could use a stand up tent too, but the curtain you can just pull aside and it takes minimal space.
    I think it is great if we can help each other out time to time by taking in houseguests and be a house guest yourself. A teaspoon of mindfulness goes a long way. And money still don’t grow on trees.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated.